Foot Notes: Push yourself by finding a faster running partner

Andy Sandrik
Foot Notes

I can't wait to run with Melissa again.

She's working her way back from the injured list right now, but I know from experience that once she returns to full strength, I'm in for a world of pain.

To say the least, Melissa is competitive. She's a former college field hockey player. She's a superior uphill runner who knows how to win races. Melissa enjoys being a dominant force on the women's side, and I think she takes just as much pride in running circles around the men on the race paths.

Why she chooses me, a beta in the world of competitive running, as a training partner for five miles a week will always be a mystery to me. But I can say that I am a much, much better runner for having the opportunity to run with someone faster. These workouts teach me to go outside of my comfort zone and hang tough when I wade into deep waters.

Andy Sandrik, Foot Notes columnist

It's rewarding to finish a run with Melissa, I feel like I can consistently hit that "runner's high." But make no mistake about it, every one of our runs begins with dread. When I hear my alarm go off for our 6 a.m. run, I hope to hear heavy rains outside or that she's running late and can't make it this week. That very rarely happens, and I have to brace myself knowing that the most painful part of my day is just minutes away.

Foot Notes:Reach your dreams, and your running goals, by closing your eyes

Melissa typically pulls up in front of my neighbor's house, so not to wake my kids, and after I greet her with a yawn, we're off and moving as I try to get my breathing and steps adjusted for her brisk "warmup" pace. I can manage one-word responses and occasional small sentences, but Melissa has more than enough energy to tell me about her kids, her schedule for the week, and gift ideas for the next birthday party.

She's an excellent social runner, but doesn't let me off the hook when I want to take the easy way out. Melissa stays one step ahead of me, and encourages me on the uphills, and reminds me of how well I'm doing when I get caught up in the difficulty of the run and take a panicked gasp.

Inspiring:'You just have to get off your butt': Central Pa. man isn't slowing down at 75

When we approach the back half of our runs, Melissa picks up her pace and challenges me to keep up. If I'm still functioning at this point, we'll talk about her vacation plans. If I'm a hot mess, she'll coach me to the finish, letting me know that we're approaching our last hill or that we're on pace for a monster time if I can hang on.

We usually end our workouts with a sprinting race to the stop sign at the end of my street. This is the only time during our workout where I have the advantage. Using long strides and forward momentum, I can usually outkick Melissa to the finish, but it comes at a price as I'm always screaming for air when I hit the brakes and stop my watch.

With hands on the back of my head, the cool-down walk is the most satisfying part of the workout. It's a time to catch your breath, examine your splits, and bask in the afterglow of a race-like workout.

Fayetteville’s Michele Ford, left, and her daughter Madi are all smiles after completing the Ocean Pines Freedom 5K. Madi finished in 23:52 to take third in the 20-29 age group.

We book our next meeting before Melissa departs for work, and I continue to walk down the sidewalk trying to visualize the next race. When I am pushing my limits in competition, there are going to be plenty of moments where I have to choose between mailing it in and being comfortable again, or pressing forward and giving myself a chance to pursue something special. Thanks to Melissa and the gauntlet she's thrown down, I often find myself choosing the latter.

More:Get outside in PA this summer - The adventure awaits in lakes, forests and state parks

Finding a faster runner to work out with can be a challenge, but if you can get someone who's willing to combine their recovery miles with your hard miles, I'm willing to bet that positive changes will happen.

Also think about paying it forward. Being someone's "Melissa" can have a bigger impact than you might know.

Results: Blazing competition at Firecracker 5K

With the Top 22 runners all finishing under 20 minutes, and the race winner nearly breaking the 15-minute mark, it goes without saying that the Firecracker 5K in Waynesboro was a blazing fast competition.

Waynesboro's Weber Long, 17 and a rising senior at Greencastle, defeated the 254-runner field with a 15:01, which was just enough to outlast Shippensburg's Hayden Hunt, who crossed the finish in 15:10. Dustin Adams of Shippensburg took third in 16:03, while Lurgan's Alexis Boyd, 15, took top female in 21:00 over Hagerstown's Jillian Jerwick (21:17).

Hagerstown’s Jana Fridrichova and Boonsboro’s Henry Schmidt were the top runners at the Greg Shank Memorial 5K in Williamsport, Md. Schmidt won the race in 15:24, while Fridrichova finished as top female in 19:14.

Other top runners in the race were Waynesboro's Kyle Phillips (16:17), Isaac Moats (17:55), Joey Jacobs (18:11), Hayden Oldham (19:18), Noah Bockstie (19:38), Noah Hege (19:48), Jason Staley (19:50), Yvonne Grigg (22:38), Isabella Ruefle (22:40), and Kylie Bere (23:19), Chambersburg's Billy Prentice (17:04), Ben Colli (17:10), and Livy Colli (22:21), Greencastle's Hayden Parks (17:50), Josiah Fisler (18:41), and Denver Norcross (19:05), Hagerstown's Will Marquiss (19:23) and Mikaela Jerwick (22:32), and Lurgan's Brayden Boyd (19:30).

The Firecracker 5K was nearly matched in speed by the Greg Shank Memorial 5K, which was held in Williamsport, Md. The race was won by Boonsboro's Henry Schmidt, 20, who clocked a 15:25 to defeat Hagerstown's David Butts (15:37). The top female was Hagerstown's Jana Fridrichova, who broke the tape in 19:14.

Fast times at the Shank 5K were also logged by Williamsport's Mark Eissens (16:48), Hagerstown's Anthony Sanders (17:05), Finn McGreevy (18:13), Griffin Knipp (18:17), Brandon Mauck (18:40), Dharma Bhatt (19:08), Sullivan McGreevy (20:00), and Cheryl Scholl (21:08), and Smithsburg's Corey Centofontaine (18:06) and Rob Hovermale (20:11).

In Harrisburg, Chambersburg's Kinton family traveled to compete in the Paxtang Lions Patriot Dash 5K. It was a successful venture, as Madeline Kinton, 18, finished as the third female in 21:22. James Kinton took 11th overall in 21:31, while Samuel Kinton crossed the finish in 23:11.

A number of other local runners were involved in races across the region, including Chambersburg's Chad Rydbom (22:25 at Ocean Pines Freedom 5K), Fayetteville's Madi Ford (23:52 at Ocean Pines Freedom 5K), Shippensburg's Megan Musser (1:42:05 at Hell Hath No Hurry 10K), McConnellsburg's Crys Glee (27:38 at Greg Hodnett Foundation 5K), Greencastle's Lori Swan (38:08 at Galeton 5K for Fireworks), and Boonsboro's Robert Zaal (18:27 at FSRC Independence 5000).

Finally, let's give a big round of applause to Waynesboro's Michelle Benshoff, who finished as the top female, and seventh overall, after posting a 5:45:55 at the Sharp Top 50K.

Upcoming running events in the area

Doggie Dash 5K: Saturday, 8 a.m., in York. Take your furry friends for a run in this race, which runs along the Hanover Trolley Trail. Find the race on

Tim & Susan Cook Memorial Race: Saturday, 8 a.m., in Chambersburg. Go after a PR in this fast one-mile race, which runs down McKinley Avenue and benefits the Tim & Susan Cook Memorial Scholarship Fund. Look up the race on

Hagerstown Sprint Triathlon: Sunday, 7 a.m., in Hagerstown. Swim 300 meters, bike 11 miles, and run a 5K in this event. Register for the race at

Also: Spartan Race (Friday, in Palmerton); Allegheny Trail Runners Trail Fest 12 Hours (Saturday, in Tyrone); Cousler Park 10K/5K (Saturday, in York); Viaduct Trail Ultramarathon 100 Mile (Saturday, in Lanesboro); Frederick Running Festival (Saturday-Sunday, in Frederick, Md.); Women's Philadelphia Triathlon (Sunday, in Philadelphia); Arts & Parks Red Hot 5K (Saturday, July 17, in Harrisburg); Lake Arthur Half Marathon (Saturday, July 17, in Portersville); Roof Park 10K/5K (Saturday, July 17, in New Cumberland); Summerfest 5K (Saturday, July 17, in East Berlin); Tough Mudder Poconos (Saturday, July 17, in Long Pond); Presque Isle Half Marathon (Sunday, July 18, in Presque Isle); Columbia Association Kids Triathlon (Sunday, July 18, in Columbia, Md.); Harrisburg Mile (Wednesday, July 21, in Harrisburg).