Friends make EVERYTHING better.

2006…Top Layer: ALL COTTON. And it was RAINING that day. Poor me. I just didn’t know any better.

Today is the Huntsville Half Marathon. I ran this race for the first time in 2006. Back when they did an accompanying 5K. Thinking back to that day is SO weird because my life is SO different now.

That was my first half marathon and I had trained – kinda poorly – on my own. I had gotten up to one 10-mile long run but crapped out on the mid-week runs. (Some things never change.) I was wearing actual running tights, but the rest was ALL COTTON baby. I didn’t know we were getting a medal. I barely knew about Gu – much less any other type of race nutrition. (It was a great day when I learned there were other choices besides SLIME.) I came in 406th out of 426. (The race allows 1000 runners now, to give you perspective.) But the biggest difference between 2006 and now? Is that day I knew NO ONE. I had no friends on the course, and no friends running the race. I didn’t have any running friends…period. I always ran alone. It was cold and wet that day and Donnie had Nikki and E at mile 10 to cheer me on, and I almost cried when I saw them because I felt SO LONELY. My mother-in-law was at the finish line. But other than that? Other than my immediate family? I knew NO ONE. No one on the course, no one in the race.

But today? I’ll have several dozen friends running the race and several more volunteering. And this is not because I talked my friends into running half-marathons in the last 7 years…No. It’s that I’ve made so many friends in the running community that these races are basically social events now. We hug, we laugh, we cheer. This running community in Huntsville is amazing and I’d like to think it’s different from any other city of it’s size in the country. Mainly because if EVERY city had a community like this? Running would be something everyone did.

This course today is a bit of an out-and-back and the best thing about that is cheering for all of your friends in front of and behind you. I love that for THIS race, but normally I hate the out-and-backs. But a local out-and-back means I get to see all of my friends. And I love that.

I didn’t try this race again after 2006 until 2011. That year I actually trained and trained well. Most importantly? I trained with OTHER PEOPLE. I had never run with people before that year and now I hate running alone. I was surrounded by friends in my training group and had slowly started getting to know others in the community. Last year, 2012, I knew even more and this year? I’m looking more forward to seeing my friends than to getting the medal.

There’s really no point other than to say that I’m so happy to be part of this running community in this city. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends today. If there’s ever any advice I can give new runners (besides: DON’T WEAR COTTON) it is to find a running group. They hold you accountable and the give you friendly faces at your local races. They just make everything better.

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