Training Partners

My initial foray into running was a solo quest.

It began as a way to maintain movement during my undergraduate years.

I loved the ‘me versus me’ challenge that it provided.  

This type of lone wolf mentality sort of stuck with me well after college.  

Eventually though, it was pride that stood in the way of opening up. I was so insistent on doing my own thing that I stood in my own way.

It was ego that prevented me from learning, sharing, and growing through connecting with others.

While I’m still a work in progress, I’ve come to realize the value of training partners.

I found value in forging relationships through long trail runs or hard efforts on the track. Regardless of the distance or intensity, I learned that the training doesn’t have to be miserable. It can actually be even better than a race. What a novel concept! That shift completely altered how I have come to quantify success. When it comes to a race or performance, my definition of success has evolved well beyond any objective numerical measurement:

                       (Randy, Hickey, Me)  Post Rae-Lakes Loop: Unbelievable day. Summer 2015

                       (Randy, Hickey, Me)  Post Rae-Lakes Loop: Unbelievable day. Summer 2015

  

It’s not the time you got, rather, the time you had.

 

The quality of the experience shouldn’t be limited to time or outcome. 

 

Outcome or time is an indiscriminate measurement that knows no race, gender, effort, or background. Essentially, that objectivity is what lured me into running; however, it doesn't take into account the human element, which is what keep me coming back for more. This journey, it's about what we do with that time and in that time.

 

In the past couple of years, I have grown to learn that the training miles are much more meaningful when being pushed by training partners. This revelatory thought has been a world of difference.

Time and time again, I am reminded of the power of accountability. As a California native, any morning below 40 degrees makes it all the more enticing to stay put in the warm bed. However, when my running buddies are waiting under a streetlamp on those dark & dreary mornings, that eliminates any excuse for me to stay put. They made the choice to show up and I can’t let them down.

 

These relationships have enriched me in ways well beyond running. I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps, it could be the power of commiseration. Maybe even the achievement felt after a hard effort or the collective pursuit of chasing down a goal. Either way, the blood, sweat, and tears accrued through mileage is a bond that is hard to undue.

 

Of equal value are conversations had. Often, they happen en route to and from the trailhead. On the way there, there is a silence while waiting for the caffeine to settle in. On the way home, there’s a deep gratitude that accompanies the endorphin-fueled conversation. The conversations offer opportunities to vent about frustrations, discuss relationships, or reflect upon big-time life decisions.

It doesn’t matter if we’re laughing, ranting, or sitting in shared silence, because these bonds that have been forged run much deeper than one car ride, conversation, or race.

  

                                                  American River 50 (Me, Brit, & Matt)

                                                  American River 50 (Me, Brit, & Matt)

 

There is a mutual respect for each other’s efforts because we are all working towards something. When one of us does hit a goal, the excitement is mutual.

I’m slowly realizing that that working together towards a goal makes the banality of weekday mornings more satisfying.

Yes, it can still be a grind.

Yes, it will still be hard.

Yes, I still enjoy the solace of a long, lonely run.

But, it doesn’t have to be an either / or. 

Both are great, but a high-five at the end is optimal.

The post-run high-five signifies more than completion, it’s this synergistic, palpable pulsating feeling of conquering. It’s vitality.

In any case, more high-fives in life can’t be a bad thing, right?

 

Through sharing this running journey with others, I’ve been enriched beyond belief. Yes. Really. Beyond belief.

 

It’s opened up an entire new world of beautiful places, opportunities that would have slipped by otherwise. While the external grandeur is memorable, it’s the journey within that will keep me coming back for more. All of those doubts and struggles (all of which are 100% by choice) don’t necessarily lead to any profound answers, they’ve helped.

Without a doubt, they have made me a better runner.

 

But running is just a part of my life.

 

Most importantly, these shared experiences have made me a better person.      

No race result, qualifying time, or PR can outperform that.

That is just fine with me.

 

Onward & Forward,

Tyler Baxley