Much like finding true love, finding a good running partner can be tricky business. Much like finding that special someone, it often starts with excitement before nagging and awkward long silences kick in.
People often talk of their ‘get-rich-quick schemes’ and mine would be a plutonic tinder-esk app for running partners. Instead of swiping through pictures, you’d have split times and favourite running routes… I think the idea needs a bit more work…
Over the last few months I have begun running again regularly following a ruptured Achilles heel a couple of years ago. Despite the overwhelming joy of this, as I have mentioned in some of my earlier blogs, I have found it particularly hard to regain the pace I was capable of pre-snap. I have found a few things that have helped (see previous blog), but none have been as a good as running regularly with my older brother, Tim. We had often run together many, many years ago and back then were roughly the same standard. Since then it’s fair to say that he has become a lot faster whilst I, well, I haven’t. As a result, running with him over the last couple of months has been a revelation for several reasons:
Firstly, because we are brothers there is no need for any of that tricky running small-talk. You know where one of you of is struggling to stay alive and the other is merrily chatting along. Because we know each other so well we know the tell-tell signs of someone not wanting to talk – all it takes is a single look and the other person knows now’s not a good time.
Secondly, and rather selfishly, running with someone faster (but not too much faster) than you is great for improving your pace. We often run routes along London’s roads and the narrow pavements mean one of us runs in front. I often find myself desperately hanging on as Tim happily jogs along and am surprised that whilst I am in large amounts of pain I do manage to keep up with him longer than I expect. In football people often talk about a player being ‘match fit’, and this is the same thing – by running with someone faster it creates an experience you cannot create on your own. Rather than slipping back to your basic pace you are forced to run faster. You could argue that you can create this pace on a running machine, but I would say that if you are a competitive person then the sight of someone just ahead of you provides far more motivation than a bleeping screen with slowly moving numbers and your sweaty, miserable reflection looking back at you.
One of the more surprising joys of having a good partner has been changing routes. Like other runners I tend to stick to the tried and tested paths which can often become more of a mental challenge than a physical one as the boredom kicks in. I have my 5km, 10km and ‘progressively longer’ route so engrained in my head that I can’t bring myself to come up with anything new. When you have a regular running partner you naturally start trying their routes too which makes the whole process more stimulating. This is particularly true in urban running where I am always surprised at what can be found if you look hard enough or even better, have a partner who knows them already.
Lastly, and arguably the most important reason, is the motivation a good partner provides. Like all of us, I find it tough to find the enthusiasm to run on cold, dark week-nights and having someone texting to say they are already on their way over pushes you out of the door. More often than not the ‘let’s do 5km’ run turns in to far longer as, for Tim, 5km isn’t worth it. At the same time, because he’s my brother I feel no shame in saying that I can’t go that far and that I’ll do 7km with him and then head home.
Don’t get me wrong, running on my own is my something I cherish and look forward to. It is the one time of day when you are truly present and as a result I have always found it a meditative experience with as much benefit for my mental health as my physical. Having said that, if like me, you are keen to push yourself and be able to run faster and longer, I can thoroughly recommend finding a good partner. I have found that the best of these just happens to be in my own family.