Running can sometimes get lonely; sometimes you can find yourself wishing you could find a running buddy. Someone who can egg you on, who can push you to your limits and beyond, someone you can share a laugh or two with–someone you can share your love of the sport with.
But while all of this sounds great–and like a no-brainer–it actually might not be the right move.
Read on to determine whether you’re better working in a team or flying solo.
The Benefits You Gain When You Find a Running Buddy
Someone to Talk To
Running can be a solitary exercise. While some people prefer the privacy of their own thoughts or the company of their favorite motivational songs, sometimes having someone to talk to can make those miles fly by faster than any train of thought or thrash metal song. There are also more direct ways that talking while running can benefit you. In tempo runs, you need to decrease your speed intermittingly to allow you to catch your breath and let your muscles recover. Often runners will call up a friend or, in this case, talk to the people beside them to make sure they’re not pushing themselves too hard during what’s supposed to be a rest period. Conversational paces are also helpful to inexperienced runners to moderate their speed and decrease the likelihood of injury.
A friend of mine is truly devoted to his fitness regimen. From diet to aerobics to weightlifting, he is an immovable object. Before we hang out, he’d usually eat one of his own prepared meals beforehand and just hang out with us during dinner, drinking water to keep hydrated. Recently, a bunch of us had gone to a burger joint. The smell was driving him crazy. He badly wanted a cheeseburger and fries but was at an important point in his training for a weightlifting competition. He wouldn’t even so much as have half a fry when offered. Sure, it didn’t stop him from psychotically smelling the empty fry or burger wrappers once we finished eating, but he had the discipline to resist temptation.
Not everyone is like that. Not everyone can keep that up 100% of the time.
There will be days where your body is telling you no. Where it’s too damn early or too damn late and you want to sleep. When the weather outside is too awful. When you just feel like marathoning season 1 of Doom Patrol (which is quite good, in case you’re interested). Well, that’s where your running partner(s) come in. If they have to pull you by the ear as Seth Bullock did to George Hearst, they will be there for you in your own moments of weakness when you’re too lazy or too tired.
Learning from Each Other
One of the most exciting aspects of running is that it’s endless. There are always new things to learn, new workouts to try, greater understandings to be gleaned from studies and experience. Running with others can allow you the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. You can critique each other’s forms and trade stories, running routes, exercise ideas, and dietary tricks.
Depending on experience, the route you’re running, and the time of day, sometimes there’s safety in numbers. You’re less likely to get injured if there’s someone else with you and less likely to get into trouble.
Friendships are friendships, but competition is competition. Whether it’s acknowledged or not, you want to be the better runner between the two. And your friend feels the same way. Some friendly competition can help you both make incredible gains that you may not have done on your own. If your running partner is more experienced, you have someone whose abilities you want to adopt–it’ll push you to be as good as they are. Sometimes just having someone beside you telling you motivational lines and providing support is all you need to help push yourself beyond whatever limitations you believe you have.
We mentioned this a little earlier, but the subject bears its own entry. Your bodies are great at adapting and our minds need stimulation. Over time, our bodies might get used to the same routes no matter how you modify your run. And once you know your routes like the back of your hand, a piece of your motivation disappears–what else is there to this place? Nothing. Nothing new to explore. No reason to see what’s around the next corner because you know it already. Boredom can set in. Boredom can decrease motivation and give you a reason not to go out for that run (besides watching the excellent Doom Patrol).
Your running buddy might know some new places to explore. Not only does that make running feel a little new again, but there might be a change of terrain, requiring you to adapt your run style and potentially workout otherwise neglected muscle groups to make it through.
A Social Circle
Yes, running can be solitary, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re an introvert and in need of some friendship, finding a running partner or group not only gives you a means of maintaining physical fitness, but it comes with a built-in social outlet as well. Instant friends, long-term goals.
The Disadvantages You Face When You Find a Running Partner
As with anything else, when you find a running partner, you have to take the bad with the good. We already took a look at the good; now let’s look at the bad.
A Set Pace
While you or your running buddy might be the faster runner, there’s only so far ahead one of you can go and still call it a group run. That’s why running with partners or in groups is sometimes better for the inexperienced or those still recovering from injuries. It’s often preferable for a slower-pace that’s less about achieving goals and more about maintaining the status quo. It’s not a bad thing, but it is something to consider.
Also, consider that vast array of running exercises that aren’t conducive to group runs. Fartleks, interval runs, and tempo runs are often better left as solo runs. Those exercises are focused on your personal maximum speed and endurance, which might greatly differ from your partner’s. Given the track or the sometimes back-and-forth range of a fartlek, having more than one person in close proximity might only increase the risk of collision and injury.
Everyone has different bodies and different needs in a workout. By and large, runners personalize their workouts to match their needs. Running with a partner is more collective and you may see yourself plateauing rather than improving.
If you’re constantly needing to poke, prod, and cajole your running partner to go for a run, or if you’re too dependent on their advice and input, then you’re probably better off running solo.
A good conversation can pass time. However, if you’re running, it might pass too much time. If you’re too focused on the social aspect of your team run, you’re less likely to make any gains on the road. If you’re more of the teacher in the partnership, you’ll be more focused on helping your partner than on your needs.
It’s a Relationship
Like a marriage, running with a partner means compromise. You’re no longer running for one, but for two (or more). You may prefer a long run on Sundays; your running buddy might dislike long runs entirely and use Sundays for cross-training. In the end, both of you might be making major changes to your workout style and routine. In some cases, that’s great–your muscles need to be surprised from time to time–but finding a mutually beneficial schedule can be difficult. As we said earlier, personalized workout regimens are important, and changing it up too much might be a mistake.
There’s also the possibility that the person you’re running with is awful. Not everyone is going to get along all of the time. Running can be stressful and sometimes tempers flare. If the partnership is untenable, well, it might be time to separate. This can be as awkward and uncomfortable as ending any other relationship.
The Competition Can Stop Being Friendly
Competition can be an incredible motivator and a friendly competition can be strangely bonding, but if the competition escalates into a full-on desire to out-do each other, you might push your body too hard, focusing more on winning than exercising. This is not only bad for your partnership but can easily lead to injury.
While there are groups who can run together while training for the same marathon, you’re probably better off training solo. It sounds selfish, but you need to focus on you and your pacing, endurance, and capability. When the day of the marathon comes, you need to be entirely focused on your body and be aware of its nuances, limitations, and advantages. You may not get that necessary focus if you’re in a group, which tend to stay fairly measured.
There’s Something to be Said for Personal Space
Think about how you feel when you just get home from work (provided you don’t run immediately after work). That first long exhale. You want to some time alone to decompress and catch your breath. If you’re keyed-up from the day, you might want that decompression and alone time, but also an outlet for that extra energy that you have. A solo run is just you and the road, relieving your stress. You’re not beholden to somebody else’s preferred timing, pacing, or inclined to make conversation.
Increased Possibility of Injury
Earlier, we mentioned that there was a less likely chance of being injured if you run in a group. And that’s still true. Having an extra pair of eyes on the route can help you avoid breaks in the concrete, uneven surfaces, and damaged terrain. However, if too much of your focus is on each other–whether competing or talking–you’re going to be less aware of your surroundings and less focused on your form, potentially opening yourself up to injury. If this feels like a catch-22, yes, you’re right. Life’s a tapestry, isn’t it?
How Can I Find a Running Partner?
Would you be shocked to hear that you can find running partners on the internet? Sites like JoggingBuddy and Meetup (both are international) are designed to help you find a running partner in your area. After setting up an account, list your general pacing, routine, and describe your personality to make sure that you get matched with the right partner. The Road Runners Club of America offers some of the most comprehensive running club lists out there for cities all across the country.
If websites are too old fashioned for you, the Jaha app will help you match with a running partner in a similar way that Tinder helps people find dates. Of course, your mileage may vary on the success rate.
If you’re looking for both a running partner and a life partner, try RunningSingles.com or Fitness-Singles.com.
For a more in-person touch, check out your local gym or running specialty store. People will often post fliers looking for partners and groups.
You can also try Craigslist, but I’ll ask you a question first: Why would you do that?
There’s no right answer to running solo or with others. We say, give both a try and see what works best for you. Let us know how it goes in the comments below.