The Connection Runners + [why run?]

Running: The People Bringer Togetherer Sport

When I ran my first few 5k's ever, back in the days when Britney hadn't yet gone crazy, and the "real world" was years away (a.k.a., 2003), I didn't have to face them alone.

Big Jude was with me. Big Jude = my mom.

Contrary to the moniker, she's not big, but she is named Jude. Well, kind of. It's more like Judi, or Judith, or J, or - once in a while - Mom.

We completed no less than three 5k's together that year, and although it would 4 years before my feet ever toed another start line, I realized that running and racing were not only good for my physical health, but for my family and social health as well.

It was neat that the Jude and I got to share the joy in completing those magical 3.1 miles. It gave us some common ground, something that had been on hold in our mother-daughter relationship ever since my 10th birthday, when she thought it would be a great idea to make pea soup for dinner, and I thought quite the opposite.

Note: I'm putting this down so that there's proof in Blog Land forever: I'll never make LBA eat pea soup. There. It's done.

Then, in 2004, Running, being all Cupid-like, brought me a new partner: Kevin.

I was an average, starry-eyed college "runner", and he was a former track-and-field 2-miler. I asked him to run 7 miles with me one day, and he obliged.

Years later, we still run, even though he says "he's retiring." (Yeah, right. You're just like Megan's Ryan who always swears he's "just run his last race.")

We've run two marathons, two halfs, four 10-milers and countless 5 and 10k's together. Or, kind of together. He's usually up with the 7:30 pace group while I lag behind by a few minutes.

But even if our paces doesn't always match, running's brought us closer. We can commiserate over a hilly Kalamazoo Marathon course, high-five each other when we both place third in our age group, or stand over the GU aisle at REI, deliberating what flavors to try next.

As our racing repertoire began to grow in 2008 and beyond, our friends got in the action, too.

Friend Kevin joined us for our first half marathon in Detroit in 2008. It was cold, we were way undertrained, but we all enjoyed every sip of the post-race celebratory beer that followed.

Then, running suddenly became a favorite pastime for our entire group of friends.

Seven of us (two not pictured here) ran the Detroit races in 2010.

And a record-breaking 11 friends ran this year's Crim 10-Mile Race. (Four people not pictured here, but I promise, they do indeed exist.)

I'm even running with new friends these days.

I've only known them a short time, but Megan and Erika have become great running buds, confidantes, and fro-yo/Slurpee pals. We even hashtag our meetups on Twitter with #fearsomethreesome, a nickname Megan's Ryan recently bestowed upon us, and one that I think is pretty cool.

When I first started running, I expected to sweat and get into better shape while doing something I could be proud of.

I didn't expect to sprout new relationships or build upon others. I didn't expect that running would bring a whole new social facet to my life, one that I'm not sure I could live without today.

How has running or some other fitness-related endeavor brought you closer with someone in your own life?