Today I went on my last run as a 42-year-old. By happenstance, my husband was able to accompany me. He and I hardly ever get to run together. We usually have to tag team our workouts so one of us can be with the kids. But today both kids were in ski school and we both had a run on our agendas, so we went for it.
He suggested we run along Donner Lake (10 minutes’ drive downhill from our house in Truckee) versus in our immediate neighborhood because the lake is at a lower elevation. I frankly did not see how 600 feet could make a difference, but also did not see the point of arguing, so I agreed.
As soon as we arrived at the lake, he muttered, “Oh darn! I forgot my iPod.” Really? – I grimaced to myself. We are here to run together and you were planning to listen to music? Sheesh.
A half-mile into our run, where the two of us ran side by side sharing the bike lane, I noticed that he was weaving as he ran. And whenever he veered in my direction, I ended up running on the dirt off the road. “Please stop,” I told him. “You’re running me off the road.”
“Oh really? I just don’t want to get too close to the white line. I don’t want to get hit. Here, I’ll switch with you. I don’t mind running on the dirt. I like the softer surface.”
We switched. But soon enough, I noticed he was still weaving. And this time I was edging the white line. I piped up, “Can you try to stay straight?”
“Oh sorry. I just don’t want to step in the puddles,” he said, pointing to the muddy puddles in our path, remnants of last week’s snow.
“Can’t you go ahead of me then?” I sighed. We were like a pair of ballroom dancers who had gone too long without practice, literally getting in each other’s way. It occurred to me that much artful synchronization goes into being someone’s running buddy. What are the characteristics of a perfect running pal? I came up with this:
1. Cheerfully takes turns driving the carpool to races and runs.
2. Takes turns mapping out a route.
3. Tells great stories.
4. Shares your level of runnerdiness, or lack thereof.
5. Offers you water or gel when you’re stuck without it.
6. Knows when to run alongside, pull ahead or fall behind, but never runs you off the road or trail, or into harm’s way.
7. Motivates you without being competitive with you.
8. Will run the run you need to be doing even though it’s not the one he or she needs to be doing, knowing you’re the one who needs the support that day.
9. Celebrates your victories as if they were his or her own.
10. Knows exactly what to say in your moments of defeat.
Sizing up my husband, I would say he possesses many of those characteristics but could stand to improve in a few areas. In fairness, he rates quite highly for someone who doesn’t run regularly. So he doesn’t speak runnerdese, doesn’t carry gel, and doesn’t pore over all the possible running routes. But he cared enough keep me company on my birthday eve run. At one point during our easy 5, he said this would be the longest he will have run in months. Still he came. And he kept up. And that counts for a lot.
To my other running pals – you know who you are – a huge thank you for your big hearts, strong running legs, and endless supply of gel and belief in me. We go together like strawberries and shortcake, and I adore that.