The first time I moved to Bend, Oregon, I was not a runner. I had never heard of the Western States Endurance Run and I had no clue that Central Oregon was a hot spot for world-class athletes—trail runners included. In truth, all I knew about Bend was that we were heading there for my wife’s job, and it had a disproportionately large number of breweries for a town its size. Sign me up.
My wife and I lived in Oregon for nearly a year before heading back “home” to the Florida Keys where she could work remotely and I would get back to writing about fishing and pursuing my career goal of becoming an offshore fishing guide. We enjoyed our time in Bend—hiking all the popular local trails, drinking way too many west coast IPAs, and enjoying all the open space. But something was missing.
Years later we moved back to Bend, and this time we were both starting to run a little. Soon our hikes became trail runs, and we found ourselves hanging out at the local running stores and going to group runs in the evenings. Before long, we made friends in the running community and our weekends were spent exploring new trails and training for races. And yes, we still drank too many west coast IPAs—only this time we had people to enjoy them with.
What had been missing all along from our first time in Oregon were the people, and we discovered this through running.
We learned that it can be extremely difficult to relocate to a new town and meet new friends. We also found out that no matter how beautiful a place is, or how many great restaurants or breweries it has, that you can’t truly enjoy any of it unless you have people you care about to share those experiences with.
I talk a lot about the reasons why running is so important, and community is at the top of that list.
There are few endeavors that bring adults so close together and form bonds so deep that we’re willing to pop each other’s blisters and stay up all night in freezing temperatures while spoon-feeding hot broth to a crying, puking, shivering grown-ass human.
We have families and jobs and responsibilities, yet we still take the time out of our busy schedules to volunteer at aid stations and help our friends achieve crazy dreams by crewing and pacing, or simply offering encouragement.
Running doesn’t need to be selfish. Helping others achieve their goals can be just as rewarding as achieving our own.
As we get closer to the heart of trail running season, let’s all remember to keep the ultrarunning community spirit alive by making new friends and helping them out on their running journeys.
We should welcome new transplants to our towns by showing them around our local trails. We should invite slower runners to join us on easy recovery days. We should volunteer at local races simply to help—not just because we need service hours for our 100-milers. We should offer to crew or pace a runner who is nervous about tackling a distance for the first time. And we should provide emotional support to that friend who may be struggling in training. Help her find the joy in running again.
It’s not easy to meet new friends as we get older. But running presents us with a rare opportunity to do just that. Running, by itself, is a solitary act but everything that comes with it is best shared with friends.