I moved to Portland almost exactly two years ago, and it just recently started to feel like home. When we decided to move, I was a bit naive about the challenges to come with making new friends in a new city. Until moving to Portland, I spent my entire life in Chicago, and I had a strong network of friends and family that positively impacted me daily. Every day I’d run on the lakefront path and bump into someone I knew who’d wave hello or even join me for a few miles. I really undervalued the impact that those small interactions had on my overall happiness.
When I arrived in Portland, I quickly learned the running scene is totally different than Chicago. There’re just so many routes to hit up it that it disperses runners all over the city. Portland is also an incredibly active city, which was part of the draw, but it also provided SO many different running crews to pick from. I didn’t know where to begin. What route is best for a 20-miler with a tempo built in? How do I find girls, that run around my pace, who want to chat and gossip as we clock miles together?
I am by no means an expert at this, but I did learn a few things that helped me secure a solid group of running friends in a brand new city.
1. Learn to say YES! to things that make you uncomfortable
A lot of making friends is doing things you don’t necessarily want to do. I’m fairly introverted and don’t love going out on weeknights (or weekends after 11PM, let’s be real). However, I needed to at least explore the run clubs here, and join for their weekly meet-ups. I forced myself to go, overcame some of my natural introversion, and became the person that walked up to a group, said hello, and tried to make friends (fake it til ya make it!). At first, it was super uncomfortable, but just like with running, you need to push through the initial discomfort to reap the benefits afterwards.
2. Put yourself out there and let people know you’re looking for friends
There’s no shame in trying to make friends, and no one can help you unless you’re open about looking. At a work conference, just one year in to my Portland move, I told a client (shout out to Michael Clemons at the UBHM!) that I was enjoying Portland, but I had no friends. In hindsight, kind of an awkward thing to admit to a client, but Michael put me in touch with Katie Hynes. Katie ended up introducing me to a solid group of ladies that I run with now, oh and Katie is my friend now too (Hey, Katie!).
3. Realize it will take time, and you’ll have lots of misses
It took me about a year and a half to actually feel like I had a group of close running friends in Portland. With that came lots of meet-ups with people that didn’t end up being the best fit for me. It was kind of like dating. We’d meet up for a run, and if I was feeling him or her, I’d text to run again. If I didn’t hear back, I’d assume they weren’t in to it and move on. Friendships are a two-way street, and if I was the only one making an effort, it was time to look elsewhere.
4. Ask people about themselves
Everyone loves talking about themselves. The easiest way I found to make friends was to ask others about themselves. It shows you’re interested in creating a bond, plus then you’re off the hook for carrying the conversation as you run together.
5. Don’t talk about your race times on the first run date
Eventually, it makes sense to chat about race times and goals to coordinate training runs together, but don’t lead with this. There are SO many other attributes beyond times that make us the type of runners and individuals we are. Plus, you never want to come across as cocky. 😉
Even if you’re introverted like me and enjoy running alone, a solid group of running friends and community is still essential. Many studies have proven the physical and cognitive benefits of social interaction so find your squad in the thing you love! If all else fails or you live in a really rural area, there’s always social communities, like #BibChat on Twitter. Follow me: @jmonst and BibRave: @BibRave!