Since becoming a runner, one of the things I’ve really come to appreciate about the sport is the community.
I’ve been running regularly for about 10 months now, and am feeling less and less like a fake. The times when I feel most like a runner are…
1. Weekend long runs
My alarm (either internal or external) generally goes off by 7:00 on Saturday mornings, and I’m laced up, granola bar’d, and on the trail by 7:30. Although I’m a solo runner, opting to spend the 6-10 miles with my audiobook, I never feel lonely. I’m bound to pass another runner friend, a piano student’s parent, a member of my gym, or just other runners out doing a training run that morning. There’s even one woman, whom I’ve never officially met, that I’ve named Carla in my head. I see Carla every Saturday morning without fail, running with her water bottles strapped around her waist, then generally bump into her at races, as well.
As a runner, every time you run by someone, it’s polite to say a “Good morning!” or at least give a little wave. Often, you’ll pass the same person going back the other direction. The second time, it’s customary to say “Hello… again!” or share a little laugh. The joke never gets old–you’ve got to do something to entertain yourself while you’re out there.
Then there are the strong runners who fly by at my sprint pace–even though they’re running twice as many miles as I am. My favorites are the ones that give an encouraging thumbs up or even a “Good work!” It may sound cheesy, but those little encouragements can go a long way.
2. Running stores
Gary Gribble’s Running Sports is the mecca of all running stores in the KC area. It’s a great place for running shoes and apparel, as well as accessories like running gloves, hats, and water bottles. You can even score all kinds of running memorabilia like coffee mugs, lanyards, headbands, and bumper stickers sporting the ever-popular 26.2 or 13.1 logo.
Walking into Gary Gribble’s makes me feel like my hobby is legit. I walk over to the glove section, and peruse the 50+ choices. An employee comes over to help me:
“What are you looking for today?”
“Well, I’m thinking I need some gloves.”
“Let me show you our options: these $50 gloves have three sweat-wicking layers, insulated in fleece. The $25 gloves are our thinnest and sport a pocket for your car key. These $800 gloves actually communicate with your tennis shoes and ensure that your hands and feet are moving in perfect harmony to propel you forward at the optimal pace dependent on the incline of the path and the length of your stride.” (Okay, I made that last one up…)
“Gosh, I just don’t know. There are so many choices…”
“I guess you just have to ask yourself how cold your hands get.”
“They get pretty cold. Even a little numb.”
The employees at Garry Gribble’s are also so encouraging. The company often holds training runs, and sets up water stations along running routes. One time, I was out on a 10-miler, trying out the fancy new water bottle I’d purchased earlier in the week. I couldn’t get any water out! I felt like a total idiot, until I ran by the lady who’d sold it to me, walking from one water station to the next.
“Excuse me!” I said. “I’m sorry, but I recognize you from Garry Gribble’s. Could you tell me the trick to this water bottle?”
“Oh sure!” She responded, and gave me a quick tutorial right there on the path.
On my way back, I passed one of her water stations.
“How’s that water bottle working now?” she asked.
“Just great!” I answered. “Thanks for the tip!”
3. Water stations
Sometimes on a long run I’ll get lucky and run by a water station that is set up for a running group that morning. “Hey! Come get some water!” They’ll often call. And I just can’t pass them up. You stand around the water cooler for a minute or two, sipping from a Dixie cup.
“How far are you running today?”
“Wow! What are you training for?”
“The Des Moines marathon. You?”
“The Kansas City half.”
“Good luck! That’s awesome!”
“Have a good run!”
(Fast forward a couple of weeks.)
“Hey! How’s the training going?”
So much encouragement! I love it.
4. Race Expos
I LOVE packet pick-up. Walking around, checking out upcoming events and running apparel. I’ve become a sucker for those cheesy running shirts, like: “I’m only half crazy,” or “I don’t go all the way.” I’m loving all those new running headbands, and plan to invest in some soon. Probably the one that says: “Will run for ice cream,” or maybe, “I’m a wine drinker with a running problem.”
5. Race Day!
No words can explain the endorphin kick that comes from a good race. Thousands of runners, warming up, stretching, listening to “Pumped Up Kicks” over and over again. The spectators with their awesome signs: “You’ve got stamina! Give me a call…” “Your feet hurt from all that ass you’re kicking!” or just “Go, Mommy!” even though they’re not my kids.
Then there’s that awesome feeling of walking around afterwards, sweaty and disgusting, a medal around your neck, eating a banana and drinking a chocolate milk. Chocolate milk really makes me feel like a runner.
It’s these times that get me out of bed at 4:45 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and that keep me hitting the trail every Saturday morning. It’s these reasons that I’m signed up for nine more races this season. Moral of the story? I love being a runner and being a part of this community.