Don’t Fear The Running Buddy (Plus A Giveaway!)

Date: August 31, 2011 at 8:44 am- by Ali- Comment(s): 53

I talk to runners all the time who are “afraid” of running with other people.

And you see, I can relate: I used to be one of those runners.

When I started running in 2008, I lived with a runner. Her name: Meghan. She had run several half marathons at the time and you would think I would have been all, “Hey Meghan, let’s run together so I can learn from you and gain infinite running wisdom!”

Instead, Meghan and I never ran together.

We drank a lot together and ordered late-night pizza often.

Me and Meghan, with a giant box of pizza for two. Normal.

Sometimes we would play Drunk Jenga, too. (I wasn’t very good and liked to knock all the pieces on the ground for fun.)

But running together? Never. It wasn’t my thing. And I don’t think it was hers, either. Though maybe I pushed her away? I’m still not totally sure.

Sometimes we would leave the apartment for a run at the same time, but we’d both put on headphones and go at our own pace. We’d have little dance parties when we would cross paths, but running was a solo activity for each of us.

I still think one of the reasons I gravitate toward running is because it’s an independent sport.

Thumbs up for running alone!

I was always that girl in group projects at school who would beg to do the whole thing alone and would gladly just put everyone else’s name on the project at the end.

Yup. Ali the A-hole.

Fine with it.

I like to run the show (ha, punny, because I said run) and I like to take charge and yes, I’m a complete control freak.

I love running because I get to control my pace. I get to decide how far I want to run (well, actually Coach Cane decides that — today it was six miles on the Bridle Path) and I get to choose where I’ll go.

I never wanted to run with anyone else because I was scared.

I was scared I’d be too slow. I didn’t want to hold a fellow runner back from hitting his or her goals, whether they were speed- or distance-related.

I was scared I’d have to stop and use a bathroom. Embarrassing? Sure. (But not really. More on that later.)

I was scared I wouldn’t be able to talk and run. I was definitely scared to give up my crutch of listening to music while running. And was running with a friend with my headphones in considered rude? I didn’t know. Buddy running etiquette was so not my thing.

In fact, I convinced my family members to sign up for a Turkey Trot this past Thanksgiving. We dressed as pilgrims and Indians and I had this image in my head of us all crossing the finish line together, looking very fancy.

I'm on the left, my cousin is on the right, and we are not related to the turkey in the middle.

But when the little man yelled “Go!” (there was definitely no gun or blow-horn or anything at this local Pennsylvania race), I took off without my family. I think my cousin is still a little peeved about it since I promised her we’d run together. But I got nervous and went at it alone.

Eventually, though, I sucked it up and got over my fears.

A few months ago, I went running with my friend Katie, who has run roughly 612 marathons (or something) and is super speedy.

Me and Katie

Katie and I ran about six miles together that day. I tried to run fast, because I didn’t want to hold her back, and as a result I could barely muster enough energy to carry on a conversation during our casual run.

I also had a little stomach drama and we had to re-route ourselves to swing through a Starbucks, where she patiently waited while I did my thing. You know.

Since that day, I’ve grown to love running with friends.

Having running buddies I’m comfortable with has helped immensely during my marathon training, both on shorter, slow runs and the long ones.

My best training run was my 15.5 miler. I ran it with Kelly, Lindsay and Megan and the miles seriously flew by.

From left: Megan, me, Lindsay and Kelly. Sweaty and color-coordinated.

I know you’re thinking, “OK, fine, Ali likes running with friends now. So? I still don’t and I’m still afraid.”

Snap out of it! And allow me to share with you a few tips and bits of reassurance so that you, too, can take advantage of the buddy system.

Don’t fear speedy runners. The first time Megan suggested running together, I was terrified. She’s been known to win races on mountains and stuff, so why would she want to run with me, a beginner who throws down 8:30s on a good day?

Me and Megan — our first run!

Well, Megan doesn’t always bang out 7-minute miles. Turns out, she does some of her runs closer to a 9:00 pace. Perfect! When Megan and I ran together the first time, I knew she was faster than me, and that scared me, but I also knew that it would be a good push for me. We certainly didn’t do any speedwork together that day, but we did enjoy a leisurely run together.

Run with people you like. This seems obvious, yes? Pick a running buddy like you pick your friends.

You’ll be more excited to meet people at 6 am if they’re people you enjoy chatting with and getting to know. I’ve learned more about Kelly, for example, during our morning runs than I’ve learned about many of my other friends during nights out at a bar.

Running with friends is a great way to get to know them — and it’s cheaper than a box of wine!

Boxed wine is delicious and you know it.

Most runners like water stops. During that 15-miler, I was a little nervous about asking my speedy friends to stop for water. But when I suggested taking a time-out at an approaching water fountain, Lindsay (I think) said, “I’ll never argue with a water stop.” Bueno! So don’t worry about needing to stop for water. Chances are, your running buddies are parched, too.

Everyone has had a bathroom emergency. It’s not fun, it’s not pretty, but it happens. I’ll never forget my visit to Charlotte in May, which came right at the start of a bad Crohn’s flare-up. I was down seeing my best friend, Becky, and her fiance agreed to let me tag along with his hardcore running group for a 12-mile run.

John and me in Charlotte

Naturally my stomach went nuts around mile 1.5 and again at mile 5. I desperately needed a bathroom, and John was kind enough to point me in the right direction and wait for me so I didn’t get lost running on my own.

You can’t necessarily expect your running friend to wait while you do your business, but you can plan a way to meet back up later in the run (like Kelly and I did this morning when my whorish stomach decided it wanted to have a dance party mid-run). Don’t be embarrassed if you need to bolt for the bathroom. We’ve all been there. We all understand. It’s a runner thing.

Run with positive, encouraging friends, not competitive ones. Use your running buddies to motivate you. Don’t be discouraged if you’re slower and don’t get nasty if you’re faster. Instead, build off each others’ strengths and weaknesses so you can both become better runners and enjoy the process together.

Emily = great running friend. Also, she is an Ironman.

Be honest. If you want to speed up, tell your friend. If you need to slow down, tell your friend. Even if you choose to run with friends, running is still an individual sport. Don’t let someone else hinder your progress. Just be open and explain that you need to either go faster or you need to back off. No one is going to judge you.

Ease into it. Don’t necessarily make your first run one with 10 other humans. Try it out first with a buddy you’re comfortable with, then go from there.

It’s OK if you just don’t like running with friends. Yes, it can be fun. Yes, it can make those miles more enjoyable. But some people simply like doing their own thing, and in my mind there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

So those are my tips. Nothing scientific. Nothing crazy. Just don’t be afraid and be really honest with the people you’re running with.

Chances are, if a friend is going out to do speedwork or some crazy run involving hurdles and cow tipping, she may not want company anyway. You never know though.

So how about a giveaway?!

I was so excited when my fabulously talented friend Erica Sara approached me about doing a jewelry giveaway.

Her designs are gorgeous (check them out here — I especially love all of her earrings), so I was even more pumped when she said she would custom-design a necklace for one lucky Ali On The Run reader!

Who DOESN'T love sweat?

On one side of the necklace, she engraved “I Heart Sweat” because, really, don’t we all?

The winner will get to choose what gets engraved on the other side — your name, your nickname, your secret lover’s initials, your half marathon PR time, etc. You’ll get to work with Erica Sara to pick what you want it to say and help choose the font and design. You can also add stones and jewels and all that jazz.

Can I please win this?

If jewels are your thing, go to town!

Instead of just doing a regular giveaway, we came up with the idea to use this as a chance to raise some money for a great cause as well.

This necklace normally sells for $128, but Erica Sara is willing to crack a better deal than that.

As you all surely know by now, I’m training for the Hamptons Marathon while raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.

So here’s the deal: Click here and donate $5 to my cause.

  • A $5 donation gets you one entry to win the necklace
  • A $10 donation gets you two entries
  • A $20 donation gets you five entries
  • A $50 donation gets you 20 entries!
  • A $100 donation = 100 entries!

I will choose a winner at random next Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 12 pm. You don’t have to leave a comment telling me what you donated or giving me an anecdote, and you don’t have to follow me on Twitter or anything like that. A good deed gets you an entry (or 20).

Good luck!

AND TELL ME: Are you a fan of the buddy running system? Yes, no, maybe? Why? Why not? Why don’t you want to run with me? WTF?

53 Responses to "Don’t Fear The Running Buddy (Plus A Giveaway!)"

I couldn’t agree more with this post! You know I used to fear running with groups for many of the same reasons. I’d also add that running behind the pack is okay too. Sometimes seeing those people a few paces ahead is all the motivation I need to keep running on a bad day!

I started running because of buddies – my sister & my best friend! Sadly they don’t live anywhere near me, but we do plan races together. I’d love to run with more buddies now, but I usually fit in my run whenever I have free time and don’t do a great job of planning it in advance. Love the necklace!

Awesome post Ali! Love all of your tips because I too was so afraid to run with others, but now, it’s a great way to change it up, and I honestly prefer to run with others than alone these days. It keeps me motivated. that’s a huge one for me. I LOVE this giveaway!! I will surely donate of course!!!

i am a solo runner for most of the reasons you were…fear of being too fast/slow – fear of having a colitis attack… my runs are usually so speed/time specific that i am pretty sure i would drive a running buddy mad with the fast/slow/stopping all the time! maybe one day i will be able to make the transition to running with a group; it looks like you have so much fun!

marathon winer says: August 31, 2011 at 9:02 am

i used to be scared to death to run with others, for basically all of the reasons you listed. but when i moved to ny and decided to sign up for a marathon, i needed extra motivation to get moving on morning runs…and having a friend waiting is the best way to do that! so i–scared to death as i was–actually checked out the runnerboards on the nyrr.org web site. and found running buddies! and they are all awesome.
also. this may be the greatest giveaway post i have ever seen, i am IN LOVE with that necklace annnnd i’m pretty sure you just scored $843204803 for chron’s and colitis! way to go!

Great post! I will surely point all my friends who refuse to run with me to this so they can read why running buddies are awesome. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said.
Side note – so sorry about the bad Vanilla GU experience. I think we may have led you astray with our promises of vanilla frosting at mile xx. They say us marathoners are crazy for a reason (kidding…)
Love the necklace – I’ll definitely be donating!

I have only done a training run with a buddy once and I loved it. It motivated me to keep going even when I wanted to stop and it was nice just to have someone else there. Then my training partner got hurt. Hopefully she will heal soon but until then I guess I should.. idk post an ad?! :)

i was waiting for the perfect time to donate! and it just happened! keep it up ali! you are a true inspiration! :)

I love running with friends for long runs, alone for short ones. I actually freak out at the thought of long runs alone… probably not a good thing. In other news, anyone want a long run buddy this weekend?

Dori! Me me me. Shoot me an email ;) let’s do it! I’m around this weekend and definitely need an easy long run. How many miles are you looking at?

Also, loving the necklace. Would NOT mind donating for this (and Crohn’s, of course!).

I don’t know…I think I’m still WAY too slow for a running buddy. I’m not being down on myself there, I’m being realistic, ha. When I get more into it maybe I’ll give it a shot.

You are silly. We have discussed this. I am slower than you. I’ll come to Philly and be your running buddy.

I used to love running with people – I ran on the cross country and track team in high school, and then cross country in college. After the XC team got the funding axe, I fell out of the habit of running in groups and have become a lone wolf (howl…) I really enjoy the quiet “me” time of running, but sometimes I do miss running with a buddy! I have yet to find a good running friend who wants to drive out to the ‘burbs at 5am though ;)

I was always so afraid of running with a group, also, but I had “befriended” a running group on Facebook in town and always read longingly at all their updates and invitations for group runs. One day they had planned an 8 mile run when I had scheduled an 8 mile run, so I just had to toughen up and try it out! I was so amazed! There were girls of all ages, sizes, and abilities, and it turned out to be an awesome run! I started running with several of the girls more regularly and they helped me SO MUCH in my marathon training!!!

I like sharing sweat. Also, I’d like to run with you again.

oooh, I love thist post! And I love running with buddies – especially you! Please tell me if I ever share too much information during our a.m. jaunts… sometimes running + chatting = Kelly spilling her guts. :)

AND, I was just thinking this morning how I haven’t donated to you yet. What a better time than now! Also, that necklace is so perfect!

Enjoyed that… my favorite runs are my long Sunday runs with my Dad. Me = normal 7.5 min. miles, Him = normal 10 min miles. We both get something out of these workouts though… I get long miles at a pace I can’t normally keep myself at and he gets his hard workout for the week!

Honestly, I’d love to find a running buddy for an occasional weekday run. Although I love the “me time” its always “me time” and I think it would make me feel a bit better safety wise so early in the morning, and it would help me avoid the snooze button! But, I have 2 issues:
-pace: I’m slower than the average bear (11ish min miles…I once ran two miles back to back just under 11 so there’s a slight range…but I’m still slow) and don’t know anyone my speed! (Or close…)
-timing: I try to be out the door by 5:10 at the latest (5 is ideal) and back by 6 so I can stretch shower and get going. But, my runner friends (still faster…) Don’t have to get up quite that early.
So I haven’t found anyone to fit those 2 criteria. BUT, if you’re out there, dear Aliontherun reader, and you DO (and you are really a normal reader and not a scary creepo trying to kill me before the sun rises…) lemme know!! (Sorry for the ad on your blog, Ali!)

Firstly, I love your post. I had the opposite running experience. I started running with a friend as a social exercise. I followed her pace and ran with her through most races. I’ve had otherrunning buddies since then. Only in the last few years have I run alone and tested my own “speed.” I think it really just depends on the day for which I prefer although at this point, most runs are alone. (Need run buddies in S.I.)
Second, I love the giveaway. I’m so donating for this!

I did the same thing in high school. Actually, I did it last year, too. For a college Statistics project that was supposed to be the work of five people and worth 20% of the grade. I got us a 100%.

I was president of our school’s running club last year, and I chose not to get involved again because I thought that “I hated running with people.” However, after thinking back to high school cross country, I realize that I loved running with those people. So, you’re right that running with people you like makes a big difference. Alas, none of the runners that I know at my school are people that I like. Maybe I’m just a bitch…

I would run with you, but I don’t even think I’d be speedy enough anymore. What is it about marathon training that makes us lose our speed? Ugh! I was running effortless 8:20 paces in the winter, now my long runs settle around 10:45? !@#$

I wish I could have run with you and the Sweat Squad when I was still in NYC! I was sort of meh on running with buddies in New York. Some would ask to join me, knowing that I was “serious” about my runs (I was in the middle of NYCM training last fall) but would then be peeved when I wouldn’t want to walk part of the planned distance. Here in Houston, I have a running buddy from work who I’m doing a half-marathon with in October (her first, my sixth). We’ve been hitting close to the same pace, so I’m loving our joint runs so far!

Love it! I just donated – and not just because of the allure of a cute piece of jewelry that proclaims my love of sweat. ;-)

I love to run with my husband -he is SUCH an awesome motivator. We have some of our best conversations when we run. Love it.

i’m on the fence about a running buddy, for most of the reasons you mentioned above (i’d be afraid to run with megan too – she’s speedy!!!). but when i do actually run with someone i don’t mind it at all so i should probably do it more often!

“I was always that girl in group projects at school who would beg to do the whole thing alone and would gladly just put everyone else’s name on the project at the end.”

That was SO me. I loved online classes the most because we didn’t have to waste time in groups…lol.

Still kind of a solo runner/gym rat. Partly cause I’m a control freak about my schedule…and partly cause frankly not a lot of my friends are into running or lifting weights. I get racquetball dates with my daddy, though…he kicks my butt!

Are your I love sweat tshirts available at the 86th st. JackRabbit store yet?

Not yet. I will post information as soon as they’re there!

What a great post! I’m returning home to NYC after many months away, and during that time I started running with my sister as my running buddy. We help drag our lazy butts out of bed to run before the sun comes up (it’s hot in Texas!). I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get back to NYC, because NONE of my friends run, and I want to keep training and getting better b/c I LOVE RUNNING! I’m hoping running will help me make some new friends once I’m home in the city, and this post has helped encourage me to do so.

My dad was my first running buddy. He was so great at motivating me to get out and run! Now, I’m definitely afraid of running with other people, mostly because I don’t have any local runner friends. I’m too shy to join a group, so I am a solo runner.

Also, just donated! Love the giveaway!

I’ve never really tried running with someone else. I kind of like being able to zone out to music, but I’d enjoy having a running buddy every once in awhile to keep me motivated. We just moved to a new city so I need to find a runner buddy first. All in good time I guess. :)

I am so afraid to run with other people! I am seriously so slow I feel like they’ll leave me in the dust!. Come to think of it, if they did I would probably encourage them to go, maybe it’s the embarrassment I’m scared of. maybe I’ll go outside my comfort zone and ask a friend to run soon!

I have always hated running with people…I’m so self-conscious! I’m always afraid that I’ll be too slow, or that I’ll feel the pressure to talk to them (I sometimes have a hard time with silence). It’s funny, I love the solitude of running, how it’s a time for me to focus on myself…but what I would LOVE is someone to meet at the start line, we both do what we need to do, then meet at the finish and go get brunch. Oh, and the run would have to be at 5:30AM during the week and on Saturday AM on the weekend. See I’m very picky :) That is my ideal running buddy.

The first person I ever ran with was my sister, and we spent the entire 6 miles laughing. We couldn’t stop cracking up. It was actually a great ab work out as well :) But now that my sis and I don’t live in the same state, it’s hard to find someone who fits the mold I’ve described above. Plus, I don’t want to ask friends, they may have the same fears and say the dreaded word “no”.

Since I started running with a marathon charity team, I started out running with people so it was never something that intimidated me. I now enjoy doing some runs alone and some with friends. We should run together sometime…maybe I can make it up for one of your morning sweat squad runs!

p.s. That necklace is awesome. I would love it.

I run alone for the reasons you described. I would hate to slow another runner down! I do think that when I train to longer distances it would make sense to look for a running partner because it can get so dull running miles and miles on your own. Great giveaway!

I am SO glad you wrote about this as I was just thinking about this. I’ve trained for halfs/full marathons by myself for the past couple of years and have started training with 2 other friends recently. They are doing their first marathon, I am doing my second. I have a set time in mind, they could careless. Which makes it hard because sometimes I want to go faster , but don’t want to make anyone feel bad. It made me feel better reading that it’s okay to not run with anyone. My next race might be solo, and I am okay with that. I heart all of your bathroom fashion pictures! :) Great taste!

Hi! Yay, I got a shout out! Now, we need to run together again– hard to believe we haven’t since that lovely pic was taken! ;)
PS I love your blue pants!
PPS I forgot to tell you that I finally started a blog! Probably ’cause I keep forgetting about it myself! Haha.

I have/had the same running buddy fears and kind of funny that the reason I started running was because of running with my friend, Erika. I found that most runners are positive, encouraging, etc and if we are running a workout or something most people don’t care to do their own thing and then do warm up and cool down together. I’ve found it always works out. I do also like running alone sometimes. Just depends on my mood. Usually goes by faster with friends, though!

LOVE LOVE LOVE the necklace.

Great post! I’ve run with a few people over the years, and sometimes I still even feel like I’m going to slow them down. It’s naturally to be a little nervous. Hope I can run with the sweat squad one of these days. :-)

I love that necklace so much!!

And I also love running buddies. I mean, I enjoy my solo runs too, but it can be really nice to mix it up sometimes. Running with friends can bring the fun back into the run (yes I rhymed!)….and it can also make you a better runner if you consistently run with people who are faster. I know I push myself harder when others are running with me than when I’m running alone. I’m glad you got over your fear because your am sweat squad sounds pretty amazing.

<3 <3 <3

That's all I have to say.

And also – Wednesday, Sept 7, crack 'o dawn. Get ready. Imma come to Central Park for a run. I have been running too many runs solo lately :( I haz lonely.

Running buddies make me happier than words can explain. I love the way the miles tick by when you’re running with a friend. Even better is when you lose track of a mile. So you notice mile 6 and think, “Yay! 6!” and then the next thing you know you’re thinking, “Woohoo! 8!” And you realize that two miles went by without you noticing. That’s my favorite.

I have that teal and white shirt, I think. Banana Outlet?

I love that necklace. Oh so much.

Thanks so much for posting this! I am nervous about running with a buddy for all the reasons you mentioned, but now I want to give it a try. :)

Also thanks to Lauren (above) for directing me to your blog. :)

I’m thankful for your blog because it has given me so many great ideas about running in the city! I just moved here and I’m excited to get started :)

Of course I <3 running buddies, especially you! I love how the conversation flows over miles and miles…speaking of which, let's go for a run sometime soon! :)

And I did this a whiles back, but I donated :) Go Ali!

I keep telling myself to check out a running group/club/whatever, and I never do. Recently I moved for the second time in two years, and once again, one of the first things I did was look for local running groups. Still have yet to check one out! I think it’s the combo of the fear of the unknown (will they like me? will I be too slow?) and also trying to fit it into my schedule. Sometimes it’s easier to run on my own because I can just get home from work whenever I do and go. I don’t have to worry about being in X place at Y time. BUT I would like to meet other runners, if for no other reason than to know people at races that my husband doesn’t want to / can’t run with me.