by Sarah Johnson I really don’t love to run. When my runner friends talk about the freedom they feel and the mind-clearing joy of a run, my eyes squint, and my eyebrows scrunch together in bewilderment – I just don’t get it. Running rarely clears my mind. Instead, my head fills with things like, “I can’t wait to be done…” and “I hate this I hate this I hate this.” I finish my “run” (I’ll be honest, it really doesn’t qualify as more than a jog), and instead of thinking, “That was awesome!” it generally ends up being, “so glad that’s out of the way.” What I found, though, was that I was missing out. Not on the exercise – I have plenty of other active pastimes that I love. But I was missing out on the camaraderie and bonds that my friends were reinforcing through regular runs together. Some people really do love to run on their own, and I wish I could be one of them. But a lot of the running women I know are excited about the two-for-one deal – get exercise, spend time with friends. As busy, midlife, mid-career women with kids and partners, that kind of efficiency is really appealing. Balance in life is hard. It’s my mantra in so many of the decisions I make, but I still struggle to find an equilibrium that feels right. I’ve heard that when it comes to family, friends, and work, you can be fulfilled in two at a time – all three at once just doesn’t happen. I’m not sure if there’s research to back that, but it sounds about right. Throw in exercise, healthy meals and a clean house, and balance feels pretty out of reach. Several years ago I realized that because of our busy schedules, there were some friends I was just going to have to run with if we wanted to see each other with any consistency. Granted, this approach doesn’t work for everyone – I’m super slow, so they have to accept the pace. A few friends, though, have become my regular, turtle-swift jogging companions. We might get passed often, but we have great conversations. We set our Strava apps and our FitBits, but only to see how far we go – not how fast. We catch up on each other’s lives, we make plans, we connect in the ways that are important to strengthening friendships and building community. I probably won’t ever love running – it’s just not my thing. But I have come to like it quite a bit, when I’m with my friends, sharing our lives on the trail.