5 Tips for Running a Race with a Non-Runner

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It’s inevitable, a friend or family member is going to want to be included in some of your races. There you will be, minding your own business, your training plan syncing up with your planned races for the next six months and then -boom -a sincere, “I want to run a race with you” or “we should run a race” and probably a specific local race is suggested.

There are different schools of thought on if this is awesome or awful. Those thoughts can usually be summed up by how competitive the runner is and what type of shape the non-runner is in.  Some runners may be elated by the interest of loved ones in something they love so much. Others could be equally as excited for the opportunity to possibly convert a non-runner to runner. And then there are just some people who do not want to share their hobby, alone time or whatever running has become for them. For those the suggestion of running together can seem like an invasion or an inconvenience.

There can be a time for those wanting to keep their running life and non-running life separate for the crossing of those two lives to be fun. It just takes a few things to ensure an entertaining time for all.

Choose the Race Wisely

If fun or a noncompetitive vibe is going to happen, the race chosen is important. The flattest and fastest course you run each year is not the ideal race. Target a holiday race, a run where you have to chug a few beers in between each mile, or a race with a hilly course that is never going to be a PR. These are going to be the best options. Sounds a bit nuts but there is logic behind it.  A holiday race is a given blow-off race since the majority of participants are there with family members, the whole crew clad in matching shirts. And the beer run, hilly course and any congested race all set up the pace and goal to be relaxed.  If you are not aiming to perform your best,  it’ll allow others you are running with to not feel pressured to keep up with you or push themselves too hard. After all, they wanted to run this with you because they always hear about how much fun running and races are and these types of races are the most fun because the participants are there for that simple fact.

Have a Game Plan

Get on the same page starting with training. Are you training together, once a week, or not at all? Next thing to consider is how you are going to manage together through the race. Are you going to run the whole race together no matter what? Are you finishing together or is it ok for someone to turn it on in the chute? Is the goal to have fun or finish with a certain time? Syncing up expectations on all fronts is important. You don’t want to agree to run a race and have to edit your training schedule for other races you want to run.


In this day and age your time is posted on the internet forever or so the meme says. Un-chipping may be a good idea to ensure any competitive tendencies are at a minimum. Sometimes simply knowing you are really just out running for the sheer fun of it can alleviate any stress a normal race day situation may impose. Take it a step further and, based on your mutual goal, maybe everyone leaves their watch at home. Most times it’s only the competitive runner in us that cares about splits or finish time anyways.  Take the opportunity to just be out in the atmosphere of a race without the jitters.

Do Things You Normally Wouldn’t

Are you usually so focused you don’t take a pre-race photo? Take one.  Running a fun race that has photo ops throughout? Carry your phone with you and take a ton. Usually avoid wearing certain items because they get in the way? Don that goofy turkey hat for once! Always wearing your lucky *insert your item here*? Leave it at home. There is a freedom to focus the day on who you are running with and why you’re running together instead of the normal race day goals. Always wanted to jump, do a cartwheel, or something equally nutty across the finish line? Do it! Well, maybe not the cartwheel. (You might take out another runner in the process.) But looking for new fun things could surprise you and may benefit your other races. Coming from someone who has really boring, determined looking race photos, doing something especially funny or fun for race photographers could be a great change of pace.  Pun definitely intended.

Start a Tradition

Let’s assume that after the initial race, you have been converted and are ok with running a race with your non-runners. Make that specific race a tradition. It allows you to look forward to it and won’t interrupt any training if you know it’s around the bend. Or if the same race every year is not an option, maybe eating BBQ after or going Karaoke later that night becomes the tradition. Or if something outrageous happens, try and recreate it every year from that point forward. Take the same picture every year. The possibilities are endless.

While some runners are fiercely protective of their sport and there is a separation between it and their real life, sharing the joy we get out of running is important. It allows those in our life to gain a small glimpse into the dedication and love we have for something that can sometimes seem a little crazy.