We’ve heard different names for them. Sole mates. Sole sisters. BRFs (best running friends). Running buddies. Training pals. Whatever you want to call it, this should be the ultimate “must have” on your training list. Above your iPod. Above your Garmin. Above your Lululemon wear. I know that sounds like sheer blasphemy. But consider this: what fun is an iPod if you don’t have someone with whom to trade the perfect play list? And what good is a Garmin if you can’t recite your negative split achievement to someone who will not only listen to every detail about every lap on your evening run, but will actually understand what you are talking about? And really, isn’t shopping for running gear much better with someone who will tell you how great you look in everything and how you totally deserve it all?
Enter the BRF. You know mine – Princess Alana. She started running because of me, which makes me hers. And she took my little idea about running a half-marathon in Disney World and said “Let’s do it!”, turning a dream into a plan, which makes her mine. A BRF is a partner in all of the ups and downs of training. This is someone who will enter races with you, sharing the pre-race anxieties and the post-race celebrations. This is a person you can call when you need someone to kick your butt out the door on your scheduled run, and also someone who will be too happy to hear about those great runs where you feel unstoppable. This is your coach and your cheerleader all in one. This doesn’t have to be your best friend that you grew up with, or the office mate who laughs at all your jokes and compliments you on all your fab outfits (although she sounds great too). It doesn’t have to be anyone in your social circle of mommy groups or little league. It just has to be someone who shares a desire to run and, ideally, has a similar goal.
In our case, we were friends during our university years and immediately afterwards, but then life happened. We didn’t live in the same city anymore. We both had our share of difficult times. We stayed in touch, but not regularly. And then one day – like lightening striking! – we had a new common ground and a reason to bridge that gap. Through running, we remembered how much fun we have together and this goal has bonded us like never before. Since we don’t live in the same city, we can’t actually run together very often, but we are in constant touch about our training. I have started my days by reaching for my Blackberry and demanding to know how Alana’s run went. Why? Because often times, the main reason she gets out the door is because she knows I will be asking her how it went. It’s a little harder to blow things off when someone is riding your butt! On the other hand, she has sometimes had to reign me in on heavy mileage weeks and remind me that I don’t have time for an injury – so, while the mood may strike, I may want to think again about adding in another 10 km “just because” and maybe do some cross-training instead. Good point.
We often wish that we lived closer so that we could do some training runs together. We sometimes lament that we don’t have this luxury. Of course we will have to do some training runs in our tutus before the Princess Half-Marathon and wouldn’t we look a tad less ridiculous together? As it is, I guess we’ll be alarming our respective neighbours on our own. But, on the flip side, it does make us appreciate our race days even more. They are even more special because we get to spend time together and we get to run, and these are the ingredients of a great sole sister relationship. Sometimes we get to shop as well – triple crown!
The best thing about having a sole mate is that you are part of a team. Sure, running is an individual sport. And yes, even when we travel together to a race, we run at our own paces and often have different goals. But we are a team. I want her to do well, and she wants the same for me. There is no competition between us and, in fact, if we ever find ourselves running towards the finish line neck-in-neck, I know exactly how it would end. Not with a sprint to the finish, but with a clasp of the hands and a photo finish side by side.
Post Script: We are often inspired by our fave sole sister team, the running ladies from Run Like a Mother, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.* And my favourite moment of the London Olympics was Kara Goucher helping Shalane Flanagan off the ground at the end of the gruelling marathon. If you look, you will notice these power couples everywhere. Do you have a BRF or a Sole Sister team you admire?
*We were thrilled to receive the following message from the Run Like a Mother duo, who read this post and had the following to say: “Love you two sole sisters/power couple/princesses on the run. As you guys so perfectly illustrate, best friends are the ones we make running: I’ll say it until I can’t run anymore. XO.”