Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I Love Runners

Runners are strange. They really are. I guess a bit of "crazy" is necessary to dedicate months of your life, hundreds of dollars, and a hell of a lot of discomfort to spend another morning, day, or even weekend running a race that you (most likely) will never even win.

Of course there are different levels of crazy. I'm sure some people think I'm a nutjob for actually wanting to run a marathon, and for considering those four hours of sweat and tears (thankfully no blood!) one of the top five best experiences of my life. Yet I talk to ultra marathoners and think they've truly lost it, and that I could never mentally or physically embrace 50, 60, or 100-mile races.

But if you're a runner (and by "runner," I mean someone who actually likes to run, or who has had at least one incredibly positive run that forces her to keep chasing that endorphin and adrenaline surge), it doesn't matter how experienced or inexperienced, you're part of the community. Marathon? Half? 5k? No ks? We don't care. The races don't define you, the miles logged don't make you. It's all about the shared experience, the community created around a common love for the best form of exercise around. (I may be a little biased.)

We geek out over running shoes and fuel, swap race experiences and insight, and live to share newfound tips on how to gain a physical or mental edge. We knowingly describe the first time we stopped in the woods to relieve ourselves during a long run and show off our latest blisters with pride. See, we're strange.

Some of the best people I know are runners. They are a fun, quirky, determined, disciplined, adventuresome lot. And kind - so very kind. We look out for and cheer each other on - even complete strangers.

This morning, as I pounded out 6 miles next to Nina on our weekly running date, I felt a rush of gratitude for her and for my running group, my little slice of the larger community. Two years ago they were just a bunch of strangers, yet so quickly they've become cherished friends.

And we're going for three in a row: Ragnar DC 2012, here we come!

My Ragnar teammates and I before running Old Rag, an 8-mile hiking trail in the Shenandoah Valley

At the top: 2,500-foot elevation gain

Finishing the run: Nina, Gina, and me

The Night Owls after Ragnar DC 2011: "Hoot, hoot!"

Jim and me (with "cry face") crossing the finish line of the 2012 Shamrock Marathon

The Three Musketeers: me, Nina, Jim

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