Last week, I had a small procedure done on my knee, which resulted in a few stitches. After it was over, the doctor took me aside and told me in no uncertain terms: no running, or even strenuous walking, until my knee had healed, which should take about 10 to 14 days.
When those two weeks are over, I know my body will be willing to lace up my shoes and run again. But my mind, no doubt, will object. Like Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, I can hear the voice now in the back of my head: “I would prefer not to.”
Newton’s first law of motion says that a body in motion will remain in motion and a body at rest will remain at rest — unless acted upon by an outside force. Even though I’ve been a runner for many years, when I’ve been at rest for a while, it sometimes takes an outside force to act upon me to get me up and running again.
And this time of year can be the hardest of all to keep up with running, can’t it? Right about now, many of us are starting our initial descent into the holiday season, looking forward to the eating, resting and lounging we’re about to do.
I have found one thing that always brings me back: going for a run with friends, especially friends I’ve run with before. (Until a few years ago, I was part of a running group here in Atlanta that met every weekend; it has since disbanded — some moved away, others quit running — but we still keep in touch.)
In fact, there’s a good chance I would have quit running had it not been for that group. They made it fun — we talked about everything, from our favorite shows to our love lives — which made me want to see them every week.
Mixing friends with running, and making exercise a social activity, is key if you’re looking to establish (or re-establish) the habit of regularly running or working out, according to Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard professor on human evolutionary biology who wrote last year’s Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding.
One of my favorite parts of the book describes how miserable he felt at the start of the 2018 Boston Marathon: the weather was freezing cold, it had been raining for hours, and a relentless headwind gusted up to 35 mph. “Normally, no sum of money would entice me to run in such miserable weather,” he writes.
So why did he stick it out?
“Over the next few days as I recovered physically and mentally, I thought about why I and twenty-five thousand other lunatics ran through that storm. If my goal was simply to run 26.2 miles, I could have waited until the next day and enjoyed nearly perfect weather. The only explanation I can give is that I ran for social reasons. Like a soldier in battle, I wasn’t alone but instead part of a collective doing something difficult together.”
For many of us, I know, finding friends or a group to run with can be a challenge. I’ve heard from a number of you whose former running partners have given it up or moved away too.
(Also, it can be a challenge to try to make new running friends; I must confess I feel a little like a kid in middle school, shyly approaching other kids on the playground, when I’ve joined runners I didn’t already know well.)
But with more activities opening up in the coming months, there probably has never been a better time to join a running group — so many of us have been so limited in what we can do over the past two years, the chance to get out and run with others again likely will be irresistible.
If you’re looking for places to start, most big cities have clubs like the Atlanta Track Club, while Jeff Galloway’s training groups meet weekly in dozens of different cities and the Road Runners of America lists running clubs in every state on their website.
This is a challenge I’m going to give myself as well — both because I really want to see my old friends more regularly, and give myself accountability to train for races again.
And who knows, maybe we all could meet up together for a race one day next year? Let me know what you think.
Words to run by
One of the people in the running world I admire most is Alison Désir, a New York City-based runner who created Harlem Run and Run 4 All Women. On Twitter last week, she shared this wonderful story about a call she received from 98-year-old Dave Vogel, the oldest living member of the New York Road Runners. I thought you all might love it too:
Amen to that! 🙌