“And I’ll have a chocolate brownie sundae as well please,” I said to the woman behind the cash register at Ithaca’s best known ice cream parlor, Purity.
“Three in a row, wow, are you three ice cream buddies” the woman asked as my receipt was printing.
“Sort of,” I laughed, as a smile spread across my face. “We are half marathon running, dessert eating and continuous talking buddies to be more exact.”
I’m not sure the woman caught that because all she said was, “well enjoy your ice cream,” as she handed me the receipt, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t need her to know who we were, or why three slightly sunburnt, very hungry, varying levels of twenty-something-year-old women had just ordered ice cream sundaes and would proceed to sit at a picnic table outside her counter long after the last spec was scraped from each bowl simply talking. I knew why, and that was all that mattered.
When I was 15 I started running (well running competitively anyway, I think I may have been born in a state of constant motion).
My days seemed to revolve around running – everything was scheduled in relation to the hour or so I needed to dedicate to pounding down the pavement. The years slipped by with one race after another, one pump up speech after another, one corny (yet motivating) running slogan after another.
Over and over again I was told by coaches that the friends I would make running would be the friends I’d have for a lifetime. I wanted to believe them, truly, but the facts were that on a sports team I was always a little too nerdy or a little too into theater to quite fit in. And, maybe more importantly, I wasn’t quite with the right type of runner.
I wasn’t wicked fast – so definitely not a sprinter – and, let’s face it, everything in track is really a sprint. Even the 3.1 miles of a cross country race seemed too fast. The other girls would take off for a race or even a training run and really want to push the pace, and to be honest, I could never get myself to care quite enough. Sure I wanted to win, but I wanted to enjoy myself too.
“Jules, have you seen this sign?” My dad called from across UConn’s Chemistry building while I was giving him a tour in late January of my freshman year of college. I followed his gaze to a large red and white sign baring the title “Husky Road Dogs.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” I said, trying not to convey any emotion. Truth was I hadn’t just seen it, I’d stared at it. I’d stared at it for every day of the past two weeks. I’d stared at it trying to decide if I was really ready to run again despite the deep desire to join that I felt every time I read the words “Come Run 13.1 with Us!”
Since 15, when I started running, I had suffered 5 stress fractures in my legs and feet. Was I really ready to risk that again?
“Jules this sounds great!” My dad said, he hadn’t sensed any of my hesitancy. “Weekly training runs culminating in a half marathon, I’d bet you’d meet a lot of people.”
“Yeah, that would be nice,” I said, not that meeting people and making friends was exactly my problem…but meeting runners who didn’t want to sprint but also didn’t want to jog at 10+ minutes per mile for less than 3…that was my problem.
All of that flashed through my head in the few seconds it took to walk to the “pick up” side of the counter where my slightly sunburnt, even more hungry and still twenty-something-year-old perfect running buddies were standing waiting for our traditional post-race (or post long run) dessert.
We didn’t ever run very fast, and, now that we all lived in different states – soon to be different countries – we didn’t even run together very often, but when we did it was perfect. From the pace, to the chatter, to the identical cravings for large amounts of chocolate after each run I couldn’t imagine two better running buddies.
Maybe I hadn’t found my life long friends around the track running the mile when I was 17, but I had found them running many more miles (and I was only 18 when we met).
There must be something to that saying after all, the more miles the merrier – or something like that.