I read an article the other day that outlined ways to fit exercise into our busy lives. It hit home with me because it addressed one of the main excuses I use to not exercise: I don’t have enough time. Family, work, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills—everything seems to keep me from exercising.
One suggestion from the article was to get an exercise partner, saying that people who exercise with someone are seven times more likely to stick with a routine than those who go it alone.
This has held true for me, but for a different reason than I think the article intended. Yes, I am less likely to wimp out and eat bonbons on the sofa if I’ve made arrangements to exercise with someone. But more importantly, finding someone to exercise with has created the most unlikely friendship I never imagined would happen.
I met my friend Charlotte four years ago through a mutual friend I meet for dinner every week. One evening she brought Charlotte. My life has never been the same since.
I immediately didn’t like Charlotte. She was a high-energy, dramatic, larger-than-life type of person. The type who monopolizes conversations and begins most sentences with “I”.
And at that time, our worlds were so different. She was the vice president of marketing at a large international corporation; I was a communications coordinator at a small mom-and-pop non-profit organization.
She was a world-traveler and told stories of business trips to Prague and Argentina and had lived in Japan. I’ve been to Mexico once.
She wore Prada, Gucci and real Louboutins. I shop at Goodwill.
She seemed to have it all and know it all.
Nothing in common
“I will never be friends with this woman,” I thought to myself. “We have nothing in common.” Then Charlotte said something that caught my attention.
“I’m training for Dam to Dam,” she said.
Huh? I thought. I had actually been training for Dam to Dam as well, but I was finding it hard to keep motivated. Like I said, seemingly more important things kept getting in the way. Toddlers and Tiaras, for one.
I really wanted to run this race. And there Charlotte was, talking about how great her training was going. I thought maybe if I ran with her, some of her motivation would rub off on me. So when she stopped talking to take a drink of water, I swallowed hard and went for it.
“I’m training for Dam to Dam, too,” I squeaked. “Would you like a running partner?”
She looked at me like I had two heads. Uh oh, I thought.
“Sure,” she said. “Email me.” She pulled out her business card, handed it to me and went on to talk about meeting the Dali Lama or someone else real important.
That brief conversation changed my life.
Four years later
Today, aside from my boyfriend, Charlotte is my best friend. We ran Dam to Dam together that year and the following two years, and went on to run three full marathons together. We’re currently training for a fourth marathon.
Yes, we are still two very different people.
She’s competitive; I’m a people-pleaser. For example, if runners are coming up on the trail behind us, she speeds up. I stop and let them pass. She wears a $450 GPS system to track and record her time, distance, calories burned, etc. I carry an MP3 player I bought for $19.99 at WalMart. When we run marathons, she tries to beat her personal time. I stop along the way to take pictures and post them on Facebook.
But the beauty of our relationship is our differences. We joke that when we met, we were on extreme opposites on the bell curve: I was passive, she was aggressive. But slowly, through years of running together, sharing our problems, insecurities, frustrations and disappointments (you’d be surprised at the things you discuss by the time you hit mile 18), we’ve each worked toward the center of the curve to become happy, healthy adult women.
I’ve taught her to be a better listener; she’s made me a stronger leader. She encouraged me to start this blog; I let her cry on my shoulder when her dog died. She’s softer; I’m tougher.
So what started with a chance meeting with a stranger I really didn’t want to get to know has blossomed into a lifelong friendship. And it all began with a simple question: Would you like a partner? Charlotte once admitted that the reason she had looked at me so strangely when I asked that question is because no one had ever reached out to her in such a kind manner.
A good friend once told me that if he meets someone he doesn’t like at first, it’s because he hasn’t taken the time to get to know that person. My experience with Charlotte has led me to agree with him.
Click here to see the story of our first marathon.
And here we are after the Twin Cities marathon in October 2010. Charlotte beat her personal time by 15 minutes. I beat my personal record of number of pictures posted to Facebook while running a marathon (15)
For example, here’s me hitting the wall at Mile 20:
So there’s the story of my Accidental Friendship.
Have you experienced an unlikely friendship that changed your life? Or have you taken a chance and reached out to someone you don’t know well—only to be pleasantly surprised by the connection? I’d love to hear about it in the Comments.