I really enjoy my “me time” while running.

Solo running gives me time to focus on my next race, think through situations in my personal life or just allows me to completely lose myself in my music. In fact, I’ve trained for three marathons on my very own. But, sometimes, long runs, as with life, are hard to get through alone.

When I first moved to Houston my close friends were interested in activities other than running so I carried out my hobby alone. In 2017, I gradually became interested in some of the social running opportunities I saw popping up around the city. I was curious but also skeptical. The idea of losing my magical “me time” didn’t excite me but I still longed for the companionship of others.

Two months before Global Running Day 2017, I decided to open myself up and run with a group of then-strangers I’d met through an online social community that connected people based on shared interests — ours was running. It was so much fun! There were lots of smiles, positive energy and we ran around one of my favorites places in city that day (Buffalo Bayou)! When we returned to our starting point, I realized that, in addition to having a great time, I increased my pace while staying close to the group, felt more relaxed and still got to enjoy my music!

From that day on, I decided to keep meeting with my new running partners. Each time we got together, they became less like strangers and more like friends. I found myself wanting to stay longer after our runs, so I could get to know them better. I wanted to know more about their lives, experiences and fun facts about them. I realized I had a new family in Houston — a running family.

My running group was very diverse! They were difference races, had different, fun accents and our collective journeys to find new running trails each week also resulted in new dining experiences. We were no longer just a running group, we were doing life together!

I was so inspired by my new friendships that I went on to join and lead three more groups. I grew to love connecting with people through running and supporting worthy causes. Each week, I found myself coordinating running activities around my work schedule. I learned, while self-care and solo runs are magical, so is fostering friendship.

As humans, it’s in our nature to be social. Finding companionship through shared, healthy hobbies — whatever they might be — is a good place to start.

When it comes to running, it doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow. The important thing is that you show up! Social running encourages fitness through movement, friendship, good vibes (endorphins!), can make big cities feel smaller (building community) and allows us to learn from each other.

Not only do I believe running cultivates community, I also believe it’s one of the best ways to give back: through our miles and with our smiles.