I think every first running encounter is like a first date. You don’t really know them. You don’t know how they run. Do they charge the hills? Or go slow and steady? I’m not even sure I know what I do. Are they a stickler for pace, and check their Garmin every five minutes? Or do they just go out, without even glancing at a watch?
Now a 3-miler is like a lunch date or coffee date. A long run as a “first date” is like a true dinner date- 8pm on a weekend. If they bring Nuun, it’s like bringing roses. A tempo or hills is like a fifth date. That’s serious stuff. And this is only if it’s one on one. In a group, it totally doesn’t matter. If it goes well, you have a new running buddy, someone to lean on when you’re dreading a workout, but know meeting someone will get your butt out there. If it goes badly, usually, you just don’t go with them one on one again.
I have a good group of running friends in the Raleigh area. (In case anyone is sick of their own location, Raleigh is great for the 20-40 yr old age range… And there’s probably 15 running stores/groups in the area. 1 in every 3 or 4 people are a runner or cyclist. At any age range. There are multiple running group/ social runs every day of the week in every area). Clearly, I have a good running circle here; when we started talking about doing Tuna, which is a 12-person relay, we had to split into two separate teams because 18 people wanted to do it… And there were still others who weren’t sure.
So it seemed like everyone was meeting up Monday night for a nog run.
Then everyone backed out, except the boys (Dan and Dave). Dan runs about a 8:00 pace… So ummmm. And Dave “wanted to get in 8 miles for a nice long run for the week”… And I kinda said I would would with Dave. That meant I’d be third wheel. Oh, and this guy I once hooked up with is like a KING at Nog Runs. Like, every time I go, I see him. I prefer not to see him if it’s already an awkward encounter.
But Dave still wants to run 8 miles. Doesn’t he know I’m socially awkward and do not like to run with random people, especially boys?!?! So much so, that my gay best friend (upon hearing I was meeting up with a boy last night for a run) has asked me four times “So are you trying to date him?”
Since I said I’d run with him earlier in the day, and I know he’s faster than me, so the run will kick my ass and he agreed to meet at my house…. I email him the route and tell him to meet me after work.
I knew this was going to be awkward. But decided it would be a good time to 1) push outside my comfort zone, and 2) push my speed a little. I’ve met him twice before. He seems a little shy, or maybe just intimidated by the amount of energy that the other 8 of us have, since we all trained for Nashville together. Either way, I know he is about my age. And is a NY Giants fan (thank you for that fb post last week). And he has only been running a year or so. So I can add a 3) Get to know
what will annoy me about him before spending 24 hours in a van with him…
So he texts to say he’s at my complex, and I walk down, and he’s stretching. Okay, I stretch like crazy after a run, and throughout the day at work. And while waiting in a long line. Like a normal person. Who stretches for 10 minutes before a run? … But he is stretching in my parking lot. Okay.
I slowly played with my phone, saying I had to load the map, to make sure I knew all the turns- which btw, turns out I didn’t.
After we began our run, I quickly realized we were going out too fast. And there were some larger hills in this route. I kept trying to slow down the pace, but it would quickly pick back up. I eventually gave up hope, and decide to just keep up.
And truthfully, I knew most of the route pretty well- except about 2 miles of it. I realized that when the sidewalk ended abruptly and we went from running in suburban haven (he stopped at a park along the way for bathroom… and commented on how nice it was) to country ass road with no shoulder. During rush hour. I tried to awkwardly take the lead, but he kept running beside me. I was thinking ‘Ummm, dude, cars are bigger than us. And I know from experience, it hurts when they hit you’ (it took a while for me to learn the ‘look both ways’ on our busy street growing up. No, I am not joking, I got hit by cars like 3 or 4 times. To the point where my mom freaked out whenever she heard brakes and I was outside).
Alright, you won’t get behind me… I guess I will jump into the 3 foot tall grass and just run that way. He is still in the middle of the road. Then I looked up “Oh, sweet Upchurch Meadow. That’s our turn.” Then as we get back into the suburban hell and enter a round-about, I realize that was not our turn. Our turn was Upchurch Carpenter. Whoops!
me: “Ummm…. so I think we were supposed to go down that road a little longer… Ummm… I know there’s a way out from here, but ummm… let me pull up my phone… Oh, okay, yeah the next turn”
We took the next turn, but apparently my maps did not consider that road an actual road, so it actually should have been the next next turn.
me: “That was fun. Um, let’s turn around. Quick out and back. Adding mileage. … And this f***ing hill!”
(He was really laid back about it all.)
We eventually got back out to the road, just in time before my most dreaded hill of the workout. I usually run hill repeats here. And hate it every time. There’s this tavern that mocks me at the top- “ha ha! you’re still 2 miles from your house… ha ha! you don’t get to enjoy my delicious beers!”
As we begin our trek up my dreaded hill, he starts to tell me some story- Oh, about how he bought a new townhouse, where it is, how much he bought it for, how he saved money with this or that, how it’s just smarter to buy, he was wasting so much money renting, he still feels too young to settle down, but too old to get wasted and crash at Dan’s place, about [pointless other things I can’t remember]… Awww, that’s nice. He knows I hate this hill, so he’s making useless conversation until we get to the top. And actually that hill wasn’t too bad after all.
He also tells me he has eaten at the aforementioned tavern we pass almost at the top of the hill. I wanted to shove him into the steady 630pm traffic. But that would take too much energy. I wasn’t even paying attention at that point. He couldn’t have asked me to buy his townhouse off him because he just realized it’s a crackhouse, and my reply would have been “[heavy breathing and slight nod of acknowledgement]”…
After that hill started our slow and steady descent. Then, I could breathe. I could converse like a normal human being. And this shy boy was starting to feel the endorphins and was suddenly chatty cathy. And he was apparently already feeling the pain from the run. The thought occurred to me that I could turn back. (Since we went a different route out, I almost always go the same route back, and on my own would have made it into a 10 miler without realizing it)
We walked from the entrance of my complex to my building. I was thinking we did a 8 mile loop.
We made small talk. I awkwardly stood in my kitchen with my cold Nuun, covered in salty sweat, and dirt. And chafing still from Sat’s long run.
me: “Yeah… so this was fun”
Dave: “Yeah we should do it again”
me: “Okay. Yeah. See you Wednesday. …Or not. Whatever. It’s just … whatever”
Dave: “Yeah, okay. No, I’ll probably be there”
So, maybe in reading it, it doesn’t sound that awkward.
However, awkward makes me fast. I didn’t calculate splits, because I figured knowing how fast we were going would freak me out. This was my longest “mid” distance so far. All in all, 8.6 miles, in 1:21… And I didn’t stop my watch (my iPhone) at the lights… So a sub 9:30 pace. Very nice! (My “race pace” is 9:30-10:00; my tempo pace is 8:30-9:00… so it was between the two. AND my first 8+ miles on a weeknight)
Go awkward moments. Maybe I will have to take Dan out on a run to get faster. Oh wait, never mind. He’s a sub 8:00 pacer. I’d probably cry. Seriously, I’d be so humiliated, I would pretend I was lost and run back to my apartment, and not answer my door. Note to self: do not meet Dan at your apartment for a run, as there is no escape then.
Thanks for reading. I know that was long.