Last night was the Running Awards 2016, or as I like to think of it 'the night Strava let me and my mates run wild in a posh hotel before plying us with booze'. It was as great as it sounds, but you know what really gave it the edge? I was with my mates.
When I started running three years ago I took to the internet to connect with other runners. Twitter was an amazing source of inspiration and connection for me. I met and was inspired by like minded people. I could ask advice from people with far more experience. On bad days there'd be commiserations and tips to improve, on good days there'd be cheers and high fives. I was welcomed with open arms by some of the kindest, most enthusiastic people out there. I became part of a community.
Communities are important. We live in a time where people are questioning the decline of communities, but is this true? I'm not going to pretend this post is grounded in any academic fact. I'm writing it in bed with a champagne hangover. But I do wonder if maybe our communities are simply changing. Twitter and Facebook have led me to some wonderful communities. There's UK Run Chat (fastest hour of the week) and Team Naturally Run (the crew that got me through my first round of marathon training). There are real life run clubs and groups - running with both Lululemon and We Heart Living gave me an immense sense of community, meeting the same women week after week and becoming entwined in their lives. Then there's Park Run which draws people together to do something they love, for free (that bit is important, I can't emphasise it enough in the light of this week's disappointing news), often in their local area. And finally there are apps like Strava. Originally designed for cyclists, but increasingly adopted by runners, Strava aims to help runners connect with each other. It's a global social network for athletes, uniting them through the camaraderie of sport. Whether those people are in a club and want a closed group to compare notes, or if they're uber competitive and want to top the leaderboard for a segment. Through the app you connect, sharing experiences, advice, insight.
I feel very privileged to be part of the running community. To have met such wonderful and inspiring people and to have shared experiences with them. Without the internet this probably wouldn't have happened. Connection is important. Finding your people - the ones with a shared outlook - is important. They're your support network, and you're theirs. If you get to party with them in a posh venue, well all the better.
*Strava kindly invited me to the Running Awards last night, which was nice of them. As always all opinions are my own*