Beautiful story of friendship, provided by WOOT Okinawa Runner/Turtle, Beri Richardt. Thank you for sharing!
I can’t tell you the exact time when our merry band of runners was formed.
“Do you like pain?” My messages always start out this way. The answer I get back is, “Of course, what time?”. It is astounding how the answer is always the same. If for some reason the promise of pain isn’t enough, positive peer pressure gets their shoes on. It was a long road for me to get to running with other people.
Truthfully, I have never enjoyed running with people. Running was an activity best shared with my iPod and the woods. As a “lone wolf” runner, I could escape life and go at my own pace. I never wanted to sign up for race events because they involved too many people. After having children, I was more amiable to trying new things. After all, kids were a pretty big “new thing” and I liked them. So, why not? This search was more of a Goldilocks story than a Love at First Sight Story. I tried one running group and I always felt like I didn’t quite fit. I went through all the usual motions of lacing my shoes, packing the necessary gear. I would run with them and then leave because we only had one thing in common, running. It wasn’t enough. There was another that I had been Facebook “stalking”. A group that posted 10 to 15+ mile runs through hilly jungles starting at 5am on Saturday mornings. Now, I love my pjs, coffee, and bacon on Saturday mornings so that group just didn’t fit my lifestyle. Oh yeah, and I couldn’t run 15 or even 10 miles. I guess the Lone Wolf was going to have to go it alone with two kids, water bottles, about 25 pounds of their comfort gear all in a compact double jogging stroller. My iPod was now replaced with different tunes such as, “Mommy, I want a snack” and “crying 10 month-old”. The ironic thing was that we got into a rhythm and came to an understanding of sorts. I got my miles in while pushing an 85lb rock on wheels and they knew that I was a much happier person after a run. Maybe I could run with people (as long as they didn’t cry).
I still continued to stalk the other group. The one who ran all the miles in the jungle. Despite being warned by someone else against showing up because I would get left and lost. I decided to put my faith in the GPS capabilities of my smartphone. It was time to lace-up my shoes and see what the fun was all about. Rain came down in sheets the day before. Then turned into thunderstorms during the night. Lightning was still flashing when I left my house at 4:30am for the meeting point. If the run was to be canceled, then I was going to be left drinking my coffee in the parking lot. But, by golly, I was going to show up. I watched the lightning move away as I drove.
I could take you through the details of that run because I remember them vividly. However, I only want to tell that I had this complete feeling of joy. I was not left behind. I did not get lost. I met two funny, kind women who guided me through the trail for over an hour of running up and down a mountain. If slogging around in mud and nature doesn’t bring out the true form of a person, then spiders and snakes will finish job. This was my Goldilocks moment. I found the one that fit just right. A group of accomplished runners who didn’t care that I could run only 4 miles. Only that I liked to run.
I attended more runs and met another runner. Through Saturday runs and a naming of our relay team, we four became the Turtles. Then Saturday runs weren’t enough, we met again on Sundays and during the week. We started running more with yet another group.
For us, slow, became not-as-slow. Four miles somehow graduated into 13+. I suppose we could have become faster more quickly, but these runs were about support. Not one of us was ever left behind. If we saw one person struggling we’d just start talking or joking. It’s easier to teach your body to run distance when it’s being tricked by laughter. Positive peer-pressure was a wicked tool employed when someone had doubts or didn’t want to show up. One member of our little group who proclaimed over and over that she “would die if she ran over 6 miles”, decided to run a 9 mile course then promptly signed up for her first half marathon afterwards. For all of us, these runs built the confidence we needed to progress as runners. We all have half-marathons and marathons upcoming. I know our times will continue to improve because we keep doing the miles. More importantly, we have this amazing friendship that we take on the road and on the trails.