Columnist

Laura Zoeller is a farm wife and mother who has been blessed with a wonderful – and funny - life.

In all the years I’ve been a runner, I have nearly always run alone. On the treadmill, on the track, or on the road, it has been mostly an adventure in solitude.

I’ve enjoyed it that way.

On the treadmill, I listen to music, but outside I listen to the world and how it sounds in the early morning before traffic and people muck it up.

Screech owls, deer, groundhogs and more are the soundtrack of my outdoor runs. I enjoy hearing the sounds my shoes make when they hit the grit and gravel on the road. I like being able to hear my breathing and adjust it.

But sometimes, being with a friend is nice, too. I’ve been walking with a girlfriend once a month, and we talk about life, love, kids and faith as we go about five miles. And when I compete in a 5K, I usually rope someone into going with me as well.

Very recently, I corralled a different friend into doing a race with me.

This particular race was virtual because of restrictions placed on gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant we paid our registration fee – to raise money for the Washington the City Mission’s Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans Home – and then ran on our own. We were given a window of time established by the race’s promoters in which to complete our race, and we signed up to have our participant tee shirts and medals mailed to us.

We met on the Montour trail one Saturday morning to run. My friend is a much faster runner than am I, so she let me set the pace. Because I have been running hills, I figured I could run a little faster on the relative flatness of the trail.

Still, by the time my friend’s phone told us we had run a mile, I was pretty winded. She seemed perfectly fine and was, in fact, regaling me with stories of her life. I was incredibly impressed with her ability to chat while running what was, as far as I could tell, full-bore.

When her phone told us our speed for the first mile, I was impressed with my own ability to pretend I could sustain it over the course of the race. I finally had to take a breather. She kept moving and chatting. She asked me at one point if I wanted her to stop talking, and I assured her I was enjoying the conversation, just had no ability to contribute responses.

After we finished, we walked a couple more miles to cool down. At that point, I was able to breathe well enough again to speak coherently. We greeted several other walkers and runners and spoke to a couple cycling and using a horn to notify walkers of their intent to pass.

It was a nice change up to my normal routine, and a nice change of soundtrack to my run. I’ll be back to my solo runs this week but will be looking forward to our next virtual run, scheduled for October.

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