While on the hunt for running friends, you see a group run posted at your local running store. The sign says something compelling like, “Moderately paced 5-7 mile run. Come and make connections with fellow runners in your community! Free beer and 10% off socks!”
You show up after work, ready to make friends and enjoy a casual evening jog. The running store is bustling with people of all shapes and sizes and colors of spandex and you think, I’m sure that among this crowd I will find true running friend love!
You are absolutely correct. There is a running buddy out there made just for you and he or she is almost definitely at your group run. Now don’t screw it up!
How might you screw it up?
Jog in Place at Stoplights
Just don’t. It’s not doing anything and you look ridiculous. If you don’t believe me, take a look around yourself. See how your fellow group runners are edging away and avoiding eye contact? Yeah, there it is. If you must do something while waiting for the light to change, just take a moment to stretch.
Race the Run
The racers start to emerge about 65-75% of the way through the run. It’s natural for a group run to speed up a bit as the giant glob of humanity strings out, but “Racers” take it to an absurd level. You don’t need to win a training run. In fact, if you are panting with your hands on your knees when you finish I can pretty much guarantee you just failed at running an easy run or at making any friends.
Be an Ignorant Expert
If you’ve never run a marathon, don’t talk about your projected finish time based on your last 5k. If you don’t follow track and field news, don’t tell those around you how fast the winning 1500 time is going to be in the trials. Go into group runs humble and ready to learn and you will be less likely to stick your foot in your mouth when you inform an Olympic Trials qualifier that they should be running with more of a midfoot strike. Hopefully people will like you for being you! I can guarantee they won’t like you for pretentiously spouting nonsense.
Be a Half-Stepper
This one is insidious and you may not even notice you’re doing it, but I can tell you from experience that running with a half-stepper is like having someone poke you in the shoulder over and over again. It starts out as annoying and then it just gets worse. You may not be trying to assert your dominance or superiority, proving that you are the stronger, faster runner by always being in the lead, just by a bit, but it comes off this way and is unattractive in a potential running buddy.
Be an Elitist
It can be tempting to figure out where you measure up in a group. However, on group runs, just take a deep breath and enjoy running with the people around you. Don’t ask about race times or PR’s or brag about that time five years ago when you won a year’s supply of bacon in that local race. Your fellow group runners don’t care if your PR is slower or faster than theirs. If you can run together comfortably, that’s good enough.
Talk about the things normal people talk about. What do you do for a living? What are you training for? What are your non-running hobbies? Books? Movies? THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS THAT DON’T MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE A TOTAL A-HOLE.
So basically, use some common sense and just have fun. There are lots of things you CAN do on a group run. You can run. You can talk. You can listen. You can get to know new people and new running routes, and hopefully you’ll end up with some new friends as well!
Have you ever failed at a group run? What other ways do people at group runs drive you crazy?