I talk to runners all the time who are “afraid” of running with other people.
And you see, I can relate: I used to be one of those runners.
When I started running in 2008, I lived with a runner. Her name: Meghan. She had run several half marathons at the time and you would think I would have been all, “Hey Meghan, let’s run together so I can learn from you and gain infinite running wisdom!”
Instead, Meghan and I never ran together.
We drank a lot together and ordered late-night pizza often.
Sometimes we would play Drunk Jenga, too. (I wasn’t very good and liked to knock all the pieces on the ground for fun.)
But running together? Never. It wasn’t my thing. And I don’t think it was hers, either. Though maybe I pushed her away? I’m still not totally sure.
Sometimes we would leave the apartment for a run at the same time, but we’d both put on headphones and go at our own pace. We’d have little dance parties when we would cross paths, but running was a solo activity for each of us.
I still think one of the reasons I gravitate toward running is because it’s an independent sport.
I was always that girl in group projects at school who would beg to do the whole thing alone and would gladly just put everyone else’s name on the project at the end.
Yup. Ali the A-hole.
Fine with it.
I like to run the show (ha, punny, because I said run) and I like to take charge and yes, I’m a complete control freak.
I love running because I get to control my pace. I get to decide how far I want to run (well, actually Coach Cane decides that — today it was six miles on the Bridle Path) and I get to choose where I’ll go.
I never wanted to run with anyone else because I was scared.
I was scared I’d be too slow. I didn’t want to hold a fellow runner back from hitting his or her goals, whether they were speed- or distance-related.
I was scared I’d have to stop and use a bathroom. Embarrassing? Sure. (But not really. More on that later.)
I was scared I wouldn’t be able to talk and run. I was definitely scared to give up my crutch of listening to music while running. And was running with a friend with my headphones in considered rude? I didn’t know. Buddy running etiquette was so not my thing.
In fact, I convinced my family members to sign up for a Turkey Trot this past Thanksgiving. We dressed up and I had this image in my head of us all crossing the finish line together, looking very fancy.
But when the little man yelled “Go!” (there was definitely no gun or blow-horn or anything at this local Pennsylvania race), I took off without my family. I think my cousin is still a little peeved about it since I promised her we’d run together. But I got nervous and went at it alone.
Eventually, though, I sucked it up and got over my fears.
A few months ago, I went running with my friend Katie, who has run roughly 612 marathons (or something) and is super speedy.
Katie and I ran about six miles together that day. I tried to run fast, because I didn’t want to hold her back, and as a result I could barely muster enough energy to carry on a conversation during our casual run.
I also had a little stomach drama and we had to re-route ourselves to swing through a Starbucks, where she patiently waited while I did my thing. You know.
Since that day, I’ve grown to love running with friends.
Having running buddies I’m comfortable with has helped immensely during my marathon training, both on shorter, slow runs and the long ones.
I know you’re thinking, “OK, fine, Ali likes running with friends now. So? I still don’t and I’m still afraid.”
Snap out of it! And allow me to share with you a few tips and bits of reassurance so that you, too, can take advantage of the buddy system.
Don’t fear speedy runners. The first time Megan suggested running together, I was terrified. She’s been known to win races on mountains and stuff, so why would she want to run with me, a beginner who throws down 8:30s on a good day?
Well, Megan doesn’t always bang out 7-minute miles. Turns out, she does some of her runs closer to a 9:00 pace. Perfect! When Megan and I ran together the first time, I knew she was faster than me, and that scared me, but I also knew that it would be a good push for me. We certainly didn’t do any speedwork together that day, but we did enjoy a leisurely run together.
Run with people you like. This seems obvious, yes? Pick a running buddy like you pick your friends.
You’ll be more excited to meet people at 6 am if they’re people you enjoy chatting with and getting to know. I’ve learned more about Kelly, for example, during our morning runs than I’ve learned about many of my other friends during nights out at a bar.
Running with friends is a great way to get to know them — and it’s cheaper than a box of wine!
Boxed wine is delicious and you know it.
Most runners like water stops. During that 15-miler, I was a little nervous about asking my speedy friends to stop for water. But when I suggested taking a time-out at an approaching water fountain, Lindsay (I think) said, “I’ll never argue with a water stop.” Bueno! So don’t worry about needing to stop for water. Chances are, your running buddies are parched, too.
Everyone has had a bathroom emergency. It’s not fun, it’s not pretty, but it happens. I’ll never forget my visit to Charlotte in May, which came right at the start of a bad Crohn’s flare-up. I was down seeing my best friend, Becky, and her fiance agreed to let me tag along with his hardcore running group for a 12-mile run.
Naturally my stomach went nuts around mile 1.5 and again at mile 5. I desperately needed a bathroom, and John was kind enough to point me in the right direction and wait for me so I didn’t get lost running on my own.
You can’t necessarily expect your running friend to wait while you do your business, but you can plan a way to meet back up later in the run (like Kelly and I did this morning when my whorish stomach decided it wanted to have a dance party mid-run). Don’t be embarrassed if you need to bolt for the bathroom. We’ve all been there. We all understand. It’s a runner thing.
Run with positive, encouraging friends, not competitive ones. Use your running buddies to motivate you. Don’t be discouraged if you’re slower and don’t get nasty if you’re faster. Instead, build off each others’ strengths and weaknesses so you can both become better runners and enjoy the process together.
Be honest. If you want to speed up, tell your friend. If you need to slow down, tell your friend. Even if you choose to run with friends, running is still an individual sport. Don’t let someone else hinder your progress. Just be open and explain that you need to either go faster or you need to back off. No one is going to judge you.
Ease into it. Don’t necessarily make your first run one with 10 other humans. Try it out first with a buddy you’re comfortable with, then go from there.
It’s OK if you just don’t like running with friends. Yes, it can be fun. Yes, it can make those miles more enjoyable. But some people simply like doing their own thing, and in my mind there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
So those are my tips. Nothing scientific. Nothing crazy. Just don’t be afraid and be really honest with the people you’re running with.
Chances are, if a friend is going out to do speedwork or some crazy run involving hurdles and cow tipping, she may not want company anyway. You never know though.
So how about a giveaway?!
I was so excited when my fabulously talented friend Erica Sara approached me about doing a jewelry giveaway.
Her designs are gorgeous (check them out here — I especially love all of her earrings), so I was even more pumped when she said she would custom-design a necklace for one lucky Ali On The Run reader!
On one side of the necklace, she engraved “I Heart Sweat” because, really, don’t we all?
The winner will get to choose what gets engraved on the other side — your name, your nickname, your secret lover’s initials, your half marathon PR time, etc. You’ll get to work with Erica Sara to pick what you want it to say and help choose the font and design. You can also add stones and jewels and all that jazz.
Instead of just doing a regular giveaway, we came up with the idea to use this as a chance to raise some money for a great cause as well.
This necklace normally sells for $128, but Erica Sara is willing to crack a better deal than that.
As you all surely know by now, I’m training for the Hamptons Marathon while raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
So here’s the deal: Click here and donate $5 to my cause.
- A $5 donation gets you one entry to win the necklace
- A $10 donation gets you two entries
- A $20 donation gets you five entries
- A $50 donation gets you 20 entries!
- A $100 donation = 100 entries!
I will choose a winner at random next Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 12 pm. You don’t have to leave a comment telling me what you donated or giving me an anecdote, and you don’t have to follow me on Twitter or anything like that. A good deed gets you an entry (or 20).
AND TELL ME: Are you a fan of the buddy running system? Yes, no, maybe? Why? Why not? Why don’t you want to run with me? WTF?