One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: The Dynamic of Running Friends

A fine Ohio sunrise
A fine Ohio sunrise

As they prepare for the Wineglass Marathon on October 4 using the AMR #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge, Heather and Marianne, two long-distance BRFs taking on their first marathon, are sharing their experiences--and miles--weekly. Find all their posts here

Our motivation and determination got big boosts this week because on Monday we recorded an AMR podcast for its debut on Saturday (#173). It was fun to look back at the training so far and look forward to our upcoming race.

Did I mention the pocketses?
Did I mention the pockets? These shorts turn me into Gollum. Suddenly pocketses are all I can talk about.

In addition, we were treated to some fine Saucony swag. Marianne is madly in love with the Bullet Capri (the pockets!) and Heather went for the practical and stylish Bullet Shorts (no, seriously - the pockets!). As for shoes, Marianne's running career has known no other brand and after years in Omni 13, then GRID Pro, is now happy in the Triumph ISO. Heather is planning to debut the Peregrine 4 Trail Shoes when she paces a friend through part of an ultra at the end of August. Many thanks to Saucony for helping us find a more stylish (and functional!) strong.

Heading off for our Week 10 speed workout, one of a few we can do together because it is on the track so our different paces do not matter.
Heading off for our Week 10 speed workout, one of a few we can do together because it is on the track so our different paces do not matter. And yes, those sure are "Badass Mother Runner" shirts. Because matching BFFs are even more badass than regular BFFs.

Today we decided to tackle the perks and downsides of solo, partner, and group runs. With 4 or 5 days of running per week on the training plan totaling up to 30ish miles, there’s been a chance to test out virtually every combination. Plus, we were together this weekend so it feels timely.

In general, what has been your style?


Until gutting through the winter in the AMR NoLimits challenge, I had always considered myself a strongly social runner. Now, I am doing more of a mix. I swore I needed the companionship to get out the door but perhaps I just need some kind of accountability even if only a piece of paper telling me to get moving.


As stated in our recent podcast, I somehow managed to live in the Cleveland area for five and a half years before knowing Moms RUN This Town was a thing. So I logged a LOT of solo miles, and I learned to love them for their head-clearing properties. These days I'm a huge fan of a healthy mix of solo, partner, and group.

When has running solo been a no brainer?


The week 6 long run fell right after the anniversary of my mom’s death. I canceled tentative plans to run with a friend so that I could do whatever felt right. Whether fast, slow, quiet, podcasts, horrible 90’s music, loops, out/back, I wanted everything available (podcasts won). Asking for what I need is not a natural behavior and yet another way this training is making me more than just a stronger runner.


On almost every speed workout. Being competitive, you'd think I'd prefer a fellow speedster to push me along. But I most enjoy speedwork when I can crank up a pounding mix of Florence + The Machine, Pitbull, Macklemore, et. al and run myself into the ground.

Marianne's selfie skill improvement is lagging behind gains in running.
Marianne's selfie taking skill during the training cycle is lagging behind her gains in running. From left to right are a frequent long run partner (Francia); a writing pal at her first 5K (Koleen); and a work colleague (Susan) with a cameo from Lady Liberty.

When has running with someone made the difference between going and not?


Anytime it is a temperature other than 50-degrees with clouds: not disappointing others is a cornerstone of my personality.


Honestly, it's been a long time. When I was a fairly new runner, partners were critical. Particularly in rainy Portland, Oregon, knowing my girls were waiting for me dragged me out of bed on many a dark, drizzly morning. These days, I look forward to my runs enough that having a friend is just the cherry on top.

Demonstrating that something as simple as shared love of Buzz Bee is all it takes to form a fast friendship. Not that we recommend jumping into bed with just anyone.
Henry (Heather's son) and Joyce (Marianne's daughter) showcasing something as simple as shared love of children's shows is all it takes to form a fast friendship.

Can you run with people you wouldn’t be friends with in other domains?


I think it depends on the reason we wouldn’t be friends. If it is because of different interests or life stages, yes. If it is because she used to date my partner, probably not. If it is because she recently dated my BFF's partner, DEFINITELY not.


Absolutely. As we so often say, one of the great things about mother runners is you automatically have two things to talk about: parenting and running. I like the way lacing up has pushed me to find friends who might typically be outside my normal sphere, but through running we've easily found common ground. (See what I did there?)


Suppose the phone/Ipod/Discman breaks when on a solo run. What do you do with your brain?


Even though this is not a popular suggestion in my field, I like to pray rosaries. It’s easy for me to do because the number of fingers and repetitions of a Hail Mary match (10). Plus, as a Catholic BAMR, Mary holds an extra special place in my heart and my intentions tend to focus on mothering. Although I was extraordinarily lucky with regard to infertility, a number of my friends were not. There have been many a mile spent dedicating prayers for a friend’s pregnancy to start, stick, or be more viable than the last as well as for adoption matches to happen or paperwork to finish without any more hiccups.

It’s also how I got myself through my current 5K PR because it keeps  the brain busy enough to shut down the ouch but still focus on the task at hand.


First of all, I work hard to make sure this never happens. But when it does (or when I just need a quiet run), I daydream. I let my mind wander wherever it wants. If I'm dealing with a work issue, a run is usually where it gets worked out. A lot of these posts get "written" on my runs. I play out conversations in my mind, both past and future ones. Simply put, I do my best thinking in motion.

Marianne joins the "rowdy runners" for the Sunday morning MRTT coffee run.
Marianne joins the "rowdy runners" for the Sunday morning MRTT coffee run.

Anything else to add?


First, there’s lots of great insight on this topic in Tales from Another Mother Runner should you somehow not have read it yet. Overall, I do believe there is something powerful about running with others. The space lends itself to being vulnerable and authentic. My running friends in New Jersey were my first pals outside work and even though many no longer run, we still get together frequently; they made my transition so much more pleasant than it might otherwise have been.

And after meeting a selection of Heather's MRTT group this weekend, I am even more sold on the power of the pack. You lades are even better in person and have me scheming for an extended trip next summer to see you again!


If you've been thinking about finding a running group but have been too nervous about being the slowest/weakest/shyest/[insert self-deprecating adjective here] one there, consider this your nudge to make like a certain shoe company and just do it. I have seen so many women (myself included) be scared to join a running group, then show up and not only blossom as a runner, but walk away with a group of dear friends. Despite being called "Moms RUN This Town," MRTT is open to all women, mothers or not. If that's not your style, many specialty shops hold group runs, and many towns have groups that connect through Facebook or other social media sites. So even if you're a dedicated solo runner, I'd encourage you to at least check out a group - you may be surprised.


Tell us readers, do you have a rule of thumb for when to pair up or get out alone?

5 responses to “One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: The Dynamic of Running Friends

  1. Another great post.

    Marianne as a fellow Catholic BAMR I took pray the rosaries; I have a pocket/finger size that I try to make sure I have on me, especially on long runs and “races.

  2. I was listening to this week’s podcast this morning and heard Sarah, Dimity and Heather having the pacer vs pace band debate. I have never run with a pacer before, but I understand Dimity’s concerns about starting off at race pace since the get go, since I am more of a conservative starter. I don’t know the course specifics for Wineglass, but I strongly suggest that if you are going to get a pace band, you get the one from The difference here is that these bands are course specific, and you can even customize your strategy. In my case, I used it for NYC Marathon last year and it was awesome because being a very hilly course, the band pretty much told me at which point I could take it easier because of a hill and then make up for it in the downhills at a slightly faster pace. Check it out and good luck for the rest of your training.

  3. For years I ran alone, simply because I didn’t know any other runners. And sometimes my schedule is crazy, and I just have to squeeze it in whenever I can, which makes planning hard. But I’ve always pined for a BRF. When I finally met mine, less than a year ago, it was a match made in heaven! We have so much in common it’s uncanny, and our paces are dead on. If I could, I would run with her every single day!

  4. Pairing up is hard because it takes that extra time and effort…. another schedule to coordinate for moms who are already busy and coordinating everyone else’s schedule. But I just decided to join a running group because once I’m hitting double digit runs in my training, I really just need a little company and motivation.

  5. I always run alone, so I am very self-motivated. I would LOVE to find a running partner, but I am still looking. My local chapter of MRTT is not very active, and I actually tried to start a new chapter with no luck.
    Still searching!

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