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Running with a slower runner

Like probably most of you, I really enjoy running with other runners. You can learn stuff running with a faster runner, and you can learn stuff running with a slower runner. But either way, the time goes by much faster with a partner. Or three.

I think I've run mostly with faster runners. Not so much by choice, but it just seems like everyone I know runs faster than me. (Couldn't be because I'm just slower, could it?)

With this experience, I want to pass along some advice - no make that a suggestion - for runners to consider when they are running with a slower runner: let the slower runner set the pace.

So often my faster training partners tend to "one-step" me. That is, they run just a little ahead of me so that I always feel like I'm not going fast enough for them. Sometimes I feel guilty about slowing them down and try to pick it up, only to have them pick it up equally and I can never pull even with them. I doubt that they realize how annoying this can be and how it makes conversation difficult, at best.

Occasionally, after being one-stepped the entire run, they say something like, "Man, you really wore me out today. You were really setting a tough pace." Please note: you cannot set the pace from behind!

Most training runs in groups of two or more have a large social component. That's what makes it enjoyable to run together. That's what makes the miles go by so quickly. But, please be sure to be considerate of the slowest runner in the group.

Take it from me, it's very hard to enjoy the social nature of a group run when you feel like no matter how hard you run, it's not fast enough. You end up breathing hard and grumbling to yourself to the point that you are unable to participate in any conversation beyond "uh-huh" and "unh-unh".

So, here are a few tips:

1. If you want to get in some faster training while running with a slower partner(s), you can excuse yourself for a mile or so and run hard, then jog back and resume running together.

2. Running together means side-by-side, if traffic permits. If you must go single file, let the slower runner lead.

3. When side-by-side, keep your shoulders even or a little behind the shoulders of the slower runner. I do this (on the rare occasions when I am not the slowest runner) by imagining a broomstick along our shoulders and I make sure I keep my broomstick just behind.

I'm talking about training runs here, not races. Sometimes it can be helpful to some runners to "pull" them along in a race by one-stepping. Do not assume this, however. If you want to help pace someone in a race, be sure to discuss ahead of time how he or she would like you to help with pacing, and what kinds of encouragement (if any) he or she likes to hear.

I always had the best results pacing others when I ran side-by-side and tried to get into the racer's rhythm. When you run right in step with another runner, it's much easier for them to maintain their cadence (leg turnover), which can be a huge performance boost. This also works very well on training runs when you both want to run a good, steady pace. Try it.

Credits - WorldwideRunning.com would like to thank the running shop A Snail's Pace (www.runasnailspace.com) for the authorization to reprint the article "Running with a slower runner" originally published on their February 2005 newsletter.


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