Partners in the Run
By Myrna Unger
A partnership is a relationship – the union of two people who come together under shared circumstances to fulfill a goal. It provides many functions: instruction, friendship, balance, respect, and emotional communion. Running offers many partnerships that enrich my life.
My running mentor, steady and sure, improves my running. Immediately we connected. It wasn’t just our love for running that formed our partnership, but more the recognition that she had answers to my questions. For over three years, each Saturday morning that we didn’t race we met for a 13-mile run. The main agenda was talk of running, racing, training, improving, and setting goals. Goals were set, trained for, the race run and then evaluated -all to begin again the next Saturday. This partner made me think about the “what ifs” in my running. She trained beside me for my first marathon then ran it with me. Competition didn’t form the relationship; instead it was the teacher and the student. The first finish line I crossed before her was as much her victory as mine and we both knew it. Even though a career move put physical distance between us, the partnership stays strong. We plan races to meet at, events to bring us together, and occasions to celebrate. Whenever we get together the agenda is still the same – a long run filled with talk of runs, races, goals, challenges, victories and questions still to be answered.
Every Tuesday morning at FSU’s track I meet another partner that enriches the quality of my running. There are many threads that form our unique running partnership. Support, friendship, and competition are just a few. Our partnership gets us to the track, pushes us to train harder, drives us to compete, but more importantly, it bonds two people together in friendship. Our running serves as a time for friends to talk about life. We laugh, we cry, we plan for the future; we share the best and worst of our lives. All the while supporting the other and their running. The other element of this partnership is that while we are best of friends, we are also friendly competitors. Our running PR’s are so close you might mistake one for the other. This competition drives us to challenge the other – to keep our running and training honest. When we both show up at the same race there is competition, but also unconditional support. On any given race day, either one of us could set the pace for the other – side by side as friends and competitors, pushing each other and demanding the most of each other. You see, we know each other’s weaknesses but we choose to see the strengths. The times we have pushed each other to course records and personal race victories are too numerous to count. And always at the finish, whoever steps across the line first turns to cheer the other across making the partnership stronger than ever – then, Tuesday rolls around, another 800, another story about life.
Everyday I am blessed to be around two special running partners, my biggest fans- my children. This is the partnership that keeps me on track. It brings balance to my running. My children support me, encourage me, and are proud of me, but more importantly they remind me that running is only a small piece of what’s important in my life. Some days they ride their bikes while I run. Some times they encourage me after a disappointing race. At races they stand at the finish line always cheering me on. Their pride in me is a challenge to live up to, their expectations an obligation to fulfill. After reading one of their papers proudly describing their mom as a runner I knew the perspective I wanted them to glean from my running. Work hard, play fair, and find a passion to pursue, but more importantly place the right priority on that passion. Running improves the quality of my life, it enriches my relationships, it makes me “me”, but it is the people and the relationships that they form that make my life complete. This is the balance I want my biggest fans to gain from this partnership – it’s what they’ve given me.
Everyday I also share my running with a partner that makes my life complete. Trust, acceptance, and affection bond us together and improve our running experiences. The basis of our relationship is formed on commonality. We have similar ideas, preferences, values and perceptions, and levels of physical and emotional energy. These similarities make our relationship strong, our communication open, and our relationship easy. Our passion for running creates another common frame of reference. We share our running goals with each other; we encourage, support, and defend each other’s passion to run. We draw on each other. We believe in each other. Never do I race or run for his approval, respect or love. These are gifts of the relationship not the outcome of the race. Unconditional love and acceptance frees me to set and meet my own goals and expectations. Running and the commonalities that we share enrich the journey. Along the way, running is easier, better, more fulfilling; life becomes complete – all because no matter when, or what finish line I cross, my partner is always there.