The Cardinal Rule(s) of Running Buddies

A few weeks back, I took a little “me” time and left the boys for a morning to themselves. I met up with my sister and her fiance early to drive up to Cambridge for the Cambridge Winter Classic 5K, in which we ran with 20-something friends, family, and colleagues on team winter is coming. What a blast!

It helped that on the day we ran as team “winter is coming” it was 40-something degrees and sunny, and that as we ate tacos and drank beers after the sun was so intense on our table next to the window, I think a couple of our friends got a sunburn. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that if we decide to run the spring classic in a few months, it’s not along snowdrift and icy streets. Anyhow, a worry for another day.

Something happened mid-race that I wanted to talk about. I was running alongside my sister, Cait, and she kept saying, It’s okay! Go ahead! You don’t have to run with me! to which I replied, That’s okay! This is fun! No, stop saying that. No, seriously, shut up!

Then, a few weeks ago, I started run-dating. Two mornings a week, I’ve been running with someone I’ve known sort of peripherally, but not quite personally. I knew we had stuff in common, were around the same age, and lived nearby, but without super specifics. Not to be totally shade: we knew one another, but we’d never really, really hung out. Anyway, she’s training for a spring marathon and messaged me to see if I’d be up for a running buddy a few mornings a week.  No brainer at the house I usually head out: Yup! I mention this because, similar to the 5K with my sister, we had those first couple of runs, feeling out one another’s pace and unfamiliar with the other’s route, feeling slow and like we were holding the other back. We threw around a lot of generally unnecessary I’m sorrys.Geez, how far have we gone? she asked the first time around my go-to route. Do the hills ever end? I asked back a few days later on her’s. Running a new route in the dark is so weird, apart from wondering if you’re going to run out of things to talk about. Honestly, there’s no other way to describe it: it’s run-dating!

Are you lost?

I should have cut to the chase ages ago to mention that the point of all this is the Cardinal Rule(s) of Running Buddies.

No apologies. When you agree to do some training together, you gotta stick together on those runs or you need a new plan. No “sorry I’m slowing you down” or “it’s okay if you want to run ahead” because the point of the buddy is to cover the distance together, to push one another, and to accomplish whatever workout is slated for the day. If your buddy is slower, make those workouts your easy days. If s/he’s faster, push it! But don’t apologize.

Once you’ve experienced “intestinal uncertainty” on a run with a bud, it’s whole-new-level buddy-ness. Not a lot of explanation needed on this one. Trust. There’s a solidarity in one or more miles of crummy tummy alongside a friend. Be there for your bud. Usually silently.

If you aren’t truly racing or doing some sort of super deliberate workout, screw the pace and run with your friend. Running alone in a neighborhood 5K to finish a few minutes faster doesn’t trump running with good company unless it’s because the plan says so or you’re going for the victory.

On the flip side, when race-racingrunning buddies exist exclusively for moral support. No one’s day and no one’s race plan counts but your own. Side by side, start to finish, no questions asked is awesome in training, but on race day, you gotta do your own thing. If that ends up being step for step with your buddy — AWESOME — but usually someone has to make adjustments to be side by side and it doesn’t really work if it’s the goal race for both people.

So, tell me, what have you learned from running with friends. Always music? NEVER? “Don’t worry, go on without me?” I want to know what I’m missing, and what works best for you! Any of these that you read and were like “Heck no!”? Let’s hear it!