5 Ways to Fail at a Group Run

fri5While 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

IMG_0038Just 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 

That's me in the back (green coat) with the MIT group on Saturday. An icy but energizing 7-miler. 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?

I'm a proud resident of Portlandia, ex-running store employee, pulmonary emboli conquerer and connoisseur of high fives. I write about running community, trail running/training and anything else that grabs my immediate interest. I'm currently running for fun with my crazy friends - no races on the horizon YET.

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  1. Ok…whenever I go to a group run, I always wind up running by myself and it makes me sad! I don’t think I do any of these things! What’s the etiquette? If you come up on a smaller group, can you just latch on and start listening? Or is that weird. I feel like it might be – I always assume those people already know each other and it would be awkward to join in. GAH I HATE BEING SHY.

    1. The groups that I run with are always so much faster than me!! So I made it my goal early on to not care what others are doing and to just run my own pace 🙂 Better to be uninjured than to push past what I’m capable of. And good music always helps too!

      Most people won’t mind if you end up tagging along with their group (I do it on occasion). Runners are so friendly that you’ll be making friends in no time and that’s probably how most of those groups started to “know” each other.

    2. If you figure it out please let me know 🙂 Honestly I think said potential for awkwardness/feelings of social rejection is the reason behind a lot of the behaviors oregano describes.

      1. Oh, my…it’s just so difficult. Running alone seems way less stressful! (Says the firmly-established introvert.)

  2. For the first 10 years of my running life I was a solo runner. When I did run with someone I wore my headphones so I didn’t have to talk.
    However 2 years ago I was in a rut of sorts and thought I needed to change things up a bit so I joined a social media based running group called MRTT.
    I have met scads of people – all are nice but some are a better fit for me.
    When I meet a newbie I have several general questions I ask such as where are they from, what do they do, where they went to school, family?
    I know they are a keeper if those questions take us through 5 miles

  3. I’ve started running with a fast group of gals. The first couple of workouts I just kept my head down and got the work done. Once I started to get to know people, the group runs quickly turned into a social highlight of the week!

  4. I always start by talking about running, because I don’t really know where else to. I guess that might explain why all the people I have run with have decided not to run with me ever again. 🙁 I guess I am a jerk… 😛 Guess it’s solo runs for me haha. I hate being an awkward introvert sometimes.