A few weeks ago, I did my 18-miler with a running friend I had never actually ran with alone. As I mentioned when I wrote about the run, we turned out to be great running partners. This got me thinking about what exactly makes a good running partner, or more specifically, a compatible running partner. The phenomenon makes me laugh, because it’s almost like going on a date. I don’t really “go on dates” often with people I just met, but the concerns and questions that float through one’s mind must be similar to running with someone new:
Will he/she like the course I mapped?
Will he/she be mad that there are so many hills?
Will I get nervous to pick up the pace, and run slower than I would like?
Will I feel too slow, and run faster than I would like?
Will we run out of things to talk about?
How am I supposed to find things to talk about for that long?!
There’s nowhere to escape if I want to.
So many questions! There’s no use in thinking about them before the run either, because the only way to find out if it’s going to be okay is to actually start the run. Some people run exclusively by themselves because they don’t want to deal with any of the awkwardness and incompatibility that may go along with running with a partner. Others try to find running buddies as often as possible. To each their own. I’d say I’m somewhere in between. I definitely appreciate the time to think and do my own thing that a solo run provides. It’s also nice to not feel like a run needs to be scheduled or a route needs to be planned. At the same time, sometimes I really like scheduling a date and time to run with someone else, because it gives structure to the entire day, and also makes it easy to commit to a morning run. I also enjoy chatting for most of the run; I’ve had some really good conversations as well as come to some profound conclusions and ideas while talking to running partners. Group runs (upwards of four or five people) are a breed of their own – they usually fly by and almost all of the above questions are inapplicable. You can drop back, you can go ahead, you can be silent, you can say whatever random things you want. No one notices as much. Kind of like hanging out with a large group of friends. As far as pace is concerned, I find that I usually run faster my myself, unless I’m doing an organized workout like a tempo or intervals…then I’ll hang with whoever I’m running with as best as possible, or go ahead if I feel up to it.
After having ran with so many different people over my years as a runner, here is my proposed model for the Ideal, Compatible Running Partner (I’m talking one-on-one):
The Ideal, Compatible Running Partner…
1.) causes you to not look at your watch for several miles at a time,
2.) doesn’t make you answer questions that are along the lines of, so, what is your career plan for the rest of your life? At least, that’s how you interpret those kinds of questions,
3.) doesn’t judge you if you mention you stayed up (or out) late the night before,
4.) doesn’t follow you into the bathroom if you say you need to stop to go and have conveniently found a real bathroom,
5.) respects your choices in training, if that subject comes up,
6.) makes silences not feel awkward or need to be justified,
7.) doesn’t make you ask yourself all of the above questions mid-run,
8.) appreciates a good story, and yes, thinks all your stories told while running are actually good,
9.) makes you glad you didn’t run alone!