We come together in the early morning dark, on street corners or in front of our houses, whispering our greetings to each other. We have sleep in our voices, and mascara under our eyes, with hair pulled back in hasty ponytails. No one cares that I wear the same thing almost every single morning.
Under the cover of darkness, we know each other intimately. When we’re running side by side, it’s somehow easier to talk about the mean girl in my daughter’s class, or her struggles with her calling. Nothing is off limits– we talk about doubt and faith, the joys and sorrows of our husbands and children, politics (even when we disagree), sex, how we all want more sleep and less time on the sidelines at soccer games, vacation plans, periods, grocery shopping, shaving our legs, recipes, why we don’t want to have another baby, why we’re dying to go back to work, who gives the best pedicures, and all our fears.
Over the years, I’ve run with many different women– Stacy, Sarah, Gentree, Stephanie, Alexis, Lynn, Afton, Terry, Tara, Julie, Michelle, Catherine, Suzanne, Traci, Heather, Chelle. But even as our schedules and partners change, the intimacy remains the same. I think it’s the intimacy of the circumstances that makes us such fast friends– the only other time in my life I’ve had this experience was when I met my freshman roommate in college. In both cases, I’ve had to lay myself bare in front of these women and hope they accept me.
It’s nearly impossible for us to hide anything from each other. A few months ago, my friend Suzanne told me she was six weeks pregnant with her fifth child and I said, “I knew that two weeks ago.” Our other running friend, Michelle, had correctly predicted Suzanne’s fourth pregnancy before she could even take a pregnancy test. We know these things about each other. I think it comes from huddling with them under space blankets at the star line of races and cheering them on at the finish line. It comes from seeing them run with Achilles/knee/hip/ankle/back pain. It comes from week after week of aligning my pace with theirs, from seeing them shivering, sweating, trying not to puke after speedwork and hill runs, and flying through the air when they hit a rock on the trail.
But the funny thing is, when I see these same women during the day, when I run into them at the grocery store or the elementary school, when we go out for rare lunches for someone’s birthday, I almost always do a double take. They look so polished, with their shiny long hair, their skirts and sandals, their shirts that aren’t stained with sweat. They breathe slower and look relaxed. But sometimes I think I’m never more relaxed, never more truly myself, than when I’m out running with my girls.
Who are your “running buddies?” What are the circumstances you’ve found yourself in intimate relationships with other women?