I used to tell people I would never move out of Texas for two reasons: No H-E-B and no Buc-ee’s.
Primo Picks and Beaver Nuggets forever, y’all.
But the real reason I never wanted to move out of Houston: the run community.
These people could literally tell you my life story. If you want to know a person’s character, take them on a run in Houston humidity. There’s no hiding who you are in those moments.
I lost my job two times in four years in Houston. You know who was there for me throughout all of that? Runners. Each time, they gave me odds jobs so I could pay for groceries, had me over for dinner, bought me beers. They helped me come back stronger and better.
My whole outlook on life and what I valued began to change.
Christopher McDougall, the author of “Born to Run” wrote, “If you don’t have an answer to a problem after a four-hour run, you’re never going to.”
Man, was he right.
Who needs a long walk on the beach with a blind date who isn’t your forever when you can have sunrises with sweat-soaked strangers who—over the miles—turned into family? Those runs saved me.
When I first started running, it was in Houston and the humidity sucked the breath right out of me. I survived my first runs with Wills Hills Running and Bayou City Road Runners in pretty much absolute silence. I was certain if I opened my mouth, I would collapse from lack of air.
The people around me filled in for what I didn’t say. They told me about their lives, their families, their jobs, their day, their favorite races. And as they talked, they inspired me. They had overcome so much, whether it be on the road or in their health or with their careers. They reminded me that we all have problems and job stresses and rude coworkers and upset stomachs and legs that feel like tree trunks. Eventually, they even made me forget how long a mile felt.
Instead, I looked forward to long runs because it gave me a chance to tell my long run buddies all the funniest parts of the latest failed date I’d been on or how I’d handled a situation at work differently than I would have in the past.
I literally clung to the mantra: positive vibes, negative splits.
The runs went from being a way to exercise to a way to release. I wasn’t running from anything. I was running through everything. Things that seemed like a massive deal before my run became something to shrug about.
Life happens and times change and friends move. In January, it became my turn. I moved to Cincinnati for a new job at a television station.
In March, some of my closest running girlfriends (actually all former Houston Marathon ambassadors) and I took a girls racecation since we are spread across the country: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Texas.
We met up in Asheville, N.C. and ran a half marathon. They’re all faster than me and I had a hilly half in Cincinnati the week before I was still trying to recover from, so I was going to just run the half and not race it.
During an incredibly tough mile-long climb that felt like it would never end, I was struggling and in that dark part of my run mind that questions every part of why I love running. I noticed a girl wearing a shirt and on the bottom it said Tri State Running Company. I knew that was a running store in Cincinnati.
“You’re from Cincinnati?” I exclaimed, probably scaring the woman.
We began to talk and the climb turned into flat and then a downhill. Without her, I don’t know if I ever would have made it to mile 6 or 7 or 8 that day or my second-fastest half marathon.
I promised myself when I returned I’d visit the running store. I did. And guess what? The owner, Cameron, went to Rice, so we immediately bonded over Houston. He invited me to more runs with the store’s run group.
Now, I have two run groups in Cincinnati: one for morning runs mostly in Kentucky and one for afternoon runs mostly in Ohio. (For all those not up to date on their Midwest geography, Cincinnati sits on the border of the two states on the north side of the Ohio river.)
Since January, I’ve conquered the largest hills of my running life. I’ve met new runners to conquer long runs with and to work through small things and big. I’ve ran through more snow and freezing temperatures with them than I ever thought I could handle. I’ve cultured them on the glories of Buc-ee’s and H-E-B. (Remember, I’m in Krogerland here, y’all. It’s headquartered in Cincinnati.)
I’ve learned the intricacies and quirks of so many new places. I even ran to the top of a fort. Every Wednesday, I run to the top of a park where views from the overlook are of the sun rising over the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati. It’s the equivalent, to me, of watching the sunrise over downtown Houston while I stand on the double bridges above Buffalo Bayou.
Moving away from your run base is hard. It forces you to learn new neighborhoods, new mileage of run routes and learning new steps in the dark. But like the overlook, the sun always rises and the miles ahead always look brighter — despite the inclines that may lay on your route ahead.
Why? Because no matter what, if you let yourself, you will always find a new home with running because as much as a new place is different, miles next to someone who can relate to what you’re going through will always make you feel at home.