You’re kinda new to running (or not) you’ve been in running for a while, at least, and you know what your comfort zone is… maybe it’s 13:30 min/miles, maybe its 10 minute miles… Whatever. Whoever. Any level of experience. You run this pace. You own this pace. And you feel confident that you can do any distance as long as you stay in your zone.
And then that person in your running group messages you, or says to you, the dreaded thing: “Come run with me?”
They ply with platitudes,
“You’re not that slow.”
“It’ll be fun!”
“We don’t get to hang out that much, and I want to catch up with you” (haha…catch up.)
“I’ll slow down. We’ll go your pace”
They make it sound appealing, but you know…you just know… you’re not at that person’s level. They run 3 hr marathons, or they run 6 minute miles. You know this because you follow their progress and cheer them on. They’re a friend, but…well, they’re way too fast for you. You can’t run with them.
Folks. I can’t stand this. The whole: “You’re too fast for me. I can’t keep up with you.” B- Fucking-S. I admit that I am in a unique position where I get told that a lot, and have uttered it to others. That I couldn’t possibly run with a friend because I couldn’t keep up.
I think the concern is that we’ll ruin someone else’s training, or ruin it by burning out too fast, or having a bad run because we tried to run too fast at the get-go, or because we believe that they aren’t capable of slowing down … and so forth.
But here’s the truth, something I had to be on both ends of this conversation to figure out:
If the “better” or “faster” runner is asking you to run with them, then they know what they’re getting into. They know that you’re not at their level, and they’ve already determined that they don’t care. They’ll do whatever you do, as best they can and for as long as you’ll go with them. If they wanted to run at their fast pace or do a harder workout, they’d have done what they always do. They’ll run their hard or their fast training around the run with you. They’ll make up for their needs on their own. They legitimately want to run with you. And they’ve made allowances for it. Typically, if I’m asking someone “slower” or not as high in “mileage” to join me on a run, its because I want to run with them…maybe I need a lower mileage or “easier” run that day. What does it hurt to have a friend with me for that? So what if I’m using them to keep my pace in check? It’s still training! They are still helping me.
Now, maybe they have a secret agenda beyond running with some one who will help them slow down and run easy. Maybe they want to see you get better because they’ve heard you talk about your running goals. But I ask, what’s the harm in that? So maybe you join them for a short run, and during that run, they manage to get you to click through the miles about 10 to 20 seconds faster than you normally would. But you don’t notice it. Because the person you’re with isn’t showing any strain, and they’re able to distract you from the effort you’re putting in. It’s a win. And. They get what they want: To run with their friend.
And here’s some advice:
If you really do want to get faster…if you look up to those runners that are faster and better than you, then why not run with them? Pick their brains. Learn how to train on the next level? Why do it all alone? You have someone that’s where you want to be, who is extending a hand down to you and offering to help you figure it out! Don’t reinvent the wheel! Go with them! Try to keep up with them as long as you can, and then, they’ll slow down to help you through. I learned a handful of important advice and truths on how to improve my marathon time by running with two such people from my group, and keeping up with them for four miles. And that same season, I ran my personal best (PB) marathon time. Bonus. One of those runners was the pacer in that race that helped me gain that goal!
So next time you get invited to run with the faster runner, say yes. It’ll be worth it on so many levels.