I have had old race bibs and the printed receipt from the Canyonlands Half Marathon hanging on my door for the past few months, giving me a stark reminder that I will be running 13-plus miles at the end of March. You would think that each of these would motivate me to push harder and run farther. But all these reminders aren’t as effective as a living, breathing guilt machine. More than anything, the best reminder is a friend.
This time last year, I was sitting outside the local library at 5:30 a.m., listening to the rain hit my car and waiting for my running buddy. My tired mind didn’t thoroughly compute how crazy I was. All I knew was that if I didn’t go running with this friend, I would get a call that afternoon and feel like a complete wimp. In the words of Horace Bushnell, “Guilt is the nerve of sorrow.”
I remember donning a cap and windbreaker those winter mornings and in the aftermath of even a snowstorm, we would run.
That experience with that friend led me to a local running club. At 6 every Wednesday morning, I had an appointment with a group of fun-loving runners who understood my pace and helped me move along. These people were just like me, an individual with a goal.
For those who have run with friends before, you know what I mean. Somehow, some cosmic force just aligns when you are running with someone else. It is no longer just you, your mind and your pumping legs, although you can retreat into that runner’s sanctuary at any time. Someone else is there by your side, struggling along with you. You have to be strong for them and by association, they are helping you push yourself as well. Plus, being with friends is usually more fun than being alone.
This woman kept me running and motivated for most of 2009 and to talk about my running experience without mentioning her would be only telling half the story.
AnaMae has since run the Lake Tahoe Marathon twice, the Rockin’ River Marathon once and a long list of other West Coast half marathons and races in between. The funny thing is, she started just like me. We ran together at the same pace, both struggling with 5 a.m. wake-up calls and bone-chilling weather. She has had a little more time to train, but she has done it.
Now, AnaMae has moved on to a job in Long Island, charting new running paths there, and I am left with the receipts on the back of my door, the songbirds and my flopped over running shoes lying on the bedroom floor as reminders. In all honesty, there have been some mornings when I have listened to the rain tap on my window at 5:30 a.m. and just rolled over and gone back to sleep, as my running shoes mock me from the bedroom floor. There is no other motivator that can push to perfection quite like a good friend. Now if only I could find someone to motivate … maybe being the one doing the pushing is, in fact, the greatest motivator of all.
Sarah Cooper is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.