Sole Sisters: Forming Lasting Bonds Through Running

Recognize and cherish these relationships. I guarantee they change your life.

No one person is going to fill every need you have. I don’t care if you have the best husband/wife/partner in the world, he or she can’t be your everything. While I’m not currently in a relationship, I am lucky enough to have the most supportive family and friends a girl can ask for. My parents encourage me to follow my dreams no matter how crazy and my successful sister brags about my adventurous spirit.

I’ve got the absolute best bestie I could imagine. She changed my locks when I dated a sociopath, is always willing to get ice cream or martinis when the need arises, and supports and encourages me to follow my dreams with some amazing brainstorming sessions. Plus, she’s the funniest, smartest person I know. But you know what? Even with all that she can’t fill every friendship need I’ve got. And she shouldn’t have to.

WOOT runs the world.

The Acceptance of Sole Sisters

Some of the most important relationships I’ve had started with a run. As a former military spouse, there was a period of time where my life was pretty steadily changing. We had seven moves over a five-year period, including two overseas. I can honestly say that the majority of the lifelong friends I made during those transitions were my running buddies. I can be slightly socially awkward, but put me in a group where we all love to run and my nerves are put to ease. By creating friendships with other runners (this also works for gym rats, cyclists, CrossFitters, etc.) you are guaranteed at least one common interest.

Besides the promise of meeting new people with similar interests, running girlfriends bring a lot to the table. My sole sisters know exactly how nasty I am and they don’t care. They’ve seen me dripping with sweat, spitting a loogie, and blowing a snot rocket. They’ve been witness to pit stops behind trees, cars, and dumpsters, and have smelled me when I forgot my deodorant. I’ve literally tested all of the senses of my running partners and they stay by my side, albeit sometimes upwind. I’m sure part of it is simply a shared camaraderie, but another part is just pure acceptance.

Staying classy at the Portland Marathon.

The Assistance of Sole Sisters

Another great thing about the right running partner or group is that they help push you when otherwise you might have become complacent. When I moved to England, I was pretty sure the one marathon I had completed would be my only one. Then I met Mandy. Her pure love of running and the sincere kindness that oozes out of her changed my mind. In my time there I ran the London, Disney, and Edinburgh marathons, mostly so I could log training miles with Mandy.

An extra bonus if you happen to pair up with a local when living overseas is that he or she can help you with the language. I am well aware that English is spoken in England, but trust me it’s different. Mandy blushed enough for the both of us when I told her I used a “fanny pack” in front of a group of children. Don’t know what fanny pack means in the UK? Go ahead and Google it! Oh my!

Shared Suffering

My running partners have also provided council. Deep, raw conversations seem to flow on long runs when we are all suffering together. I was surprised by divorce while living 10,000 miles away from family and my running girlfriends got me though. Our first run after I learned the news was about four hours after I made the discovery and my girlfriends surrounded me as I ran angrily and silently while tears streamed down my face. Few words were spoken, but I was flooded with understanding and assurance that I would be okay.

As time went by and more runs followed, my sole sisters comforted me as I wailed and consoled me when I didn’t understand how it could happen. I can honestly say that my core group of Women on Okinawa Trails (WOOT) helped me come through my divorce a stronger person.

The Best Memories Come From the Craziest Ideas.

What Binds Sweat Sisters Together

My WOOT women get me to travel places and try things I wouldn’t think of on my own, especially Anna. I sincerely hope that everyone has an Anna in their life. She’s the kind of friend that suggests something outlandish and everyone in the group agrees without hesitation.

A trail marathon in Mongolia? Sure, why not? (Anna actually ran the 100K, the rest of us thought 42km was enough.) An ultra in New Zealand? I can think of worse things. Our little group is spread all over the world at this point, but we get together at least once a year and those trips are definite annual highlights for me.

It is more than the humidity that binds sweat sisters together. Whether it’s the shared love of the sport, the fact that none of you care if you stink up Starbucks during a post-run coffee stop, or that during the hours spent together slogging up hills and bounding over roots you reveal your darkest corners, this group of women will know you more intimately than most.

So whether you call them your sole sisters, your sole mates, your trail buddies, your therapy group, your BRFF (Best Running Friend Forever – duh!), your sweat sisters, your dream team, whatever, recognize and cherish these relationships. I guarantee they change your life.

Mementos from our annual reunions.

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