Lesson 2: run-ning n. (see camaraderie)    

By Patrick Xu

Summer training always exposes a more personal side of running for me. In season, competition is the focus as the next race is always on the horizon. It’s the center of attention, it comes, goes, and is replaced by the race after that. In June and July, the Fall seems so far away and running is just about running. I wanted to write this series of pieces to give myself a chance to really solidify my understanding of the sport. Hopefully, by the end of this summer I’ll have a better grasp on the lessons running has taught me and in the process, help you see what makes this sport special for you. 

Getting out of bed at 5:00 a.m. isn’t something I do very often, especially not voluntarily. Yet there I was, rolling out of bed before sunrise to throw on a pair of short shorts and Saucony’s so I could hop in a car and trek two and a half hours from Massachusetts to Maine for an 8:30 a.m. 5k.

You might be thinking, just like my parents and everyone else I told about this race, “Why? Getting up that early and driving that far just to run a 5K makes zero sense.”

But for me my decision was completely logical because an old friend was back in town. It had been a year since we had seen each other and this high school classmate/former teammate and I had decided that we needed to race together at least once this summer before we both headed back to school. Since I would be starting my season less than a month from when he got back to MA, we chose the earliest date possible and picked the nearest race with the cheapest entrance fee for that day (which happened to be one in Maine).

It’s that sense of needing to race with him which illustrates how much running has helped me connect with people in my life. There are very few things that replicate the experience of running with another person. For someone who does not run, I think the closest comparison is driving down the highway during a road trip.  Both have a sense of being on the move with another person, sharing time and space together as you pursue an objective. Something about that feeling, exactly what I could not tell you, makes running the perfect setting to connect to someone else.

I can’t count the number of interesting conversations and important moments that have happened while running with friends. The people I’ve spent my career running with are some of my closest friends to date. Running with these people has not only made the running more enjoyable but also helped us become closer. There’s a connective tissue there that really binds those relationships together in a way that can’t be replicated by another experience.  

I didn’t have the greatest race that day. The combination of lack of sleep and stiff legs from sitting in the car probably did me in. But looking back, that time and effort spent getting up early and driving a few states away wasn’t about the 20 minutes I spent racing. It was about those 6 other hours spent in the car, warming up, and cooling down. That whole time was filled with catching up with each other, recounting random stories from high school, and talking about whatever came to mind, trying to make up for a year of sporadic texts and phone calls that resulted from living halfway across the country from one another.

This experience solidified how much running has meant to the relationships in my life. Waking up at 5:00 a.m. seems crazy in almost every situation except for this one. This time, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to go run and running means friendship.

Patrick Xu is an intern for VDOT O2. He currently competes for the NYU Cross Country and Track & Field teams and is majoring in Media, Culture, and Communications.