“Running is pretty unique in that we can each pursue a personal best, yet be completely supportive of our friends pursuing their own goals at the same time.”
On an early Saturday morning in June 2018, I was making an attempt to get myself out of bed and geared up to attend my first team run with the Miles for Miracles team for Boston Children’s Hospital in preparation for the NYC Marathon. I wasn’t super excited about it (ew, running with other people), but I had listened to all the veteran charity runners at the kickoff event describe, “how quickly the team becomes like family” and “oh how wonderful it is to have running friends,” and on and on.
I wasn’t buying it.
Before you judge me, let me say that this was not the first time I had heard this theory. In 2016 when I ran my first marathon, also as a charity runner, I went through the same series of events: attended the kickoff meeting, heard stories from veteran runners from the years prior, and received a motivational speech from the head coach. I attended every Saturday morning long run with the team that winter. There were a few fellow runners who I would see week to week. We would chat briefly while warming up and waiting for that week’s rendition of the coach’s pep talk, but once we all go out to run, I kind of tuned into my own world.
So, you can imagine my hesitations going into this training series.
Obviously, you know where this is going. I ended up meeting my running crew. I’ll spare you the details of how our tribe came to be, but here’s a quick rundown of the sizzling six: Me, 29, training for my fourth marathon and first with the Miles for Miracles team; Mary*, 24, finishing grad school and running her first marathon; Sam, 25, a veteran runner for the Miles for Miracles team, and at about 6’5” had a stride longer than some of us combined; Stacy, 29, a recent Wharton MBA grad and newly donned dog mom; Stan, 49, another veteran runner for the Miles for Miracles team and avid Boston sports fan; and Dave, 53, running his 6th NYC marathon (who knows how many overall), father of a son who is a direct recipient of all the wonderful care Boston Children’s Hospital provides and an avid New York sports fan.
At first glance, our group would appear to bare no common interests (other than running), but we became incredibly close over the months of training. Believe it or not, we were all able to relate to each other’s life experiences. Our long runs consisted of a wide range of topics, but our favorite banter consisted of Stan and Dan throwing shade back and forth about Boston sports vs. New York sports. It was highly entertaining and made the training runs fly by.
What is also important to note about this crew is that we didn’t just stop after we all completed the big race in November. We continued to organize our own group runs on various weekends into the winter. We continued to hold each other accountable. By late winter, all 6 of us were signed up or training for our next marathon.
We’ve kept in touch regularly asking each other about races, reminiscing on NY training and planning our next group run (once life settles down, of course). Mary, Stacy and I were so determined to stay in marathon shape after New York that we started signing up for treadmill classes once a week. Work and school schedules have forced us to shift things around here and there, but we do a pretty good job at getting to those classes. Stacy and I are both training for fall marathons again, so we’ve synched up our training plans for our Saturday morning long runs.
Dan and I meet up early in the morning once a week for and easy 3-5 miles before work. We continue to run the gamut of conversation topics: golf, dating, travel, growing up, sports, etc. Dan and I once spent an entire run going through the pros and cons of different job offers I had received. It doesn’t always work out every week (life happens), but we’ve been pretty consistent week to week. Although, he would be quick to point out the two occasions that I bailed on him (in my defense, it was snowing heavily).
I am very grateful for having met my running crew. I’m not sure I would be nearly as motivated about my fall training this year if it wasn’t for them. You don’t need to go to the team long runs or train with anyone, but my experience the second time around was totally worth it.
Here are a few suggestions on how to find your pack:
· Run for a Charity – these teams almost always have coaches with training plans, including scheduled runs. It’s a great way to learn a little more about your team and what you’re all running for. Plus, once you start going to a couple, you’ll find those people that are at your same pace and eventually someone is going to say, “see you next week?” Then you get your pick of feeling guilty or having FOMO if you don’t show up next week.
· Join a running group – These groups tend to have scheduled (casual) weekly runs and are often free. There’s typically multiple pace groups and varying distances depending on what everyone is training for. It’s also a great way to “explore” if you’re new to an area, particularly a city. Heartbreak Hill Running Company offers group runs, speed workouts and training runs all for free and based out of their different locations
· Join a running club – different from a group in that you typically have to cough up some dough. But it also offers a bit more than a casual group run once a week. You usually get access to higher caliber trainings, coaching and classes. Heartbreak Hill Running Company also has its own club, the Heartbreakers, where for an additional fee you get access to top coaching, treadmill classes and some pretty exclusive events (like meeting Shalane Flanagan).
· Force a friend – Most of my friends think I am absolutely bananas for training and running these things. But if you can convince someone to sign up for a race with you, then it’s a built-in training partner and you can conquer the workouts together.
*names have been changed to protect privacy