When I was writing out my responses for one of those running memes recently, one of the questions was the primary reason that I run. As in, if all the other reasons to run weren't there, which one would make me do it.
If you had to run the same route every day, would you run?
If you didn't burn a single calorie, would you run?
If there were no races, would you run?
If there were no way to run outdoors, would you run?
You get the idea.
While I think I'd still run if I had to always run alone, my favorite part of running is definitely the social part. I've written many times about my running buddies. Many of my best friends in the world are people with whom I run. And also interesting and notable, I think many of the people who know me best are my running buddies.
They know the everyday and the big picture stuff. They know what I watch on tv, they know when things are busy at work, they know when I'm planning a trip, they know about my family, they sometimes know what I had for dinner the night before, they know what the plan is for the remainder of my day most Sundays, they know about my plans for the future, they sometimes even know when I've had sex -- if it's one of "those" running conversations!
So traveling for work puts a damper on my running life. While I could run alone when I'm out of town for work (and I often do), that's tough right now because of my training schedule.
It's easy enough for me to do solo "easy" miles, and I can usually manage to do track work alone if necessary, but for something like tempo miles, or any kind of faster road running, I'm much better off if I have a group. If I'm left to my own devices, particularly in an unfamiliar city, it's very easy for me to slip into an easy pace.
The schedule for yesterday was 1 mile easy, 1 mile easy with 5 sets of strides (20 second pick-ups), then 2 miles at marathon pace, half mile recovery, 2 miles at marathon pace, half mile recovery, 2 miles cool down.
But it wasn't straight up marathon pace for the 2 sets of 2 miles. Instead, what our coach wanted us to focus on was correcting for terrain. For example, if your goal marathon pace is 8:00 per mile, and you ran mile 1 in 7:54 because there was some downhill or you'd mis-paced a bit, then you were supposed to focus on making mile 2 be at an 8:06 pace. The goal was to take advantage of the terrain and make sure the 2 mile average came out correctly. Even if there was a lot of variation between the two miles.
I decided to do some research before this trip to Philly to look at running groups to meet. One of the times I was here recently, I was running in the hotel gym on a treadmill that looked out onto the street and I saw a couple groups of runners pass by and I wished so much I was with them.
I found a group called the Fairmount Running Club. Most running groups in Philly seem to meet up in the evenings -- something almost no one in Dallas does. But this group had a Thursday morning run.
According to their website: Thursday MORNINGS at 6am, the group meets at Lloyd Hall for a 5-mile run at a moderate pace (about 8:30/mile).
So that would be 5 miles, plus I figured it would take me about 2 miles to get from the hotel to Lloyd Hall, and then 2 miles back, which would get me to the 9 miles I had on the schedule.
I planned to leave the hotel dark and early around 5:30 just to be safe in case I had trouble finding the meeting spot. But surprise, on Jun 27 in Philadelphia, it isn't dark at 5:30 a.m.! That was a lovely surprise. I got directions at the front desk and set out. It was only about 1.5 miles to the meeting spot and as soon as I got there, I found a guy in a Fairmount Running Club shirt -- easy enough!
Turns out the very first guy I met was the president of the club. As we waited for 6:00, the group slowly grew. I think there were about 8-10 of us when we set out for the 5 mile run. The first mile was pretty easy and somewhat slow, but then we all seemed to gradually pick up the pace and it was great. I mostly ran with the Club president and for 2 miles, with the leader of the Thursday morning runs (she had to get to work early, so she u-turned after 2 miles, instead of the full 2.5). Turns out he's on summer vacation right now and has a 17 month old daughter. He's a health teacher for grades 6-12, which I thought was really interesting, particularly since health class at that age can include sex ed and birth control. In Texas and much of the Bible Belt, those are very tricky subjects. There is a very vocal group that argues that any sex ed promotes sexual activity and that only abstinence should be taught. Obviously since I don't have kids and I'm not a teacher, I don't know much about how it works in Texas, but I know people get fired up about it. He talked about he taught it and you could just tell that he's great at his job. He also talked about nutrition and fitness units that he taught. What a fun job! He mentioned a diet that he and his wife are trying, and the miles just flew by.
Well, in the interest of full disclosure, the miles largely flew by because we weren't running at the stated pace, but that was fine with me. The group spread out a bit, but when he and I stopped for water on the way back, two others caught up to us. Then I ran the rest of the way back with the three of them, talking about running, the city, everything.
And as a bonus, it turned out that one of the women was running home after the run and she offered to run me back to my hotel. She took me a much faster and more scenic way (along the river instead of through the city streets with stoplights). We ran past where she works now, and we took a short detour to run to a very pretty park (Rittenhouse Park? Square?) and she pointed out two suggested places for me to grab breakfast. When I got to the hotel, we parted ways, and I came up to grab my credit card. I was still about .3 miles short on distance, but I wanted to text my husband and tell him that the Fairmount Running Club is not composed of serial killers. Anyway, after letting him know I'd survived, I headed back out to run to one of the bakeries Sue had shown me, and I finished up my 9 scheduled miles.
Totally awesome morning. Runners are the best. I love my running buddies, but it's clear that there are awesome running buddies to be found all over the world. I'm already thinking that I'll have to schedule my flights for future Philly trips so that I can join them for a few more runs.
I feel like I really lucked out!