Lately I’ve been a bit of a downer. I mean, in light of the strange series of unfortunate events I’ve been subject to, perhaps that’s not too much of a surprise. Cancer, sciatic nerve entrapment, cancer, catastrophic bone breaks…yeah, I’ve got a ton of stuff I could sit around and bemoan.
And I have, trust me.
Today, though, I was thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for. My son just graduated high school, I have a great job, I have my family, I’ve been able to travel and run trails in some amazing places…the list goes on, to be honest. But one thing stood out to me as something I really should spend some blog space on, not only because it’s been a shining light of positivity through the past couple of weeks, but also because I once promised to explain the title of this blog and what I meant by it: “How a Self-Professed Solo Runner Became A Groupie.” So here goes.
In July 2014, as I mentioned before, I was a committed solo runner. I just knew running with other people wasn’t something I’d enjoy.
Truth be told, I wasn’t much of a social person to begin with. I’d spent decades alone (other than my immediate family), first climbing the corporate ladder, then returning to school for a teaching credential, then a Master’s, then a Doctorate. I’d been so busy with those things that I’d really isolated myself from most people and could count the number of people I socialized with on one hand.
Really, one hand. And I wouldn’t even need all my fingers to do it.
I often had the macabre thought of what would happen if I, an only child of parents with few siblings and fewer extended family members, passed away suddenly. I figured my slight social circle would save my family money on funeral services as they simply wouldn’t be necessary.
Kinda morbid, but truthful, and I wasn’t sad or depressed about it, it just was how my world revolved.
Busy followed by busier followed by no time for that.
Anyway…during the time period leading up to that July I’d reconnected with a cousin who was herself getting back into running, and she mentioned a running group she’d joined called “Moms Run This Town”, or MRTT. She told me of the chapter in my area and how it was just getting started, a small but mighty band of women coming together for safety on the trails and roads.
Not for me, I said. These women are all young with young children and I’m neither of those things.
Not for me, I said. These women have all been running for years and are in great shape. I’ll never keep up.
Not for me, I said. I run alone.
Something, however, stuck with me after she and I talked, and I sought out the MRTT page on Facebook. I found the local chapter, and against all that I knew to be me, I asked to join.
They let me.
Soon thereafter, I went on my first group run. I remember being nervous that first time, believing myself to be far out of my element. I really expected that I’d go once and then find it against my grain, never returning.
I thought I’d somehow embarrass myself or feel like a square peg in a round hole or something.
I probably did, but the ladies in attendance that evening never let on, so I ran with them and even engaged in some awkward conversation.
Seriously, I’d not been social in years. When I say awkward, I mean it was awkward.
But the awkward turned to not so bad turned to enjoyment over the space of those few miles with those few women. I found we had more in common than I’d expected.
I was older. They did have younger children. Some were faster than me.
But none of that mattered. They accepted me and even said they looked forward to running with me again.
Before I knew it, I was running with the group regularly. The chapter grew from twenty women to two hundred women to now well over eight hundred. Other chapters formed and I joined those as well because our area is filled with women who love to run and hundreds of different places in which to do just that.
I met a woman who loved trail running and she soon convinced me to trail run. I love it more than road running now, and would never have discovered it if I’d not joined MRTT.
Since that first group run, I’ve run hundreds of times with the ladies of MRTT and have even joined other running groups in my area. I’ve run races in groups and solo and have found my passion in team relay running, something I’d never have even tried if I’d not joined a running group.
Somewhere along the line, I converted from a solo runner to a group runner. A “groupie” if you will.
That didn’t happen simply because people posted runs and I joined, however.
It happened because what came out of those group runs was a sense of belonging. A feeling that I was welcome with individuals who were just as busy living their lives as I was busy living mine, struggles and all.
We accepted one another in good times and in bad and we forged relationships outside of our running shoes.
We laughed together, cried together, supported each other through break-ups and make-ups and all manner of relationship struggles. We’ve dined, drank, painted, trampolined…at this point, I don’t think there’s much we wouldn’t try as a group of friends who comes together easily and laughs the same way.
Since my injury, countless friends I’ve met through the group have supported me with food, entertainment, conversation, rides to and from places, and humor to break up the silence of recovery. These women, the ones I was afraid to run with two years ago, are now not “running friends” but are, in every sense of the word “friends,” with or without the running attached. They’re a support system of the kind I never knew existed outside of family connections.
They’ve added a dynamic to my life I never knew was missing, and I can’t explain that individually to each and every one but I hope they all know what they’ve taught me.
What I’ve learned from becoming a “groupie” is so much more valuable than simply how to run with other people. It’s how to live.
How to embrace life with passion and squeeze every minute I can out of it, good or bad.
How to share experiences with other people who will be around to remember with me.
How, most importantly, to be a friend.
I’m proud to be part of this amazing group of women, and honored that they accepted me into their circle.
Being a groupie isn’t so bad. As a matter of fact, it’s amazing.