(5:30 a.m.) Ding. Pam: “Are we doing this?”
Ding. Anne: “I am in.”
I can hear the light, frozen rain hitting the roof. I groan and roll over. Thoughts race in my mind. “Do I have a headache? Am I getting a cold?” I pause and breathe, and drag myself up.
Me (responding to their texts): “See you in 15 minutes.”
This is how most of my mornings start.
In 2016, I lost my best friend and suffered other losses shortly after. I didn’t feel like myself and wanted to find a new outlet to connect with people and exercise. In our Euclid neighborhood, we are blessed with an active beach club community, and I wondered if others from our club wanted to move together.
As I pondered what to do next, something from a book I read years earlier came to me. I’ll See you Again by Jackie Hance tells the story of how the author’s three daughters are tragically killed in a car accident. Hance credits her running group for helping her survive and begin the early stages of healing.
I wondered if there was enough interest in our community to start a walking/running group. I wasn’t sure, but I started asking around, and it seemed others were interested. So what the heck? I made a flyer, sent an email and created an event on Facebook.
Walks would be Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. At first, we had a great turn out at night. Families came, and we had wonderful short walks, with bursts of running and lots of laughing. Fall turned to winter, evenings turned dark, and our walks fell off. I was a little sad, but not for too long, because something magical was happening in the mornings.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, I got up and walked (in the dark at 6 a.m.) to our park gate. I always thought I might be the only one there, but I never was. There under the light would be Anne or Pam waiting for me. Suddenly, we were a three-woman group. Day in and day out through cold, ice and snow, we kept waking up for each other. I didn’t always want to go, but I thought of one or both of them all bundled up standing there, and I got up.
As we walked, I started to feel better; healing was happening. When you walk in the cold, it seems like conversations just flow. We discussed our lives: our losses, our jobs and our families. Over time, we grew into not just walking partners, but friends and confidants. As the weather grew warmer, Maria and Jodi joined us. Maria wanted to get 10,000 steps in per day. Jodi had suffered a back injury, and walking helped. Soon, these ladies melted into us. They shared their stories, and we offered ideas: a better work schedule for Maria, and a new part-time work opportunity for Jodi. On occasion, other members will pop in and join us for a day or two. We are now a strong group of five-plus ladies. We stretch out across the street as we walk together.
On one recent morning, I was out walking alone. I passed a neighbor we often see, and he yelled over, “where is your posse today?” I bust out laughing. He had noticed us. I felt a little bounce in my step after that and loved sharing with everyone the next morning how we were official, and a “posse.”
We now meet daily. Some days we can’t all walk, but almost every morning some form of us is out there. Over the last 18 months, we have not only walked, but we found ways to connect in our community. We have volunteered together. We have shared cocktails over 4th of July fireworks. We’ve camped out together and cheered each other’s kids on in school and at swim meets. We read books as a group and swap leggings and gloves to help each other stay warm.
We have built a community, a tribe. Today, we walk, talk and listen like sisters, not neighbors.
Take my advice. Find what you enjoy, and do it. Others will join. The healing happens, friendships are built and if you are lucky enough, a “posse” will form.