I have less friends now than I did in 2011.
I think when I was training for the marathon my mates assumed it was a whim, a one off, to be tolerated then quickly forgotten. I’d not long had the running bug, I was still in that honeymoon stage, flushed with pride that my own legs that I’d had for 32 years were suddenly capable of propelling me for miles at a time. I told people this, a lot, repeatedly. I told them distances, mile splits, I shared my new found knowledge of what an iliotibial band was, I responded to invitations to the pub with phrases like ” Soz, gotta bang out a 14 miler tomorrow so no booze for me”. I was changing, but that’s okay because on the evening of April 17th 2011 I could burn my trainers and get royally drunk because I’d have “done” running then and could go back to normal…
I tried that. Okay maybe not burning my trainers but that was primarily because I couldn’t find them, I was too busy having fun! You know fun, that’s when you spend £60-£100 over a weekend getting drunk, battling a hangover, getting drunk again, succumbing to the hangover and spending Sunday comatose, being depressed Monday and Tuesday then spending three days planning how you’re going to do it all again only to discover that you’re in exactly the same places with exactly the same people come Friday night and maybe all that planning was a touch unnecessary. Fun.
Except it wasn’t fun any more. Something inside me had changed, and it was all running’s fault. I missed it, the sweat, the pain, the preparation, recovery, fuelling, route planning. I missed talking about it with people who understood my burning desire for burning calf muscles…and so I found my trainers again.
With that second foray in to athleticism came a change of social circles. My boozing mates couldn’t understand why being drunk for 48 hours wasn’t the best thing in the world and so I put out the call for anyone with trainers to come with me, even forcing some people to go buy their first pair, and like the Pied Piper of Cheltenham I led a merry band through a year of slow plods in local events. ( I’ve just read that back and realised how terribly narcissistic it sounds, but I love the idea too much to delete it, sorry all!)
But over time even those friends have moved on. Not because of my actions this time (at least I hope not!) but thanks to career progression, finding love, become triathletes, emigrating. I like to think that the running we did together in some small way contributed to their future happiness. We’re still friends, and our shared experiences have bought us closer together, but we rarely pound the same pavements now. It’s good to know that news of a PB or exciting race entry will be greeted with enthusiasm by people who understand, but nothing replaces putting the world to rights in short, gasped sentences when the pavement is wide enough to run side by side. There’s also no motivation like the knowledge that someone is waiting for you, or that you have someone to run with who is sharing the crap weather/being tired/niggly knee injury with you but is still putting in the miles. Many people enjoy running on their own, prefer it even, and occasionally so do I. But most of the time I would rather have an arduous conversation than an ipod when I run, I’d prefer to argue about a route than beat myself up for not going far enough. I need to run with people.
And that is the story of how running cost me mates, but found me friends, and now needs to find me more.
So I have gone back to my local running club. This time on my own. Not necessarily with a friend, but to run with hundreds of potential new friends who are happy to talk about mile times, know what a foam roller is for but also enjoy a social life. I’ll let you know how it pans out, but for now I’m loving my running again and sharing it with people makes that love 10 times stronger.