For the most part, I've been a solo runner. It's easier for me to just head out on my own, run at my own pace, and not think about trying to keep up with anyone else. But on Saturday I arranged to go on a run with my friend Robyn, a hiking buddy from the AMC who has run a bunch of marathons but lately has become something of an insane rowing goddess. I decided not to hold that against her and we went ahead with the plan. As I pulled into Community Rowing (her home away from home) just before 10 AM on this beautiful fall day I spotted Robyn in her rowing gear, latte in hand. She gave me a quick tour of the place (it's a gorgeous building) and went up to change into running gear while I stretched in the weight room. Robyn had just rowed for and hour and a half which gave me some hope that I could keep up with her on the run.
We started off in shorts and t-shirts at just under a 9:00/mile pace according to my funky new watch. We chatted about life, running, and birthdays (mine was the next day) as my watch kept track of the mileage, occasionally beeping to let me know another mile had past. She led me on past Watertown Square to a part of the bike path I'd never run on as we meandered along the Charles pausing only briefly to let Robyn check out the crew boats on the river. I was conscious of the fact that we were keeping a pretty solid pace, but more so that we were two athletes bonding over the simplest joys; shared interest and exercise.
On we went, trying to decide how far we wanted to go but knowing that the final distance really didn't matter much. The pace and course was separate from the experience, a novel feeling for me. I've run with others before but I'd always felt that I was on trial. I know that it was coming from me, as none of my other running companions has ever put pressure on me to go faster or further. They've all been happy running at my pace and enjoying shared time. That's the kind of friends I have, I wouldn't have run with them if it was otherwise. But for this run I felt like I had earned my seat at the table. I knew Robyn was getting a good workout, I was as well, and we could also enjoy the social aspect of the event. It's not that I was pushing the pace, but that she wouldn't have done that workout without someone out there to push her. I think for the first time I felt like I was involved in a run where everyone benefited from the group experience, and that's a new and satisfying feeling for me.
As we got back to the boathouse we were only at 7 miles and I wanted to go for 8 so we ran another half mile up the bike path and turned around for home. "Cool down?" Robyn asked. "No, let's finish strong" I brashly replied and she mock groaned, shifted down a gear, and took off. I had been waiting for this and it still amazed me. I don't have that extra gear that allows me to lengthen my stride, pick up the cadence, and rip off a 6:00/mile pace. My cadence increased but with a ragged, spasmodic gate that didn't compare favorably to Robyn's smooth strides. It's also noticeably slower. But that will come with time, practice, and some great running partners.
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