Monday, July 4, 2011

The Running Community

If you've been reading for a while, you know that I just started running last summer. I used the Couch to 5k program, and before I knew it I was running a 10k and then a half marathon. It's been a really awesome journey. I've learned a lot about myself. I've learned about what my body can do and a little bit of what it can't do. I've learned just how much of the sport is mental. I've begun to discover the amazing benefits physically and emotionally to running. One of the things I've been most surprised by is the amazing gift of community that running brings.

I've found overwhelming support for this journey from so many places. My dear friend Kristie, a marathon runner and USA-Fit Philly coach, has been a never ending source of encouragement and wisdom. She ran my first 10k and my first half marathon with me, and she cheered me on when I ran my first 11 miles as part of the Gettysburg Marathon Relay despite having been sidelined unexpectedly herself. She tolerates my text messages after almost every workout telling her how well it did or didn't go. She responds to my questions about foam rollers, training plans, and possible injuries. She's pretty much a saint.

But my supporters didn't stop there. The virtual community is pretty awesome. From here on the blog to Facebook and twitter, I've had so many people willing to cheer me on offering support and guidance along the way. Relationships have blossomed. For instance, I started reading a woman named Paula's blog when I saw my friend Kristie comment on a link about it. She is another PhillyFit coach. We offered each other support via blog comments for upcoming races, and next thing I know Paula sent me my very own PhillyFit shirt and an encouraging note before my half marathon. That's the community I'm talking about.  Runners who have gone out of there way to welcome me with open arms assuring me that it didn't matter how slow or how far I went, I was doing something really great and I was, in fact, a runner.
Sweet inspiration from blogger friend Paula!
 When you're running 11-12 minute miles, it's easy to think you don't belong with all those people who call themselves runners as they talk about 9 minute miles being slow jogs. I've come across my share of snotty folks to be honest. Races where they won't give you the time a day or they run out of water at the water stops after the 8 minute mile pace group comes through. I even had someone tell me condescendingly that it was cute I was doing the Couch to 5k program. But the fact is, they have been the minority.

This past week, I met my local running club for the first time and did my first ever track workout. I was nervous. I didn't know anyone. I am pretty slow among runners. I am still learning the jargon, and I've never done a track workout. I emailed the president of the club who invited me to come check it out and assured me they had folks running my pace. The hardest part was awkwardly introducing myself to some random runners not knowing who I should talk to when I first got there. After that, I was made to feel so at home. There was one woman who ran my pace or a little slower; she told me to stick with her. As it turned out, she took a walk break during the first 1600 and I decided to keep running. I fell in step with another slightly faster runner who was doing an easy workout after having had a hard workout with her trainer. The coach and club president cheered me along as we past them on their recovery laps. They checked into see how I was doing and make sure I was still smiling.

The next day I got an email asking how I was doing, inviting me back, and reminding me not to worry about anything else because this was about me and not anyone else. They invited me to be a part of their club which they hoped would be more like a community, a family of support for reaching whatever goals I had in mind. I know this club is not the only great club in this way. I mean I know there are some snobby clubs out there, but these clubs that welcome anyone with open arms and just want to share the joy of running and the pride of reaching new goals are what running is all about.

As a result of all of this support, I've been able to offer my support to others. I've watched a number of friends tackle the Couch to 5k program, and I have been thrilled to cheer them along and so excited for them when they met their goals. This past Saturday, I got to run my sister's first 5k with her! She completed the Coach to 5k program a few weeks ago. We attempted her first 5k two weeks ago, but they messed up the course and it was only 2 miles! But this Saturday, we got it right. I was honored to cross that finish line with her after hearing about her workouts along the way, celebrating on good days and offering suggestions or support on bad days. It was a hot day and had a lot more hills than her regular terrain, but she kept going, hoping to finish and dreaming of finishing under 40 minutes. And she did, at 38:25! Go Jennifer! Congratulations, you are a runner!

I'm blessed to be a part of this running community continually being inspired and hopefully being a source of inspiration. It doesn't get much better than a group of people just wanting to help each other improve, grow, and meet their goals!


  1. Awesome conclusion. I had to borrow it. :)

  2. Ok so I somehow missed this post. I saw paula s quotation but couldn't find it. you are inspirational keep it up. I also love following your ab day I wil motivate in that area


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