Ask Bertha: My Best Running Friend Is Always Late!

Dear Bertha,

I love my BRF. We meet almost every Saturday morning for our long run and once we get going I’m always glad we do. The problem is that she’s always late. Sometimes it’s just 5 minutes, but sometimes as much as 20 minutes! She’s always sorry, but then she does it again next week and the week after. I have two toddlers at home and my time away is precious. Am I petty that this is making me angry? What should I do?

Signed, The Clock Is Running And I’m Not Because I’m Waiting For My Chronically Late Friend UGHHHHH

Bertha – your go-to gal for running etiquette

Dear TCIRAINBIWFMCLFU,

It sounds like this has been going on for a while, and when I think of all the minutes – or even hours – you’ve spent fuming in the parking lot at the trailhead, I think life is definitely too short and a new approach is needed. Fortunately, it’s never too late to change!

I totally get where you’re coming from and don’t think you’re petty at all. It feels disrespectful when someone consistently leaves you waiting around for them. You didn’t detail your childcare situation, but if you’ve got a babysitter at home with your kids, every minute you wait isn’t just annoying, it literally costs you. You also didn’t say why your friend is always late; let’s assume she doesn’t do it to annoy you. Is there something going on with her that makes it hard to be on time? Maybe she has kids and her babysitter doesn’t show up reliably? Or she cares for a sick or elderly relative? Throwing random possibilities out there, but there might be some very good reasons she is always late.

Or, maybe she’s just got punctuality fatigue after a long work week. We’re talking Saturday morning here. Nobody’s feeling their quickest, and we’ve all spent the last five days getting up early and trying like hell to be on time for things, whether it’s school, work meetings, or daycare pickup. There are definitely people who wouldn’t even count five minutes as being late to a friend thing on a Saturday morning. However, it doesn’t matter what “some people” think. You have needs and preferences here. Plus, 20 minutes late is, well, really late.

Since your friend knows you, she knows that being on time matters to you and also knows that she’s always late. It won’t come as some huge surprise if you set a boundary around this. What is an acceptable amount of time for you to wait? I mean, how long are you, personally, willing to wait around? Five minutes? Ten? Decide what it is, and then tell her. There’s definitely a window to bring this up once the lateness reaches the 15-20 minute end of the spectrum. “I’ll wait until [x minutes after appointed time]. Then I’m leaving.” If you have childcare or other pressures that mean you have to be home by a certain time, you can open with that: “I absolutely need to be done by 9, so I have to start by 7:30.” She’s welcome to do the same, if you are ever late. The time to do this, BTW, is while scheduling the run.

The downside to just leaving after your designated number of minutes is, of course, that you end up running alone. What about finding a shorter loop that passes by the parking lot every few minutes? You could do that while you wait for her to get there, while recognizing that there are limits to how often you want to be running a tiny loop. Since you sound like the lateness itself bothers you, this might not be your best solution as it may feel like glorified waiting.

If, for whatever reason, the running-punctuality situation doesn’t improve, I’d suggest trying to see your friend at other times when it doesn’t matter as much. If she’s 15 minutes late to a coffee date, that’s 15 more minutes you get to read the paper in peace, which is way better than missing 15 minutes of running.

I hope this helps, and that you can find a way to keep running together! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Are you the late one, or the one who can’t stand to wait around?  Let us know in the comments!

Do you have a burning running etiquette question for Bertha? Ask away!

I'm a 41-year-old living in Berlin, Germany. I run because I can't not run. I write about training, mental training, momming, and the odd rant.

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