The events in this blog post are based on a true story.
I think every runner has had a fear of going to a group run that they’ve never been to before, especially if they don’t know anyone. You imagine that everyone will be Olympic level athletes, and you’ll get left in the dust, and maybe you’ll even get lost on the unfamiliar course. And even if you don’t, there’s that whole breaking the ice thing, and introducing yourself to new people without having the convenience of a buddy. It totally brings back awkward memories of middle school and high school when you were trying to fit in, or when you were the new kid in school, and didn’t know who to talk to. And that can feel pretty terrifying. So we stick with our treadmills and our normal running pals and play it safe, or make plans with six friends to show up at a new running group, so at least you’ll know half a dozen people there.
Until all half a dozen friends go and bail on you. Yep. I arrived at the What? run in October 2013 about half an hour early when it happened. I was sitting in my car in a parking lot in downtown Vancouver, staring at half a dozen text messaged excuses for why my friends weren’t coming after all. And I debated with myself as to whether I should just go to the gym to do my workout, or put on my big girl britches and go to the group run. It wasn’t an easy choice, but I was a blogger after all, and it was my job to attend events. And, most importantly, a free beer was promised to everyone who did the run. So I got out of the car, hoping desperately that someone else I knew would happen to be at the event.
As I awkwardly wandered into the throng of people outside of Jorge’s Tequila Factory trying to spot a familiar face, I realized I couldn’t find a single person that I even vaguely knew. I got that heavy feeling in my stomach and panicked a little. A few friendly ladies introduced themselves and made a bit of small talk with me before the run started, but as I ran those few miles, I wondered what I should do afterwards. Do I cut my losses, go home and miss out on the “after-party?” Or try to be social but probably end up being that awkward person standing in the corner sipping on her beer all by herself? Fortunately, one of the nice gals I had spoken with prior to the run, Roxy, finished at about the same time as I did and we made some more small talk. I started to get really, really nervous as I gestured to my beer ticket and said, “Um, so I would like to hang out and drink a beer, but I don’t know anyone here, so… could I come sit with you?” I felt like I was the new girl in high school again, just waiting for that bruising social rejection. What if she said no? Or worse, what if she said yes out of pity and then no one wanted to talk to me? Seriously, for being 27 years old, I felt like a teenager again.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Roxy enthusiastically said I could absolutely join their table. The restaurant filled up quickly, and I ended up sitting at a table with some random people who I didn’t know either, but got to know them. I saw many of the same runners later that week at two other group runs (which none of my friends were at either), but they totally included me in their group. I’m very lucky to now call so many of these runners my friends, and have run with them dozens of times!
Now when I’m out running, I almost always see people I know and shout a hello to friends. When my running companions comment that I seem to know every runner in the Vancouver-Portland area, I just smile and laugh. We all have this fear of being the outsider, the loner, the awkward new person–but runners are an incredibly friendly group of people. So go ahead and go to that group run that sounds really fun, but none of your friends are going! You might be glad you did.