A social affair

Monday when we met for our workout, Paige pulled up and hopped out of her car with a big smile on her face. “Oh,” was her response to the grim look on my face. “Happy Monday.” We started running. After we’d gone a bit in silence, she asked, “Soooooooo, what’s up?”

There’s nothing like a best friend—especially one who runs right next to you. I proceeded to vomit my weekend’s pent-up emotions all over her. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. My frustrations, irritations, hurts, and disappointments—both rational and irrational—all came out during our warmup.

She let me go on, just listening, occasionally making kind comments or asking questions to clarify. She knows me so well I think she could pick out my DNA strands from a lineup under a microscope. Yep, that’s her, the squiggly one right there. “You’re a complicated person,” she reminded me. “Not for everyone.” That’s true. Good point.

She has this way of making me feel like all parts of me are okay. Not like a cafe friendship, where you go through the line and take a scoop of this, or a piece of that, double on this, and I’ll pass on that, thank you. She takes all of me—full course, full on, always.

She is the person I practice with—not just running, but relationships. I share my thoughts, fears, weaknesses, strengths, dreams, and filter nothing. She’s seen the total spectrum of me, from grief to joy and everything in between. She can take the full force of my anger without flinching or making me think she’s going to leave me when I’m not pretty or sweet.

She’s watched me fall apart, and stayed in solidarity to help me collect all my pieces (it took years). She can push me when I’m running on fumes, and I let her because I trust her not to break me. She loves my children almost as much as I do, so she keeps me accountable in my parenting.

At this point, it goes without saying her opinion is always welcome. She’s deeply happy for me when life goes my way and aches with me when it doesn’t. She’s earned the right to say whatever needs to be said and I’ll listen, and vice versa.

When we arrived at our workout location, we faced our hill workout—five repeats with three times backwards, and three sprints. I felt vaguely anemic after my vent session and took a deep breath.

“What you’re going to do is leave the rest of that junk out here, okay? Leave it at the top of the hill, a little each time. Got it?”

I nodded and we set off. Every time we crested Hypoxia Hill, I tried to drop some of my rocks. She was right. I started to get lighter. My quads groaned at me, as usual, on the backwards ascents. I really hate not being able to see where I’m going; Paige claims that’s the control freak in me. I decided to try to ditch that, too, while I was at it.

On the final three sprints I felt more like myself. Gilbert was laughing and screaming at us to “Run with joy!!” as we raced, chasing each other to the mailbox. We high fived, got some Gatorade and our “food” (Gilbert’s word for prayer after a workout), and cooled down by jogging back to our cars.

“Better?” Paige asked me, as we parted ways to face the rest of our day.

“Better,” I smiled. “Thank you.”

My dear runners, how lucky are we to have friends who literally help us work it out?

Let your wingmen know how important they are.

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