When I first started running... I was slow. Extremely slow. I think my first 5k time was something in the neighborhood of 40 minutes? And, I ran the entire time. Yes, I probably got passed by some walkers along the way, but dammit... as long as your two feet are off the ground at the same time, you're a runner. And that's all that mattered to me. So, since I was slow... I ran by myself. I trained for my first half marathon alone and really got to the point where I liked running by myself.
By the time I got to training for a full marathon... I was getting in much better shape, running more consistently and I started whittling minutes off my average pace time. Eventually, I was running fast enough to be able to half-way keep up with April. So, we ran a few training runs together. And it was awesome. But, it's one thing to run with your best friend. It's another thing to run with strangers. Especially when you can have a case of the running trots or the lazies as I so often get. I never had a problem saying to April... hey... how about we cut this run short, swing by papa johns on the way home, oh and call Greg and make sure he's got the Tequila out and ready. Sure we were supposed to run 20 miles today... but, honestly, I feel like 9 is plenty. Or, DUDE, I gotta find a toilet ASAP.
So... I pretty much would only run with people I knew... April, my mom, Vandy-Montana (seriously dude, you need to update). Vandy-Montana was really the only consistent running partner I've ever had and we only ran together twice a week, usually (he got wayy too fast for me). But, I am seriously convinced that by running with him those two times a week, I trained wayyy better for the St. Louis Marathon than I would have if I had ran alone the entire time. He forced me to run faster than I normally would, and I think I compared my weekly mileage to his as well (in a friendly, not competitive way), which was added incentive to run more. Once he moved away, I had nothing. And then a couple of blog readers offered up their mornings and afternoons, and this summer I started running weekly with Matt on Thursday mornings and Anonymous Commenter (AC) on Thursday afternoons.
And it was good. At first, I was nervous to start running with people I didn't know. What if I had to stop and walk? What if got a case of the trots? What if I slowed them down too much? And eventually I realized... if any of those things happened to them on a run... it wouldn't bother me. It wasn't like we were out to blaze a new pace or anything. They, like me, just liked having someone out there to keep them company and to keep them honest. And so, I got pretty comfortable running with them pretty quick. Along the way during the summer... I also started running with Melanie, too. It was nice. I felt like I was slowly forming a running posse, (and if there is anything in life I love, it's rolling with a posse).
At this point, I had a good mix. I had my daily runs solo, my 2-a-day thursdays with a running partner for each run and then Matt and Melanie for various weekend long runs. It wasn't that much of a change. Just two days a week, really.
Then, sometime back at the end of July, I saw a thread on the Nashville Striders message board about someone in my area looking for a running partner in the early mornings. I immediately messaged back and since I was going to Montana in a few days, we decided to email each other once I got back into town.
Well, after a couple of weeks... I started thinking... hmmm.. do I really want to give up one of my solo runs? I mean, it's nice to just roll out onto the pavement whenever I want in the mornings. I decided that maybe I didn't want to start running with someone else. I was starting to get nervous about running with a stranger again. What about my trots? What if I'm too slow? I was chickening out... until I received an email from the lady: "Back from Montana? Ready to start running together?" So... I did.
We decided on Tuesdays and she wanted to meet at 5:15 am. Perfect for me... Gets me out of bed at 4:15 and out the door at 5:00 to run to the meeting spot. And that would give me plenty of time to get in some good mileage before work.
On the way to meet her for the first time in the pitch black darkness of early morning... I fell twice. That's right... in the 1.5 miles between my house and our meeting place, I fell twice, banged up my knees, and teared up cause it hurt. Bad. By the time she showed up (I'm always early), I was done trying to sop up the blood with my socks and was just letting the blood stream down my legs. Thankfully, she didn't think I was too much of a crazy and she had some babywipes in her car for me to clean up with.
That was about 2 months ago now and since then... we've met up practically every Tuesday and you know what? I love it! We've also acquired another lady who runs with us too. It's fun! I never really thought I'd become one of those runners who likes running with people all the time. I was always thought I was more of a solo zen runner. But, I think it makes me a better runner. I can definitely be lazy on my own, but find that when I run with people, I push myself way more than I would by myself.
So, it's a good lesson for me. Sometimes, being pushed out of your comfort zone into something new can be a really good thing. But mostly... it's just an AWESOME incentive to get your ass out of bed in the mornings (even if it's pouring rain, it's too damn hot, or it's too early).