Running with Friends, Alone

Health & wellness

I’m a big advocate of cultivating a robust (live) social network of fitness buddies. We tend to become like the other members of our social networks, fitness or not.

Therefore: run, ride, hike, and ski with people who are fitter, faster, and younger.

Although it’s best practice to have a solid network of fitness buddies, it’s not best practice to always ride or run with them. Often, even a “social” outing can quickly disintegrate into race pace. On days I truly want to go easy, I go by myself. On days I want to go hard, I join a group.

My participation in group activities has been lower than normal this year due to an asthma diagnosis. Honestly, I’ve probably had asthma for years, but dismissed the shortness of breath as a by-product of aging. After getting on inhaler medication, I was able to get in race form just-in-time to compete on a four-person Race Across Oregon team. After that, I planned a few more fitness projects this August: A ~19-mile through-hike/run in the Enchantments and working on a personal best time in the 5k run.

But, along comes a persistent smoke storm. Smoke and asthma don’t mix. And, according to University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass, “the new normal may be an old normal.” He says we should expect similar conditions to persist well into the future.

The Enchantments through-hike and 5k projects are postponed until October.

On Sunday morning, after weeks of hot smoky air, the atmosphere changed to cool, cloudy, and windy. The Air Quality Index (AQI) dropped below 50. I kitted up for an easy run.

I’ve started to figure out how to exercise with the asthma. Start out slow; when there is wheezing, slow down. Although I can manage my effort level, it’s hard to manage expectations. My body wants to boogie, but my lungs won’t cooperate. When a disconnect happens between legs and lungs it’s easy to fall into a mental funk and feel discouraged.

During Sunday’s run I encountered some magic just as the funk was really getting me down. Jogging northbound on the dirt trail south of Mount Baker Beach a voice yelled “Hey David!” It was two friends from the Seattle Running Club who were headed the opposite direction. A quarter mile later, a cycling friend passed saying “good to see you out running!

Despite my constricted chest and funky mind, crossing paths with friends from the athletic community immediately lifted my spirits. I finished the run with a smile on my face. Even though I was out on a run by myself, I experienced the benefits of having a robust social fitness network.

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