Friends

Last night I had an amazing time doing the Easter Egg Hunt trail run with Crooked River Trail Runners…you may recall my Thursday night group of last year.

Mom joined me for this outting and she can affirm it was a challenge!  Right off the bat we climbed a red brick road of death hill! Once we hit the trail it was mud and roots for miles. The few times it wasn’t mud and roots it was MORE giant hills, one where we climbed over a HUGE fallen tree/log. Eventually we came to a clearing near the highway where we grabbed a plastic egg filled with candy (eew outside candy!) and a raffle #. Then down past the trucks “honking” and onto the mostly flat Towpath for a few easy miles to the finish. I felt strong and I’m not as nervous about the 10-miler tomorrow (Sat). I certainly earned the food afterward! Here is our picture in the parking lot after we finished the 4.4 mile journey.

Wednesday night (after going to Water aerobics and Zumba) I went out with a girl from class LINE DANCING. I had NO idea what I was doing, but everyone seemed so nice and I had a blast!
So in honor of all the great things I get to do with my new and old friends…a post about friendship!
~*~ FRIENDS ~*~
Honestly, the best thing anyone who is getting into fitness can do for success is make a friend, or two, or more. I do not necessarily mean a fitness partner or a fitness sponsor. Not someone who will hold you accountable AKA make you feel guilty or obligated. I mean someone who will make you smile in the process, or after, or leading up to it. A person to share joys and sorrows with, and provide an ear for when the time comes.
During my first few encounters with running, I noticed how everyone seemed to be a member of this huge family. Never did I think running was a community, it always seemed to be an extended family. People didn’t ask each other for finish times or latest achievements; children were told this was “wrong” and “rude”. Instead talk was focused on the enjoyment of the race, the feelings before and after, and the pleasure at seeing the other person. Sure, techniques were discussed, but always in a helpful and curious way. If it had not been for my first running “club” message board, leading to my meeting Frank and Gale, I do not think I’d be a racer. Noticed I did not say I wouldn’t be running…but I am not sure if I would have kept going to different groups and trying to make that connection.
And that is something I often forget now in my fourth year of running. I have my “family” and I have my “extended” family, but I so often forget to include new members. At times I painfully forget how some running clubs seemed elite and snobby, when I was so shaken and unsure. As a member of a half dozen…ok let’s be honest…probably a dozen various running groups, I have my pick when it comes to which serves what purpose. Not everyone lives in an area or has the knowledge I do to work the system. Unfortunately, many people’s first impressions are lasting and final.
For example, the meeting I attended about the perfect race? I didn’t know anyone there, so I decided to sit by myself and wait it out. A woman began talking to me, and I slowly responded back here and there to be polite. We got to talking about a few past races and not to sound arrogant, I single handedly changed her mind about a race and convinced her to give its sister race in the fall a chance. At the end of the night, she took the time to thank me. She said she did not know anyone, this was her first meeting, and she was glad someone took the time to include her. I was blown away as I walked to my car. Had I really forgotten what was at the heart of this all?
Looking back at my many races, I see a pattern in quite a few. Many of my favorite races are those where I took time to talk to someone outside of my own circle. Races, when I helped someone smile and see the good in what was going on around them. Or when someone took the time to remind me it was more than just one foot in front of the other. My first marathon was a horrible experience. My main complaint? Not the pain I felt, the physical illness or the embarrassing finish time. What I hated was being so alone and the hurtful comments by fellow runners in the same position. Barely a year later, I found myself on a 50K course, having one of the greatest days of my life. Guess what? I had pain, physical illness and a not too impressive finishing time. What was different? The people! My friends on the course with me, the aid workers, and every single smile I saw or felt along the way. We are in this together and it is time more people saw it.
Even for those who do not race or attend club meetings, friends can make a difference. Using Twitter to update the accomplishment of a strong work out or doing the same on Facebook. Using statuses to commit to a diet or exercise plan for the day or reaching out for unexpected company. Social media sites are all around for help with finding something to do or someone to partake in it. Afterward you can relive the moments through pictures, stories or videos.
This past semester was the first time I consistently went to the school recreation center to work out. What was my secret? Not the time crunch of graduating, but the joy in having friends to take the classes with me. Familiar faces to welcome me each week and who will bounce ideas back and forth.
Now, I hear you asking…what if I don’t know anyone? This is the tricky part, but it is totally doable! Make new friends. Not friends at the bar you will bribe to go to the gym with you…friends already at the gym. How do you go about doing this? Well, that is going to be your job to find your style and build your confidence. Personally, I would start with that guy or gal you always see on the machine next to you, or out on the track, or if you are already going to classes…within those walls. Perhaps causally asking them one day “Did you find the combo this week a little harder than normal?” Or on the way up the steps “Hey, you’re going to Zumba, right?”
When people work out the happy making hormones and junk are released. So, hopefully strangers will be more open to talking. One word of advice…locker room talk can be troublesome. I would suggest you leave that to a last resort or for the ultimate challenge. Most people do not like to be chatted up while half naked. IMHO. Also, trying to pressure your siblings, housemates or significant other is going to blow up in your face. Even if they give in, their heart won’t match yours. Eventually you will find yourself asking, do they resent me for this? What will I have to do to make up for it? Is this really as terrible as they think? Is something wrong with me for doing this? Or you may just get frustrated with the hoops and walls they create for you and the little spark you felt for fitness won’t develop into a healthy ongoing flame and fire.

On a positive note, with a large and/or new network of friends you get to experience the world vicariously. Never been to Washington? Well, maybe your new on-line buddy lives there and can tell you all about the training conditions. First person in your group to give birth and now you’re a member of the “Mommy Club?” a quick Google search may ease your social sorrows and confusion. Looking for a hot new product? Give-a-ways and reviews might give you a sneak peak at what’s headed to a store near you.

There is a side to fitness other than what it can do to your own mind, spirit and body. It is the people out there searching and molding along with you. Step up to the plate and make a friend. Send a smile across the crowd at the starting line. Stay behind when you finish for a moment and cheer someone in. Hand a banana to the person next to you in line. Volunteer to hand out water at an aid station. Rent a Zumba video on a Friday night…and shake your booty while letting go of the week’s happenings, add wine if you need, just make sure the webcam is off!

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