As someone whose job it is to run with people, I am surprised how much I have enjoyed running solo in the last four months.
I have learned a lot about myself but I have to admit that I have missed the camaraderie, the motivation and the healthy competition that running with others brings. My only occasional lockdown running buddy was my three-year-old on a bike – which I can confirm is not ideal for consistent pacing nor engaging conversation. As we all now cautiously emerge from our individual running bubbles, I am certainly longing to reconnect with my long-lost running buddies.
Make a date
Two weeks ago I met a friend for a run, for the first time in 16 weeks. It was also the first run where I actually started running at the time I had originally planned to go. If you, like me, have been running solo the last four months and spent more time planning and postponing runs than actually running, you will know what I mean. It’s easy to prioritise the most mundane of tasks ahead of running when there is no one else to answer to. But having a running buddy removes these internal debates. You agree to meet at a set time. No procrastination, no weather checking, no excuses – someone is waiting for you and you just go and run.
Partner in crime
Time certainly goes faster when you run with someone else. There is no doubt about this. Less time is spent clock-watching when we are engrossed in conversation. Some would argue that there is less focus on our technique and running mechanics when we are distracted by others, but I believe that there is room for both types of a run in any running week.
A little WhatsApp group of a few close running buddies might be all you need
A running buddy might encourage you to train for an event, run an extra mile or indeed race a sprint finish back to the finish line. As the miles fly by, runners share stories, worries, hopes and dreams that often they may be unwilling to share with closest friends and family. Some of the best friendships I know have come from these shared miles and memories.
Online running buddies
Lockdown has seen many runners need to adapt their support network as club training and meet-ups were postponed. Online running buddies have become the new normal. An online running buddy might not seem like much support, but having a friend or small group who share similar goals and are supportive and encouraging of each other can go a very long way, even if the miles are run on different paths.
It is this concept that has inspired so many to join online support groups for running or use phone apps which allow us to track and share our progress with others. But you don’t need to sign up to anything fancy. A little WhatsApp group of a few close running buddies might be all you need. There you can share your progress, photos and dilemmas. You could even commit to run at the same time as each other and report back at the end.
A running community
Even if you are already a very motivated or competitive runner, you can benefit from a running buddy or support group. We can accomplish so much more when we are in it together. This is why running clubs and groups are so popular.
As a running coach, I have moved all my running coaching online this summer but the camaraderie is as strong as ever within the group. Getting out the door is the hardest part for most of us, so knowing you can share your progress, your questions and your achievements along the way with someone who understands really helps keep us running.
Having structure and a goal helps set the path and direction, but I truly feel that being part of a running community, whether that is a just another friend on WhatsApp, or a large group of like-minded runners, helps keep us focused. We all need a little inspiration and, by hearing how others are doing, we gain knowledge, motivation and enthusiasm to keep us on the right track.
Keep the space
It goes without saying that as the weeks go on we need to remain cautious and aware of other runners when we are running in pairs or small groups now. It is easy to get a little distracted as we are in deep conversation yet trying to maintain social distance. Be extra aware of oncoming pedestrians and remember to give way to those who we meet.
Running buddies come and go, but they all have been there for us when we needed them
Let us be the ones to move off the path first. I encourage you to get up on the grass, move to single file when you see others and generally make life easier for everyone else, giving plenty of notice of your intention to move. A smile and an nod of acknowledgment to others we meet goes a long way to make everyone’s time outdoors stress-free and relaxed in these days as we adapt to returning to the paths in company.
Keep in touch
So, before you plan your next run with a running buddy, let’s take a moment to look back at running buddies we have lost contact with. You may have been very close to another runner as you shared a training goal many years ago. You may have supported each other through difficult times. You may even have crossed finish lines together knowing how much hard work went in behind the scenes to get there.
Life changes all the time and running buddies come and go, but they all have been there for us when we needed them. Let’s appreciate our running friends who we have lost touch with, and why not write them a message, check in on how they are doing. Let’s keep our running support community alive even if we are not always running on the same path these days.
– Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Mary's book Get Running, published by Gill Books, is out now.
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