Out There: These Are My People

The running community is one tight-knit group. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

What’s the best part about the running community? The people, writes Susan Lacke.

“So there I was, 70 miles into the race,” Jason sighed as he recounted his recent 100-mile race. “It was awful—cold, rainy, muddy, you name it—and I was so tired. There was a section where we had to run upstream through a creek, and I remember thinking to myself, This is stupid. Who does something this stupid?”

“I’d do it,” Brian shrugged.

“Sounds pretty badass, actually,” I laughed.

“Mm-mm-mmm,” Heidi nodded as she mumbled with a mouth full of French toast.

Jason laughed and motioned dramatically with open arms: “I’m with my people.”

Jason wasn’t the only one with a race story to tell that day. Heidi and Brian arrived at our table doing a Frankenstein walk, having raced Ironman Texas the day before. Our table of four ordered enough food to feed a family of eight. During the course of the meal, our conversation ranged from race reports to injuries to bike crashes to chafing to track workouts to unique places we’ve peed mid-run. Our conversation was punctuated by big gestures and loud laughter.

To most of the patrons of the café, our table must have been quite a sight. But for us, it was just another Sunday morning brunch. As I drove away from the café with a smile on my face, I realized Jason was right—I was with my people.

Most of my closest friends are runners. Some of them I’ve known forever, like my best friend from college, Meghan. Our friendship predates our running days, but in the last few years, our heart-to-heart conversations have moved from late nights at the bar to early-morning runs along the lakefront.

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Other runner friends have fartlek’d their way into my heart upon first meeting. Sharing a trail with another person has a way of fast-forwarding past the small talk and getting straight to the deep conversations. On more than one occasion, I’ve started a run alone and ended it with a sweaty hug from my new BFF. My mother told me never to talk to strangers, much less hug them, but I’m pretty sure she’d approve of these new friends—and probably invite them over for pancakes.

With every passing year, my circle of people grows. Races feel like a family reunion. Athletes squeal with delight when they see a familiar face at the expo. We high-five in the starting corral. We find each other at the finish line to celebrate PRs, even when they’re not our own. We grumble about the hills and make staunch declarations of “never, ever, ever, ever again.” We take pictures for Facebook and drink beer in the finisher tent until “never again” turns into “OK, I’m in for next year’s race.”

These are my people. I want to put them all in a fanny pack and carry them with me everywhere. That probably sounds creepy, but I don’t really care. It’s the truth. This community, this strange and talented makeshift family of ours, puts to rest the notion of running as a solitary sport.

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We support each other. We celebrate each other. We lend a helping hand when things start to go downhill. And when we start to think, “this is stupid, who does something this stupid,” all we need to do is look up at our fellow runners and we have our answer.

We may be stupid, but we’re certainly not alone.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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