You met them on the street at 6 a.m., two sole-warriors huffing and panting away on a Sunday morning, as the rest of the world was fast asleep. Your eyes met, and it was running camaraderie at first sight! Who doesn’t love having a great running buddy? They are a kindred spirit to cheer you on at events, and the one to motivate you on your bad days when you are in a slump. However, just like any other relationship, you need to invest in it to keep it healthy. A pinch of giving and receiving, a dash of goal-setting, and a garnish of teamwork – that’s all it takes to transform a boring lonely session into a joyous celebration of running.
Here’s the etiquette cheat-sheet for fantastic training sessions with your running buddy.
1) Set your expectations
Don’t be so slow that your partner has to wait for you to catch up, or so fast that they are left panting trying to catch up with you. Making a new friend is wonderful, but it is a wise decision to become running partners? Are your fitness levels compatible? Are your running goals similar? Will running together actually benefit the both of you? You might want to ask each other these questions before drawing up a schedule. It’s better to have a smooth running friendship than a dysfunctional running partnership.
2) Listen – don’t hog the conversation
Happily chatting away during runs is a great way to gauge and maintain pace (keep it conversational, silly!). We all have the feeling that we can’t talk (or whine) to our immediate family and non-runner friends about running. This is what’s great about having a running buddy. They get your concerns about training, and obsession about diet and number-crunching. They understand and empathize with your quirks and goals. However, make sure you aren’t the only one doing all the talking. Learn to listen. It’s not a one-act play, it’s a partnership. Make your partner feel like their opinions are being appreciated.
3) Take turns to pick the destination-
We all have our sacred sanctuary when it comes to running. Running in the special location or trail can put you in a great mental space for running, and act as an instant gateway to the elusive runner’s high. So, make sure that both you and your partner have a say in choosing the trail. Keep it diverse, and challenging yourself to avoid getting stuck in a running rut. Pick some hills, pick some flats, pick some expressways, and pick some dusty trails. Alternate between relaxing and challenging routes. Whatever the both of you decide- just avoid making it boring.
4) Keep to the schedule as far as possible
We all have bad days when lounging on the bed sounds infinitely more appealing than lacing up. That’s the whole point of running with a partner – they keep you on the straight and narrow. So, what’s the etiquette when for when you are not feeling like a run? Firstly, are you sure that the knee pain you are citing isn’t just as excuse you are telling yourself? Is this laziness masquerading as exhaustion? As much as you can, stick to the plan. Yes, it might feel like you are dragging your ankles, but once you meet your running buddy, you’ll feel re-inspired to clock in your mileage for the day. If you genuinely can’t make it, call as much in advance as possible. On your regular days, DON’T be late!
5) Sign up for races together
You have trained, you have slogged, and you have sweated it out together. Now, it’s time to reap the sweet rewards of training, and see the results. Sign up for some races together. Again, the key is to keep it diverse. A 5K might not sound challenging to either of you, but if it promises to be fun – go for it! Apart from the important events you were both targeting, pick something that neither of you have attempted before like a mountain trail run. On race day, remember to take some pictures together! Go out for your favorite post-run treat together. Races are great way to infuse some fun and spirit into your running friendship.
6) Encourage them as a peer- not as a trainer
Encouragement is great, but it also matters how you go about it. There’s a difference between ‘you can do this!’ and ‘we can do this!’. The former might come across as slightly condescending, while the latter makes it sound like a team effort. Always go with the latter. Giving each other a pat on the back (or a kick on the bum when necessary) is great, but make sure you do it like a peer – not as a trainer. Unless someone is actively seeking guidance and mentorship – don’t impose it on them. Instead, look at this as a mutual learning opportunity. They might be slower than you, but better at controlling their pace for the long run. Learn, instead of instructing.
7) Keep it non-competitive
Some folks are just born competitive. For some runners, the urge to outrun a pack is instinctual. However, focus on the fact that you have made a conscious decision to run with a partner. It is a joint responsibility to maintain the pace that you have agreed upon with your partner. Use your runs as a chance to have some meaningful human contact when running, and to motivate each other in the right spirit. The running world is getting competitive as it is – so, keep your runs with your partner non-competitive.
8) Motivate each other
Keep it positive. Complaining about the pace of your run, or the weather, or the trail will not make things any easier. Bring in some optimism and positivity about your training. Share with your partner the gains that you have seen in your performance, and encourage them to share theirs. It doesn’t even have to be about running. You could tell them about your recent promotion at work, or congratulate them for picking up a new tune on the guitar. There’s an entire day ahead to vent about the annoying things in life – don’t let them spill into your run.
Keep it light and positive.
Running doesn’t always have to be an individual activity – it can offer great opportunities for sharing, caring, and teamwork. Do you have a wonderful running companion? Tell us about them, and send us your pictures with them. We’d love to feature your team in a future issue.