By Alexis Mercer
The truth is that I have always been more of a loner when it comes to running. I enjoy the quiet, the peace and solitude. Even before I had kids of my own this was true. Being a teacher and coach by day, running has always been an escape; a way to relax after a day of noise, decision making, searching for answers and crowds of people. Often I seek routes with next to no traffic and definitely no other people.
When my husband and I started dating, he was not a distance runner. He was a sprinter in track in high school. I’ve heard he was quite fast (not from him, mind you...he thankfully doesn’t relive the high school track days). And while I was a sprinter in high school track, too, I reverted back to distance running of my high school cross country days since I certainly wasn’t going to be an Olympic qualifier as an adult in the 400 meter dash and distance running provided more opportunity for amateur races.
I quickly decided that getting him into distance running was a bad idea. I didn’t enjoy changing my pace to match his or at least being aware of a difference in pace. We worked well together in other areas of life, but certainly not in matching our pace in running. While I can give myself credit for getting him getting into distance running, I claim zero credit for his continuing that pursuit. I dropped him as a running partner like a hot potato.
Ever since I have loved running on my own. Sometimes I listen to music and sometimes just the air around me.
So when Lindsey and I started running together in January, I was quite nervous. I told her that I am not much for talking while I run. She said the same. I figured it would be alright and if it wasn’t then we would both probably know. Thankfully it worked right from the start.
We have the same pace without having to work at matching each other. Sometimes one or the other of us is having a better day and we push each other at just the right times. We still don’t talk a ton. People who can talk non-stop when they are running are phenoms, I think. Just breathing is a feat for me.
I realized a few weeks ago as we were running repeats on the track that all these years I was wrong. I am a person who enjoys running with a partner. I just hadn’t found the right partner yet. And I still enjoy running most days solo. It’s the only time I have during the day where I don’t have to answer to anyone at all. I have space in my head for just my voice. But on the days when we do run together, it’s a perfect match.
This is how I came to sign up for the Kent City Ridge Run 15k last weekend. I never, ever, in one million billion years would have signed up on my own. Not that 15k is too far or that it would be too cold, but I have heard horror stories about the hills in the Ridge Run. It’s not just 9.3 miles. It’s 9.3 miles of hills. In March.
But Lindsey wanted to sign up so we could use it as a stepping stone for our race coming up in May. I begrudgingly agreed. How could I tell my running partner no?
I can’t say that any of the horror stories that I heard were completely false. It is a hard race. The hills. Goodness the hills. But that wasn’t really the worst of it. I actually don’t mind hilly courses as long as there is equal “down time”, which there is in this race. But the wind on March 24 was like Mother Nature had decided she was going to blow us out of the race and perhaps into Lake Michigan (or maybe farther, honestly).
We ran really quickly when the wind was at our backs. But that was in the first 4 miles of the race. The 2nd to last mile we were going up a massive hill and the wind was blowing so hard that I felt like I was standing still. Lindsay yelled out “turn the wind off already” and I knew she was over it.
Mile 5 we passed a nice gentleman who we were encouraging to continue strong. He chatted with us for a minute and said “well, at least the wind is keeping us honest.” My response was muttered under my breath and was teeming with sarcasm, but luckily the deafening sound of the wind muted the words. It wasn’t the man who said it...I was just done with the wind.
But we made it. And when we were done, enjoying a nice, warm baked potato with sour cream, cheese and butter all lopped on top (their food at the end of the race is legit), we agreed that it could have been worse. It could have been hilly, raining AND windy.
She raced off to her daughter’s soccer game while I went home, found 14 blankets to pile on top of me to break the chill of the wind, and enjoy some March Madness.
We had accomplished a big thing for a Saturday morning in March. 15k of hilly, windy running. I felt proud and strong. The truth is that I never would have crossed the start line if it weren’t for my running partner.
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