My Running History, chapter 5
I was in seminary, and I had just joined the church choir.
Sounds like the beginning of a chapter about running, doesn't it?
To be more exact, I was in the bass section, where I knew nobody. Well, I knew that guy behind me, but he "didn't count" because he was "just" the intern. As it turned out, I began to get to know the guys in the section, and I found out that two of them were distance runners. Distance, as I would have described it then, was 5K. They convinced me that I ought to come out to the local Thanksgiving 5K race, and so I did. Mind you, though I hadn't been running at all for the past 7 years, I still thought of myself as a competitive runner. I was mildly embarrassed that all three of us were about the same speed - though they were both in their upper 50s and I was in my mid 20s.
About the same time, I got a dog, and he loved to run. So I would run with him around the neighborhood. Then Nate moved in across the street (actually, his wife moved in first - she left the "just married" thing on the car for years, it seemed, and we used to make so much fun of it!). But when he came, he had a little soccer ball hanging from his pickup truck rear view mirror, and it wasn't long until we were playing soccer together, then running together.
Aside from track and cross country, I had never had a running partner (and after we moved away from Kentucky, I haven't had a regular running partner again), and this was one of the highlights of my running "career." We just ran for the fun of it, to exercise, to work off the stress of being seminary students, and to give the dog a work out. We would meet at my mail box every morning with a "morning Ralph." "morning, Sam" greeting (bonus if you know where that's from) and we'd hit the road.
I learned something important through our runs.
Actually many things.
Having a running partner is great for accountability. When it's "too cold" or "too rainy" or you're "too tired" just seeing your partner out there at the mail box, stretching his legs, is enough to get me out there for a run.
As an extrovert, I love running with someone and talking the whole time. That kind of conversation time, 5 days a week, multiplied by months, builds close friendships. We'd talk about all kinds of things, many of them silly, but also serious stuff. It was cool running a marathon together many years later and catching right back where we left off (on the marathon, we decided we would plant a church together, and the staff meetings would be long-mileage runs).
When you're running with a dog, always be on your toes. My dog would stop and start and turn with no notice. Nate and I used to "judge" each other on how gracefully we'd avoid the leash.
Also, when you're running with a dog, make sure to bring extra bags. Enough said.
It was during this time that I began to really enjoy just running. We weren't running races (not many, anyway - I only remember running maybe 4 different races over the 4 years I was in Kentucky), but that didn't matter. It was all about the running.