Running with Friends: How to Handle a Difference in Pace

Two friends
She’s your best buddy, but is she your best training partner? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s no secret that we here at Salty Running love running.  It’s our outlet, our stress reliever and our passion.  We have dedicated ourselves to balancing our love of running with our careers, family life and relationships, which can be a big challenge. So, when we find that one  friend who shares our same love of running,  it just becomes more meaningful.  Running with friends offer many advantages, and here are just a few:

  • Motivation for getting out of bed to run in the dark or bad weather.
  • No judgement when discussing all those tmi issues.
  • Someone who understands why you’d rather spend hundreds on race registrations and travel instead of a pair of designer shoes.

Running friendships are a wonderful thing, and if you decide to train together, the training cycle can be that much easier and fun.  But what if you’re faster or she’s faster? What if you find yourself holding back or struggling to keep up? What if you want to ramp up the training to get faster, but she doesn’t? How do you handle this?

Have a Discussion:  Probably the best, no-nonsense, yet most difficult way to approach the subject is to discuss it honestly with her.  Humans have a tendency to want to avoid confrontation or challenging conversations; however, discussing your thoughts leaves no room for faulty assumptions or misconceptions.  Talk to her and see what she thinks.  Most runners will understand if you’re feeling great and want to test yourself by picking up the pace to try for that new PR.  The outcome may be unpredictable, but at least you will know where you stand.  From there, you can decide how best to address a faster race vs. your friendship.

Offer to Pace:  You could offer to help pace her for her tempo runs or a race here and there if your easy pace is a lot faster than hers. Likewise, you could run easy with her on your recovery days. Of course, if the roles are reversed ask her to do these things for you!

Run Together but at Different Paces:  Hit the track together for workouts. You can warm-up and cool-down together, but do your respective workouts. Go in opposite directions around the track and slap high fives or give a thumbs up to your buddy’s awesome effort. Another good way to run together at different paces is hit the gym together. Pick two side-by-side treadmills and chat away while running whatever pace you respectively want!

Run and Understand:  I have a dear friend from home that I love to run with.  There’s no other way for me to say this, but she is slower than me.  When we run together, I enjoy our conversation, and the miles go by so quickly. When we make plans to run together, I know that the pace will be a little slower than my usual easy pace, but that’s fine. Our schedules don’t sync up very easily, so I value any time I can spend with her. Some things in my life are more important than pace.  I will re-adjust another run during the week, or just go with it.

Changing the pace on a friend can be a difficult thing, and it may not be as easy as I’ve tried to present it here.  I’ve been faced with the issue, but fortunately, the outcome has been positive. When I was faced with this same predicament, I remember my mom’s advice from a long time ago:  a true friend will respect you and support you as long as you’re honest, loyal, caring and fun; just remember, it goes both ways.  I’m 110% sure she wasn’t thinking of running when she gave me this advice, but it certainly did in my case.

Have you ever experienced training with a dear friend, but your paces didn’t mesh? Have you ever balked at running with a friend who is faster or slower than you?  How did you handle it? 

Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

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  1. Great topic Vanilla. I feel like I lost a whole crew of friends when I decided to go from my unfocused ultra running to speedy marathons. I’m looking forward to seeing that crew more while I work to get back in shape! Once I can run more than 30 minutes again ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Good post about a tough topic! I’ve been on both sides of this and it can be hard, but I agree that having a conversation is the best place to start. You can always run with that person on easier or harder days, depending on where the shoe falls. But communication is key no matter what!