ANOTHER
MOTHER RUNNER

Together for the Long Run, or Not?

Had to use this cheesy friends photo because Courtenay and I never pause to snap a pic when we're together.

I can hardly wait for this coming Sunday: My best friend from high school, Courtenay, and I are going to run the Philly Half Marathon. She summed it up perfectly in an email: “It feels like waiting for Christmas when I was a kid.” Because we live on opposite sides of the country, this is a rare opportunity to be together. As soon as I told her I was promoting the book at the Philly race, she signed up to run it and booked us a hotel room for the weekend. We get to spend a whole, glorious, kid-free weekend together. I’m giddy with excitement…yet twisted with indecision and guilt. You see: I’m wavering whether or not to run the race with Courtenay or not.

A marathon-runner-turned-triathlete, Courtenay is a dedicated athlete. She’s trained more diligently for this half than I have. (Given how frackin’ long it’s taken me to recover from my 10/10/10 marathon, I’ve logged a single long run—14.25 miles on Saturday—and no speed sessions.) Yet she insists she can’t run a sub-2:00 half. I suspect she’s sandbagging, but obviously we won’t know for certain until race day. We’ve talked on the phone about our expectations for the race, and she insists I should run my own race. She says we should start together, then meet each other after the finish line.

In my gut, I know that plan makes the most sense: At Portland Marathon, I found it difficult (and distracting, quite honestly) to stick with a running partner who I knew for a fact could run at my pace. In Philly, the race course will be more crowded and less familiar, in addition to the question of do-able pace. So, yes, logic tells me running separately is the way to go. Yet in my heart I worry I’ll be missing out on a very special opportunity—the chance to run next to a person who ranks in my top 10 list of Folks I Most Love on This Planet. And, for what? To maintain my sports-ego of running every race to the best of my ability? To avoid making Courtenay feel “guilty” for holding me back? To brag about my results on Facebook?

I’ve been mulling over this decision for weeks, yet writing about it makes it seem like such a trivial, almost idiotic thing to debate. Heck, at times I think we should just ditch the race and have a leisurely, mimosa-fueled brunch instead. (Huh, Court, whattaya say?!?!) I’d love to get your thoughts, chicas, so I can throw those into my decision-making hopper.

In the meanwhile, yesterday I took a step toward alleviating a smidge of my guilt: I made a hip-hop-happenin’ half-marathon playlist, titled BFF Half Marathon, burnt the songs onto CDs, and Priority Mailed them to Court. If we end up running separately, at least we’ll be together with our tunes.

52 responses to “Together for the Long Run, or Not?

  1. Interesting post, as I started running because of one of my best friends – and we have run several races together, in fact, I have run every MAJOR race with her, and my two other Best friends – 3 halfs, countless 10k’s, 5k’s, 15k’s, 24-hour ragnar relay and have we have never stayed together EVER. Because we all like our own pace, we’d stay together for the first two miles than whoever dropped back or moved ahead, did so. The fact that I had 3 of my closets friends on the course with me was good enough, motivating enough, and satisfying. We got pictures after the race with all of us, and my last half is the only half that we had a “race course” picture because I was savvy enough to see a photographer when we were all together. I have NEVER thought about this till now, and I have to say that I still stand by run your own race – the only thing that is throwing me is the finish line pic, that would be nice to have. Nevertheless, things to consider – you’ll be with eachother at hotel, getting to the race, at the starting line, and finishing whether together or not is all very exciting, you can commiserate about the race and the course over a glass of mimosas’ and some egg benedict at some great philly stomping ground.

  2. It depends. If I’m running a race for companionship, then I’ll run together. When I run with my husband, we run together until the last mile or the homestretch, at which point I sprint ahead because I’ve run slow to stick with him (he runs anywhere between 1-2-1/2 minutes/mile slower than my pace).

    But I’ve also run with friends where we start the race together and somewhere in there, one or the other of us goes ahead if the other can’t quite maintain the pace–and that’s fine too. A friend and I started the Bolder Boulder in the same qualifying wave last year, but I was feeling it and she wasn’t so I went ahead after mile 3. She finished about two minutes after I did and then we hung out again after the race. We were both running to get good times though, so it wasn’t as if we were running together just to run together, even though we are pretty evenly matched. (It probably helps that we both have competitive and OCD streaks too!)

  3. I am going away for the weekend with my running buddy on the 27th Nov, to a half marathon. We train together, and run with each other around twice weekly as well as go to running club once a week.

    When we race, we run our own races, and meet at the finish line. My friend has only just recovered from an injury, and has run 10km once in the last two months. I’ve been doing a bit more, and have a few long runs under my belt. I don’t want to walk the last third, which is what she’s thinking she might have to do.

    Our plan is to drive down together, share a motel together for a couple of nights, hang at the beach together, eat together, but do our own thing during the race. That way we have the best of both worlds – great company for the bulk of the weekend, and we run our own race to our own capacity.

    I reckon run separately, but spend time together before and after.

  4. On the other hand, if you’re spending the whole weekend together, an hour or so apart, mid>end-race might be a perfect small break! Just have fun, be sure you’re both laughing, and whatever choice you make will feel right.

  5. Run with her!
    I would prefer to remember the race as a race I did with one of my best friends, that just another race where I might get a PB.
    Period!

  6. with. i just did a 10 miler with my sister. she, much faster than I, stayed with me the whole time. not only did it push me a bit but we had fun. it was something we did together, sans kids. i will always have the fond memory.

  7. Run with Court, there are so many races but so few times you have the opportunity to run with a BFF. The experience of crossing the line together will far out-weigh a PB/PR. The struggle is a valid one and hard when you are a competitor. I’m running with my 9 year old daughter and 11 year old niece on Thanksgiving and I could care less if those 5 miles take me 2 hours…that is of course what the good mom and auntie in me say, it’s my competitive brain that will hate to see the final time. Just think of the MasterCard commercials…three things that have a price value all leading up to you running with your BFF, priceless!

  8. I’m going to be the dissenting voice – I say go on without her. I had the same difficult decision to make when my husband and I ran in his first 1/2 marathon last month. He kept encouraging me to go on without him, and I felt guilty for leaving him behind. Then, I recalled how I feel when I run with people who are faster and just wish they would go on and run ahead already. So, I did. We both enjoyed our individual races, with nobody feeling held back or guilty for running too slow. And, we still got to celebrate our individual PRs at the end of the race. This is your best friend. You’ve got to trust her to be honest with you. If she truly wants you to run ahead, do it – not just for her sake, but for yours too.

  9. Run with her. When will you get the chance to again? Plus, a photo crossing the finish line together hand in hand would be pretty sweet!

  10. I’m a fan of “start out together and see where it goes”. I have run several races with my boss and his wife. We always start out together but pick a “meet up spot” for after the race. We’ve all crossed finish lines together and as individuals. However, the time for your half could fly by if you have a lot of catching up/gossiping to do. In that case, stick together and that 13.1 will FLY by! SBS, do you know which days/times you will be at the expo? I would love to stop by and meet you when I’m picking up my packet 🙂

  11. Tough call, I say run with her and push her to be sub 2:00. I completely understand the need to do as best as you can at every race, but maybe just try to relax for this one. Easier said than done… BTW, I met you in Portland in the hotel elevator the day before the rain soaking marathon. I was so flustered I’m not even sure what I said. Anyways, I’m a huge fan. RLAM!!!

  12. It can’t hurt to start off together with the understanding that either of you may take off or fall back at any time. Even if you run a few miles together, it will be fun! and whoever finishes first can go back and run the other in perhaps 🙂

  13. My husband and I have this problem all the time. We have run a few races together, but usually we run on our own. This is REALLY funny, but you know how we fixed our (my, actually) guilt about it? We came up with almost the same solution as you. For big races (no we don’t do it for the local 5k) we compile a playlist together. Sometimes we alternate choice every other song (although this is a lengthy and often wine fueled late night process) and sometimes we just throw a bunch of songs on there randomly. Then, at the beginning the race, we start our playlists at exactly the same moment, so even though one of us is far ahead, we are still cruising to the same music. It is really fun! When my husband finishes before me, he leaves on his music and waits at the finish line, knowing just what song I am crossing the finish line to….
    That said….running with your friend could be a lot of fun, and it is hard to not run your very best at every race, and for some reason we care what time comes after our name when other people are going to see it (why I find it so hard to turn a race into just a tempo run), but you are still nursing some sore legs right? You could run with your friend, and protect yourself from getting hurt…

  14. I’m going to vote for running WITH her as long as it is not physically uncomfortable for you to run her pace. A question for you? What is your intention in this race? Every race I have run, I’ve run with a specific purpose: PR attempt, run for fun as part of a long run, pace a friend through it, etc. I never offer to run a race WITH someone unless I mean that I am willing to run by their side, so I try to program in “me” races and “fun” (no pressure) races as well. I think as long as the intentions are clear going in, there’s no problem either way. And my (slow) PRs have been fun but pacing my friend in a recent race may have been even more rewarding in the end.

  15. I say run it with her. I had an amazing experience pacing a friend to a fantastic 1/2 marathon PR. I knew going into it that her pace was slower than mine but it felt awesome to run that entire race together and to cross the finish line together. I was helping a friend achieve her goals and it felt great. I still trained for my October 1/2 marathon while training to run the 1/2 with her and I managed to PR by 3 minutes at my October 1/2 even with slowing it down to run with her. In fact, I am running another 1/2 marathon with her this Sunday and we plan to start and finish together again! If you are interested in reading my pacing recap it can be found here: http://runjodirun.blogspot.com/2010/09/perfect-pacingjenn-was-strong-today.html

  16. be there for eachother, but enjoy the race together…while PR’s are great and speed/timing are notches on your running belt, the time spent with friends is even more precious…there will be other runs for you to ‘finish’, but having a friend along side you and you along side her will mean more than any PR…Ah yes, corny thought here, but one true for my sisters in alpha phi – it is a sign of friendship, love and loyalty…and that which is precious and that which is permanent are the same…a permanent friend and a precious moment in time together…and always remember, just have fun! sappy sappy sappy! but it is what i believe!

  17. run with her. you have lots of memories of the races you have run by yourself. these memories will be shared memories – you two will be little old ladies telling your grandchildren about how you ran crazy distances “back in the day”, while they assume you did it because dinosaurs were chasing you. what a great opportunity to have a fantastic time racing!!!!! (and i just poached half your playlist, so thank you…..wink wink!)

  18. Girl you better brag!!!! Regardless you have a race to run. Your legs are the ones you control. Half and full marathons are somewhat hard to come by, especially for moms. Can’t wait to read about it!!
    I realized on saturday during the last half mile of the 10k I ran that I was goin to get caught up in “traffic”‘if I slowed my pace much more…I love saving energy for the last mike so I can finish strong. In other words, I wondered if it was okay for me to blister past people. Um, yes,it was. We all signed up for a race and I wasn’t playing nice. So I gave it my all and finished in 52:25. Being that we’re all moms here, I can say this: I was on day 3 of my period:(. Anyway, once again, I’m so thankful to have y’all out there!!!!

  19. This is me, not you, but no race will ever be more important than one of my top ten friends that I see less than once a blue moon.

    Try this: imagine any worst-case scenario, and then imagine your reaction to it. Are you going to be glad of the time you spent together, or glad that at least you did well in the race you two ran together on the same day?

  20. The pictures of the dog threw me off because I thought I was reading a different blog and this other blog the girl does not run whatsoever. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself – how on earth are you going to be able to run a half marathon – when was the last night you ran a mile? But then I figured it all out. Have a blast!

  21. It depends on what she honestly wants. I ran a half marathon with my stepson, which was good fun and a positive experience, but I don’t think I would do it again. It felt a bit strange to be running hard while he was just loping along to keep me company.

  22. I say run it with her! You have other half’s you can do by yourself, and just this one with her. I would love to run one with a friend, and if had the opportunity to do so, I totally would!

  23. I have run five marathons, but only one with a running buddy. It was my first and I wouldn’t have made it through without her. The next four were alone, and very lonely. I did get a PR at one, but the rest were sad.

    So this fall I trained with a group, and the best running buddy ever. I want to do the whole marathon together this December. I initially had plans to PR but due to various health issues, that PR has been sidelined and think it would ruin the experience if I did. I personally would rather focus on a race alone if I wanted to PR, but since I trained with Kristy, I’m finishing with Kristy. And who am I kidding here, she’s going to be the one dragging me across the finish line anyway.

  24. I’m with misszippy…start out together and see where it takes you. I, like you, find it somewhat distracting to run with someone in a race. If they are faster, I’m focusing on trying to keep up…if they are slower, I’m thinking about what I might be capable of, and if we are the same pace… I still find it awkward in a race environment…however, I’ve always been there to ‘race’…not just enjoy it. A race is what I prepare for every single day. I’m sure I could just ‘run’ a race with someone some day but I doubt I could ‘race’ it. If you run separate, I highly doubt it will take away from your time together! Whenever I’ve done a race ‘with’ someone…it has never been actually side by side….I still consider myself to have run that race ‘with’ them if that makes any sense at all. We are experiencing the race together, although separate. Either way, I think you will both have a great time. I don’t think you can go wrong.

  25. SBS, with a couple friends, we do like MissZippy said, but it depends on the goal of your race.

    I am hoping my virtual-running BFF & fellow RLAMer, Sarah chimes in here too, but I can say running with Sarah at the Newport half was A-MA-ZING. It was our day.

    Sarah and I talked about our goals, and I think she was anxious about feeling like she would hold me back, but through email discussions, I assured her that I wanted to run with her the whole time. We signed up for this race (our first actually face to face meeting) together and she (so cute) even had discussion topics for each mile. It didn’t matter, I just chatted her up the whole time….hopefully a welcome distraction. It made me realize how much I would love to be a coach one day. In the meantime, I will happily pace for anyone of my friends anytime (as long as they are not sub 1:50 runners 🙂 otherwise, they can pace for me. HA!).

    I still signed up for “my race” one that I planned on a PR and it was AMAZING to see Sarah with my family along the course and at the finish.

    There was so much joy in this race for me. If it is going to bring you joy to run with Courtenay, then do it. If it is going to bring you joy to PR, then do that.

    I think our faces here say it all. 🙂

    http://theouteraisle.blogspot.com/2010/10/newport-ri-half-marathon-recap.html

    1. I’m the other half of the beaming race duo Christy wrote about . . .
      There were two things working in our favor when Christy and I worked out our approach to the race. One was great, clear communication skills (something Christy excels at) and the other is that running doesn’t lie. I am someone who tends to try to figure out what other people want and do that, my own needs/feelings on the back burner. As a 40 year old I feel like I am getting better at this and certainly running helps. But what I loved about this race was that even if I’d wanted to be able to run a sub-2, as I know Christy was training for, I would not have been able to. I didn’t have the option of running a primo race, Christy-speed, so that gave us to two choices: run apart or run together at my pace. We’d signed up for the race as a way to meet one another F2F and Christy was wonderful and adamant and gracious to say that we were definitely going to do this thing together. She never once made me feel slow or made comments designed to remind me that she was usually much faster than me. I could just tell that she was delighting in our running together and that buoyed me throughout the run. I never once felt bad for holding her back because it was clear she wasn’t feeling bad about it. And so I think if you can feel that same pure delight with Courtenay during the race then go for it. You know a ton already about how to run a race with speed and focus. Maybe this is a chance for some rich lessons to be learned about running a race with a dear friend.

  26. Start out together and see where it takes you. My friends and I always do that and we have a deal–no one needs to stay back with anyone else. If someone feels good, we let them go. If someone feels bad, well, we’re not going to stay back with them. There are no hard feelings either way. And if we do end up staying together for the whole shabang–icing on the cake!

    1. That’s pretty much our current plan. But I worry it’s easier said (typed) than done. Although I did it in half marathon with my good pal Ellison in like 2004. (Back when I could run faster than she could…sigh.)

  27. Like most of the other ladies here are saying, you have to do what is best for you, and noone can make that decision for you. My sister and I live way too far apart, yet we are training “together” for the Princess Half Marathon in Disney Feb 27th. She is a much faster and more accomplished runner than I am, especially since I just started running regularly about 6 months to a year ago, and she’s been running since we were kids. I know there is no way I will be able to keep up with her pace and I wouldn’t want her to slow down to keep up with me (we are both fairly competitive with ourselves), so we are planning on starting the race together, then hopefully she’ll be able to come back to finish with me after she has already finished. Otherwise, she will be cheering me on at the finish line with the rest of our family.

  28. I think you should leave your watch (gasp!) at the hotel and run with your friend. I have run on my own (focused on my time) and run with a buddy (focus on her time/us). I have a lot of satisfaction from the second.

  29. This is tough. Having been in Courtenay’s place (No, I can’t, or won’t, run at your pace because it hurts!), I would say that meeting up at the finish line makes sense. I don’t know her, but if I said that to someone I would mean it, and I would also not want to hold them back OR be struggling to keep up vs. run my own race, if that makes sense.

    But I also think it’s so wonderful to run with your BFF….mine is faster but we had so much fun running a 15K together a few years ago! I probably held her back but we were both dressed like Minnie Mouse, so she had to stick with me. 🙂 But that was the point.

    1. Yes, Court is TOTALLY the type of person who if she says she wants me to go ahead, she MEANS it. Court read post today and told me we’d discuss–after a few glasses of wine. And a very good guy friend of ours from high school read the post and told me to run with Court. He and I don’t email a ton, but his vantage point was valuable to me.

      More to mull, but I very much appreciate everyone’s input.

  30. I just had this same predicament in Chicago! My friend ended up getting pregnant before the race. Her pace was so much slower than mine that it was physically uncomfortable to stay with her, but as she faded from view I felt terrible. I worried about it the entire race. How would she do without anyone there for support. I found her after the finish, and she told me that she had dropped out at mile 14. She has been a major puker and she just didn’t have anything left in the tank. But! She was thrilled with her own performance. 14 miles with a bean in the oven is something! And she was glad that I had gone on ahead of her.

  31. I am currently in Marathon training and my best friend and running partner is too. Except she is running 3 in 90 days!! Her 1rst being on 10-10 her 2nd on 11-21 and3rd on 12-5.
    The training plan I am on called for me to race 13.1 last week. My friend decided to run with me. she helped me to set a P.R. 1:45:59!! She obviously could have ran the race faster but she did not she stuck with me. I know we both felt great after that race. As a runner we know running is not just about us. If you have a chance too spend running with a great friend seize that moment.

  32. Well, an interesting question. And one that I would say Run with HER!

    After a disappointing finish on 10-10-10 I spent the first 24 hours after the race feeling sad and depressed. After sharing this with friends and listening to their responses, I shifted my persective. I realized that while I did not finish in the time I wanted, I did remain true to myself and my running buddy. Time on the clock is just that…time on the clock. What would you rather…time on the clock or time together that you can’t get back and may never have again?

  33. I say run with her. I did a half with a friend whose pace was much slower than mine and it was great. I talked her through it and laughed and sang and made ridiculous/inappropriate observations about the world around us. Totally great and a fantastic memory with each step.

  34. I say run with her. My sister and I have plans of running one together someday and making it our “fun” race, encouraging people around us, being silly, interacting with the crowd. And be sure to run by a camera-man together, that might be a race photo worth buying. And you’ll have a great photo to add to a FB page!!! Think of the mental toughness it will take to hold yourself back! Running and racing don’t always have to be about PR’s, your body may not get the same drained feeling at the end of the race, but think of how full your heart will feel! Good luck to you both! I’m hoping for a sub 2:00 for Courtney!

    1. Susan–Never occurred to me how awesome a photo of Court and I running together would be. That’s almost the decider right there!

  35. I would start with her, and then you guys can cheer each other on at the finish…..there is nothing worse that starting out believing that you will run with someone, and then hating every minute of it because you are running faster/slower than you wanted to.

    I say run your own races.

  36. Is this a race you were looking to PR at? Or to race as well as you can? Or did you sign up to run with your BFF for fun?

    You’ve run so many races, so fast and hard and well – I think you have to decide if it is important to you for this to be another one of those races – or if this one is just for fun, to celebrate friendship and the rare opportunity to run with a friend. You may feel you missed a chance to do your best if you don’t run it your way – but you may also feel you missed a chance to run a special race with a special friend if you don’t run it together.

    Whatever you decide, be honest with yourself and Courtenay. She will not want to feel responsible for your post-race disappointment in your performance – and if she’s suggesting you run separately already, it seems she’s okay with you running your own race if that’s what you need to do. If she’s your BFF, she knows how you are and loves you for it and in spite of it, so your need to run hard instead of with her won’t exactly be a surprise. Running it together would be special – but only if you’re in the right place for that mentally.

    1. I’m with Heidi.

      This question is one I’ve struggled with in the past, as my former running partner and I eventually found ourselves running very different paces and races. It almost felt like a break-up…except that she’s my sister-in-law and is totally stuck with me otherwise. When I started to pick up the pace, I shopped around and found her another running partner. At some point she asked me if I was setting her up on a date! Which I kind of was…but they just trained for a marathon together and had a great experience!

      I felt a lot of guilt about this whole thing, but all told, I think you have to run your own race. I feel like a bit of a naysayer here, like the “right” answer is to run with your friend. But if you’re going to have the rest of the weekend together then 2 hours where you’re each running your best will be beneficial to both of you.

      Now if she says “Will you please run with me and pace me and talk me through this” then yes, run together. If not, again, I’m with Heidi!

  37. Run WITH her, without question. Treat it like any daily run if you must and forget about PRs. Think about it this way, if you had to choose between running an awesome race that day OR hanging out with your BFF all day, which would you choose? Right. So you already know the answer.

  38. run with her. you are still recovering and you will have helped push your BFF to reach her sub 2:00 potential. what could be better? well,maybe the post run mimosa’s…

  39. I’ll be very interested to hear what everyone has to say about this topic. Day before yesterday I ran a half with someone I knew only from FaceBook before then. She wanted me to pace her to a PR, but as it turned out, she was CONSIDERABLY slower than what she originally thought she was (SIGNIFICANTLY slower than my usual, comfortable, pace). It would have been fine if we were buds and had catching up to do and could chat along the way, but we were completely out of sync with each other (pace and conversation-wise) which made it for a less than ideal race/long run situation. I think you need to have an honest conversation before hand (honest with yourself and with her) and not do what you think you SHOULD do, but do what you want to do, or maybe what you NEED to do. That could look very different for every body. ((And, she has to be just as honest with you…and you have to be willing to accept her answers. If she says she can’t run a sub-2, then don’t think you can push her to do it unless that’s what she WANTS.)) I can’t wait to hear how this turns out!! Good luck/have fun! 😀

  40. Run with Courtenay! It’s a chance of a lifetime to race with a best friend AND if you truly believe that she is holding herself back, show her what she is capable of. You won’t regret it. I’ll be thinking of you both during my 12 miler this weekend.

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