Picture it now: It’s a crisp early winter morning. Grass crunches ever so slightly underfoot as you jog to your meeting spot. Sunlight is just peeking through the trees. You’re perfectly dressed for the weather, you had your coffee and a small bowl of oatmeal, and you’re feeling jazzed. You’re meeting your favorite running buddy, whose pace matches yours to a tee. She knows when to talk and when to stay silent, when to push the pace and when to back off. She’s your running sole-mate (pun intended).
Too good to be true?
Indeed, the perfect running partner is a hard one to find, but it’s not impossible. Being (and finding) a good running buddy takes time and patience. So, how can you be the best running partner in town? We’ve got five keys to running in tandem.
1. Find the Right Runner
To be a good running buddy, you have to find the right partner. It might be tempting to grab your best friend or significant other — regardless of their current shape — and goad them into running with you, but that can quickly go south. Your running buddy doesn’t have to be someone you’d consider part of your inner circle. In fact, you might want to embrace the idea of branching out and finding an outsider to run with. You want someone who is roughly at your ability level. Check out local running groups and shops, and see if you can make a new friend. (And this, by the way, might mean running with the wrong person a few times before you “swipe left.”)
2. Know Each Other’s Goals
If you’re training for a 5K and your partner is training for a marathon, your training schedules are going to vary wildly. That doesn’t mean your days of training together are over, but it does mean making some adjustments. For example, if you’re doing speed work for your 5K, you can plan it so you sync up with your marathoning buddy midway through her long run and do your hard efforts either with her if she has speed work on her plan, or as out-and-backs as she ticks off the miles. That way, you’re both getting what you need from the workout, and neither of you are over- or under-training. Just don’t wait until you’re at Mile 3 in a run to have this discussion.
3. Use Recovery Days as Your “First Date”
The best time to start running with a partner is on recovery days, when the pace is slow and conversational, and walking is a completely reasonable swap to make. Start with couples running when the run itself doesn’t matter, and slowly build that relationship and trust before hitting the interval workouts together. Besides, gossip is a lot more fun when you’re not dreading the upcoming hill repeats.
4. Be Honest About Pace
We’ve all been there: the pace where we’re desperately pretending that it’s not hard, and, of course, we can have a conversation! But internally, we’re gasping for breath and trying not to hyperventilate. Agree on a pace before you start running. If you’ve decided that today’s run is an easy pace, make sure it’s truly easy, and if you’re having a hill repeat day, make sure you’re both hitting the hills hard. If you think the pace is too hard, the odds are good that your friend is also dying inside and will be thrilled to slow down.
5. Don’t Be a Jerk If You “Win”
Running with a partner is never, ever about winning a workout, so make sure you’re staying positive. If you had the best interval workout of your life and your partner was way behind you on that last rep, it’s not good form to gloat. You’re not in a race; you’re having fun. The fastest way to get dumped by a training partner is to get competitive about each run.
6. Be Careful with the Advice You Offer
Unless you’re a running coach, pro runner, shoe designer, doctor or nutritionist, avoid giving advice on running. Actually, even if you are any of those things, avoid giving unsolicited advice unless something life-threatening is going on. Nine times out of 10, it will not be appreciated and will just put your training buddy on the defensive.
7. Remember: Some Relationships Don’t Last Forever
You’re not always going to be as fit as you are right now. Injuries, life events or even just simple adaptation (you’ve gotten faster and she hasn’t, or vice versa) might mean you need to find someone new or you need to reconsider your running schedule. If you’re the one who’s sped up, consider swapping your distance run with your friend to a shorter recovery run instead, or even swap the run for cross-training in the gym or in a yoga class together.
8. Make Like a Girl Scout
Even if you’re not planning a long run, you never know what might happen, so be prepared. Showing up with a full water bottle, a gel and a spare gel for your friend is never going to be a bad idea. If you’re meeting at a remote start like a park or coffeeshop, make sure your car is stocked with an emergency kit: snacks, water, a spare tampon, first aid kit, even extra socks, and — in cold weather — a cap and gloves — can also be life- (and run-) savers.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN: