Perhaps it’s not surprising that I enjoy social media. I post on Facebook and Twitter. I’m an active participant on various message boards, including some within the Disney fan community. While I am cautious in my posting (I realize that I’m still a doctor and a mother so I’m careful to only post things that would be appropriate for my patients or my children’s friend to read), I enjoy the interaction. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that a decent percentage of my knowledge of news and current events comes via my Twitter feed. I beat my husband to the latest Yankees trade because I follow the Yankees on Facebook and he still refuses to join. And yet the ways in which social media have impacted my running have amazed me.
I started running about 2.5 years ago. In the early days I posted training questions which were mostly answered by my seasoned running friends. The great part is that I know several marathoners who I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling on the phone but who were (and still are) very generous with support and knowledge. Family and friends have always been super supportive of my running. While I certainly know several runners who have encountered derision or disbelief upon telling people their running goals, I’ve encountered quite the opposite. Maybe people who know me also know my tendency to attempt the impossible – and sometimes even succeed (nobody would recommend spending 2 years in Baltimore working 80 hours a week with a 2 year old and a newborn while your husband works 50+ hours per week in New York, for example) – so it didn’t faze anyone when I announced my next distance race.
I’ve joined virtual running teams – all connected with the Disney fan community. For the Tower of Terror race I’m running with Team Studios Central which is raising money for a great organization called Give Kids the World. We have a team t-shirt and our own private Facebook page where we support each other’s training. Much to my constant amusement I’m consider to be one of e more experienced runners in the group. I still think of myself as a beginner. Another running group even has a private website dedicated to discussing runDisney events! Some of the participants have run more than 20 Disney races. Talk about a fountain of knowledge! The best part about these running groups is that runners range from Boston qualifiers to people struggling to go the distance within the time limit. They really tend not to be judgmental about ability. And my favorite part is that, although I’m a back of the packer in most non-Disney races, I’m really a mid-pack person in the runDisney world.
The most random running connection I’ve made through social media has also been amongst the most helpful. It happened as I started to figure out this whole Twitter thing. As I started Tweeting more about running and Disney, I began to connect with other people who also love running and Disney. Before I knew it I was part of some informal Tweet groups (no, there’s no such thing but I have a few groups of people who Tweet to each other about running and runDisney). My roommate for each of my next two runDisney events is someone I communicate with primarily via Twitter (that sentence was confusing – it’s a different roommate for each race).
It sounds completely insane (or maybe totally sane if you know me) but I have woken up early on a Saturday morning and immediate reached for my Twitter app so I could wish good luck in a race that someone I’ve never met is running. And they’ve done the same for me. We read with interest each other’s training plans and updates. We cheer each other on in races. We encourage. We commiserate. And we get it!
It was one of these connections that saved my weekend long run. I’ve been struggling with pacing on the long runs. If I go too fast I feel trashed for the rest of the day. Which is hardly fair to my husband and children. Mr. Galloway wants me to slow down. Which is hard, especially psychologically. So my friend Susan and I devised a competition. Whoever ran faster this weekend has to buy the first round of drinks after our September 10 mile race. I lost – 13:57 min/mike vs. 13:59 – but we both slowed down and approached our target paces.
The most fabulous outcome of using social media to talk about running is the way it influences others to run. I get messages every month from people who say that I’ve helped to inspire them to get off the couch. One woman just finished her first 5k. Another signed up to run the Disney World Half. And someone else will be running the 20th anniversary Disney Marathon. I like to believe that my enthusiasm for running – and bringing home bling – is helping to make the world a healthier place. Running has certainly made my life better and my new virtual friends are a part of the reason why.