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Ammi Midstokke: Pursuing friendships and other excuses to play outside

A while back something shifted in the universe and I found myself in a position to accept applications for new friends. There had been some moving of schools, moving of neighborhoods, shifting of hobbies – the kinds of things that cause a natural drifting apart of humans.

Over the years, many of my friends have been dudes who climb, ride, run, camp and show up to Thanksgiving dinner with a bag of corn chips. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about knots and banked corners, but it’s difficult to discuss one’s fears of perimenopause on the third pitch of a climb.

The fact that I even used the word “dude” suggested that I needed more women in my life.

So I set out to find some girlfriends. If we are the sum of the five people we spend most of our time with, I wanted to spend at least some of my time with people who know how to get red-wine stains out of blouses.

I approached a good acquaintance, Kelly, like an awkward colleague suggesting a first date. “I would like to pursue friendship with you,” I said, kicking dirt and staring at my feet sheepishly. Before long, we were running weekly. We ran in blizzards. We ran in the heat. We hiked because running seemed too hard. We went to coffee instead sometimes.

Kelly nursed me through a broken heart on soggy spring miles (this was preceded by raving lunatic winter miles). We’d talk about business plans, supplement protocols, raising our tween children. We started calling each other when good things happened, and then when bad things happened.

Then Kelly brought Katie and we started a Monday routine of ignoring our real jobs and hiking up mountains instead. We’d share ideas about connecting to our communities, being business women, races we had signed up for, injuries we were battling.

It wasn’t just my outdoor adventures that were becoming richer. My whole life was filtered through the encouraging lens of these relationships. Katie showed up with swag for my new office and had garden parties. Kelly helped me figure out some mineral deficiencies and collaborated on work projects.

Katie convinced us to sign up for a relay race in the mountains. She brought another Kelly, another badass broad with an enthusiasm for adventure, dirt and camaraderie.

We ran the Dig Your Grave 100 km race in the Cabinets. (If you need a summer adventure, I highly recommend this incredible course.)

One woman was afraid to run alone. One woman was afraid to run in the dark. One woman hadn’t trained (that might have been me). One had never run that far. We banded together and pushed our personal boundaries with the support of each other.

By the end of the event, we’d paired up, rearranged, swapped at aid stations and somehow managed to run a total of 89 miles between the four of us even though the race is only 63.

No one had to run alone in the dark. And together, our all-female team took first place for the relay.

As Katie and I ran the final leg together, I asked, “What’s the longest run you’ve ever done?” We were several miles into an unplanned marathon. “This morning,” she said, “that 16.” Friendships make the previously inconceivable pleasantly possible.

On Saturday, Kelly came over to help me in my yard. You know you’ve picked the right friends when they show up with their own splitting maul and a six-pack of gluten-free beer.

“There’s a relay in the Tetons,” she said. Races are just an excuse for all of us to spend more time together sharing in the histories of our lives. Someday, we may even figure out how to remove those wine stains.

Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at ammimarie@gmail.com


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