Something happens when people run/walk alongside each other for miles. Something that allows them to open up and say things to each other that they would never say while sitting across from one another in a coffee shop or at a kitchen table, or even on bar stools.
It must be because of the lack of eye contact - at least that is my theory. It surely also has to do with moving forward towards a common goal together, sweating together, being uncomfortable together. We let our guards down because we are at our most natural sans makeup, with hair stuffed in a pony tail or hat, smelling less than our best. We are equals, as nothing matters but that we love to run. Jobs, education, and age are inconsequential when in running clothes. We see "runners" and nothing else. We see ourselves as kindred spirits.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains: if you want to get to know someone, go out for a long run together. As feet move forward, souls are revealed. I know more about my running partners than I do about some of my family members - more about the REAL version of them, about what makes them tick and the trials they have been through. Through the miles, other runners and I have shared stories of triumphs, broken hearts, parenting worries and guilt, and bodily functions. Heck, bodily functions are THE favorite topic of conversation on long runs. You may start your run as strangers, but you will finish feeling like the best of friends.
As my children get older, I am holding onto this secret weapon. When they reach their teen years and no longer want to tell me every little detail of their lives, I will take them out to run. I know that as the miles pass, as we move towards an invisible finish line without looking at each other and without the distractions of daily life, they will share themselves with me. And I will do the same.