On running buddies

Running friends are invaluable. When I first started running, sometimes the only reason I would even get out there would be because it’d be rude to cancel on the friend waiting for me. I knew this about myself so I was constantly begging people to run with me to keep me on track.

Somewhere along the way I’ve learned to get out there and go, even if it means running alone. I think training for the marathon is what did it – I have this goal to work toward, a goal that at one point seemed impossible (and on some days, still does!) and I know there’s no way I’ll make it without the practice. Ronnie moved to California (soooo thrilled he’s back now!) and so I lost my old running buddy. Then Kevin and Chris got hurt at the Blue Ridge Relay, so I lost their company on the sidewalk/asphalt/trails.

So, I’ve been running alone. And in some ways, I prefer it –

= I can take that extra bathroom break before lacing up my sneakers to ensure a comfortable run, without worrying if I’m running late to meet someone.

= Along those lines, if I want one more cup of coffee before I get off my lazy butt, I can do that. If that means running in the 1 p.m. heat of the day because I put off the run, well, I’m the only one who has to suffer.

= I take fewer walk breaks when running alone. And not because my running friends take lots of breaks – quite the opposite, oddly. If I’m running alone, if I feel I need a break I can slow down without actually stopping the run, and I can speed up when I feel good. If I’m with a buddy, I’m usually trying to pace with them, and while it doesn’t *feel* like I’m running too fast – I wonder if I am because I feel like I need more breaks when that happens. I psyche myself out with a friend, thinking, “I can’t take a walk break or else I’ll hold them up. No walk breaks … walk breaks … I need a walk break … “

That said, there are many reasons why having someone to run with is better than running alone:

= You know someone is counting on you to be there.

= On race day, you won’t be running alone, whether you like it or not. It’s good to have practice.

= When you’re running past a crazy man in a bathrobe screaming at you from the street corner well-known for drug deals and prostitution, it sucks being alone (yes, that was me this past weekend. And this was on a marked path with mile markers and everything.)

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So, we have established running buddies can be good, and at times inevitable. But things can get a tad tricky. Crystal mentioned this week that when she was running with someone who took shorter strides than she does, she ended up with calf pain at the end of the run. She felt bad just leaving her partner behind, though.

= Do you stay together every step of the way or is it acceptable to run faster or slower and catch up at the end?

= If the answer is stay together, how do you improve if your running friend is slower than you? (this is not something I need to worry about; I’m the slow one of the bunch. But I am curious.)

= Does the answer change if one person needs walk breaks/bathroom breaks/ water breaks? Does it change if the area of town is questionable and safety is an issue? Does it change if it’s a race?

= What’s the most annoying thing a running friend has done? I want to know so I don’t do this.

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I will say I certainly wish I was not alone the day I encountered a huge copperhead on the running trail. The two times I’ve needed a bathroom break while running I’ll say I prefered the time I was alone – it sucked having to ask Chris to wait for me, knowing I was messing up his run as well. Oh, and my dogs make excellent running buddies – but I don’t like running on streets with no sidewalks with them. It’s hard enough keeping me from getting hit by a car. I also haven’t been running with them during marathon training – I figure, since they won’t be there on race day to pull me along, I need to get used to doing this without them. I miss them terribly, though!

What do you like about running alone? Running with friends?