Yesterday morning, I had an invite to go running with my new friend Dan.  Dan, a few years older than me, is a pretty athletic guy.  He’s obviously been hitting the gym for a while, and it’s clear that he enjoys both taking care of himself internally, but also draws a great deal of strength from being, well, strong.  He and I have been enjoying getting to know each other, and yesterday was yet another shared moment that has begun the foundation of a good connection for me here in Portland.

The night prior, I hadn’t got much sleep.  I won’t go into the details here, but it is suffice to say that when I met up with Dan and heard the squeak of his sneakers as he greeted me at his door, I was feeling very apprehensive about going out for a run with him.  I was exhausted.  I was mildly dehydrated.  I had only a bit of food in my stomach, and really wasn’t feeling on my game.  Still, he greeted me with a smile, we checked our laces, and hit the road.

It was a short run.  I didn’t log it on Nike+ because my phone was dead, but according to his calculations, we did just under five miles along the riverfront here in town.  It was a good run, fairly flat with some uphills.  At one point, we did have to wait for a ship to pass through one of the bridges – typical here in Portland, the city of Bridges.  On our pause, I had the chance to tell Dan about my hesitations with running with him.  Not only was I tired.

In the past, when I’ve gone running with someone, more often than not it has turned into a competition.  Sometimes, healthy competition is good.  It can push a person to go harder and faster than they normally would.  It can bring about a spirit of “yes, yes I can” when it feels like perhaps “no, no I can’t” is what the body wants to do.  It adds a mental component, especially to running, that for me has been a source of glee, and a source of frustration.  I will say this: it all depends on who you are running with.

I have always hated being in a competition of fitness.  I have over and over again come up short, let the teammate down in some way, or just failed at the attempt, even if I did make my best effort.  Running, like other sports such as swimming and biking, is a very solo experience for most people at most times.  This is true for me, and why I think I was drawn to taking it up in the first place.

With Dan, though, the competitive spirit was not an aggressive one.  It wasn’t like he was yelling at me to go faster, or rolling his eyes when I needed to stop and catch my breath.  In fact, it was me who was pushing the pace.  It was me who was picking up my knees higher and going faster than I typically do.  He even once commented on the fact that I don’t know how fast I’m actually running.  I guess I found myself worried over letting him down, especially given how physically fit he already is.

In the end, we had a great run, and will hopefully try it again sometime soon.  He’s a good person, and he gets that I’m on a journey towards fitness.  He also gets it when the body just simply refuses to cooperate and that one bad day on the trail is not the end of the journey.  I have more to learn from him in terms of how to approach fitness without sacrificing overall health.  If he’s patient with me, I think he’ll be a good resource for what I want to do going forward.

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