COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - There's a sign outside a shoe store in Columbus that reads "Happiness is running with a friend." That's a lesson I'm still learning.
Most of my running, over the last 2+ years, has been by myself. I'm not a loner, but because my night shift at WTVM allows me to do most of my runs on weekday mornings, when many people are working.
I also like to run at my own pace, listen to music, and stay focused while I run. It can get lonely, but someone smarter once told me "Make pain your friend, and you'll never be alone."
OK, I'll choose people over pain, so I've started expanding my horizons, running with friends or family more and more, as I zoom towards 26.2 miles. I'll need people to lean on.
My two kids have started running more with me, in our neighborhood and some 5Ks, which is humbling as a father. It's a great way for us to bond, and stay healthy.
At my first ever half marathon, one year ago today at Callaway Gardens, one of the friends who inspired me to start running was by my side that entire race. Chris Trawick does ultramarathons and is now training for a 100-mile race – crazy but true.
He has given me plenty of encouragement and also tips about how to train for different kind of races and how to deal with injuries, even a toenail coming off. It was not pretty.
I've asked Chris for advice throughout my running adventure. That's vital, to learn from other people's success and mistakes, in running or anything else. Find someone more experienced, and ask questions.
It's also fun to run with friends. Local sheriff's deputy and marine reservist Tony Miller ran – and much faster – the Highland Mud Run 5K with me in 2014. It was challenging, with 20 obstacles through mud and water and barbed wire, but it was a blast. I carried one of my muddy shoes across the finish line.
Running or doing races with others makes it a team effort. You root each other on. You motivate each other, especially on days you don't feel like running.
I've enjoyed doing some of my marathon training with a runners small group from my church, Solid Rock, when we run together once a week.
My new partner in crime – or running – is Jimmy Davis, a more experienced runner who's completed several marathons, including the "Dopey Challenge" at Disney World earlier this month – 4 races and a total of 48.6 miles in 4 days.
We'll be running a half marathon together in late February, then that full marathon in Nashville in April. Jimmy and I ran 7 miles together at Britt David Park last week. It made that 1+ hour of running pass by easier. We talked a lot, got to know each other, swapped race stories.
Running together can create or solidify friendships. That seems just as important as crossing the finish line.