Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Benefits of a Good Running Partner

I have been running for the past few years (not as many as others but long enough) and in that time I have logged hundreds of hours running throughout the streets, trails, paths etc. with me, myself, and I.   And as good of company as I may be (hah!), I never really thought of obtaining a running companion other than my trustee Garmin and iPod shuffle.   Why it never occurred to me that running is not a one person sport is really beyond me especially because I love to be social.  But recently (as I mentioned in my last post), I have realized how it might be good to find a running buddy.  I thought it would be nice to have someone to chat with, what I didn't realize is how many other benefits I could get out of finding a good running partner.

The problem however is that it is not always easy to find a good running partner.  In many ways, I was lucky, after I had had my revelation I ran into an old friend at the gym and asked him if he would like to go for a run or two with me to which he happily agreed (which was truly my luck). Unfortunately, he was going to be out of town for a while so in the meantime, I looked elsewhere.  I ran with a bunch of different people and had a great time chatting with friends and getting out there but ultimately our paces did not sync up (which is not meant to be mean because i love these people we just dont necessarily run at the same pace).   I told myself that I did not care and that i was there to be social, which I totally am and will still run with these people (if they will have me) because they are amazing, but changing my pace actually led to a minor knee flare up, I think, who knows really....

Lucky for me, my friend returned a few weeks ago and I have found the perfect running partner.
So here are my thoughts on great running partners/tips to finding good ones:

Steph's Top 5 On Running Partners 
1) They run at the same time of day as you - my friend is also an early riser. He likes to run early just like me.  Our schedules sync up pretty well, it does not hurt that he lives around the block.
2) He is faster than me (or if you are looking find someone at the same pace as you).  For me this is great! It pushes me to go faster and keep up and get faster, something I really want to do.  But I hesitate to put this in here because on the other side it is not so great for him. We try to work it so his easier days he runs with me and he is pretty laid back about it. But if you can, finding someone at your pace is ideal....much easier said than done though
3) He pushes and encourages me.  There is nothing better than having someone by your side helping you through a tough hill. Whereas I might give up or give it a half attempt on my own, with someone else I push it.
4) I have someone to share running with me.  It is great to make running not a solo sport!  I have someone to chat about running with and all the intricacies plus i have someone to train with and do races with
5) Finally, and most importantly, we have fun together.  We chat about all sorts of stuff as we run (if I am not out of breath, then he chats) and the miles melt away....this is the most important to me these days. ultimately, if we were not at the same pace, if you are with great friends having fun, that is the best!

So I guess, my one other bit of advice is know what you are looking for in a running buddy. Do you want to chat with a friend and have a light run or be challenged?  Be truthful to yourself and know what you want.

Do any of you have great running buddies that get you through, or would you rather go it alone? 

In other news, Passover is finally over!!! If you are a Jewish runner, passover, a time of NO CARBS is not so easy.  But this year, I think was my best year yet. Made it through like a champ (does not mean that I was not counting down the minutes till the end of Passover last night).  Aaron, my husband, and I celebrated the end by going out to our favorite thai restaurant in Waltham.  We love this place, we pretty much funded the place in college (we went there for everything from graduation to engagement) and they know us well. But we have not been there in a year and when we went they were so happy to see us and said how did you know to come on our last night (they are closing because the owners are retiring).  So we were officially the last customers! How fitting but how sad, end of an era to me.  Our favorite waiter assured us that their other business which the younger brother will continue to run, Tom Can Cook, is exactly the same.  So we will be checking it out! In the meantime, i just cooked lots more carbs for dinner tonight.  I am making up on lost time!

Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Why Run?

For the past several weeks, I have been struggling to decide what running means to me, why I run, do I like to run, what purpose does running have in my life…

I have been running for the past few years. It started out as just an exercise routine but then as I continued to increase my mileage a friend urged me to sign up for the B.A.A. Half Marathon that runs through the Emerald Necklace each fall.  So I did, why not I thought?  To prep, I even jumped into the Falmouth Road Race.  Those first races, I pretty much just did on my own.  I had a little bit of help but not that much structure and on race day those hills seemed so hard.  But I loved it in the end.  I guess my competitive, Type A personality shone right through.  It was not the best time or my best race, but I finished and I was so proud, I guess that is when I became hooked on running. 

Through that whole winter, following the BBA marathon, I continued to run on my own, hoping to complete another half marathon in the spring.  I am not going to lie. I am not one of those runners who loves running in the winter. I am not that intense.  It is cold! It is snowy and it is icy.  On a snowy day, I would rather hit the treadmill than go outside.  No matter how many layers I sport, it is never good enough, I am always freezing. But that first winter I toughed it out, only to get injured at the first inklings of spring.  At that point, I thought I would never walk again let alone run.  I could hardly sit in the car because the pain in my knee was so intense that I felt every bump.  I remember at one point my friend and I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert, yes, I am a Bruce-NJ loving fan, even now here up in Boston.  At that concert, the vibrations from the amps were so intense that I could not stay at the concert. It hurt my knee way too much.  But after much aggravation and a very very long depressing spring, I found my physical therapist.  And by following his lead of three months of rehab, I made it through and by September I was back.  And faster than ever!  From there I completed my first 10K, which led to more 10Ks, a 10-miler, the Disney Half Marathon, the Boston Run to Remember, the Rutgers Half Marathon, the Squirrel Run (5 miler in Quincy) and the Falmouth Road Race.  This past October I was to complete my first marathon but this past summer I studied for the Massachusetts and New York bar exams and well, the running suffered.  When I ran the 5-miler in Quincy in June, I ran it in 38:13.  From there, I began studying, and my running went downhill.  I watched my times decline and ultimately knew I needed to take a break from running.  

Thus, this past fall, I did what I considered heartbreaking, I took 8 whole weeks off. I just did! No running whatsoever. And it was hard! Harder than hard, but it let me re-examine myself, my life and just enjoy life.  But by the end of fall I knew I was ready to go back…or was I?  I returned happily to running, but I felt amiss.  There was just something off.  It came to a head a few weeks ago, when I set out to complete 9 miles.  It was a cold morning but I wanted to get my run in before the rest of my day started.  I set off and immediately I knew it was not going to end well.  By mile one my hands were frozen and painful, and my neck (I am currently suffering from a neck injury) was stinging in pain.  By mile 3, I was in tears, I had to give up.  At that point, I thought that was it, no more running! I just could not do it anymore. I did not want the long training sessions, the dread of a lonely long runs, the obsessive weather checking, the early morning drives into and out of Boston to train.  I just could not do it anymore!

Than I decided something…what if I stopped being so hard on myself and let myself have more fun with running…find friends to run with, enjoy the run, talk with others, and relax! And you know what, it made all the difference.  I have now been running with my friends and am back and ready to go.  This weekend, after all the marathon magic and finally finding some great people to run with, I made the determination that I am going to run that Marines Corps Marathon, that I can do it and it is something that I have always wanted to do! So Marine Corps here I come.  But I have got a ways to go and after reading so many amazing blogs lately I thought what better way than to become more social and in-tune with the running community than to start one of my own and see where it takes me…so we will shall see…. I hope that I find some more wonderful running friends through this blog and continue to find the joy in running as well as help others who experience similar things and go through running cycles and phases…

My first question:  how do you like to run? Do you like to run by yourself, with groups, with a friend?