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Published January 31, 2011, 12:00 AM

Wagner: Bond between running partners is a strong one

It took more than four months, but last Wednesday proved to be a watershed moment.

It took more than four months, but last Wednesday proved to be a watershed moment.

One of my best running friends, suffering from a stress fracture in his leg last summer, had been out of the sport for more than a third of a year.

It wasn’t easy to see him sidelined and forced into rest, rehab and wondering how and why the injury happened in the first place.

He spent four long months without experiencing the joys and freedom that running brings.

So he took up other endeavors like biking, spinning classes and elliptical machines. We met nearly every Friday morning for coffee to discuss life, our latest adventures and plans for the future.

And I couldn’t help but marvel how he managed to stay so upbeat, looking at the positive side of the injury and remain a cheerleader to those doing the one sport he couldn’t.

It’s no wonder running friends share such a close bond.

Together we train, share life’s ups and downs and discover more about the human spirit than we believed possible.

On a chilly Wednesday morning, well before the sun poked above the horizon and most people remained inside their warm homes, we started on a run like so many before.

Outside, on the dark street, he stood wearing a headlamp and blinking lights. Riley, my golden retriever, could barely wait for the gate to open before barreling down the driveway and greeting our friend.

Just like old times.

We went slow, trying to avoid icy patches on the street, until we connected with a park trail, a place we had gone many times before. It had probably been four months since I had been there and it was fitting my return was marked by his.

Afterward, he declared sore muscles from having not run for so long, but the injured leg felt pain free. Patience and perseverance paid off.

Two days later we met again for coffee, in part to discuss possible races for 2011.

Welcome back to running, my friend.

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Forum News Director Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email at swagner@forumcomm.com.