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Sometimes I like to run alone, but not all the time. But over the years what has surprised me was that I find that running alone is a lot more enjoyable if at least some of the time I am running with friends. I just don’t want to always be alone and I have not always known that. You need to have friends and you can always start a friendship with a shared activity.

Friends will help motivate you- whether it’s getting up early to go run (and you are not a “morning person”) or running farther and faster than you would on your own- and if they’re really good friends sometimes they’ll get you to slow down or call it a day when you are overreaching in your training.

The first time I ran more than five miles I ran it with a good friend. Now this was a long time ago and we ended up running not six miles, not seven, but just over eight miles. This was a lot easier to do without small portable gps devices (and none as small as a watch existed at the time). We just didn’t always exactly know how far we had gone or what mile we were on. On particularly long runs we would take out a paper map afterwards, some string, a pencil, and a ruler to find out how far we had actually gone (if you know, you know).

Well on this particular run- we both had decided for a distance goal of at least six miles because neither of us had ever run that far at once and thought it would be a cool challenge. We took off at a brisk pace and set our sights on our goal. We had a rough idea of where to run to get at least six miles on some dirt back roads in Alaska where we lived at the time. It was a beautiful weekend day and I could not have asked for better weather.

The first three miles were great (although perhaps a bit too fast for my condition at the time). We were going slow enough to talk though until sometime during mile four when I began to get some serious stomach cramps. It was excruciating. I thought I was going to have to stop. My friend was kind enough to slow down but also was not interested in stopping (or letting me stop for that matter). We just ran slower for a while and I focused on my breathing (which was strangely intuitive and helped a lot- although I wouldn’t know why that helped for another fifteen years).

After a while I felt better. Me and my friend picked up the pace and our last mile ended up being as fast or faster than our first few. It was a great feeling to know we did it- but I knew that I never would have made it without my friend. When we broke out the map and found out we had done eight miles we were even more happy. We had crushed our goal. But we knew we had done it together. We ran together for years and there were plenty of times where the roles were reversed and I was the one feeling strong and good. But in all the ups and downs, the good days, and bad days- in all of that we became friends. Just knowing you are not alone- even in one thing in your day- that really can make a difference. It really is good to have running friends.

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