With a Little Help from My Friends

Distance running has the image of being a solitary activity. Contemplative at best, lonely at worst.  I’ve experienced both ends of that spectrum. While I cherish the alone time for de-stressing and thinking afforded by my many solo runs, nearly all of my growth as a runner is directly attributable to the wisdom and/or company of others.

Today’s long run reminded me of that again. My schedule said 18 miles with four near the end at marathon pace. I arranged to meet my friend Noel for the last 10. Another longtime and faster running friend, Bill, would use the 4 race pace miles as his short run. Bill’s house became our meeting place.

I started on my own under vibrant blue and breezy skies. Knowing Noel would be waiting at the end of my first loop, I refused to let my pace slip. She was already helping me, without even being there. I picked her up after 7 miles, and our next 6 together sped past as we caught up and chatted about work, her kids, training, travels, and other people we know. We were back at Bill’s already.

Fast finish long runs can be a challenge. Adding up to 6 race pace miles at the end of a long run is a great way to build stamina and teach the body to push hard despite fatigue. Usually I love the energy boost from picking it up at the end, but today I had stiff and sore legs from a weight workout. I would have been tempted to slack on my own.

I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends.

Bill and Noel held me accountable. Their fresher legs pulled me out and back for two miles, during which we kept each other going with encouraging comments. They reminded me that I had kept this pace for 26 miles, so four was a cake walk. I reminded them that we’d likely push against a stiffer wind in the Shamrock Half Marathon in 5 weeks, so we were getting good training. Bill and I, who both sat out with injuries last year, agreed we were happy and lucky to be running today. We periodically praised each other’s energy and pace. It was your basic four-mile love fest.

I get high with a little help from my friends.

Love turned to “Sh*t!” when we arrived back at Bill’s and I saw my lopsided car sinking on to a flat rear tire. There is something ironic about using foot and heart power to travel 18 miles, only to be stranded by a motorized vehicle issue. Driving through a construction area on the way to stash a water bottle, I’d given the wheel an unintentional piercing.

As independent and progressive as I like to think myself, I take a pre-feminist, foolish pride in not knowing how to do anything with my car other than drive it, check the oil, and reluctantly pump gas. Bill and his son Brett came to my rescue, loosening the hubcap and looking for the jack as I headed back out for a final mile. They saved me considerable stress, frustration, and time spent waiting for roadside assistance had I gone it alone on this day.

Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends!

An informal poll to the runners stopping by: Are you a lone wolf or a pack animal, and why?


3 Responses to “With a Little Help from My Friends”

  1. 1 Meredith February 10, 2008 at 7:24 am

    Lone wolf, for sure! I like to do my own thing, run when i want, walk when i want, eat when i want, etc. Every once in a while i do not mind some company, but overall i like the solitude.

  2. 2 Heather February 10, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I like a mix of both — lone running, and group running.

    It is odd, in the rest of my life I’m very defensively a solitary person… but that eases up some for fitness activities– while moving is the only time I feel I can really talk to most people.

  3. 3 Tricia February 10, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Positively a lone wolf.

    I’m not a big fan of running with people. One, because I usually can’t keep up. I’m very slow, and I hate that I always bring up the rear. I don’t like making people feel like they have to slow down just for me.

    Two, I don’t converse well while running. I like to get into my own groove and spend time with my thoughts. I don’t like talking to people when I’m trying to get in a zone, and deal with stuff in my head.

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