Bonding on the Road

If there’s one thing about running that makes it unique among other athletic pursuits, it’s the fact that you can have a good conversation with your fellow runners without necessarily adversely affecting your goal for the workout.  If you’ve ever tried to carry on a conversation while playing a game of football, you know what I mean.  In fact, we’re often told that our pace for a particular run should be a “conversational pace,” meaning that it should not feel uncomfortable to talk during the run.  Of course, it’s possible to talk even when straining harder, just less comfortable.  My cross-country coach would encourage us to talk to a runner as we passed them during a race to show how strong we felt.  He reasoned that if you use your out-breath to speak, you aren’t wasting energy.  These days though, I save my breath less for taunting and more for encouraging someone to keep pace with me if he/she is able.

Yesterday I had the perfect opportunity to make the most out of the social aspect of running by going out for a run with my little sister-in-law, who is a junior in high school.  She started running this past summer to prepare for a semester at the High Mountain Institute in Leadville, CO where all students must complete a 10 mile run at the end of the semester.  This is no small feat given that Leadville is at the highest elevation of any city in the US and apparently can be one of the coldest (see Born to Run).  Now that she’s back, she’s kept up with the running and we’ve set a goal of running the Johnny Kelley Half-Marathon in Hyannis, MA at the end of May together.  During the run, we talked about things like what motivates us to keep going and the difficulties encountered in balancing getting out for a run with the pulls of everyday life.  I also tried to help her some with her running form, though I hesitate to be too pendantic because I don’t want her getting in her head about every step she takes.  Overall it was a great run and I feel tht much closer with her as a result.

I’ve had some great conversations with other runners over my miles as well.  Subjects can range from careers, to family, even to religion, pretty much anything to take the focus off of the miles that lay ahead of us.  One old soul I encountered during a training run on the Boston Marathon course spent 6 miles telling me about his mental approach to running, which was quite deep.  Essentially his point was that you have to run mile 1 of a marathon as if Mile 18 doesn’t yet exist.  I tried that approach, but it’s quite mentally fatiguing after a while.  From what I gather, it’s actually women whose conversations most often turn to more PG-13/R rated topics during a run, though I’ve yet a be privy to one of those.

So, what do you talk about when running?  Or, are you a solitary runner who prefers the quiet f the open road to me jabbering in your ear?

Happy trails.


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