I joined a running group to make friends, and instead I found a family

by Jordan Cooper

In August 2014, I decided to join a training group at Rogue Running in Austin, Texas. I had just gotten engaged to my now wife, whom I met on Tinder (which is a story for another time), and was coming to the realization that as I had grown in my relationship with her, I had lost some of the friendships I had previous to meeting her.

Although I graduated from college about a month before moving to Austin, my first four years in the Violet Crown could be viewed more as the “party” portion of my life than the four years I spent in college in my hometown in East Texas. However, most of the friendships I had made during that time were based more around going out and drinking than on something I could consider a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. As I moved down the path towards marriage, my time spent on the bar scene lessened, and I realized I needed a way to meet people that would be a little more conducive to my new, attempting-to- be adult lifestyle.

I learned about Rogue from a friend who had successfully run her first marathon while training with one of their groups. Previous to joining, I had casually trained for and successfully run a number of 10k’s and half marathons, which I did as almost a form of justification for my indulgent lifestyle. It was also somewhat meditative for me, the solitude of pounding the trails or pavement, so I was a little hesitant about running in the Texas heat with a bunch of strangers. I tried to maintain a positive attitude, especially considering I had at times in my life experienced the infamous “runners high” and figured if I could catch that sense of euphoria occasionally, that surely I could meet 1 or 2 people I might be able to bond with.

What happened over the course of the next few weeks, months, and now years is a laundry list of life lessons in connecting with people. Running in a group appealed to my competitive nature in a way I had not seen coming, and also reminded me of my past growing up playing team sports including soccer and basketball. I had not imagined a sport as considerably “solo” as running could be groomed and improved thanks to having a team or group around you, taking pleasure in your progress. I also learned that misery truly loves company, and that “embracing the suck” with fellow runners allowed me to overcome mental barriers to run distances I never could have imagined on my casual solo runs of the past. The accountability these connections provided gave me strength on those early Saturday mornings when I did not want to get out of bed to put in the work I had signed myself up for. Regardless of how I felt along the way, at the end of every one of those runs, I always felt accomplished and grateful for the kind words received from the cheerleaders around me.

Post-run stretches turned into hang outs, dinners, happy hours, holidays, and life events. I even took my turn at assistant coaching for a season. The bonds forged on the roads of Austin have turned into lifelong friendships and a sense of community and family I could not have imagined. As I spent the Fourth of July with over 50 runners who woke up early to run in the hills of West Austin before enjoying some amazing food and fellowship, I could not help but be grateful for the family I have come to feel a part of. As I train for the New York City Marathon this November, I know that I have the support of hundreds of runners who truly want to see me succeed, and it will be those smiles and handshakes, likes on Facebook, and good luck filled text messages that keep me going. I didn’t need an app to find friends; I just needed to go Rogue.

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