Tuesday, February 3, 2015

THE CAST

I've always considered myself to be a 'social runner.'

The loneliness of a long distance runner has never really appealed to me.

When I wrote my first book about running, entitled, "Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes," www.muldowneyrunning.com I included a chapter called, 'Cast of Characters,' in which I talked about the handful of runners with whom I've trained over the years. Thanks to their help, during my prime I was able to run a personal best marathon time of 2:22:54, and, after 39 years, thanks to many of these same individuals, I am still running competitively.

Your cast of characters can, and should, do the same for you. The benefits of having a reliable training partner or partners are enormous.

We all have those days where the most difficult steps we take toward our workout are the ones that get us out of bed. The warm, cozy covers, the smell of fresh coffee brewing, household chores that need to be done, are all very valid reasons to hit the snooze button and blow off the workout. But, if someone is waiting for you at 7:00 a.m., you are much less inclined to let them down.

Forget about high-priced therapists. You have your running partners.

My running group, for many years, has had a steadfast rule: What's said on the run stays on the run. It's somewhat like lawyer/client privilege, or the sacred vow of the Catholic confessional.

On a run, especially a long run, with your running partners, you share life's joys and sorrows; triumphs and tragedies.

There is something else I have learned from training with others for nearly four decades: Your running partners make YOU a better runner, and you do the same for them. Running partners pull us along on days when, if we ran alone, we would inevitably run at a slower pace. When you run a track workout, going round and round the oval, you and your training partners may engage in a death sprint at the end of an interval. When you hit your watch, you are amazed on how fast you ran, And even if your training partners are significantly faster or slower than you, the fact that you're sharing the pain together on the track is a psychological boost.

If you're training for a marathon, spending hours on the road grinding out long runs, a training partner can make the miles click by more rapidly.

Brian Tonitis and I began training together in 1978, when we were both fresh out of college. A couple of weeks ago we ran a 10-miler together. I've logged many miles with Brian's son, Matt, now an officer in the Pennsylvania State Police. We've trained for and run three marathons, including Boston, together.

John Ausherman, who lives 100 miles south of me, and I competed, fiercely against one and other in numerous races during the '80s. We randomly ran into each other on our respective family vacations at Myrtle Beach in 1992. Since then our families have become extremely close. We have attended our daughters' weddings together, hunted elk in Colorado, and have had laughs to last a lifetime. On New Year's Day we ran a 5-miler on the boardwalk on Ocean City, Maryland.

Eric Anchorstar and I began running together in the early '90s. He and his wife, Diedre, also a runner, are dear friends of my wife and I. Eric and I ran a 5-miler together just last week.

Running partners become lifetime friends. Yes, some running mates come and go, and others appear along the way. Age and life situations sometimes change the faces of our running cast of characters. A group of new runners from the school at which I taught became new running companions over the past couple of years. Father Chris Zelonis, a new, avid runner, who recently qualified for Boston, has become a running partner and friend as well.

In your town or city, there are like-minded individuals who, like you, enjoy the camaraderie of miles run together. Find them and your running life will be enriched. They will become members of YOUR cast of characters, perhaps for a lifetime.