The real feel on this January morning is 4 degrees Fahrenheit and I’m trudging up a hill through a light snow on my way to “the corner.” The collection of brightly colored running apparel appears in the distance. I’m joining neighbors for a run through the local streets and parks.

For the past few years, this group of aging runners–and walkers–enjoys getting in a few miles on most Saturday mornings in the Allen neighborhood. Our children now post the fast times; they even join in during fairer weather. While some of us still train for endurance races, performance is not the main driver.

The slight nudge of peer pressure encourages us to make time for ourselves before our active and scheduled weekends take off. What I truly value is the welcoming and supportive feel of building relationships while burning calories and waving to other neighbors as

we go.

It’s said that walking or running in a new place is the best way to experience it. My mental map of this part of town has been rewired on a few occasions when a new running route connects streets that weren’t previously on my radar. And then there are the conversations about local businesses, developments, real estate, schools, and the hottest Nextdoor topics. Picture a moving front porch conversation and that’s our Saturday morning group.

What began as a small group of neighbors in a four-block radius has grown as word spreads among neighbors and friends of friends. Technically, we’re an Allen/Pattengill/Bryant neighborhood group at this point. A neighborhood Turkey Trot spun off of the weekend jaunts a few years back and boasts fifty or sixty trotters who complete a one mile or 5k route through County Farm Park and environs. Like our regular meet-ups, it ends at someone’s house for optional coffee, snacks, and more conversation.

If our slow-moving train has an engineer, then that title belongs to James Pauer, a lifelong runner and environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His military experience in his native South Africa prepared him well for cajoling us from our warm beds on cold winter mornings with email reminders that bear a touch of friendly drill sergeant. During our Saturday outings, I’m happily reminded of Ann Arbor’s rich international community when James’s Afrikaans accent combines with Adrienne’s Kiwi, Sandro’s Spanish, Joe’s Queen’s English, and Lorenzo’s Italian.

My husband and I moved to the Allen neighborhood fifteen years ago. There’s so much about our neighborhood that we’ve come to appreciate like proximity to parks, Trader Joe’s, local shops and coffeehouses, and our public schools. But it’s the close friendships we’ve made with neighbors that make us want to stay.