Sheila (looking impossibly cute!) and me mid-run, trying to outdo the leaves with our vivid colors.

Not to get all woo-woo on you, but I sometimes feel like there’s a greater force at work that determines when and where I run. I just can’t believe everything that happens on runs is coincidence, whether it’s finding money in the road, getting a string of walk signals at intersections, or running into a friend. Over the holiday weekend, this grand-scheme-of-things feeling struck twice.

Friday was a cold, wet day here in Portland. With 12 miles under my [Amphipod] belt on Thanksgiving, I was feeling unmotivated and aimless. Seven-year-old Daphne had asked to join  me for part of my run, and that turned into a whine-filled fiasco. After depositing Daphne back home, I stood in our driveway, fiddling with my iPod and feeling lackluster. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a runner approaching; when I looked up, we realized we knew each other. It was Anne, a mother runner from the boot camp class I take. I asked Anne if I could tag along, and off we trotted. She set the pace and the route; I just had to stick by her side and chat. I forgot to restart my Garmin so pace and time lost all meaning. Anne was running by feel alone–saying she was going to turn around when the mood struck. Sounded perfect to me, so I co-opted her strategy. After about 25 minutes, I turned south toward home and Anne continued west for a few more miles.

While I like Anne a bunch and know she lives about a half-mile from me, we’d never run together before, but a jaunt with her was precisely what I needed that day: an ambling, chat-filled excursion.

Saturday was a rest day, and Sunday’s run only needed to be 4 or 5 miles since I’d already run long during the week. But Mother Nature had served up another dry day (a rarity in November in the PacNW) and, after three days with the kiddos, I needed a longer break. I set out with the intention of running 10 miles–up and over Rocky Butte, an extinct volcano cinder cone that offers up a challenging climb. Less than a half-mile into my run, serendipity struck again: The very first runner I saw on my route turned out to be Sheila, my training partner for the 2010 Portland Marathon. In emails the night before we’d agreed to run together on December 9, but immediate gratification was even better. Sheila was about six miles into her run, so I switched directions and once more followed another mother runner’s lead.

We zigged and zagged throughout my neighborhood, then headed north and east. Conversation flowed easily, despite the fact that our pace kept inadvertently picking up to near marathon race pace (old habits die hard when you fall in step with a running partner, I guess!). My Garmin clicked over to 9.0 miles just as I returned to our driveway, a smile on my face. Whatever had lead me to have two random runs with friends, I was thankful for it.

What has destiny or coincidence served up for you on recent runs, mother runner?