As I talked about last week in Run Like a Girl: How I Started, 2 Blocks At A Time, my first steps towards consistent running and eventually training for my first half-marathon came about because of two girlfriends who convinced me to get off my couch and ease into the world of running.
There they were, three mornings per week, standing at my front door and urging me to join them. At that time, every running step was difficult. My lungs and legs rebelled with every step. But my friends encouraged me to stick with it…and eventually it got easier. It even became fun!
My running partner today is one of my dearest friends. We have struggled up hills together, we have pushed each other through the tough parts and we have cried together.
I’m also thrilled that my 12-year old son has become a consistent running partner. At the end of most runs he says, “Mum, it was so hard to get out of bed, but now I’m so glad I ran!” I know the feeling, bud.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Starting on a running journey should not rely on the presence of a running partner. You’re strong enough to do this on your own. You know you are. There are many days when I run on my own, and truly treasure the time to myself – to think, to be silent.
That being said, there are so many benefits to running with others. I’ve included my priorities, along with some tips on finding a running partner.
(Read more about my Run Like a Girl challenge and follow along and comment on social media using the hashtag #runwithdara.)
There’s no doubt about it – getting out of bed at 5:15am to lace up my running shoes, particularly when the thermometer reads 15 degrees F, is challenging. There are some mornings when I just want to pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep for another hour.
And then I remember that my running partner and friend will be waiting in front of my house in 15 minutes, and I can’t let her down!
It’s this accountability that has kept me running for years, that enabled me to train for a marathon and has helped me stay in shape.
No matter how brightly my headlamp glows first thing in the morning, or how many reflective items of clothing I’m wearing (see Running in Cold Weather: My Tips & Tricks), nothing takes the place of running with multiple people.
First of all, a group of runners, big or small, is more visible to cars than someone running solo. But don’t be fooled…just because there is a platoon of runners, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t deck yourself out in proper reflective gear.
Second, anyone who may be intent on doing you harm along a dark, unlit road will re-think their tactics when they realize that they’ll be taking on more than one kick-butt runner.
When running with others, you’re bound to start chatting about local races and personal goals. It’s easy to get pumped up to train for your first 5k or half-marathon when your running partners are describing the elation of crossing the finish line in their last race.
Let their enthusiasm flow over you…then run straight home and sign up for that race!
Pushing it hard
There will come a time in your running career when you will start mixing up your runs…easy days, hard days, tempo runs, intervals, hill runs, and so on.
When you feel like stopping in the middle of that hill, or you’re convinced that you just couldn’t run one more interval without keeling over, your running partner can light a fire under your butt and get you through your workout. Return the favor and you will both find that you exceed what you ever thought you could do.
If you didn’t have a chance to thumb through your latest copy of Runner’s World magazine, chances are that your running partner did. Share information with each other on the best ways to tackle hills, the newest shoe reviews or the “word on the street” about the latest relay race in town.
For me, this is truly the most rewarding part of running with a partner. Logging miles over weeks and months means that you are spending a lot of hours together. It’s a time to share your daily struggles and triumphs, to brainstorm creative ideas for that project at work and to figure out what may be standing in your way of training for the next race.
Those who sweat together and push together in a supportive manner can build friendships that last a lifetime.
Finding a running partner
The easiest way to find a running group is by asking the staff at your local running store. Often they run their own groups, or know where you can find information on local groups. These groups are usually comprised of runners of all levels, making it easy (and less intimidating) to find someone at your level and pace.