Before I took up running, I played tennis. One of the virtues running has over tennis, or so I have proclaimed, is that you can just go out and run. Tennis requires the intricate dance of finding a partner.
Of course this does not apply to those fortunate enough to have a standing tennis date with the same opponent. Consider those folks as going steady, in a sporting fashion. No, what I am referring to is the challenge of being tennis players who are not in such a relationship. Almost all of them want to set up a match with a player they have a chance of beating, but who is generally a little bit better.
Imagine it as a conga line of tennis players, one politely chasing after another who is trying to engage a third, who is calling a fourth…..you get the idea. The fancy footwork comes in as you want to have a sure thing, so you can reserve a court and actually play; thus you must decide when to commit to the suitor who is not quite at your level versus holding out for the one who is going to give you the greater challenge.
Not having played tennis for years, I haven’t thought of this “dance” in quite a while. And it may be time to update my earlier observation. Perhaps runners do engage in a similar tango.
As runners become competitive, they want to improve. To run faster in races, you have to do speed work, or at least dedicate some runs during the week to pushing yourself to run beyond your comfort zone. Finding someone who is a little bit faster to run with makes achieving that goal much more likely. If you enjoy running with others, it may be
pleasant, well, being in oxygen debt sort of hurts, but at least the other runner can talk and possibly even be amusing.
Recently, I was out on one of my running group’s regular Sunday runs. We have quite a large group that starts out together and sorts itself out as we take off for the bridge. Since I’d run a marathon the Sunday before and had another one the following Sunday, I was just out for some distance.
After five miles, I stopped for a moment to take in the sunrise over the river along with about seven running chums. I ended up joining in with a good friend and two newbie runners. The latter are two young moms, training for a local half marathon about eight weeks away. Each has run one half.
What a fabulous run it turned out to be! My friend and I did most of the talking, but the two ladies assured us it was good. As one (who lives in the next town over) explained to the other: “I come over here at once a week to get my butt kicked. It really works!”
If I have been guilty of ignoring slower runners, I resolve to do so no longer. As a middle of the pack runner, I accept the speedier folks passing me. We exchange greetings, and I feel their support when I’m competing. But I’m a veteran runner. My new young friends taught me to slow down and accommodate our running rookies. How priceless the gift of two new friends–who also happen to
love well, like running. The love will follow.