When I moved to Chicago in 2004 for grad school, I knew exactly zero people.
This, of course, was both before I discovered I liked running and before the micro-blog/social media sensation Twitter.
Put those two bad boys together and you’ve got a “niche” group of people through whom you can connect and establish a community.
That’s exactly what I did when I joined Twitter as @fmyinjury earlier this year. (I’ve been on the platform professionally since 2007 as @kirstenmiller, but I rarely use that account.) I started chatting with other runners in Chicago and I found some who were also hurt.
Minnesota native Brady Gervais (@bgervais), who now lives in the Chicago area, is one such person. She and I discovered we had a lot in common right away — journalism, stress fractures, being passionate about cancer research… all the important stuff!
We talked about casts, healing times, doctors, plans for getting back to running, the Chicago Marathon, sad stories and happy stories.
And when we both realized that neither of us would be able to run the Soldier Field 10-miler (which is tagged on Twitter posts as #SF10) on May 29, we decided to volunteer instead. Since neither of us was particularly excited about getting up before dawn to volunteer on race day, we decided to volunteer at Fleet Feet Chicago Piper’s Alley the night before, handing out packets and swapping out T-shirt sizes.
It was the neatest thing to meet her in person, because now there’s a real person behind the Twitter handle. Fleet Feet (@fleetfeetchgo), which is active on Twitter itself, provided the perfect backdrop to getting to know each other. Plus, we got to shop for new running gear after our shifts ended at 8 p.m.
But she’s not the only one!
They were all just as kind and interesting as they are on Twitter. In fact, I’m looking forward to a #RunNerds tweet-up in the near future. (By the way, who’s on the planning committee???)
Tips from my Tweeps keep me going
Twitter has been an excellent resource for me, and has very likely kept me from hiding under the covers, eating cookies and plumping up. This group of people keeps me motivated. And I hope I do at least a little of the same for them.
There are other hurt runners who inspire me everyday with their PT, recovery exercises and humor: Ann (@brennanannie), Jeff and Joe come to mind.
And then there are the runners who aren’t hurt, but who are interesting and inspiring all the same: Dan has lost a lot of weight, Connie (@marathonmissfit) is training for her first marathon, Mark (@markemmanuel) is always running the races I signed up for but can’t run, Kate (@krzimmer) is a social media guru who runs, and Matt (@raceforothers) seeks to do good things for other people by running for important causes.
What’s my point? This group of virtual friends have all become part of my daily life. They give me tips, encouragement and listen to me carry on when my injuries take longer to heal than I’d like.
And I’ve met others still, when I branched out to learn more about cycling, swimming and triathlon: Marie (@irongirl11), Kirstin (@ultrarunnergirl) and Ali (@aliengin) were quick to offer advice when I bought a new bike and signed up for a mini-sprint triathlon.
So thank you, Twitter, for bringing these people into my e-life, and maybe one day into my real life. They have truly been a gift.