Having a running partner is a great way to stay motivated and run consistently. So it makes sense we’d want to bring our friends and family into the wonderful world of running. However, it’s not easy to maneuver differences in pace, fitness and dedication. If you’ve ever struggled to run with your partner, sibling or friend, you’re not alone. It is possible to run with others, but it’s not always easy, especially when you’re a veteran runner accustomed to your pace and style.
Operating under the assumption you want to maintain your non-running relationships with these people, here are a few strategies to employ when you start including the people in your life in your running.
RUNNING WITH YOUR PARTNER
Avoid the ‘you always’ trap. Tensions can run high when you have expectations for a run and your partner is not meeting them the way you thought he or she would. That in-run tension can make you extrapolate your frustrations to the rest of your lives together. What starts with a ‘why aren’t you ready to leave for the run when I’m ready to go?’ can quickly snowball into ‘you always make me late for things.’ Try to separate what’s happening in the run from the rest of your lives.
RUNNING WITH YOUR FRIEND
There’s a moment of panic when a friend who’s never run before asks if you can help him or her get started. On one hand, great! Another person to run with. On the other hand … Great. A person who’s going to slow your pace. On your first run together, let your friend set the pace — resist the urge to surge ahead and focus on always staying a few inches behind, even when running side-by-side. A newer runner is naturally going to be inclined to try to follow your pace, and your pace is very unlikely to match his. If your buddy needs a walk break, take one. If he outsprints you, cheer him on. The goal isn’t to have demonstrated your running prowess, it’s to introduce your buddy to the joys of running.
RUNNING WITH YOUR PARENT
Remember how patient your parents had to be to raise you from a helpless baby into a functioning adult? Channel some of that patience as you get your parents out running. Unless mom or dad is already a regular runner, start slow with a walk-run combination of one minute of running, one minute of walking. Try to pay close attention to nonverbal cues from your parent, like heavy breathing or a hitch in their stride. Ask how they’re doing regularly — some parents might take minor offense to the question, but their ability to snap back at you (or huffing to get a word or two out) is a great indicator of how hard they’re actually working.
RUNNING WITH YOUR CHILD
When running with your kid, it’s more than likely that your legs are longer than theirs. Your aerobic engine is also designed to go longer, so keep this in mind. Sure, your kid might be speedy on the soccer field, but he or she will likely tire out long before you do. They may also have little concept of pace or effort, and have a tendency to go hard at the start and blow up or bonk shortly thereafter. This is one situation where you might want to set the pace, rather than letting your child just race down the block. A run/walk combination can cater to their pattern of sprinting followed by subsequent bonk, but don’t be afraid to try to get your child into a few minutes of easy, steady-state running each time you’re out. The all-out sprint is fun, but learning to temper that with a more mild, easy stride helps them down the road.
RUNNING WITH YOUR CO-WORKER
First rule: It’s not a race. Before you head out, it’s best to set as many parameters as possible. Decide on distance, time, pace, any metric you can think of that will avoid one-upmanship on the run, especially if you and your co-worker are competitive in the office. If you don’t set a predetermined distance or time running, you may find it hard to be the one to say ‘it’s time to turn around.’