Friends can make everything better. Especially swimming, biking or running (rumming)! Training with others can be the extra challenge to push you further than you ever thought you could go. Personally, if it weren't for my bestie I never would have known what I was capable of. But is it always better to have friends who are perhaps faster or stronger than you? What about that friend who has never run more than a mile and wants to train for their first half marathon with you? Are they holding you back?
I say no. My favorite training experience was for my third half marathon. I had been running for about two years and had also done two sprint triathlons. It was the most confident I had ever felt about not only my athletic ability, but my training process. Stefani continued to push me (particularly running sprints!) and I welcomed new challenges. I wasn't overly competitive, but I enjoyed having a goal and watching my times get better.
I had also just moved in with my first roommate. She was a few years younger than me and loved the idea of running a marathon. When I started training for my half, her interest peaked.
"How far are you running today?"
"Do you carry water with you?"
"What do you do about sun protection?"
She was nervous about entering this new world of running. But I knew she could do it, and after a couple of weeks she was ready to try. We decided to do five miles at an "easy" pace. We woke up early to beat the sun, ate a quick breakfast together and dropped water at the halfway mark. The first two miles were great! She felt good and was proud to be out on the sidewalk with me. I loved having company. It was a gorgeous morning and the conversation flowed easily between us. We made it to our water bottles, stopped for a short break, and continued on.
Then she hit her wall.
"I think I'm done." She panted.
"What's wrong?" I asked. Her pace had slowed and the expression on her face was not a happy one.
"I don't think I can go anymore."
This was not an unfamiliar feeling to me. I had experienced the same thoughts countless times at this point. For myself, it took time to build up the mental skills I needed to succeed with running. It is not easy! But it helps to have someone there with you. Even if it's just to remind you that you're NOT going to die.
"You've got this, we're more than halfway done! If we stop and walk it will just take longer to get home." I heard myself echoing the wisdom of my first running partner. Words I had heard so many times myself and thought, "Yea...but you don't understand! I feel like I'm going to die!" I followed with, "I know you think you can't. But you can. You've never done this before so you just have to trust me. Prove it to yourself now and the next run will be that much easier."
The last mile we ran was a slow one. Every stride was a challenge. The sun was up now and we were sweating buckets. She was quiet, but I could guess what was going through her head. "This isn't for me. I'm not doing this again. This sucks. Why did I think I could do this?"
But she did it. Together we turned onto our street and our building slowly came into view. We made it up the three flights of stairs to our apartment. She turned to me and suddenly a huge grin spread across her face as she raised her arms up for a double high-five.
"We crushed it!" She exclaimed. "Next time let's go for six miles!"
As excited as I get for myself when I achieve something new, it was totally different seeing it happen for someone else. She really proved something to herself that day. Something no one can ever take away from her. After receiving so much support during my first year of running and tri, it felt amazing to pass that along. Being a part of that is my favorite thing about this community.
Written by Ashley Pettigrew
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Have you ever inspired a friend to try something new? Tell us about it in the comments below!