As I passed this quiet street corner early this morning, it brought back a flood of memories. Almost three decades ago, from the corner of Spring and Campus Avenue, my BFF and I took our first run. It wasn’t a thought-out health decision, not a bored of our workout routine decision, but purely to teach a college boy that girls don’t have to stand around and cheer them on! #Girlpower (from an era when hashtags were only the number or pound sign!).

Our goal was to run to the end of the block, which was not even a ½ mile. I don’t remember if we were successful, or our super slow pace, but I do recall that our next time hitting the pavement, we were surprised how much easier and farther we went.

That’s one of my favorite things about running. No matter how much time you take off, its’ fluidity comes back. It provides encouragement and support, as your lungs and legs rejoice in the rhythmic cadence of each stride.

There is something about the solitude of the solo run. As I shift into autopilot steps, climbing the rolling hills of my neighborhood, my mind can just wander and listen. I’m often typing emails to myself: words given from God, the inspiration for encouraging a friend, and prayers of gratitude. With each deep breath, each pump of my arms, each stride that strengthens my quads, also comes a calmness in my soul. I’m taken back by the beautiful sunrises, the earthy smells that surround me, and smile in recognition of the friendly wild animals whose eyes reflect back from my headlamp (how cool that their eyes are created like this!).

And to think how many new homes, travel destinations, and foreign cities I’ve gotten my first lay-of-the-land by running on foot!

Yet, as much as I enjoy the solo run, it’s the camaraderie that has kept me running. I cannot tell you the number of runs I have logged, or the number of races I’ve completed. Not even the countless number of sunrises and moonsets I’ve viewed. But I can share the depth of friendship that has occurred as we’ve hit the pavement together: the comradery built from mourning over aging parents, fears of friends facing cancer, strokes, and medical heart issues. The comfort and encouragement of mending hearts of broken trust, marital issues, and parenting struggles. The holding of hands in prayers, plus the gratitude of being heard, and probably the most worthwhile reason for lacing up my sneakers while it is still dark outside, the success of ending in sweaty, friendship hugs!

Thanks to the silly college boy, whose off-the-cuff statement launched a lifetime passion!

To think this little challenge has not only brought me hours of joy each week, but it has been the through-line of my greatest friendships. Thank you to all my running buddies for getting up early, run in the freezing and humid temperatures, sharing, and listening as we stride side-by-side.  Let’s lift up prayers of protection over our bodies so that we can enjoy our running passion for at least three more decades.