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goodrTIMES

Hi, I’m #yourbestrunningfriend. But, believe it or not, my running story didn’t begin on Instagram. It began with my second-grade gym teacher, Mrs. Johnson (name changed). And she was a gosh dang bully.

Whoever came up with the Presidential Fitness Test should be fired (it was probably Mrs. Johnson). Why is running a mile, doing sit ups, pushups, and measuring how far you can stretch an indicator of your physical health at age seven?! I’ll spare you the gory details of my first ever shame-filled attempt, but let’s just say my growing seven-year-old body ran the mile in 14 minutes. Not bad, eh? Wrong. Once finished, I was met with mean Mrs. Johnson, stomping over to me waving her stopwatch in the air. She got right in my sweaty, pudgy face and barked, “14 minutes? I could walk a mile in 14 minutes, you run like you have a piano on your back!”

This was the last straw for me, I had had enough of this cantankerous bitch. Gym class is supposed to be fun! A refuge for kids like me who can’t stand math class, and wish they still had nap time! So, filled with rage about the injustice I was enduring for 50 minutes every day, I rehearsed with my fiercely protective mother what I was going to say to Mrs. Johnson. The following day, hands sweaty with nerves and indignation, I marched up to Mrs. Johnson and told her, in front of the entire class, that she is the teacher and I’m the kid and it’s her job to make gym class fun, but instead, she makes the class feel bad about themselves and that’s not what teachers are supposed to do. (Man, sometimes I wish my 31-year-old self had the balls my seven-year-old self did.)

Well, folks, I must’ve done something right, because gym class got a heck of a lot more fun, and Mrs. Johnson? She started being a lot nicer to me...for the most part. But I know what you’re wondering, how does an overweight seven-year-old with a mean gym teacher who is determined to make everyone as miserable when running as possible, grow up to be an average size woman who pays hundreds of dollars to show everyone how much she loves running?

TBH, I could probably write a novel about this. Maybe I will someday, but until then, here are the Spark notes: I began running races in earnest in college. By the time I graduated grad school with my master's in trying to tell fart jokes for a living, I had run a handful of triathlons, half marathons, 10k’s, and 5k’s...all with a piano on my back...jkjk.  Fast forward to 2017. I now have “running friends.” They are all faster, in better shape, and way more obsessed with running than I am. But, for some reason, they love and support me just the same. It flabbergasted me. Maybe they keep me around because they think I’m funny, always laugh at a poop joke, and am down for a drink after pretty much every run. It wasn’t because I could keep up with them, that’s for sure.

Then, while training for the Chicago Marathon, I started to write a lot of jokes in my head and then I would tell them to my running friends who laughed and sometimes pitched in their own punchlines. It was amazing. Finally, we all had common ground other than our love of running - we loved to laugh about running, it was an incredible connector.

While writing all these hilarious jokes and telling them to anyone who would listen, (humility is not my forte, okay?), I realized that so many runners out there feel just like me. They aren’t sure where they belong in this sport that touts distance, time, and ability as markers of whether or not you are a “real runner.” What if you just like to run because it’s fun and you don’t care about your time or distance? What if you’re just in it for the Strava Kudos and literally NOTHING else? What if you loved running until the first time you chafed, and then never ran again because no one told you about Body Glide?? What if your eyeballs get sunburned (this is a real thing that can happen) because you never discovered the best sport sunglasses from goodr!?!?!?!?!? This, my sweet readers, could not stand.

So, on a random day a little over a year ago, the Instagram account @yourbestrunningfriend was formed. In a lot of ways, it was a place for me to put all the jokes I would write while running. But it has become something so much more than that. It’s a place where a “runner” is defined as anyone who laces up their shoes and goes for a run. Sometimes I’ll write jokes, sometimes I’ll spill my guts, and sometimes I’ll just write what I need to hear that day. The best surprise always comes when it’s what everyone else needed that day too.

And look, I am by no means a “good” runner (what even is a “good” runner, anyway?). I run because I love it, I don’t pay much attention to my time, and I will probably never win a race. I run because it’s FUN, and if it ever makes me feel bad like Mrs. Johnson did, I’ll stop (I probably won’t). But like, in the end, do I belong as much as the next runner? Yup. And you do too.

MEET YOUR BEST RUNNING FRIEND:

Chloe is a runner, writer, and actor from The Windy City. She has a BA with honors in Theater and Chinese from the College of William and Mary, and an MFA in Acting (feeling her feelings at a pro-level!) from the New School for Drama. When she wasn’t memorizing lines, you could find her running along the west side highway or in Central Park in NYC. Chloe is currently a member of the sketch comedy house team, Option 7, at The PIT. Chloe and her writing have been featured on Comedy Central, Amazon Prime, Funny or Die, and College Humor. She still thinks running her first marathon was like Christmas Day, but better. Learn more about her acting and writing at www.chloeelizabethlewis.com and follow her running jokes and escapades on Instagram @yourbestrunningfriend.

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