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.

  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 🙂

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