Alarm goes off at 4:45am and my brain screams at my hand to make it effing stop. It’s dark out and I hate that any of this is happening. Why is this happening? No matter how many times I do this, I simply cannot comprehend what is going on because SLEEP. I put on my workout clothes that I laid out the night before while I am peeing because I am already running late and MULTITASKING. I drag myself downstairs and immediately check my phone. Please let there be a text that you’re bailing, please let there be a text that your bailing. Ugh! Nothing! You horrible bitch! Meet you at the gym in 5. I get there to find that my workout buddy has created another unpleasant / horrible / miserable workout for us and everything is laid out and ready to go. I ask her if we can sleep on the mats meant for planks and push-ups. She says no. By 5:50am, it’s pretty much over and we are chatting about our children, our husbands, work, and “is this a normal body function following childbirth?” We also discuss food, body image, our different body types. And I leave feeling stronger, more positive, and so glad that my ass got out of bed. And glad that she was there waiting for me. (Full disclosure — there are times when I have bailed on her because sleep felt really good. Like, one time. Or a dozen or something. Whatever.)

Emily, Early Bird.

Race day. Nervous stomach. Too early for coffee but trying to decide whether or not to ingest food and run the risk of pooping my pants. This has yet to happen, but anything is possible. My race buddy pulls up and I hop in. Conversation commences about the fear of pooping our pants, our children, our husbands, work. I’ve been running races with this woman for over 8 years now — from 5Ks to half marathons, and having a good laugh with her on the drive to our destination has always taken the edge off and calmed my nerves. Without fail, she always leaves me in the dust once the race starts, but is always there for me at the end. I probably wouldn’t train for or run many of the races that I do if it wasn’t for her. I always push myself a little harder knowing she’s up ahead somewhere, but I’m 100% supportive of her killing it and getting a good time. And if I ever poop my pants, I can only imagine that she wouldn’t laugh (well, maybe a little), but would certainly empathize with me.

Katie, Running Partner and Erin, Race Buddy.

Lastly, and certainly not leastly, is the sweetest little long distance running buddy that a girl could ask for. I can’t remember how it started, but we’ve been planning out and prepping for races for over a year now. I have to admit that I have become a little dependent on her; my solo long runs are a little tougher when her perpetually packed schedule is even more packed. And a nice little friendship has bloomed out of training for races. Whether we decide to run with or without music, we end up talking a lot and some days have turned into a confessional of sorts. Exercise is very often an emotional outlet for me and provides me with some balance. And during these runs, as well as races, I’ve found a ton of support and motivation from her. Also, we both just happen to tweak about weather, appropriate clothing preparation, and meal planning on race eves. I find solace in those who equally tweak.

When I look back at my relationship with exercise, the ups and downs, obsessions and breakups with it, I find that the most important element has been having those who make it fun and keep me motivated — even if that means guilting me into running some stupid race in freezing or sweltering temps or braving the subzero February winds at 4:58am to meet at the gym to do high knees and wall squats. If you have a workout buddy, give them a hug today. If you’re unmotivated and have even a smidgen of a desire to run a race or sign up for a gym membership, try reaching out to someone who feels the same way. There’s a beauty in the shared misery!