Running is often touted as an individual sport, and while it’s true that on race day it feels like each runner is an individual competitor, challenging her own physical and mental limits, I’ve learned in the last nine years that running with other people not only makes me a better runner, but it makes running a more fulfilling, healthy, well-rounded part of my life.
I highly recommend training with other people. I know that it is sometimes difficult to find others who share your pace and your schedule, but it is worth the effort of searching! If you don’t already have a running community like Ginkgo’s beloved Columbus Moms RUN This Town, I recommend checking out local running clubs (they often have group runs & workouts you can participate in), asking about group runs at your local running specialty store, and making connections with people who finish around you at local races! Cinnamon and Lemongrass also have written more about finding and running with an organized group!
If you’re still on the fence, here are just ten of the many convincing reasons I can’t live without my running buddies!
1) They help me set goals: At least half of the races I have participated in, I have signed up for because one of my running friends said something along the lines of, “I’m training for this race. You should do it too.” And why not? You’re running together anyway, you might as well train for a race together. And then, even if the race doesn’t go as planned, you can always go out to brunch afterwards!
2) They are willing to do crazy things: Did you suddenly decide that next weekend you want to run all of the 30.25 mile trail you have been training on for the past few months, though your longest run up to this point has been 12.5 miles? Well, if your running buddies are like mine someone will step up to the plate and say, “sure, I’ll pace the first 22 miles for you.” (And for the record, no, I don’t necessarily recommend this. . .)
3) They encourage me when it gets hard: Some days running is easy, and other days even my “slow” pace feels hard. When you run with other people, there seems to always be someone who feels motivated and keeps up the pace and an exuberant flow of conversation while you stagger along beside them. When you get down, they are there to encourage you. And don’t forget workouts. Running friends keep you accountable to your goals and make tempo runs and track work far more enjoyable.
4) They listen to me talk about running and they actually find it interesting. While my non-running friends
tend to look a bit glazed over when I start talking about my new training strategy, or the awesome trail I found, or that article I just read on Let’s Run, my running friends want to hear more!
5) They pace me through PR attempts, workouts, and races: My running friends are all over the board as far as paces are concerned, and I love it that way. Sometimes my tempo days are easy runs for my faster friends, and other days I’m the one supporting a friend in a workout. Having friends who are faster than me, is great for learning more about running, and also for other things. . .like trying for a 5k PR on the track. It’s humbling to have your friend making casual conversation while you feel like you’re going to collapse, but tucking in behind someone who believes in you and is taking care of the pace calculations in a workout or race is incredible.
6) They help me decide what to wear: I usually bring a bag containing all of the clothes. And then we get out our phones and debate whether it’s a shorts or a tights day, whether the sunglasses are necessary or not, if a singlet is appropriate or maybe a parka. . .
7) Themed runs: Yes, that is correct, we do sometimes have themes. . . there is an annual ice cream run in the summer and a hot chocolate run in the winter. We’ve run to the zoo, run while caroling, done a cookie exchange followed by a run, worn matching socks for workouts, and then of course there is WoW (workout wednesday), Long Run Friday and the weekly Monday Loop (so we don’t have to think too hard on a Monday). Fun.
8) They keep me honest and humble: My running friends are incredible. They are amazing people and amazing athletes, and running with them every day, hearing about their past triumphs and their dreams for the future is always inspiring and humbling.
9) They introduce me to new things: Whether it’s a new route, a new workout, a new stretch, or a new race (hello cross country), I am always learning things from my running buddies.
10) They are great friends, running or not. The friends I’ve made running are some of my best friends. Sure we talk about running during our runs, but we also talk about life and work and family and everything else. We support each other through the frustration of injury, and celebrate victories (whether in running or in life).
While running alone certainly has its place, and sometimes we need the calm and focus that solitary running can provide, running buddies make running better. And I would not love running as much if I didn’t have them in my life!
What are your favorite things about running with friends?