Teresa Robinson's NH Runner: Running with friends is special
One of my favorite runs is an "8 at 8" date with my running buddy where we run 8 miles at 8 a.m. In 2010, I made it my goal to run and ride 2,010 miles. On my birthday, I try to ride my bike the number of miles of my age. (This is getting harder the older I get.)
This week's 12-12-12 date screamed out for a number-related run.
An informal group of running friends, which calls itself Balanced Rush, took up the challenge running 12 miles at noon on 12-12-12. I guess that would be a 12 at 12 on 12-12-12.
The run was the fifth in a series of number-related runs the group has put together. They started with 8 miles at 8 a.m. on 8-8, then 9 miles at 9 a.m. on 9-9. You get the idea.
But it's clear that for this group, and for most running groups, runs like these are less about the number of miles you run and more about who you run them with.
Mark Baldwin, who describes himself as the commissioner of Derry-based Balanced Rush, said the group formed about five years ago when a couple of friends at a social outing decided they wanted to increase their mileage and train for a marathon. (Stop me if that sound familiar to any of you. Why does it seem that the idea to train for a marathon often comes from a group of friends at a social gathering?)
The friends knew they would need some help - and camaraderie - as they trained for their marathon, so they sought out friends, some seasoned marathoners (one in their group has run 45 of them). Their running-friends had one rule: "We don't run with jerks." (They didn't use that word, exactly.)
The group has adopted a few more covenants as its grown over the years. Members aren't allowed to complain about spouses or kids or work. They talk about those things plenty, but complaining isn't allowed. They are required to run a 7-mile run on the Windham Rail Trail with specific members of the group and must bring a post-run fruit snack to at least one run.
Over the past few years, the group has grown to more than a dozen, some couples and runners of all abilities (there's a "Fast Paul" and a "Slow Paul" on their informal roster). Quite simply, Baldwin describes Balanced Rush as "a group of 45-55 year-olds who enjoy running."
Like many running groups, what they've found is that their friendship transcends the miles.
"A lot has been written about the friendship and camaraderie you can get with running with a group. I think we found that and something else," Baldwin told me. "At our age group, we're losing parents and other people that are close to us, including every parent's greatest fear, losing a child. We've had all that and more."
It's that bond and understanding that means more to runners like Baldwin than any marathon.
"If we can keep this group together, if for only, when one of us gets a hard slice of life, and a card, email or phone call lets them know we understand or we're thinking of them, well, that's reason enough for me to keep running with my sole mates," he said.
But they also like to keep running fun and light-hearted.
Baldwin's commissioner position means he monitors behavior and hands down disciplinary action (he calls it probation or double probation). Infractions include accidentally tripping a running, enraging a passing driver or, well, sending out an email with poor spelling and grammar.
In addition to tongue-in-cheek infractions and quirky run series like the 12-12-12 run, the group does a Jingle Bell run each Christmas season. The group will don bells and elf hats and run a mile or so through a Derry neighborhood, jingling all the way, where they will end up at one of the members homes for beverages and snacks.
If you see this group of running-friends today (they plan to step off with their jingling run at 3 p.m.), give them a honk, a wave and a smile. No doubt they'll be smiling back.
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Teresa Robinson's NH Runner column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. She can be reached at NHRunner123@gmail.com. Twitter: @teresakrobinson.