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Rediscovering the Joys of Running with a Friend

August 3, 2010

I'm so glad my running buddies aren't slugs!

Sometimes I consider myself very social (closing in on 1,000-friend mark on Facebook!), yet other times I’m a hermitic writer, content being solo all workday long. Same goes with running: Except for occasional runs with my Hood to Coast teammates or rowing buddies, I’m a solo runner. I don’t need to tell any of you: It’s tough to find someone who runs roughly your same pace at the same time of day. Oh, yeah, and someone you actually like. Before getting pregnant with the twins in 2004, I ran once a week with a dear friend named Ellison. But while I was PG, Ellison found Monica, who lived right around the corner from her. They proceeded to marathon train together, including qualifying for Boston several times. Ellison still jokes she feels like she broke up with me to take up with Monica. (Sniff, sniff.)

Pity-party is over, though: I’ve recently found several new friends to run with, making me feel almost like head cheerleader at prom time. (Hmm, maybe I’ve been watching too many eps of “Glee”?!) A few months ago I started running with Heidi, the mother of one of the twins’ best buds. She’s a 5-minute run away, and usually game for whatever route and pace I want to run, unless her legs are fried from long bike rides. Most weeks we head out on an hour-long run before we have to get our respective kids mobilized for school.

Then last Friday I had a first-run date with Sheila, who I met at a RLAM event at Portland’s Lululemon store. Like a cute-but-sensitive guy who actually listens, Sheila is almost too good to be true: She’s also training for the Portland Marathon, and her personal best is only a minute faster than mine. While it takes about 15 minutes to run from my house to hers, the track is equidistant from our digs. As on my runs with Heidi, I was reminded on Friday morning why a running partner is so awesome: We blinked, and we’d covered four miles.

My only complaint: It’s tough to accommodate running dates into marathon training. Heidi’s usually flexible about when our easy run is, and I’m hoping the distances of Sheila’s long runs mesh with mine. But as much as Ellison and I try to coordinate our schedules, it just doesn’t work: She runs long on Sunday, whereas I go double-digits on Saturday. My track day is her rest day. My easy day is her tempo day. Oy! And neither one of us will budge on changing our training schedule, despite missing each other’s company. ( E, you miss me, right?!? Tell me you miss me!!)

As I’ve been writing this post, a favorite song at our kids’ preschool keeps running through my head: “Make new friends/but keep the old/one is silver/and the other’s gold.” These days, I’m feeling all my running friends are true gold.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn permalink
    August 3, 2010 6:08 am

    I was a solo runner for a long time. This was in my 20s and early 30s. So I actually trained for my one marathon completely on my own. It’s a wonder I didn’t go crazy with all that alone time. I’m now in my late 30s and mother to two children, and I feel so lucky to have met lots of women who run! In the last year I have met a wonderful group of women, some in my neighborhood, others are friends of friends, who all share the running bug. We run at all different paces and most of them run at night (where as I am a morning or midday runner), so getting a partner can be tough, but when we see each other in the school parking lot, the township pool, a dinner party, or at a race, we share stories, routes, remedies for aches and pains, playlists, etc. Several of us ran a 5 miler race this past weekend and reveled in the challenge and camaraderie. We inspire one another and love our time together! Now, if I could just become an evening runner, instead of a mid-day runner, I’d have a partner more often!

  2. August 3, 2010 6:21 am

    my running partner broke his foot on Sunday….training for a marathon by myself doesn’t sound like fun. Anyone from New Hampshire running the new Seacoast Marathon in October?!?!?!

  3. August 3, 2010 6:45 am

    I LOVE running solo. I think it’s one thing in this world that is mine for me to play with all by myself…no sharing. (I would share with my hubby, but the cruel irony here is that he AIN’T INTERESTED!!! Not one tiny little bit.) I love reading about moms’ experiences in running with partners…I marvel at it really because we all know firsthand how busy motherhood is by itself…factor in running…no, TRAINING, and wow. That’s a full dance card, ladies. For me, my long runs this fall will more than likely be on a Friday or Monday as usual with all the other obligatory training runs peppered in between!!!! I love the ability to simply go when I’m ready. No consultations. Just get it. Peace…

  4. August 3, 2010 6:45 am

    I have been an on again – off again solo runner. I am in my solo phase now and would love a running buddy! Plenty of friends run but it is hard to find the right schedule, pace and temperament. I think, though, I have found the perfect person! She’s kind of a new runner, but we’re already great friends, our kids are great friends and so are our husbands! Perfect!
    So, I hatched my master plan: Step 1:-Give her the RLAM book. (She brought it on vacation with her). Step 2: Wait for the rave reviews. She texted me from Glacier Nat’l Park that she loves it!! Step 3: Wait for her to come home and pop the question: “hey, do you wanna go for a run?”
    If it works, you guys are like matchmakers! So far, so good….

    • Reina permalink
      August 3, 2010 8:29 am

      hey Jo, that is funny because RLAM helped me find my running buddy, too! Similar story as you–I went through spurts of running with friends and running solo. My solo phase got old and I had scoped out a friend I wanted to run with, but was afraid to ask point blank (why??? we laugh about that now!). I gave her the book and of course she loved it. We were emailing back and forth about something else, she thanked me again for the book and told me how much she loved it. I nervously emailed back, “we should go for a run sometime”. Soon we picked a date and time and we have been running once a week ever since. I still get my solo runs in and now a buddy run. It’s the best of both worlds! So, you are on the right track!!

    • Sarah Bowen Shea permalink
      August 3, 2010 5:13 pm

      Brilliantly masterminded plan, Jo, especially the part about gifting RLAM to her! Hope she says yes! Let us know.

      • August 3, 2010 7:13 pm

        And I’d add: glad the strategy worked for you Reina…it’s funny how new friendships can kinda feel like dating sometimes. Makes me feel like I’m back in HS. 🙂

  5. August 3, 2010 7:40 am

    I have done just about all my road training solo, for trail I occasionally join a group but it really doesn’t work very well with my schedule and I haven’t gone so far this year. My next door neighbour runs but I am not sure when she runs, I think in 5 years we ran twice together. I sometimes like running with people especially if they are faster than me since it challeneges me but I love running by myself. The only time I miss haven’t a training partner is when I go to races and am there all by myself since my family never comes to me races unless I make them which always end up making me miserable anyway, they always want to leave as soon as the race is over which to me is when the fun begings.

    • August 3, 2010 7:14 pm

      Elizabeth: your last sentence made me laugh. I know that feeling all too well. They’ve been sitting around, waiting for you, you appear, and they’re done. You want to shoot the sh&^ with other runners and relive the course. Totally get that. Keep it solo, my friend. Everybody’s happier that way. 🙂

    • Jackie permalink
      August 4, 2010 4:33 pm

      My family is the same way. My BFF (who has no kids) is totally appalled that my hubby & kids won’t be coming to see my cross the finish line of my first marathon, which she is running with me. I tried to explain that it really will be easier & I’m OK with it, but I’m not sure she believes me.

  6. August 3, 2010 7:43 am

    I too have always been a solo runner, but I recently moved back to my home town and discovered that several of my “old” friends have taken up running while I was away. I’ve started an informal running group with 4-5 of these old friends and converted my easy run day into a group run day with friends.

  7. Jenny C. permalink
    August 3, 2010 8:49 am

    Over the years I’ve done the solo running (love it with me and my ipod), group running, and finally running with an exclusive partner. I found my running partner about 6 years ago when we were part of a group. We decided to train for San Diego RnR together and the rest is history. Everything works with her. However, a couple of years ago I invited another lady to join us because she wanted to train for a half and needed some encouragement. Turns out my original running partner was not thrilled and she stopped running with us. It was horrible. Once the half had come and gone, I had to ditch the new partner. Just like you said – I felt like I was dumping a boyfriend. And the new partner was also a mom from the school. It was so uncomfortable. I finally had to tell her that my first partner was my tried and true and that I wanted to keep her and therefore I couldn’t run with her (the new one). I’ve had a couple of others ask about running with me and now I’m just very frank about it. It’s not that my original partner is jealous – it’s just that everything didn’t work any more – speed, time of day, etc. When there are too many people involved it’s too complicated and solo running becomes preferable then.

    • August 3, 2010 7:17 pm

      three’s a crowd, huh, Jenny? it is way more complicated when a third person comes into the picture. kinda like play dates with kids.

  8. August 3, 2010 9:37 am

    I had the best running partner back when we lived in the city. I loved her company, plus she was faster than me, so I always felt like our runs together pushed me to run harder. Of course, both of us had two kids and FT jobs, so it was hard to coordinate running even once a week. We’ve since moved, and I’m running solo. On the one hand, I value the alone tme enough that I haven’t really sought running companionship. I have some new friends in my new neighborhood who run, but they’re in the couch to 5K phase, and I’m training for my first marathon, so our goals and paces don’t really mesh. I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to find a group to train with (I’ve heard rumors about a running group that trains in the woods where I run), but I’m honestly a little worried I’ll be too slow. So far, I’m doing my long runs alone (with the help of audio books on my ipod) but this week is 12 miles, and I worry that once I get into the really long runs, I’m going to be in trouble on my own.

    • August 3, 2010 7:20 pm

      hey natalie: definitely try the group at least once. give yourself the benefit of the doubt; if you are the slowest–which may not be the case–maybe there’s somebody there a little bit faster than you that you can keep up with. like in tennis, it’s easier to “rally” with somebody who is a stronger hitter: you can take their speed of the ball and use it to your benefit. another option: having some of the couch to 5ker’s meet you for portions of your long runs; set up a plan to have one person on a corner at an approximate time, run 3 or so miles with her, and then have another one waiting. kinda like a relay. makes the miles go by and you’ll all get your runs in.

  9. August 3, 2010 9:43 am

    love this post and all sooo true!!

  10. RamFM permalink
    August 3, 2010 9:47 am

    My best friend used to live in Portland w/me. Then she left (for her husband, go figure!). She moved to the Tri Cities in WA and I moved to Seattle (trying to be closer?). She then left (again for HIM) to San Diego. This weekend we may actually meet up in Medford (yea!).

    Anyway, she had twin girls in 1995. And since moving to San Diego I’ve watched her transform herself. She’s recently started doing some 5K and her husband completed the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon a few years ago. We’ve never ran together but I know we’d find the perfect pace to stay side by side.

    I’ve been a lone runner for years. This year I’ve introduced our 14 & 16 year old daughters into running. My 14 year old has the longest legs ever and without breaking a sweat or breathing hard, she’s usually 1/4 to 1/2 mile ahead of me. Whatever! My 16 year old is more petite and usually 1/4 mile behind me. With that configuration, we maintain a steady pace. Why is it that we can’t maintain side by side? I don’t know! But it works, except for me – mom – who is constantly keeping one eye ahead and one eye behind. We meet up at certain points during our course, stretch, drink, laugh & then, off we go to the next leg.

    • August 3, 2010 7:20 pm

      love that you get to run with your daughters. so cool.

  11. August 3, 2010 10:09 am

    Wow – good for you. You are lucky to find these friends. Although I have a lot of running mom friends, I’ve found it is hard enough trying to just get in my own run. It has been 100% impossible for me to try to coordinate schedules with someone else. Luckily I enjoy the solo runs a lot!

  12. August 3, 2010 10:18 am

    I can run solo everyone once in a while (but not for longer than an hour – then I get way too bored and start talking to myself and then that just looks weird). I joined up with our local running club (Heart of the Valley Runners – Corvallis OR) in January and it was the best running decision of my life! They are a great group of people of all different speeds, distances, and paces so you are always bound to find someone to run with. Running early in the mornings has now become my social time – I love my running buddies! Plus, there is no way I could run 24 miles solo, but with friends it doesn’t even seem hard (well not too hard).

  13. August 3, 2010 12:26 pm

    I like hearing the stories about finding a running partner – maybe it will happen for me one day! For right now, though, it’s just me and my iPod. I’m pretty slow and I don’t like to talk when I run, so solo running is perfect for me. Maybe one day I’ll feel adventurous and join a running group…

    • RamFM permalink
      August 3, 2010 12:43 pm

      You sound like me! When I type about “running”, I think I’m really lying 🙂 I’m slow, steady and iPod it for the most part! Steady on! I can’t imagine trying to talk. The other day I saw someone talking about doing the marathon in 4 hours something. I looked at my husband and said “um, that’s what I’m looking at for a half, ha!” 😉 Goal= just to finish for now.

      • August 3, 2010 2:27 pm

        hahaha I’m also slow and steady. Doesn’t matter as long as you get to the finish, right? Better than being the couch potato that I once was! BTW, I’m also training for a half (in September). Good luck with your training 🙂

        • RamFM permalink
          August 3, 2010 2:41 pm

          Ex Coucher here too! I’m so slow that I’m training a year in advance for the Half ;}. I’ve been running for 3 years steadily but with the first week of training, my back went out. Slowly getting the walking built up while back heals. Grrrr…! So I’m applauding you on for your upcoming Half!!! Where is your race? Let me know how it goes. So Awesome.

          • August 3, 2010 3:23 pm

            Queen City Half in Regina, Sask, Canada on September 12th. I’ll try to remember to update afterward! Or you can check my blog, as I will update there. Just click on mostlyfitmom – it should take you there! Way to stick with your running – injuries suck.

  14. Ellison permalink
    August 3, 2010 12:42 pm

    Yes, Sarah, I DO miss our runs together. Here’s where I insert fact that our separation occurred mainly because your doctor ordered you to stop running after you learning you were pregnant with twins. And that’s why I was forced into the arms/legs of another woman….I agree with the other women who note that often running solo is the best way to go. You can set your own pace and have some “me” time. But running with a good friend is a win/win situation. The miles just fly by while you’re gabbing and sharing. Plus let’s face it – running anything over 10 alone is a bummer.

    Come back to me, Sarah…dump the Saturday long runs!

    Note to Natalie: don’t be afraid to join a running group. The good ones have different paces for different folks. If they can’t accomodate you, look for a new one!

  15. sarah permalink
    August 3, 2010 2:44 pm

    love the post! Since I moved I have been missing my running partner Heidi like CRAZY. I’m calling her right now to book a LONG running date for the near future.

  16. Sarah Bowen Shea permalink
    August 3, 2010 5:16 pm

    Isn’t it funny how getting a running partner really does feel like dating almost? That nervousness of asking, then worrying if it’ll go well. It’s all about putting yourself out there and reaping the rewards when it clicks.

  17. KathyinMN permalink
    August 3, 2010 6:28 pm

    Its rare I run with others, because, like you I am stuck in my training schedule. Not that I can’t accommodate, but geez louise, its hard enough to find time to run, let alone with other people. So for the most part I don’t bother, and when I do its almost always for fun then anything else.

    But my last real training with someone was when I was training for the Ragnar (Great River) last year. That was spectacular…and the race was so fun. Perfect combination of running with others, but still you doing the work. I have company most days…in almost all other aspects of my life. I’m ok with this time being my time.

  18. August 4, 2010 12:45 am

    what a great post! A good running buddy is hard to find, but so worth it!

  19. Rosemary permalink
    August 4, 2010 4:00 pm

    We just moved across the country and one of the toughest things about leaving was leaving my running friends! I don’t know anyone here and I miss having company on long runs. There’s nothing like good conversation to make the miles fly by.

  20. August 5, 2010 6:09 am

    Hi there,
    I just found your blog through a mutual follower and I’m loving it!
    I was just singing the praises of a good friend who has started running with me over at my blog. Seems to be the topic of the week! 😉
    I’ve found it very helpful as someone who is a complete newbie to running. When you’re doing 2 minute run, 1 minute walking intervals it’s easy to keep pace, LOL. Feel free to pop by for a visit if you have any advice for someone just getting started.

  21. Shelley Buckholtz permalink
    August 5, 2010 5:35 pm

    This is a great topic. I always knew I had it good, but I now realize I am VERY Lucky!! I have two running partners, and sometimes we are three, and sometimes I am with one or the other, but between the two, I get most of my runs in with a partner.

    My good friend Anne is my early morning partner, and quite a bit faster which is good for improving my pace. However, we know it is okay if she leaves me in the dust half way through or after our warmup. It is having someone to meet at the Burke Gilman Trail at 5:30 am that makes it worth it.

    My other dear friend, Dawn, a mom who is home most days with her young boys, prefers the evenings. I don’t dig the evenings, especially when it is hot. But, mainly because I work and prefer to spend the time with my young children. But, I can usually talk her into any type of run in the evening if I don’t get one in the morning. I actually did the trick someone else did and sent her the RLAM book for her 40th birthday and signed her up for a 10k so she would get back to running with me (we used to run pre kids all the time) after her second child. It worked! She is back, and I know as our kids get older it will get easier to fit more runs in together.

    If we are all training for a common event, we usually meet up for our long runs and Anne is out front, followed closely by Dawn, and then me. But, I don’t mind. I am just glad they take me up on meeting me and I usually dictate the course and time in the morning, but they set the pace. I try and keep up, but I am usually just thankful that I finish with their smiles at the end.

    Although I can see how three can be a crowd, we somehow have it worked out. I am actually worried if one of them moves, or has a nother baby…my motivation to run alone in the morning is nonexistent.

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