Missoula Running Buddies

By JENNIFER SAUER

Last year, I suffered one of the most tragic fates to befall a runner: My training partner moved away. A new job took him away a few weeks after we ran our second marathon together. I knew the move was coming for some time, yet that did little to abate the vacancy his absence left.

The week after the move, he returned to Missoula to tie up some loose ends. We touched base midday and found, as we have times before, that we were both pondering the same workout: a seven-mile night run. We agreed to connect again in a few hours.

When the dark November evening rolled around, I was ambivalent about putting in my miles. Left to my own devices, I probably would not have gotten out the door that particular day. But like so many countless times before, my running buddy was waiting for me. Motivated by the fact that this would be our last chance to run together, we made a plan.

By the time I realized it was pouring rain, it was too late to cancel. Had I been going it alone, the wet blackness outside would have been enough to derail my plan. But there was no way I was going to flake out on this, our last run.

When he arrived we shared a laugh about the ridiculousness of running in a downpour. And then we zipped up our rain jackets, turned on our headlamps, headed out the door and did what running buddies do best — we ran. Sometimes side by side. Sometimes single file. Sometimes slow, but mostly fast.

We ran north, then south, through giant puddles, down dark streets, over the creek. We took a wrong turn and briefly lost all comprehension of where we were.  We startled a small herd of deer that charged us before bolting in the oppositedirection.

Three years ago, my running buddy was not a runner. We were former co-workers, acquaintances but not close friends. I remember the first race he entered in the spring of 2008. He finished well behind me. Today, he runs so fast I don’t even see him during races. Today, he is so much more than just an acquaintance.

Together we have shared some amazing adventures and some truly miserable miles. He has listened to virtually all my stories and told me his. He’s seen me struggle to finish. He has seen me win. He once followed me eight miles off course during a 24-mile run and never complained. As I crossed the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon in 2010, it was his voice out of hundreds that I recognized cheering from the sidelines.

In 2009 we had trained for the Seattle Marathon, his first. We did our long runs together and ran most of the race side by side. But when he pulled away as I slowed in the final miles, I knew that he was on his way to becoming a faster runner than I. And that was fine by me. As a runner, one of the greatest joys I know is watching someone else fall love with running and excel at it. He did both.

When we ran together for that last time, there was never a pause in conversation. When one of us became winded from running and talking, the other took a turn telling a story. We naturally locked into that comfortable pace we both knew so well without ever discussing it and or consulting our Garmins.

Seven miles flew by in the blink of an eye. As we rounded our final turn, my legs and my heart begged me to go a little farther. I was not ready for it to end. We slowed in front of my house and my running buddy gave me a familiar wave and word that he would call later about grabbing a beer. As he trotted off effortlessly, I sat down on my porch and stared out into the darkness.

Only then did I notice it had stopped raining.

 

Like this blog?  Chances are you’d like these posts from our running blog:  Missoula Runners Attend Prefontaine Classic,  or Runwild Missoula Creates Running Friendships,  Or, check out our Missoula Running and Walking page or Missoula Outdoor Recreation section.

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Jennifer Sauer writes and runs in Missoula, Mont. Her other hobbies include making Chuck Norris race signs and cheering on other runners while wearing an Easter Bunnycostume.