Running friends. Seriously. Having people to run with, race with, and commiserate over shin splints with is what will make you a successful runner in the long term.
One of the things I love most about running is the running community. I have been lucky to have a full roster of running friends that I have accumulated over the years, and they have honestly made me a better runner.
Personally, I found my running tribe at work. About ten years ago I started running with a group of guys at lunch once or twice a week. They knew I had run a marathon in 2008 and asked if I wanted to start running with them. The funny part was that they assumed that I was as fast as them because I ran a marathon – but at the time I definitely was NOT and would literally be completely out of breath and using all of my will power to finish with them without collapsing. After a month or so I was able to keep up and actually join the conversation, then by 2010 I was keeping in stride without effort. These guys made me a better, faster runner. They also were willing to come run 20 miles with me in the middle of winter on a Saturday morning – if that isn’t friendship I don’t know what is.
Now, I am an extrovert, so running with people is my jam. BUT I also really enjoy running alone. That being said - I do not think I would have bounced back so quickly after have two kids in two years (my third is due any day at the time I am writing this) had it not been for a group of people who were asking me for run dates when I returned to work after maternity leave.
There is a science to this too (remember, I studied exercise physiology so you will get some nerd moments with me). Studies show that one of the key factors to sticking to an exercise program, especially during busy seasons of life, is social accountability.
So even if you are an introvert - I highly recommend you find your running clan to help yo make this a lifelong habit. Some of the most introverted people I have coached over the years have thrived because they were able to connect with other runners. They likely don't talk much during the group runs, but they show up every week and look forward to quietly pacing along with the conversation flowing around them.
So, how do you make running friends? One of the fastest ways is to join a local running store or club’s weekly run. We have a few in my hometown that meet every single week and it is a great way to meet new people. You can even take it a step further by signing up for a race with the group or club and train with them for two to three months leading up to a race. You are more likely to see the same people each week this way, and consistency is key in building your running friendships.
If you happen to hail from the Raleigh/Durham area I highly recommend the Fleet Feet running groups. But if you need to blend in a bit more to start I also really like the Fullsteam run club in Durham (they meet Wednesday evenings).
No matter how you find them, your running buddies will be critical in helping you go from someone who runs to a runner!