"Running is great, my friend."
~ E. Ward
I have this friend, let's call her Chicken. We met back in 2015 at a Oiselle running camp. Our friendship was instant and though we don't live in the same area, we talk and see each other enough that I've continued to grow closer to her year after year. We have a lot in common. We're both 42. We're both marathoners, though Chicken is a quite a bit faster than me. We're both competitive, mostly with ourselves. And we're both ready and willing both to laugh at and make fun of ourselves, particularly in front of a crowd; this being one of the main things that brought us together in the first place. (see above pic) Last time we hung out, at NEBirdcamp 2017 this past June, we tossed around the idea of running a marathon together at some point. We have similar goals and we'd like to hit them sooner rather than later. Why not go for it together? But, then we're both stupidly busy and have totally different personal agendas and so on and so forth. So, when we said our goodbyes we hadn't really landed on anything other than "let's think about it". And that might take a while. In the meantime, I suggested that we get some virtual training in together over the summer. We couldn't actually do our long runs and workouts together, but we could check in with each other before and after for pep talks and assessments. For this, she was in. I sent her my training plan so she could get on the same track as me moving forward. Weeks passed, maybe a month, and I hadn't heard from her. Not a big deal, but I was eager to see if she'd started in on her summer training so we could compare notes. I reached out last week to see what was up. She apologized and in so many words told me she'd been under a rock in many different areas of her life lately and was struggling to catch up and, ultimately, to rise above it. I told her that an apology wasn't necessary, that life is unpredictable and that I'd just wanted to touch base because it had been a while. So, we caught each other up on our lives, eventually landing on our running. She asked me how my training was going, knowing that I'm gearing up for an October race. Here's how our conversation unfolded:
ME: I'm starting to get nervous about all the training that's coming up. So much f***ing mileage. Do me a favor and remind me every once in a while that I can deal with it. Sometimes I forget.
Chicken: You can do the mileage. That's the damn easy part. It's just the time. The running itself is so great.
Me: True. But motivation gets hard. I keep coming back to your speech... (one she made at our last Birdcamp about training for the Olympic marathon trials qualifier)....and hearing your brother say, "she's working so hard. What if she doesn't get it??!!"
Chicken: I love to run. Sometimes I dislike it when life gets hard or I'm working a ton. But running is great, my friend.
Me: Yes. You're so right. But...
Chicken: Running is so fun, Trax. Wish I could run with you right now.
Me: If only.
Chicken: Here's the thing Trax:
If our fast running were to go to pieces....we'd still see each other dozens of times over the years.... we'd still be great friends....I'd still love and respect you....I'd still know how kind and smart you are...
Me: I'm actually a really good dancer, too. You really haven't seen my moves yet.
We talked a lot more after that but this particular part of the conversation really stuck with me. Maybe Chicken and I will run a marathon together. Maybe we won't. It doesn't matter, really. Because in the end, running will still be awesome and we will still be friends. Looking ahead to my next race, I might hit my goal and I'll be thrilled and life will be great. But, I might not hit my goal and that will be a bummer and life will still be great. My friends aren't going to like me less because I didn't hit my goal. And regardless, I'll still be running. Because it feels good and because it makes me happy. And my times? They have nothing to do with any of it. It only took her three different attempts to get her point across. But, I finally got it. I get it. You're the best, Chicken.
Listen to this:
Perspective - Until the Ribbon Breaks