Considering a Running Buddy? Ask Yourself First
Whether you are new to running and looking for that initial push or you are training for your fourth marathon and need some variety in your routine, finding a buddy to keep you accountable can be a great solution. Just like any healthy relationship, a strong running commitment requires at least some forethought. So, before you jump into a running partnership, there are a few questions you and your prospective partner should ask.
Do we have compatible goals?
Goals are an intricate aspect of running. Some goals are more tangible, like training to finish your first 5k or marathon. Others, like running to reduce stress, are less easily monitored and evaluated. One way or another, everyone runs with a purpose. In order to stay motivated, you and your partner should have goals that are at least compatible. New runners looking to start building their stamina will not likely do well with runners training for a sub 4 hour marathon. Even runners who have picked up the activity as a healthy hobby will not be particularly successful with anyone seeking a more apparent end goal.
So, ask your prospective pal what they are looking to accomplish in your shared lifestyle. Consider this on a long-term scale as well as a short-term one. It would be rude, of course, to ditch someone just as you are about to set off on the trail. However, it is important to know where your partner stands on a run-to-run basis. If your long-term goals are compatible but your weekly running goals are not, it could very well be time to reevaluate your buddy status. Asking about the compatibility of your goals is a healthy way to start a running relationship, and communication about how your goals are evolving is necessary to keep it that way.
Can we keep the same pace?
Pacing is an essential aspect of training and working toward running goals. Therefore, it follows to check in with your new buddy about pacing. Will you be able to keep up with each other? If it turns out that one of you would rather move a little slower, what is the expected course of action? Some buddies are fine parting ways during their run to allow for different pacing strategies.
Of course, strategies can change from one partner to the next. I have had running buddies who would outpace me on a shorter run, pushing me to my speed limits. I have also had partners who could last for miles at a slower rate, stretching my endurance. Our natural pacing differed, but we worked well enough together to communicate our differences and allow them to help us grow. Other pairs prefer to stick together no matter what. Decide what kind of partner you need, and ask your mate what they are looking for. If your pacing needs align, give it a shot. A perfect match or a perfect motivator, when you know the type you both need, you will know how to make it work.
Are our social running styles similar?
To me, this is the most important question to ask of a running buddy. Some social runners like to talk. Some need a bit of competition. Yet others do best with more positive encouragement. Whatever your style, make sure you and your buddy are on the same page here. I am not a very competitive person; my best friend is. Although I never feel the need to run better with her, she finds it very motivating to run with another person. Another running buddy of mine is a talker. He can gab all the way through a 5K, no sweat. I find this soothing during a more difficult workout. All his talk keeps my mind on something other than how sore I am starting to feel. However, we have a mutual friend who could not stand the constant stories he offers every mile on the trail. Needless to say, they do not run together anymore. Ask your partner beforehand what they expect from a social running experience.
How might this commitment affect our relationship outside of the run?
There are plenty of online options for finding running pals. But often your potential partner is a friend, coworker, or even a friend of a friend. So, it is important to pay respect to what your relationship is before training together. Running usually brings people together in a positive way. You feel better about yourself when you get the exercise you need, and this person has helped you to do that. Why wouldn’t you feel amicable toward them?
There is always the slight chance that a little extra “sweaty time” with someone will hinder your non-running relationship. Typically, you will be able to tell from the answers to the first questions whether this will be an issue or not. However, it never hurts to be clear and open with your new mate about what might happen if this new partnership does not work out as planned. Remember that you can always find someone else to run with; let life outside of training be your priority in this case.
Running with a friend can be a great way to start on the right foot, stay motivated, and have variety in your training. All of these questions can be asked point blank, but some can also be answered after a trial run. Get together with different partners. Know yourself as a runner and a supportive comrade, and then find what kind of person works best for you.