Over the past three years, I have become more and more distanced from my local running friendships, and a couple of Facebook conversations this week prompted me to share my conclusion that in-person running friendships are not something to take for granted, that despite your specific training plans which may make it hard to “lace up and go” together, it’s worth figuring out how to make it work.
RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS
When I first started being coached, I began heart rate based training. The result was that my workouts were structured around lengths of time at specific zones. For example, as opposed to “run three miles,” a typical workout may be “warm up ten minutes at Zone 1, run 20 minutes at Zone 2, 10 minutes at Zone 3, cool down 10 minutes at Zone 1” or “here’s a workout on iTunes — put it in your ears and do what it says” (not an instruction from my current coach) or “every 20 minutes, run at a higher heart rate zone for 3 minutes and then slow back down”). It was a little complicated to get my head around and I felt awkward telling people “even though I can run faster, I have to watch my heart rate monitor and stay within a zone so don’t pay attention to me.”
Related to this change, I began isolating myself from group runs I previously had participated in. In addition to the specificity of the workouts, my first coach did not want me racing as much as I had been (translation: almost every Saturday). The withdrawal from frequent racing made sense from a training standpoint but took me further away from the Saturday morning visit/run/sweat/eat routine.
My initial goal of being coached was to prepare for my first half marathon (September 2012) but after that I was single-focused on my goal of the sub-30 5K. That’s why I stuck so religiously to the “less racing” and “more following coach’s instructions to the letter” plan even though it meant being separated from my running peeps.
I vividly remember one friend saying of the Saturday morning group runs, “We’d invite you but we know you do your own thing.”
To be fair, a certain amount of my running has always been solitary. Early morning runs before work are sometimes more easily accomplished by just knocking them out in the neighborhood. I’m not always able or willing to meet a group at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. I love running alone but I also love the people in my running community. The farther I got into my little training world, the more distance grew between my local running friends and me.
I can’t say exactly when I began refusing to accept the impact my coaching plan had on my local running friendships, but I saw a subtle shift about a year and a half ago, when I started meeting a group of Moms Run This Town (MRTT) runners on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:30 a.m. for their runs. I was always the “caboose” and still running alone but it made a difference to start out with a group, to say hello to friends, and for someone to know I was out there (and to have a change of scenery from my neighborhood loop). It was a little silly to drive 20 minutes there and 20 minutes back, sometimes for a 40 minute run, but some actions that add quality to our running lives are not measured solely in minutes spent.
The more obvious shift came when I began experiencing challenges with my heart rate, leading to my April 2015 EP study and diagnosis of multifocal atrial tachycardia (MAT). Because an ablation was contraindicated (for now), I am currently taking a beta blocker half an hour before I run and, although I am sure there are plenty of runners out there accomplishing a sub 30 5K on beta blockers, I am dubious that is in the cards for me, so I am re-assessing my goal.
And it bothers me that before I got to the point of reassessing that goal, my path took me farther and farther from my local running friends, leaving me with a goal unaccomplished (I hate that!) and social bridges whose support pilings were on the verge of being washed out due to neglect.
That is why, when I got into those two Facebook conversations last week, I sent back responses that were hopefully articulately, sensitively, and diplomatically worded but were intended to say:
RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
IT IS MORE COMPLICATED AND YOU’LL HAVE TO BE CREATIVE BUT …
RUN WITH YOUR FRIENDS!
I am not saying that coaching is a bad idea AT ALL (I LOVE my coach and my team at KR Endurance) and I believe in the effectiveness of heart-rate based training. BUT don’t abandon your local running friends.Whatever happens with your coaching journey and however many workouts you check off as complete in an online training system, none of that can replace:
- Scrambling to make it to pre-race photos
- Shared Finish Lines
- Conversations over breakfast/coffee/beer/pizza (and Tuesday Post-Track Tacos of course)
- Sacrificing your time goal on race day to help a friend who is struggling or has injured themselves
- Sweaty hugs
- The growth of trust and history with fellow runners that only accretes through being together regularly