Sunday, August 29, 2010

Social Road Trip

Last weekend at a local race I heard about an upcoming run being held in Columbus, GA. I'd just recently been talking about wanting to run there on the Riverwalk, and when I heard the race was being held at midnight it sounded all the more attractive. In its thirtieth year, the Midnight Express was the only race I'd heard of in the area to truly begin at midnight. I wasn't sure if I'd actually go because of all the other traveling on my schedule, but my interest was piqued.

In case I decided to go I put out some feelers with people I knew to live in Columbus. There were two, and  each of them I'd only met in the virtual worlds of Twitter and Daily Mile. Mike Edwards I met on Twitter, and immediately grew to like him for his support and advice. He helped me quite a bit when I had questions about running with a hydration pack. The other person, Andy Sparks, I'd also met on Twitter and had developed a sort of camaraderie with. We'd chat back and forth about training and I grew to like his blog, Racing For The Cross.

After finally deciding to make the 2-hour trip I loaded up the car and hit the road. I checked into my hotel and let Andy know my plans for race night. I didn't expect to see Mike until the following day. I took about a 3-hour nap and then headed over to Country's BBQ, where the race was being held. When I got there I figured the odds of Andy finding me were slim to none, because there were literally thousands of people there. I texted Andy that I would be right underneath the start line, and hoped for the best. Lo and behold, about 15 minutes later I heard someone call my name. Technology had won!

Andy and I chatted for about 10-15 minutes until the race began. He was shooting for about 24 minutes. That sounded like the perfect pace to me, so I said I would stick with him. We ran the candlelit course in around 23:30 and had a really good time. I was really impressed with the crowd support, the likes of which I've never seen at a 5k before. There was a live band, a marching band and tons of people lining the street cheering runners on. Even the obnoxious frat boys were amusing in their own unique way.

After the race we walked back up the course and I got to meet Andy's wife, Kelly. Despite our soggy condition she graciously snapped a photo of us. It was getting late, so we said our goodbyes and I jokingly mentioned to Andy that I'd be starting my run at 6:00 am the next morning if he wanted to join me. I never expected him to take me up on it.

When I showed up at the Riverwalk this morning there was Andy walking up the street to greet me. How many people do you know that will meet someone for a long run after getting only a few hours of sleep? I now know one! Andy was looking to do around 12 miles and he set the perfect pace. I have a tendency to go out too fast, and his discipline was exactly what I needed for the 16 miles on my schedule. We chatted away and the miles were behind us quickly. Andy must have been feeling good, because he seemed to be adding on  some extra distance. It was at the 6.5-mile mark that we said our goodbyes, he turned back and I continued on my way.

I finished up my run and was slowly making my way back to my car. As I rounded the corner I was surprised to see Andy. Not only that, but he'd set out a cold bottle of water and a banana for me. Talk about southern hospitality! We talked for a few more minutes and then went our separate ways. Just as I had expected, Andy turned out to be one of the good guys. :)

So, the lesson here is to not underestimate the power of social networking. I never would have met Andy if not for Twitter or Daily Mile, nor would I be stopping by Mike's shop, Below The Knee, on my way out of town. What a great world we live in. Have you meet any of your online friends "in real life?" If so, share below.

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