Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
November 27, 2023

Last week, I had the fantastic opportunity to run/run hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The hillsides glowed red, yellow, and orange with fall leaves. The rocks of the Appalachian Trail were both challenging, and fun to navigate (like an American Ninja Warrior course), and the incessant climbs and descents going up and down hills made my legs and lungs burn…in a good way, mostly.

On the second day of the trip, I was running low on the amount of water I had taken with me for the hours on the trail and was rationing myself and taking tiny sips (not enough). The sun came out from behind the clouds around midday, just as our group started back up a big climb after sitting for a while and marveling at the view. It was hot. I was tired. Suddenly, the trail became much more arduous than it had felt before, and I struggled.

I had previously been about mid-pack of the group I was with, though it certainly wasn’t a race. But on this afternoon climb, I suffered. Everyone passed me and was going at their own pace. I dropped back to the caboose position and climbed on.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Lisa on the Appalachian Trail                              

Due to the tree cover and winding trail, I had none of them in sight. I felt like I was a chunk of minutes—or miles!—behind everyone else, and started to feel even worse physically because of that mental thought, which likely slowed my pace even more. For a while, I worried I was lost. I wasn’t the trip leader and didn’t even know our final destination, a mistake I’ll never make again! (Always know where you’re headed in case you become separated from the group.)

Anyway, everything changed when I reconnected with the group, who were waiting for me at a summit and apparently had only been there a couple of minutes. Upon reconnecting, I not only felt great relief that I wouldn’t be lost or alone, I felt better all over—physically, mentally, emotionally.

I was still low on water—we all were, but I felt worlds’ better and moved faster. Yes, the terrain changed to flat and then downhill, but it quickly climbed again and in the company of others, I no longer felt as trashed.

At home, I most often run alone. But I have a group of girlfriends who get together to run on weekends, sharing adventures and, well, life. We work through each other’s problems on the trail—kid drama, family health issues, marital spats. It’s a fantastic way to connect with each other.

And it’s not so much that misery loves company, but when you hear that a friend is going through something similar to you, or sadly, worse, it tends to put things in perspective in your own life. I’ve come to cherish these runs and I know I’m better for them.

It’s also about accountability. If I plan on getting up at 6 a.m. for a run by myself, chances are I’ll hit snooze and go for a much shorter run later. Or not at all. Having a running partner to meet up with gets me out the door (mostly) on time.

And in the company of others—running while feeling good, or bad—or even in day to day life, we can feed off each other’s energy and lift each other up.

A few tips for finding a compatible running partner:

Join a running club

You’ll meet all levels of runners and can make plans to meet up with individuals or groups on your own as well as enjoy the group runs.

The N2R online community is a great place to connect with other runners!

Ask a friend

Maybe a friend—someone you maybe wouldn’t expect—wants to start a running program with you. You can keep each other accountable and enjoy each other’s company while learning to love running together.

Ask around

You never know which of your friends has a friend also looking for a running partner.

Participate in a race

Races are great in that people tend to be very social, mulling about and talking to each other before and after the event itself.

Be friendly and open to meeting new people and connecting over something you have in common: running! You might find your ideal running partner there, and a new friend.       

Follow Lisa on Instagram: @LisaJhungWrites

…and check out her books: “Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running (Even if You Think You Hate It)” (Running Press) and “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” (VeloPress)

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