If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. -African Proverb
The running buddy relationship is something special. As in, if you get a good one, it’s well worth it’s weight in gold. Or at least finisher’s medals.
He’s willing to hang patiently outside a public restroom while you tend to mid-run, marathon-training GI issues (thanks, Brian). You talk him out of that “dark place” while helping him conquer a new race distance (nice work, Ben). She’s a seasoned pro who selflessly paces you in your first ultramarathon (you rock, Jamie).
You meet her for “runch” to knock out a few mid-day miles (yep, Tasha). Or maybe you don’t even know each other, but you meet at the tail end of an overnight relay and provide some mutual moral support for the final few miles (shout out to Allison).
And those are just a handful of memories from the past year or so!
As much as I enjoy running solo to the tune of my own thoughts, there’s just something wonderful about the bond that forms between people who break a sweat together. And much like that elusive runner’s high, a good running buddy makes it feel effortless: The conversation flows as the miles fly by.
That’s not to say it’s a relationship without its ups and downs… Inevitably, you’ll end up seeing each other at your very worst, but you also learn the subtle art of pushing one another to be the best version of yourselves.
It’s also not a partnership to be taken lightly, which is why I love this running buddy pre-nup by Amy Marxkors. She hits the nail on the head when it comes to finding happily ever after, complete with calf cramps, bloody nipples and covered in GU. TMI?
With running comes freedom, but also a responsibility — and it’s that notion that inspired me to make my own list of “10 Commandments for Running Buddies,” a set of principles to help guide us as we tackle the roads and trails together.
1. Thou shalt remember that what happens on the run stays on the run. Runners usually cover more ground together than just miles, so they key is discretion when it comes to everything from topics of conversation to bodily functions.
2. Thou shalt not judge a book by its cover. Sometimes it’s the oddest couple that makes the best match, so keep an open mind and test the waters with a few casual runs before jumping into anything too serious.
3. Thou shalt aim thy bodily fluids properly. Say it, don’t spray it. Your buddy wants the news, not the weather. That goes for spit as well as snot, so just be smart and try not to unleash directly into the wind.
4. Thou shalt choose thy buddy based on similar pace and goals. It’s important to have a frank discussion about where you are and where you’re looking to go. But don’t necessarily discount people of different paces! Even if they’re much faster, your tempo could be their recovery day, so it’s all about coordinating ahead of time.
5. Thou shalt respect thy buddy’s time — and vice versa. Occasional lateness is understandable, but perpetual lateness is unforgivable. Commit to whatever time you set, so you’re not leaving your buddy out in the cold (literally).
6. Thou shalt learn to read thy buddy’s body language. Some days your mouths may be running faster than your legs; other days one of you may feel like being more quiet and reflective while working through a wall. Respect each other’s space, and remember it’s ok to communicate if you need some silence.
7. Thou shalt accommodate each other during training. Sh!t happens while running, so plan on sticking with your buddy through any kind of mid-run mishaps. Not only is it good karma, but it’s only a matter of time before he will be returning the favor.
8. Thou shalt not race without a game plan. There’s a huge difference between racing for fun and for time. If it’s the former, plan on sticking together and not paying attention to the clock. If it’s the latter, make a pact that you’re each going to run your own race — it’s every woman for herself in the pursuit of a PR.
9. Thou shalt not take things personally. Whether it’s conflicting schedules or chemistry that fizzles, recognize if something’s not working and when it might be time to move on. And just because you aren’t running soul mates doesn’t mean you can’t be yoga or boot-camp buddies instead.
10. Thou shalt maintain a sense of humor. Above all, remember to have fun together. Repeat after me: Keep it in perspective; it’s just one foot in front of the other, after all.
In the grand scheme of things, all the medals, PR’s and podium finishes in the world won’t outweigh the personal satisfaction that comes with forging a bond that allows you each to push each other beyond what you once thought were your limits.