Running with Eric

I am running late this morning.  An early client with a pretty intense session focused on the Wellness Coaching aspect of what I do as a trainer finishes with a good core workout and a long low-body stretch sequence. Wellness Coaching requires quite a lot of focus, listening, and thoughtful questioning.  I am eager to hit the street and shake out my mind and my muscles.  I call my mom first, because I know she waits for my call and I don’t like lugging that feeling with me on a run.  I listen to her morning stories, missing her, but also itching to get outside.  I don’t hurry her, though.  I pace around my kitchen, thinking about how hard it is for her to take care of my dad, and wish they lived closer so I could be more helpful to them.  She lets me go after a little while, knowing I am waiting to run.   I fill a water bottle, double-knot my Nike Free sneakers (still the same pair!) and turn on my iPod.  I ease down Atlantic Ave., letting my body settle into motion and try to stop thinking.

I run along Beach Road, not really hearing my music so much as using it as a tool to zone out.  I reach Granite Street and press up the hill.  I look up to see a man in a bright green tee shirt barreling toward me and as I open my mouth to say good morning, I realize that it’s my friend Eric. I stop and reach out to him and he just about jumps out of his skin.  He regroups,  smiles and puts his arm around my shoulder, trying to cover the fact that I have just startled him, then, giving up, he confesses that he is already so in the zone that he did not even recognize me.  We chat for a few seconds, then I ask him if he wants to run together.

“Sure.  Yeah, sure.”

I cannot decide if I have overstepped a boundary by cornering him into running with me, but to be honest, he is a good friend, a fairly new runner, and I have been itching to run with him.  We are both the kind of people who are good at pushing ourselves; he’s also a bit competitive.  I am not very competitive with anyone except for myself, but I know he’s fast and I am interested to see if I am able to keep up with him.  He lets me choose the route, different than his, and we trot off together up the hill.

Eric is slender and quite strong.  The muscles and tendons in his legs visibly flex with each step and he tells me he has read the book Chi Running and is really trying to focus on his form.  I, too, have read this book and have been working to incorporate the postures and techniques recommended to prevent running injuries and make the running experience even better that it is.  (There have been days when I have chanted “needle in cotton” to myself, mile after mile after mile, attempting to lean forward just a little and keep my spine straight yet arms and legs soft.  It’s work.)  We both remove our ear buds and fall into a rhythm, his stride long and relaxed, mine easily matching his.  After a couple of miles, it becomes clear that his pace is faster than mine, but also that I can keep up if I push.  I am able to sprint ahead on the return of the loop as we take turns fartleking the telephone poles that are planted in the sidewalk.  By the time we finish the last big hill we are running together, I know I am at my limit and curl around the internal gratitude I feel, knowing he is headed off to his own house and my last mile will be leisurely.

When we part, he thanks me for bringing him out of his comfort zone—taking an unexpected and unplanned route was good for him.  I thank him, too, for his good company and for the chance to finally get to run with him.

I stop running when I reach my front walk, but take a stroll down my street to cool down and let my heart rate ease back to normal.  I am exhilarated from today’s run.  I am happy my early client went over time, that I called my mom before I ran.  The timing turned out to be perfect for me.  Running into and then with Eric cleared my mind better than anything else could have today, and keeping up with him reminded me that it’s good to push a little harder once in a while.

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4 Comments on “Running with Eric”

  1. Craig Says:

    Great story. I love how bring it all together at the end with the way the timing worked out in your favor. And what a great experience it was to run with Eric for the first time.

    Thank you for linking to the definitions. I am sure some new readers may have raised their eyebrows when they read, “we take turns fartleking the telephone poles…”

  2. Eric Patey Says:

    Thanks for the run and the write-up, Elizabeth. It was a lot of fun see what it’s like running to the left!

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