Run Social: Running Buddy Etiquette
Social running can improve accountability, motivation, and facilitate training. Literally any runner could benefit from training with a partner. You are more likely to run faster, more often, and with more ease merely from that person’s presence alone. So as you hear more and more stories about the benefits of group running,  you’ll probably want to jump the gun and run off into the sunset with the first person you see! But before you do, there is a bit of etiquette to consider with your partner if you want to maintain a healthy running relationship.
“I like running. I love my friends. Of course I’d love running with my friends, right?”
This is a common misconception that can be cleared up by asking yourself (and your prospective running buddy) a handful of simple questions before you set out for training. First, weigh out the advantages of social running versus solo running. Then, review these four simple considerations about what it takes to run with a buddy. By coming to consensus on pace, social style, running goals, and your overall relationship you can proceed with caution toward your mutual training plan.
Perhaps you might realize you’re better off finding your running partner through a public running club online  rather than choosing a friend. Even if you don’t run with your B.F.F. joining a running group can make you a better runner.
Now that you have made a smart decision about who to run with, here is an etiquette guide that will keep that running relationship happy and healthy:
Don’t: talk the whole time. no one likes a conversation hog. Let the conversation flow naturally, keeping in mind that there will be more gaps in conversation as you both become more winded.
Do: make it easy for your partner to take a break from conversation. Exercise releases neurochemicals that can impact mood. Your partner may want to take the time to meditate. If you don’t know what mood your partner is in, simply ask.
Don’t: be over-encouraging, it can be condescending. It’s great to feel good and to encourage your running buddy to keep it up. But don’t over-do it. If your friend is falling behind, your positive affirmations might make him or her self-conscious. Stick with a healthy dose of encouragement and err away from too much becoming the coach or the groupee.
Do: listen to music if you want, but ASK your partner first. It’s totally fine to listen to music, just be sure to tell your partner so they can bring theirs too.
Don’t: wear headphones in both ears. You enter an isolation chamber by putting both headphones in your ears while you run. If you and your buddy agree to listen to music, be sure you always practice safety by keeping one earphone out. This will keep you aware of your surroundings and open you to light conversation with your partner.
Do: take turns on choosing the route. One of the perks of running with a partner is that you can let them lead occasionally and let your mind wander. You and your partner can also encourage each other to try new running challenges in your routes: trail runs, hills, city streets, you name it! There is a lot of new territory you can cover if you let your partner lead from time to time.
Don’t: choose a route that is too hard for your partner. This may be tough to get a sense for at first, but eventually you will get familiar with your partner’s difficulty level. If you learn that your partner struggles with a particular type of terrain, be consider when selecting a trail. If you must choose that exceptionally tough route, come up with a game plan beforehand: a meet up spot, an extra loop for the more advanced runner, etc.
Don’t: choose a route that will make your partner feel unsafe. You wouldn’t want to be uncomfortable so try not to inflict that on your buddy. Just because you feel safe in a particular neighborhood doesn’t mean it feels the same to your partner. Talk about it.
Don’t: sprint ahead. Running with a buddy is all about being together, you aren’t competing. If you want to charge ahead and run alone, plan additional time on the backend of your run to squeeze that in. For a social run, be receptive to your partner’s pace and try to meet in the middle.
Do: ask for a walking break if you need it. Not everyone is the fastest in the pack, nor do we all have the endurance of an elite athlete. If you’re feeling overly winded and especially if you feel any pain (side stitches, shin splints, plantar faciitis anyone?) speak up! The worst thing you can do for an injury is to ignore it. Listen to your body and make sure your partner is listening to what your body is telling you also (hint: they can only do that if you communicate to them). At worst, split up if you need to stop and they want to push ahead. It’s not worth long-term injuries.
Do: communicate to your buddy if you are trying to push yourself to improve pace. Speed training requires a work and preparation. As you train, you will use different methods for increasing speed and your partner needs to be on the same page about running pace. As you speed-train, you will gradually become a faster runner than your buddy. This brings us back to the first considerations: discuss your pace with your partner so you can evaluate if you still make a good running pair.
Do: communicate if you are training up for a race. You may develop training goals gradually as you increase running frequency or you may have set your goals right out of the gate. Regardless, it is important to communicate those goals to your buddy as soon as you recognize them.
Do: take rain checks (and ask for them) when they are needed. This goes back to the very important point that you need to listen to your body. If you need a break, ask for it. It is not worth the risk of injury. You listen to your own body, your buddy can’t so you need to communicate to them when it tells you it’s time for a day off.
This checklist of dos and don’ts will help you to find your running buddy match! But don’t forget: like any healthy relationship, your running buddy relationship needs maintenance. Remember to return to this list time and time again to check your etiquette and run with respect.
- Robbins, L. (2009, June 25). The Benefits of Group Running. New York Times. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/25/the-benefits-of-group-running/
- Belopotosky, D. (2009, May 29). Marathon Tech Review: Finding a Runners Group Online. New York Times. Retrieved from https://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/marathon-tech-review-finding-a-runners-group-online/
- The Neuroscience of Running. (2008). CogNeuro. Retrieved from http://prefrontal.org/blog/2008/09/the-neuroscience-of-running/