It’s 5 a.m. and three ladies, as they do every morning, are walking a small asphalt trail next to creek. Each of them wear headlamps that light the trail, yet silhouette their faces.
Each has a distinct voice. One pushes a stroller, which only recently was discovered to be a small dog. As we pass each other on the way out, we say “good morning” to each other. On the way back in I tell them to “have a good one,” and the one pushing the stroller in a cheery voice responds, “have a great day.”
This is how it’s been for the past two years running this specific route in the morning. It’s a route I make a point to run once a week. There was a period where I stayed away from this route, however when I returned after a couple months, the ladies said they had been worried something happened since they hadn’t seen me. We don’t know each other’s names, nor would we be able to recognized each other in the supermarket, but during those 15 seconds once a week there is a connection to share pleasantries and worry when one person is not seen.
Last week, I was struggling at the end of my long run. With about three miles left, I went to a run/walk. Knowing the route well, I negotiated with myself to hit landmarks. During a walk break, a guy passed me. I waited about 15 seconds before i resumed running. I caught up to the guy, and as I went to pass him, he sped up. Two people were running towards us so I fell in line behind the guy to give the others a lane. I popped back out and tried to pass the guy again, but he sped up again matching my stride.
He knew I was struggling and I realized this as I passed my landmark. Not wanting to be outdone, my competitive side stayed with him. For the next 2.5 miles we ran stride-for-stride. The only two things that could be heard were the sound of our feet hitting the pavement and our breathes. It wasn’t until we reached the end of the route that we exchanged words – me thanking him for pulling me in and him saying the same. It wasn’t for another 10 minutes that we finally told each other our name.
What’s in a name?
It’s amazing how the running community works. We’re a tight-knit group of thousands, who don’t always know each other’s name, and sometimes don’t even know what each other look like. Yet, we help each other power to the finish, worry when we don’t see someone for a while, or help each other start the day with a bright message. We encourage and find inspiration in each other, and learn from one another.
Where else can you find a bond this strong among perfect strangers, who are each other’s biggest supporters?