Today as I was pounding out a tempo run on the treadmill, I thought about what would be the most important advice I would give any beginning runner who is interested in starting and staying with a running program.
Would it be making sure you get the right type of shoes? Would it be starting with a run/walk program of 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week before moving up in minutes or miles? Keeping a detailed running journal of all your runs? Staying consistent in making sure you get 3 or 4 runs in each week?
No, although all of those items are important in getting started and staying in running, I wouldn't have any of them listed as the most important thing for a beginning runner. After 20 plus years in running, my number one thing would be to find, and run with a partner.
It can be a best friend, an established runner, heck; it may be even be your dog. But get someone to run with. Just having someone that keeps you (and you keep them) honest, will keep you committed to a program. It has been argued that just writing down a commitment will get a person to harden their resolve to see it through. I believe that sharing that commitment with one other person sets that commitment to a power of 10.
Now this is coming from someone that trained for his first marathon in 1990 running all his long runs as a lone wolf. But even though I ran all those miles alone, it doesn't change my opinion that sharing a run with a friend beats running it alone. I find it makes the time that you spend running go quicker, more meaningful and overall, more satisfying.
I mentioned the importance of keeping a journal in an earlier blog. After running a while, take a look back and compare your notes on how your runs went when you ran alone vs. when you ran with a partner. If your entries are anything like mine, you will find the runs that you struggled with, will happen much more often in your solo runs.
There is something about running with a partner. You share, and sometimes solve, life's struggles. You encourage each other not only in today's run, but also in life's challenges. You share things during a run that you would not share in any other medium. I'm not exaggerating when I say that you share more than physical activity, you share a spiritual one also.
The beauty about the running community is that it is not a zero-sum sport. When one participant has a good run or race, it is not at the expense of another runner. I've run races with many friends that I've also run with and never felt that when one of them had a better race than me, that it was at my expense.
So the best advice I can give to any rookie runner is to find a partner to share your runs with. It will give you returns beyond your original commitment.