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How to Run with Friends Photo by Dave Clock.

How to Run with Friends

Strategies for running with a faster or slower friend.

David Roche May 1st, 2017

What are strategies for running with a faster or slower friend and still getting a good workout?
—Robyn Reed, Minneapolis, MN

There are few relationships as meaningful as running partner, besides possibly life partner or donut vendor. A running partner is there for you during good times and bad times (a lot like donuts). But, similar to a long-term relationship with donuts, the running-partner relationship has potential downsides. What if the two partners are at different fitness or fatigue levels on any given day?

Being a good running partner takes work, just like being a good life partner. Over the course of the last seven years, my wife, Megan, and I have developed three rules that we communicate to everyone we coach.

First, set your goals and intentions for the run prior to starting. Hammering your partner without warning is not a good way to keep a partner. So if one partner is faster, do workouts separately, and warm-ups, easy recoveries and cool-downs together. Meanwhile, if the intention is an easy or recovery run, neither partner should feel pressure to hang on to the other. Find a mutually agreeable effort level, erring on the side of easy.

Second, the person who would be slower in a race should lead all uphills and singletrack trails. There is little worse in a running partner relationship than working your butt off when the other person is effortlessly floating up the trail in front of you. If the slower person leads all the tough and narrow sections, he or she can run without getting shredded by pace increases that might not be clear to the faster runner.

Third, talk about individual running styles and gender differences before heading out the door. Some runners like to run harder than others, and both partners need to adapt if their baseline exertion levels are different. Early in our relationship, I was the turtle, and Megan was the hare. We decided that for us to run together, I needed to get my rabbit on. Similarly, by understanding gender differences, we knew that Megan was the better runner, even if I was a bit faster head-to-head. This allowed us to take our egos out of the way.

Setting intentions and talking about running styles can help you maximize your compatibility. And if you’re anything like Megan and me, talking about it early can even help you find a running partner for life. 

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5 Comments on "How to Run with Friends"

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Kyle
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I need a prequel to this article. What are the strategies for finding a running partner?

Sandy
Guest

If your neighborhood uses the Nextdoor app you can find someone who lives close by and do an easy “test” run locally to assess pace,
compatibility, running goals etc before heading onto the trails.

LMM
Guest
I think these are useful tips; but I would find it to be a big buzz kill and/or socially awkward to have such a serious conversations with your new running partners. You might find yourself without a partner! Also, this advice probably doesn’t work for joining a running group, which already has its established rules. In my group, we allow the faster runners to take the lead uphill so that their workout isn’t compromised by being stuck behind the slow people. The speedy ones will double back for the slower runners. In another one of my groups, the speedsters stop… Read more »
tricia
Guest

That’s OK but I had to quit running with 1 group because the faster runners would wait at intersections but as soon as I arrived, they took off again. I never got a break the entire time and dropped further behind.

Rebecca
Guest

My husband and I found a mountain where we could work out two routes to the top – a long one for him, shorter one for me. We’d race each other to the top then run down together. 🙂 Really good workouts when you’re both competitive. When biking, he’ll take tangent routes up and down a hill, then try to catch up with me.

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