Running Partners: It Was The Best Of Times. It Was The Worst Of Times.

Having a running partner is a lot like a life partner.  If you have ever trained with someone for long distances over an extended period of time, they likely know a lot about you.  There is something very intimate about a running partner.  You spend many hours chatting about every topic under the sun.  Usually you don’t have to look each other in the eye, so it becomes very easy to share life’s finest details.

But just like a life partner, there are things that are bound to bug the heck out of you with one another.  Plus running brings out some rather telling moments.  Sometimes gas just passes, other times nature just calls, and forget about the snot that runs like a waterfall in the winter.

If you have ever flipped through a running magazine or scanned online running sites, you will notice a common trend with advice columns often filled with questions about running partner etiquette.  These are serious issues!

As a girl who runs with various groups I get a lot of questions about this and a lot of concerns about running partners as well as group running.  Maintaining a balance isn’t always easy.  In fact, Rock is my best friend and we rarely argue.  But the few times we ever have were usually during a run we were on together.  Below are the biggest questions I hear or issues that I notice.

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Pacing:  Whether it be with a group or a running partner the biggest concern is always regarding pacing.  So many people avoid joining a running group in the first place because they fear they will be the slowest and hold up the group.  Funny thing is, everyone is worried about this and usually they are all just about the same pace.  More often than not, the person worried about slowing down the group is actually faster than the rest.

I have two acquaintances who love getting together for runs before work or on the weekend.  They are great friends, but they are very different runners.  One runs at a moderate pace and can handle longish runs while the other is a Boston qualifier and runs marathons just about every other month.  But if you read their Facebook statuses they always have a blast during these moments and genuinely look forward to their time together.

So how do they make it work?  Like any good running partner it is important to recognize each other’s pacing.  Obviously one knows that the other is faster.  But when they run together they choose a pace that is enjoyable to go together and chat.  Sometimes running with a partner is less about getting a hard workout or a speed in, and instead is about just getting a sweat in together.

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What do you do if you want to run faster?  Fair enough.  Sometimes you want to go for a faster run.  Not every run needs to be done with your running partner, and sometimes you need to leave this partner in the dust to run with a  faster friend.  But feelings are feelings and we need to remember that we are all adults here.  Explain to your pal that you enjoy running with them yet sometimes you need to go at your own pace or need to join your faster pals to get your lungs burning.  A good friend will usually understand and appreciate that you value your time together as well.

Races:  Sometimes you and a running partner opt to sign up for the same race.  It is fun to meet up for training sessions and look forward to the big day.  Races are a huge motivation to get those training sessions in.  But you need to lay out a game plan before the race.  You need to be honest with each other and determine if you really truly want to run together the entire time.  This can be really tricky, regardless of whether you are a competitive person or not.  Races bring out the beast in all of us.

Generally speaking I think the best way to approach most races is to agree that it would be fun to run together but you both need to understand that it is okay if the other person feels like they want to pull ahead and go for it.  This almost never has anything to do with your pal but instead everything to do with seeing what you can do or enjoying the race on your own terms.

Rock and I have somewhat similar paces but we have always agreed that if a race is feeling good, it is okay to pull ahead as long as we tell each other.  I will take this moment to apologize to him for the 5k we did and promised we were just going to jog and enjoy with each other.  A half mile in I got caught up in everyone passing me and took off.  I could practically feel him mouthing, “What the hell?!”  When he saw me nearly puking at the finish I think it made him feel better about my rash decision.

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Gross Habits:  Oh boy this is a tough one.  It is hard enough to live and deal with our life partner’s habits.  You know, those little things that over time start to drive you crazy?  Maybe at first you thought it was funny that your running buddy blows snot rockets.  But then it gets a little irritating when they start flying back your way in the wind.

Sadly, I am no Emily Post.  Tact isn’t exactly my strongest attribute and Rock will tell you that I am the first to give someone a stink eye when they bug me.  So you are on your own with this one.  All I can recommend is that you sit back and contemplate the enormity of your buddy’s annoying habit.  Is it truly grating enough that you might strangle them if you have to do one more run with their irritating habit?  Just make sure you let them know how much you value their relationship and time on the road.  Then go ahead and let them know you might stuff them in the next port-a-potty if they snot rocket you one more time.

Do you have a running partner?  What is your best advice?

30 thoughts on “Running Partners: It Was The Best Of Times. It Was The Worst Of Times.

  1. You know, this advice could be applied to that very life partnership you compare this with. I don’t run in a group, for every reason you cited, preferring my elliptical and rowing machines now. But my husband is a triathloner so I am going to pass this along to him. I am sure he will relate to it. The last time I ran in a group, I sprained my ankle trying to do a ten mile run when I am really a five-miler. Why do we always push ourselves too hard? Great food for thought here!

  2. I definitely agree with all of your advice!! I started running with a group about a year and a half ago and I was very nervous at first because I was afraid I would be slower than the rest of the group–showing up is the first challenge!! Through the group I found a great running partner and we’ve definitely gotten a lot closer, learned pacing, and raced together (and just started together only to branch off in the middle). One thing I’ve learned is to not push a partner when they have an injury (or are on the verge of an injury). It’s one thing to encourage someone to run through a cramp, but running through a pain isn’t usually the answer. My current running buddy is injured and as much as I want her running next to me, I know the best option is to encourage her to rest and fix the problem. But I will definitely be right there when she’s ready to ease back in!

  3. I think that the greatest asset of any relationship, running or romantic (or both) is COMMUNICATION. You have to put pride to the side and speak up. What is working, what isn’t working. What might work, what hasn’t worked in the past. Fears, aspirations, habits, and such. And, let’s be honest–it isn’t real until you go to the bathroom in front of them 😉

  4. i don’t have a running buddy — totally a solo runner — but one of my best friends just started running, and i sort of just started hanging w/ a boy who runs, sooooo i’m thinking i might swing some runs with them. i ran with the boy once this week and it couldn’t have gone better, so there’s hope. 😉

  5. Great points! I think finding someone who matches you pace, distance and goals is so much harder than finding a life partner! I ran once a week with a friend last summer and it was awesome. You just pretend those farts and snots don’t happen. Occasionally I’ll run with my husband but have to check with him every 5 mins that I’m not slowing him down. As for races – ain’t no friends on race day!

  6. I have some marvelous local running friends, but no one that I go out running with regularly. Mostly we just meet up at races. I can see the benefits in training with another person from time to time, but I really do prefer the solitary approach to it. It’s usually the only “me” time I get during the day haha.

  7. Excellent thoughts. I have a coupe solid running partners. Somehow I always end up having a great time,but usually at a slower pace due to all the laughs when I’m with someone else. I find as much value in that has a shorter intense workout alone. Gotta keep the variety up.

  8. Totally a solo runner and I agree with IrishRunnerChick, “Ain’t no friends on race day!” LOL
    I did have an amazing running partner though this past marathon training that I never expected to find–perfect pace, super nice, and totally someone I could spend a couple of hours running with. Finding those types is like winning the jackpot.

    • That sounds like a pretty awesome find for marathon training. It is a hard combo to find the right fit for. I too prefer my solo runs and if I do run with someone, I like that it is Rock.

  9. Enjoyed this post. Normally I am a solo person. But last year I had 2 different people as separate running partners who asked me to help them train for their 1st half marathon. It was wonderful to see their confidence increase with each run. Both were 30 years younger than me, so at the end I would be joking of having a hard time keeping their pace! 🙂
    Thank you for sharing! 🙂
    ~Carl~

    • What a cool experience. I think it is so incredible to watch a person grow as a runner and gain confidence. It is also a good reminder for us to see that and know that with hard work everyone can continue to grow. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  10. Great advice!!! Honesty is certainly important. If you are having an off day or feel like you are running through mud… Share it! Your running partner will likely slow down, take a walk break or whatever you need just to maintain the company!

  11. I had a training partner for my first half (a family member). It went well and it was nice to have encouragement on those long runs. I’ve found that I like the flexibility of training on my own though. I tend to be a bit injury prone, so I often adjust my training plan to accommodate any issues that crop up – maybe cutting mileage, replacing a run with crosstraining, etc. Running partners who aren’t injury prone don’t normally understand those needs.

    • I totally understand and that is a great point. I too prefer to run alone for the most part. And sadly I have had my fair share of injuries. It is hard to find someone who can understand and deal with all of that.

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