Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Everyone should have a Cragg to their Flanagan in their lives."

The quote that is the title of this blog can be attributed to my friend Lisa... she posted it after watching the US Olympic Marathon trials yesterday.  For those who haven't had the chance to watch the race yet, what follows is a SPOILER ALERT ;)  

So, Shalane Flanagan (the race favorite) and her training partner Amy Cragg (who had a shot at making the team but was not as favored as Shalane) ran the race together (like, side-by-side) for the first 24 miles.  At around mile 20, Shalane appeared to be tiring quite a bit, and it looked like Amy was talking her up, telling her she could do it.  Then at around mile 24, Amy took off and ended up winning.  Fortunately, Shalane was able to hold on to 3rd place (Desi Linden, another pre-race favorite, passed her in the final mile), so she also qualified for the Olympics. Shalane had some severe heat exhaustion issues, and she literally fell into Amy's arms at the finish line.  Amy didn't celebrate her victory at all... the second she broke the tape, she turned around to watch and wait for her friend to join her at the finish.  At the post-race interview, Amy was asked about what she said to Shalane during the race. She spoke about how on the third lap of the 4-loop course, Shalane was there for her, helping her through a rough patch.  So when Shalane started to feel bad on the fourth lap, Amy was right there for Shalane, helping her mentally as the race began to wind down.

No words...

In our local Mom's Run This Town (MRTT) Facebook group, Lisa posted that "everyone should have a Cragg to their Flanagan in their lives."  Several friends commented that they, too, wished they had a running partner like Amy Cragg.  And, at first, I was in total agreement.  After all, I have been basically searching for an Amy, a BRF (best running friend) for almost 3 years.  Shortly after my first half marathon, I started running with friends rather than solo.  It began with my first running partners, Danielle and Jeanne-Marie.  Then I started to attend more group runs through Moms Run This Town.  I met Jen in November 2013 and we quickly grew close as she trained by my side for my first marathon.  Within six months, though, she urged me to move on to faster partners so that I could achieve my goals of getting speedier.  She introduced me to her friend Andrea, who (while a bit faster than me) proved to be a perfect long run partner.  Unfortunately, injuries to me (March through September) followed by her recent severe injury in October have gotten in the way of our running time.

So here I am, still wondering where MY training partner is.  I asked myself, do I need a BRF?  An Amy to my Shalane.  And I have come to this conclusion: I do not.  But before I explain why I don't think I need a "sole sister," I want to dissect in my opinion what makes a "perfect" running mate.

1) Similar pace.  This is very important, maybe the most important thing.  If your potential running partner runs 2 minutes per mile faster than you on a regular basis, you probably aren't a good fit, at least not for most of your runs.  If one person is willing to slow down, or the other can go faster, then pace isn't an issue.  I've just found it's easier to run with someone who runs at the same pace as you do.

2) Similar running schedule.  By this, I mean the time of day that you run.  If you are an evening runner, you likely won't mesh well with someone like me who needs to get their run in at 4:30 or 5 AM.  This is something people can change, of course, but I've found that most early-morning runners dislike running at night, and vice versa.

3) Geographical proximity.  Most runners I know have a "maximum distance" that they're willing to travel for a run, especially the early morning weekday ones.  For me, it's about 20 minutes, although for most of my runs I end up driving 10-12 minutes each way.  If your running partner lives close to you, this makes meeting up all the easier.  When my neighbor moved in next door a few years ago and I saw the 26.2 sticker on her car, I did a happy dance.  However, #1, #2 and #4 don't mesh for us, so we haven't ran together despite our houses being 50 feet apart.

4) Similar goals.  This isn't a huge factor, but I will still bring it up as I think it can be important.  You can have aspirations of a Boston-qualifiying time, and your potential partner can just be running for the fun of it, and the relationship can work.  However, at some point, it's helpful if your partner is training for a race of the same distance being held around the same time as your race.  Most running partners won't join you for a 20 mile long run unless they're also training for a marathon!

If all four of the above apply to you and a fellow runner, it could very well be a match made in heaven.  (My MRTT mamas sometimes think of me as the "matchmaker" LOL!) Of course, there is also the fact that you would want to "click" with this person... if you can't stand the way they talk about their adorable cat for 5 miles, you might not want to continue to run with them.

The idea of every runner having that "one person" who they can train with and race with appears in theory to be awesome.  My friend Erin has found her "person" in our friend Stephanie.  They meet all of my criteria listed above, and run almost every single mile by each other's sides. They raced most of their fall marathon together as well.

I don't have this with anyone. I never have, to be honest.  Instead, I have what I affectionately call "my running girls".  I have no less than 20 women who I can message and ask to join me for a run.  Some I am closer with than others, of course.  Some of them I run with on a regular basis.  Others, it's once a month, or even less.  But it's easy for us to pick up right where we left off, regardless of how long it's been since we last ran together.

You may ask, what's good about having a posse versus just one friend?  Well, here are my thoughts on this...

First and foremost, I love that I don't have to worry if my partner is not feeling well and needs to cancel, as typically there are least 1 or 2 others meeting up with me.  I know I won't have to run alone.  I won't run early in the dark alone, and since 75% of my runs are done early in the dark, this is important.

Second, my "girls" all have different paces.  I seriously have good friends with pace ranges from a 6:00 mile to a 13:00 mile.  That's a gigantic range.  I have friends who can push me for speed work.  I have friends who can interval with me if I'm recovering from injury.  I have friends who will slow me down for recovery runs.  I have friends who run at my comfy pace.  I love having so many options!  A running partner might run the exact same pace as you in a race, but her training paces could vary widely from yours.  Case in point: I can race a 1:40 half marathon, and many of my closest running friends run around this time or just a touch slower.  However, I have recently realized that I need to run slower for most of my runs in order to prevent injury.  Not everyone needs to do this, but I do.  So, even though I can hang with them for a race, I need to slow down on my training runs and therefore can't run as frequently with them at what used to be our "comfy pace".

And finally, I love that I have met so many different yet amazing women.  I love meeting new runners!  My running circle is huge, and I am constantly adding to it.  When a new runner joins our local running group on Facebook and her pace/geographical location is somewhat similar to mine, I immediately reach out to her.  That's how I met Allison S. last year, and she's turned into a super-close pal  in running and in life.  I've come to realize that I am happiest when I am surrounded by many friends who love me for who I am.  A large group of running friends who are supportive and caring... this is my ideal BRF, not just one single person.

Some of my favorite running partners!

So, while I think the Amy Cragg-Shalane Flanagan relationship is phenomenal, I will continue to nurture ALL of my running friendships, and be happy that I am lucky enough to have several Amy Craggs in my wanna-be-Shalane life!

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