Yesterday, as I mentioned, I walked the Bellingham Bay Marathon 5K with my friend, Colleen Haggerty. She was raising funds for the Prosthetic Outreach Foundation. Her goal was to finish the 5K in under an hour and not to stop walking the whole time. She fulfilled her second goal but missed her first by a couple of minutes. Still, it was a victory.

Also participating in yesterday’s race was my friend and one of my partners in the Second Wind retreat program this weekend, Eileen Laughlin, who did her first half marathon. I’m proud of her and excited she could reach her goal.

Later in the afternoon, I ran into a another runner friend who told me he had run his personal best in the half marathon and qualified for the New York Marathon! I got to thinking about how many of my friends and acquaintances are runners/walkers and how grateful I am for this. But it is kind of curious.

There was a day when runners made me uncomfortable, when I felt apologetic for being slow and ill-at ease when everyone talked about their finishing times. I used to feel that people like my husband were “real” runners, and I was a faker—just a “non-competitive” girl who didn’t have the right to join the conversation. So what changed?

I have to give a lot of credit to the running community—to folks like the Marathon Maniacs who smile and slap each other’s backs no matter where in the pack they run. But my attitude has changed too. Here are my tips for joining the club:

  1. Ask about other runners’ experiences in any given race and what you’ll find is that their experience is not that different from yours. Fast or slow, everyone’s got a hamstring bugging them or a tight quad. Injuries, aches and pains are equal opportunity problems, and talking about them builds camaraderie.
  2. Run with one ear free. If you’ve got music playing, keep one ear bud out so you can talk to other runners going at your pace and cheer on the ones that pass you.
  3. Check your jealousy at the starting line. No matter how good you are or how fast you run, there will always be someone better and faster. Always compete against yourself. Sometimes compete with someone in your age group who is roughly your pace. Never compete with people out of your league; just be happy for them.
  4. Volunteer and show up at finish lines even when you aren’t racing. Showing moral support for fellow runners goes a long way toward making friends. In running, as with everything else, people appreciate that you care about them.

Here’s to happy and friendly running!


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