The DO’s and DON’Ts of Running with Buddies

To keep the running partner mojo going, it’s helpful to keep a few DOs and DON’Ts in mind.

DON’T schedule the run by text message. I have learned this one the hard way, by missing my running partner at a designated meeting place and having to then go the distance alone. By scheduling a set time and place to meet via a live phone conversation, you’ll avoid communication (or lack thereof) mishaps. Technology can have its shortcomings.

DO show up on time. Time is precious, after all, and you will consume enough of your day for running as it is (or so your family may think!). Stay on schedule and be respectful of others’ as well, so you can finish your workout and move onto other adventures. The error for margin in my running group is only 5-10 minutes.

DO find a running partner(s) who is close to your natural pace. Though I aspire to run faster, I know I have my limits. There is a group of women locally who ran track in college, and their pace is around 8:00/mile or faster for long training runs. This is a really strong race pace for me and simply too fast. Even if I could keep up with them, it would take the fun out of running. Likewise, the 11:00/mile crowd is too slow for me and wouldn’t be challenging enough. My advice is to get a handle on a group’s speed before you join them. A lot of larger running clubs will even break folks up according to pace.

DON’T worry if you fall a little behind the pack, especially on the hills. Though it’s nice to run alongside your fellow running partner(s), occasionally, you don’t have the juice. If this is the case, just tell the crew to take off without you. On the other hand, if you fall behind others who pump it up the hills, then try to catch up them going down (often the person in front doesn’t mind having to double back anyway).

DO take part in the conversation. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t converse with others while you’re running, then you’re running too fast. Years ago when I ran with my friend Cam in Charlotte, she intentionally let me do all the talking, so she would think about what I was saying and not about how tired she was. It’s okay if you would rather listen than talk; just make sure your panting isn’t drowning out the conversation. If it is, you may need to slow down (and possibly find another running partner that’s more your speed).

DON’T be intimidated by the unknown. Don’t shy away from running with people you don’t know. You never know who you might meet or what you might learn by running with a group of total strangers. The first time I met up with my running club in Seattle, I didn’t know a soul. After a few months, they became some of my best friends.

DON’T give anyone a hard time for taking a bathroom break. Everyone’s colons and bladders respond differently than others, especially as we tack on the years. If someone else brings toilet tissue along for the run, don’t laugh. Tomorrow, it may be you stalking a bush or tree.

DO let your friends fart. In this highly entertaining post by Beth at Shut Up and Run, she advocates finding a running buddy, even if it requires a breaking in period. Beth met up with fellow bloggers who she hadn’t previously met and compared the experience to a blind date. Of course, a blogging relationship lays the groundwork for pooping and farting, without apologies or embarrassment.

DO appreciate your running buddies. From Cam, to Marcia in Boston to my running club in Seattle to Team Dirty Martini in Boise, I have met some of my best friends on earth through running. And I have certainly gotten to know them better by pounding the pavement side by side, mile by mile, up hills, down hills, crossing the finish line joyously or struggling in pain. Just having them by my side, encouraging me, listening to me whine or challenging me to finish that last ½ mile, makes the running all the more enjoyable and worthwhile. And the friendships all the more special.

DO break up with your running buddy, if things aren’t working out. If you think you are better off running on your own, take advantage of Christine Luff’s tips on how to leave behind your running buddy without really abandoning him/her.

Melinda Hinson