“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life”
– Amy Poehler
I recently got talked into running a half-marathon with a friend of mine who wanted a training buddy. I needed to get in shape, so this seemed like a good idea. Having some kind of exercise training routine is great, by the way, for sticking with your sobriety plans. You’ve got something to think about that demands your time and attention – which replaces drinking in many ways. For all that we talk about cravings and emotional dragons, a big chunk of our habit is just habit. Keeping busy is a powerful weapon against the witching hour when our old, bad habits come calling.
And so, I found myself spending several evenings and most Sunday mornings running for hours on end, which is something I never thought I’d do. I’m not a runner. I’m very slow and can’t seem to get any faster, not even after weeks of training. But the buddy system worked as it was intended and neither of us wanted to let the other one down. We ran four times a week, longer and longer distances, until I was doing runs that had seemed impossible when I first started. I was so proud of myself for sticking with the program and for making the progress that I had. Soon enough, it was race day.
We both showed up, ready to run. Or maybe I should say ‘run’ because I couldn’t really go any faster than a slow jog, plus I fully intended on walking if I needed to. My goal was to finish and nothing more. I only had to keep moving fast enough that they didn’t dismantle the barricades and close up the finish line before I arrived. It was a leap of faith to show up for this race because I hadn’t actually done the full half-marathon distance in training. We’d had some bad days where weather, sore knees or just not feeling up to it had stopped us from going the distance on runs where we should have been able to push ahead. Despite twice attempting the full 21 kilometers, we’d been forced to stop short and limp home. In the weeks before the race we had regrouped to let our aches heal and cut back our training. Apparently, it’s better to let small injuries recover instead of pushing on before a race, but it felt unnerving to not know for sure how it would feel to do the full distance. There’s always a first time, and there are always doubts that come before it.
In slightly under three hours I finished that race, and I was just as slow as I expected, but I did finish. I finished because of my training, but also because of the camaraderie of doing something difficult with so many people.
This is a sample of the people who finished ahead of me (and frankly almost everyone finished ahead of me but these were the ones I could keep in my sights).
-A very elderly man who bent over his walker (that he was somehow jogging with). His yellow support hose that matched his head band and he had a tiny portable stereo strapped to his walker to play music while he ran.
-A woman dressed as a hot dog who was speed-walking the distance.
-An amputee with one of those spring legs who was clearly just getting a feel for how it worked.
-That guy who would stop and walk periodically then race ahead only to repeat the cycle, who nicked past me right at the finish line.
-A man running with his tween son, while also pushing his newborn child in a stroller and who chatted on the phone the entire time.
-A very round woman with short legs who nevertheless amazed me at the speed she moved them. (Let’s face it, if I can see her, it means she’s ahead of me. She powered through the hills better than me and I couldn’t catch up on the flat parts).
This is the motley crew that I spent almost three hours with on a rainy morning, and it was something special. We weren’t an intentional team by any means, but we had each shown up and we were running, chaotically and haphazardly, together. We all groaned when we rounded a corner and saw a hill. We smiled and encouraged each other when one of us flagged. One woman shared her spare gloves with another runner, a man found spare bandaids for someone with a blister. As the miles wore on and I began to think I’d had enough, I looked around me and was inspired by the determination I saw. We thanked the volunteers who handed us water and we were, at the very least, an accidental team. We ran that distance together, even though each of us had to run it in our own way.
Dryuary is an intentional team, and the gifts and benefits of doing a hard thing together are even more powerful. We each have different challenges goals and strategies, but today and for the rest of this month, we are here together as a team. This month is a snapshot of our lives, just like race day is just one day out of all the days I spent running. This is where we get to test our strategies, to reach for a measurable goal and be able to say “I did this” There are two things I learned from race day that hold true for Dryuary:
Trust your preparation.
Run with your team.
We support each other, we inspire each other, we are humble in our pride at being part of something larger than ourselves. Every person you see on this journey has a story to share, lessons to teach you, and a need to hear the wisdom and support that you can share too. Some of us are here for the first time, some have done it before. We are a team, here and now, and we will finish this one together.
Post Submitted By: Jonathan M. Langley
Jonathan M. Langley is the author of “30 Days Sober: A Companion Guide To Taking A Break From Alcohol“ and “Re-think Your Drinking: 5 practical tips to cut back on alcohol”, which are available on Amazon.