This weekend I had my last traditional Sunday run. Every weekend for fifteen years (give or take a year) I have met a friend and we’ve run 4-22 miles together. We’ve run in snow, rain, heat, and darkness. We’ve trained for marathons. We’ve run through miscarriages, depression, pregnancy, divorce, and marriage. My friend and I have never lived more than five miles apart. Friday she moves 19 miles away.
The routine has changed over the years, but it’s always involved meeting at her house before 8:00 and running. I remember finishing runs with eyelashes covered in frost, blood running down my leg, or tears in my eyes. I remember running wondering if she would ever shut up, and I’m sure she remembers runs wondering the same about me and my current gripe, aggravation, or crisis. The running therapy was sometimes one sided, but that was how the weekend runs went: sometimes one of us needed to talk and sometimes one of us needed to listen. We both spent time as the therapist and the patient.
Before kids we saw each other socially, but since our families arrived our friendship has dwindled to a dinner or two a year and a run every weekend. The lack of variety has not diminished the value of the time together, in fact, I think it’s grown more important. When you have kids making time for yourself and your friendships gets difficult, but while other activities have gone by the wayside the Sunday run was constant.
I exaggerate a bit. Life did interrupt our runs from time to time. Vacations, surgeries, and weather would cancel the runs, but that was the exception, not the rule. For me the exercise and the chatting meant my week started with a clear head and was worth making an effort. We talked about our kids, our parents, our husbands, our friends, our jobs, and our health. Our insecurities around parenting, our bodies, our relationships, and our careers were common topics. For an hour every week we didn’t have to start and stop a discussion to parent, wife, or work. Together we focused on ourselves while pounding the pavement.
We both hate treadmills and dislike gyms. Neither of us runs with headphones and her dog always keeps us company. There was never a negotiation about any of those details, so it was easy. When we first started running she was so much faster than me that I’d have to run half a lap around the park with her and then turn to walk the opposite direction to recover. When she caught back up I’d turn around and run again. I worried about keeping up with her, but then we got to the same pace and it was easy. At one point we could run a 7 minute mile, but now we’ve slowed to a comfortable 9-10 mile per hour pace for our Sunday morning runs. She runs every morning and her inflexibility is the reason this tradition has continued on. I know because we’ve had other friends come and go from the run but she has been the constant and I’ve gone along for the run. It just happens every weekend.
We can keep running – and I’m sure we will meet up from time to time to run the trails by her new house or the parks by my house – but it will require planning and schedules. It will become difficult, and that’s what makes me sad. All of my friendships right now require negotiation and calendars and texts and cancellations and rescheduling. The run was easy, and easy is in short supply in my friendships.
For our last run Sunday I imagined some epic last meeting. We’d take selfies (that I could post on my blog). I’d bring a present. We’d reminisce about all the runs over the years. None of that happened. Another friend joined us and we ran a lap. We talked about our kids and the move. Then our friend went off to church and we ran one last lap together just chatting, bitching, and running: same as always. Tears were blinked away, not about our last run, but about her son. No selfie was taken, and our goodbye was a quick hug, since I hadn’t showered in three days and she had to mow the lawn. It wasn’t until I got in my car that I let myself mourn the end of the Sunday morning run. Then I wiped my eyes and went to pick up bagels for my family, just like I’ve done every other week.
Next week she moves, and the week after that I’m on vacation and then…who knows. I’ll have to plan something, but maybe this hour a week with a friend is worth it even if it’s hard. For now I’m sad that it won’t be easy anymore.