“There are friendships that have been forged by dedication and by pain, by defeat and by accomplishment, by mud and by sweat, by laughter and by tears. Friends who have seen each other when we look our worst and when we look our best, when we feel like we could collapse and when we’ve won our biggest victory. Friends who encourage us when we want to stop, stick with us when we’re about to fall, and run beside us not just in the races but everyday. These are the types of friendships that don’t fade with time and don’t dwindle with distance. These are running partners.”
Suzanne Radford from Dubai Eye sent me a mail shortly afterwards. ‘Hi Tori,’ she said. ‘Saw your status. We’re doing a segment on friendship on Monday. Can we call you?’ ‘Of course,’ my reply.
Before going on air, I spent a few moments thinking about the meaning and importance of friendship. Of course, you could write forever about the treasured relationships that keep us afloat when we’re drowning and bring us back to harbour when we’re stuck out at sea … but for the purpose of our call, I summed up my thoughts as follows:
- An immediate comment post the aforementioned status was from Rachel Jacqueline aka HK Adventure Baby who I bonded with at hello a few years ago in a hotel lobby in Kathmandu. In the last eighteen months, we’ve enjoyed treasured moments in China, Nepal, HK, Thailand and Sydney together. We did the 100k OTW in HK last November and she was reminding me, in her comment, of my picking her out the gutter (literally!) at the end and feeding her coke until the tears subsided. She and I will be great buddies forever, with or without the trails
- In a similar vein, just a month ago, I suffered massive cramping on Mauritius’s Dodo Trail. Without the love and support shown by Deon, I think I’d probably still be stranded on some big boulder somewhere …
- You see, despite running being a so-called solitary support, without the display of friendship during a race, without the support in the months prior when we sacrifice so much to train, without the smiles and support at the finish line, the entire experience would be greatly diminished … this goes to our friends and to our families …
- During a long race when you’re stripped bare, people really do see you at your best and at your worst. There are, at times, inconsolable tears and at others uncontrollable laughter … and when that happens, you develop friendships on the trails that would take years to nurture off them
- At the other end of the whole sport and friendship thing, are those brand new to the scene … their greatest motivator often comes from the friends who cajole them to commit and push them every step until they reach their goals … who offer up advice and keep their spirits high when the chips are down
- Every challenge we face in our lives, physical, emotional or mental, highlights the importance of friendship and indeed who our true friends really are
- Add to this the life of an expat when we don’t have our family on our doorstep and suddenly, friends become all the more important
- Friendships also evolve over time as much as we, as individuals change. I have running buddies who I‘ve been friends with for over twenty years. Sarah for example, who I ran with in Beaujolais in April and last spring in Paris. Once upon a time, our friendship was strictly based around boarding school giggles, boys and detention. Today, we meet in foreign lands and run races … our chat about mating has been firmly replaced with chat about pacing!
- The advice I received from a coach pre the Lakeland 50 race a couple of weeks ago to ask my nearest and dearest to text me during my race with words to keep me going worked a treat … some made me laugh, others made me smile, others conjured up memories but all kept me putting one foot in front of the other
Ultimately, when it comes to sport or indeed any part of our life, it is our friends and partners who challenge us, who champion us and who cheerlead us. And if we manage to find a true partner in a friend or a true friend in a partner, well, that’s just the icing on the cake …