In 1976, when I began my long distance running career, a neighbor and good friend, Gary Comfort, encouraged me to log miles and to turn in speed workouts on the track to increase leg speed. Comfort, who would go on to record a time of 2:23 at the 1980 Boston Marathon, was my mentor during the early years of my running journey. He was the original member of the 'Cast of Characters,' in my book, 'Running Shorts.' www.runningshortsbook.com.
Over the years I have been fortunate to have a number of running partners, many of whom have distinguished themselves in our sport, to accompany me on my workouts. Their dedication and talents, I believe, have enabled me to become a better runner. In fact, as an older runner, their diligence has added years to my competitive running life.
A non-runner once observed, "What do you guys talk about out there? Every time you pass you are always laughing."
Indeed, we keep it light, irreverent, and, always, competitive. Few topics are off limits, and bad races are best purged immediately. If a member of the group learns about your most recent failure before you've fessed up to your lack of achievement, the punishment could be several miles of ridicule.
Like family, however, we are fiercly protective of one another, and we are always willing and ready to guard each other's backs.
On road, track, or trail, we are generally willing to accomodate each other's varied schedules. We welcome suggestions about new workouts, but fiercely cherish many of the old ones.
Our running group, like yours, speaks its own language. We begin many of our training runs from "The Stump," run the flat "Pally 9-Miler," dread the "Bowling Alley" hill, and complete many of our courses on a 1-1/2 mile incline we have named, "Mungy."
2013 has begun like so many other running years for me. On New Year's Day I ran with an old friend, Craig Lowthert. In college, at Millersville University, in Pennsylvania, Craig posted a mile time of 4:15. On Thursday, I logged a 6-miler with Samantha Snukis, a Pennsylvania state high school champion in the 300-meter hurdles. Today, pacing me on my 15-miler, were the husband-wife team of Randy and Lisa Haas, both Olympic Trials qualifiers at the marathon distance.
On any given day, it seems, I am lucky enough to turn in training miles with runners of all ability levels. To the beginners, I am honored to offer guidance. It makes me happy to witness their elation upon the completion of their first race.
I have never been a proponent of the "loneliness of the long distance runner." Thanks to many running training mates, it doesn't look like I'll have to go down that road alone any time soon.