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the joy of having running partners

in 2003, the year i started running, i joined a track club and did all my saturday long runs with a nice group of people. that was great, but not enough to justify the $200 in yearly dues. i was getting none of the promised coaching at all (the coach always seemed too busy to work with anyone that couldn’t run a 6:00 mile or faster), so i decided not to renew my membership in 2004.

i was then training solo, which can be both a blessing and a curse. i could have all those killer songs on, or just be with my thoughts and solve all the problems of the world in my racing mind during long runs. sure, i could focus on my breathing, count strides, people watch. but i sometimes missed that type of fun that only companionship can bring. you know, when boredom is dissipated, pain is forgotten and so much is shared.

fast forward to july 2006. i start blogging about running. i find blogs by other runners. i come across jessica’s blog and she invites me to join her trail running group, the oc trail runners. there weren’t many runners at first, but after a story in the orange county register on the ultra race she was organizing, (the twin peaks 50/50, that took place in the santa ana mountains last feb. 4th), a growing number of local runners found out about her group and started joining. soon we were up to over 40 members, and the slots for the twin peaks race — 110 — were all filled.

today i am very grateful for the wonderful runners i’ve met (including bloggers jeff, darrell, jessica, greg, pete, jon, kim, matt, charlie, and angie).

when we run together, we draw strength from each other, and that’s beautiful. not surprisingly, it took someone else believing in me, for me to believe in myself, forget the “i can’ts”, and just do it! sorta like a close friend of mine who utterly dislikes mayonnaise, but hasn’t ever tried it, i had this immutable belief, deeply ingrained in my dna, that i could not run up hills. had i even tried it? yes, but always with a firm conviction i would once again fail. i kept proving myself right.

three weeks ago fellow octrailrunner beiyi and i got together for a 16 mile run in black star canyon. naturally, the first thing i told her was that i was totally unable to run up hills, and therefore would walk up all of them. “i’m sure you can”, she said. i laughed, and promptly told her i had tried “many times”, but had never been successful. she wouldn’t give up easily, though. “just stay with me, and i’ll show you that you can”.

we started off on a mostly flat, paved road. we didn’t reach the trailhead until 2.5 miles into the run. once we did, 5.5 miles of uphill running awaited us. she told me to keep my stride short, and just keep jogging up, no matter how slow. soon i managed to coordinate my breathing pattern and my running cadence, and figured if i could just keep that under control, i’d be fine. i acknowledged the pain in my calves and hamstrings, and ignored it. i could deal with pain; it was just the “i-think-i’m-gonna-puke-my-lugs-out-at-any-moment-now” feeling i couldn’t seem to shake off. we kept working our way up, taking short walk breaks after very steep or very long climb stretches. i dreaded the moment i’d have to start running again, and beiyi would put herself back in running mode rather quickly, forcing me to fight my inertia and join her. i welcomed the few flats we encountered along the way, but also found myself slowly embracing the hills. i was breaking that barrier no one other than myself had built. it was almost surreal that i was actually running up the hills. i couldn’t stop thanking beiyi. (she may in fact have gotten tired of my copious professions of gratitude). reaching the top that morning has become one of my most memorable running moments. (right up there with losing my first toenail, puking after a run for the first time, sticking a needle in my first running blister, getting lost at the holcomb valley 33-mile race, taking a spill at the holy jim trail, going up the joplin trail, …)

so get out there, find a running partner, a running group. we all share a deep-rooted passion for the sport. this passion creates an instant bond that is hard to explain, but so easy to understand.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Greg February 15, 2007, 11:20 pm

    Great, great blog. I draw strength from my running partners always. It’s amazing what companionship on the trails can do to one’s psyche and body. I contrast my run today (solo) with my run yesterday (with Wendy, Skip and Paul), and the experiences are like night and day. I ran three more miles solo (and ran it much faster), but it was tougher from the start. I like to mix things up. But the power of running partner cannot be overestimated : )

  • Jessica Deline February 15, 2007, 11:31 pm

    Nattie I was so happy when you accepted my invitation and joined and it worked out so well for you! I feel so blessed and honored to have started something that is connecting so many trail runners in Orange County. If you build it they will come – and I certainly owe a lot of thanks to Greg for that!

  • angie's pink fuzzy February 16, 2007, 12:43 am

    nattie, what a great post! how inspirational and congrats on running up the hills!

  • eric l. February 16, 2007, 10:02 pm

    i can’t run up hills either, but these octr peeps seem to think they’re fun. i agree about drawing strength from running partners. they’ve a lot of positive energy which is starting to infect me 🙂 thanks for the post.

  • Charlie Nickell February 16, 2007, 10:32 pm

    Wow, that was inspiring. I feel like I just left a Tony Robbins seminar. Gonna go run a few hills.

  • OCRunnerGirl February 17, 2007, 12:32 am

    Great post Nattie! And a HUGE congratulations on your accomplishment! I have a very hard time with the hills too. I’m so happy you were able to break thru YOUR barrier! Way to go!!

  • Jon February 16, 2007, 6:39 pm

    Love your blog. I have yet to figure out how to add a section showing all my favorite runnning bloggers, but I plan to do so soon and I’ll link to you. See ya soon on the trails.


  • Sarah February 17, 2007, 4:12 am

    “…this passion creates an instant bond that is hard to explain, but so easy to understand.” So true! Nice post. And congrats on conquering those hills. : )

  • Alice in Wonderbread February 19, 2007, 12:10 am


    Nattie you’re simply amazing.

    I have not yet returned to running for medical reasons to private to explain in blogger, but I have not given up hope, and as soon as I can return to the middle of the back of the pack….I’ll see you hopefully (HA- in front of me of course)!

  • Chris February 19, 2007, 6:37 pm

    Whether it is running, cycling, surfing, or karate, I LOVE training with someone better than me. Like you experienced, I rise my level and find I can do “faster and longer” than I thought.

    It’s also beneficial to train with someone of a lower caliber than yourself, at least it is for me. I find that I work to perfect my form, stroke, whatever when I am striving to set that good example.


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