I’m New Here: Relocating and Adjusting to Small Town Running

The matching sports bras, the fun relay races…I had it all.

Texans are known for their state pride. You know us by our favorite sayings: Everything’s bigger here, Don’t mess with us, and Y’all can go to hell- we will go to Texas. Then there’s my personal motto: I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.

That one was always true for me; I grew up just north of Baltimore and didn’t travel west of the Mississippi River until I was a newlywed, heading to San Antonio for a house-hunting trip.

It was a bit of a culture shock at first—the food, the pride, the Spanglish, the highways—but it didn’t take long before San Antonio felt like home.

A few years into our tenure there I found a running group called “We Run San Antonio” and before long I was training with a team and making friends. I could go to a track for a workout or a local race and know dozens of runners. I could show up to a race and know who would be my biggest competitors just by recognition.

If I got injured, I knew who was the best Airrosti specialist, who could dry needle me, which physical therapist to see and who to avoid. In short, I had the running world in SA all figured out, and life was great.

And then, 11 years later, we left.

I just moved to Weatherford, Texas, a small town about 20 miles west of Fort Worth. Other than my husband and kids, I don’t know a soul. In the midst of trying to find a grocery store and register the kids in schools, I am also training for three races and trying to find a high school whose coaches won’t kick me off their track, a long run route where I won’t get hit by a car and running partners so I can have a friend to talk to. It’s been hard, and has made me realized how good I had it in San Antonio.

When I knew where we’d be moving I immediately joined Facebook groups and started looking up running routes and state parks. I was heartened to see that there are several running trails and was excited to check them out. Unfortunately, when I got here I discovered that many of the routes that I’d found were great for those looking to get a mile or two in, but unless I wanted to run back and forth 8 times, they were no good for a long run.

I found a middle school with a track a few miles away from my house, but it’s locked except for during the school day, and then it’s only available to students. There is a second track that’s open on Saturday mornings, and last week I squeezed in some 800s until a team of middle school football players came marching on to the field and their parents filled the bleachers (small town Texans love them some football). I was able to get a 15 miler in a few weeks ago, but that included three miles of circles around a grocery store parking lot.

Current running partners.

On Labor Day, I had a seven mile tempo run scheduled, and found a local 15k that I thought would be a good fit. I pulled up to the race site and stood in a long port-a-potty line where other runners greeted each other with hugs and high-fives.

At the start, it was clear from the shouts of recognition that most of the racers knew each other. On the course the lack of markings and seeing that no one else was confused, told me the local runners had run this course before and wouldn’t get lost. I had to stop twice to ask a group of cyclists if I was going the right way (I was), and I sorely missed my San Antonio trails where I knew every turn and water stop.

Despite the confusion, I had a good day on Labor Day, and was able to run my workout during that race close to prescribed: two miles at 7:45 and seven miles at 6:55. I passed two women in the third mile and went on to be the winning female.

At the finish, two men stopped me to shake my hand and the second place woman congratulated me and told me she hoped to see me again. So maybe at my second race in North Texas I’ll know at least one other person, and hopefully things will get better from here.

But until then … I still miss my running life in San Antonio.

Have you ever relocated and lost your running community? How did you cope?

I am a stay at home mom and group fitness instructor from South Texas. I love reading, wine, and travel. I write about trends, injury prevention and maintenance, and satire. I am training to break 1:30 in the half marathon sometime soon, and for the 2017 Boston Marathon.

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10 comments

  1. Moving is so hard, but I think running will eventually be one of the main things to help you fit into the community. It may take some time to find your routes/groups/etc., and you may have to be flexible (with pace, distance, etc) but eventually your network will expand and you’ll hopefully find your niche!
    I feel you on the track access- I live in small town NC, and it’s the same way. Locked most of the time, and when open during school hours, only for school/student use.

    1. Yeah, moving is just really hard. I feel like it takes a couple of years to really feel like you’ve arrived and found your people and all that. Hang in there, Olive, it will all come together eventually. Also, congrats on the win!!

      1. I try to stay off the roads for most of my speedwork, unless it’s part of a long run or racing a shorter race as a workout. I like soft surfaces, so do my speedwork on football/soccer fields. And since I run mostly by time, that works out.
        That being said, I know I don’t work as hard/get the same benefits as doing a workout on the track. There are occasions when the track is open but not being used (like after the early morning football practice but before school/gym classes start) that I can sneak in there, but I have gotten booted by the maintenance crew before. My best shot is if it’s raining, b/c I know no one else will be out there!

  2. We moved from the Boston area to a small college town in rural Pennsylvania. The difference between the running communities in Boston and where I live now are drastic, but I’ve been ok with it in the four years since we have moved. I often get to run with one or both of my kiddos in a baby jogger and sometimes my husband, when it works out. I also get to occasionally run with the local college XC and track team, so that is always a nice treat. I’ve also found a few other local runners, but the times we are able to meet up are few and far between. I definitely do enjoy it though when I have company, even if it’s not as often as it used to be.

  3. Prior to 2012 I lived and trained near my hometown and had a good running crew, regular routes etc. It was ideal for that but moving to the city (45 minutes away) was better in the long run for having a life, job etc etc. I knew some roads from races, but its so different when there aren’t volunteers telling you where to go and roads aren’t closed. it definitely took time for me to know the lay of the land in the running sense, and get used to meeting new runners. The nice thing at least in my situation was I still saw all my old runner friends at races, and occasionally I would drive down there to train still.

    It’s definitely an adjustment and add in you moving entire family, school and work adjustments and then trying to find a running routine mid-cycle. I’m glad you met at least one other runner and I’m sure that number will keep multiplying at future races.