There’s something about enduring the trials of the miles with other runners that has the ability to forge long-lasting bonds.
Twentysomething years ago this month, I was a wide-eyed freshman in college. I had been a decent high school runner and was trying to walk on at a Division I college program. Although I never ran as fast as I thought I could on the track, it was an invaluable experience that not only influenced my career path, but also helped me forge lifelong friendships.
I just spent three days with one of those friends, Mark, helping him through his initial recovery period from a planned but still very serious surgical procedure. During his convalescence, we talked about the old days, former teammates, recent races and the dramatic shift in running shoe design. We talked about work, family and other stuff, too, but even though we haven’t seen each other much in the past four years or so, our connection was the same as it was years ago. Our friendship, although it has extended as our lives have gone on, is clearly rooted in all of the miles we have run together.
Would we still be friends if I had met him in my economics class or worked a part-time job with him on campus? Maybe, maybe not. But there’s something about enduring the trials of the miles on a regular basis with other runners that has the ability to forge long-lasting bonds. It has to do with the shared dedication of earnest training, the mutual respect for each other’s commitment and also the ability to step back and not take ourselves so seriously while nonetheless being seriously devoted to rather singular pursuits.
When I met Mark, we were teenage dreamers, full of passion, wonder and ambition. Although we never verbalized it at the time, I think we understood that running, competition and exercise would be a lifelong pursuit, not just a brief blip as we were transitioning from adolescence to manhood. As such, although neither of us achieved all that we wanted to during our brief college running careers, as life went on, we continued to seek other challenges.
When our career paths led us to the Boulder/Denver area a few years after college, our friendship continued to grow as we ran endless miles on trails, competed in road races, embraced the challenge of running in the mountains and tinkered around with triathlon.
He stood up in my wedding and I stood up in his. We have each changed jobs, had kids and gotten caught up with other aspects of life, but one of the first things we ask each other when we talk on the phone is always, “how’s your training going?” And it all stems back to the moments we’ve shared before, during and after a run at any point in the past two decades.
Now that we’ve gotten older, busier and, yes, slower, I think we’ve both realized exactly how far or how fast we’re running doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it’s still a part—an important part—of our lives, and, our friendship.