OKLAHOMA CITY — It was still dark when Jan Haddad rode her bicycle into the driveway at the Calonkey residence Friday morning. Haddad was there to catch a ride to a 5K in Oklahoma City with fellow runner, Steve Calonkey.
To the multitudes who were still fast asleep in bed, heading out to Stars and Stripes Park at 5:30 in the morning to run a race with a 7 a.m. start time might seem a bit… well… out there.
But to Norman runners, Calonkey and Haddad, most holidays — summer and winter — start with a competitive run somewhere.
“It’s fun,” Haddad said. “What else are you going to do?”
For a non-runner, getting up at “o-dark-thirty” and running so hard you’re not sure whether you’ll pass out or puke first may not sound like entertainment. For those who are hooked, however, the runner’s high, sense of accomplishment, friends and fitness are well worth the price of an entry fee.
“We love to run, and we love to compete,” Calonkey said.
Calonkey and Haddad are fast. Both tend to be early finishers and often win their age groups.
But it’s not just about speed for this group of friends — Calonkey is excited his buddy Don Sickles, also of Norman, started running a few years ago. Sickles runs a 5K about six minutes slower than Calonkey, but that doesn’t matter. Friends encourage each other, share running tips and track each other’s finish times.
“It’s a great group of people,” Calonkey said. “Runners don’t have an agenda.”
Haddad agrees the camaraderie is one of the biggest benefits of running. While Haddad and Calonkey run close enough to the same pace that they often train together, running friends come in a variety of speeds — the real competition for any runner is always against yourself while trying to mark a new personal best time.