Do you stay with your friends when you run?

A few years ago, I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half-Marathon in Phoenix with my then-boyfriend. We had trained together for a few months and had the same goal — to finish at about two hours. Because we were running at about the same pace, we figured we’d cross the finish line together — we never talked about what one would do if the other one got a cramp or got tired or got mowed down by an overzealous Kenyan.

We were in perfect sync until Mile 10, and then he turned to me and said those fateful words: “I have to pee.” He told me next time we passed an alley, he was going to duck in and relieve himself. He told me to keep running. “Are you sure?” I asked him, secretly wanting to keep going, but feeling guilty for not waiting for him. He assured me it was fine. So I left him. And when I crossed the finish line without him — he finished five minutes later — I didn’t feel nearly as excited as I know I would have if we would have done it together.

I remembered reading about this couple who ran the 2002 Chicago Marathon, sticking together every step of the way even after the woman got leg cramps and the official time clocks were turned off. It was such a sweet story, and it made me question my dedication. Was I a bad girlfriend? At the very least, I felt like a bad running buddy, destined for a lifetime of bad running karma.

Which didn’t stop me from leaving another friend in February during the Austin Half Marathon. She told me ahead of time that she hadn’t trained properly and would probably be slow. She asked if I would stay with her. I told her I’d try. A mile in, it was apparent I was getting antsy, and she gave me her blessing to go on without her. It was probably for the best that I did — I ended up finished almost 45 minutes ahead of her. But it made me question my loyalty.

Flash forward a couple of months to a new boyfriend and a new race. The Peachtree Road Race will be the first organized race we’ll run together, though we’ve gone on training runs together a few times. We’ve talked a bit about race day, how one of us won’t mind if the other has to go ahead for whatever reason. I have a feeling I’ll be the one left behind this time — I think the hills will do me in, plus that bad running karma will probably kick in. I say I don’t mind, but I wonder how I’ll feel if I’m the one left in the dust come race time.

What do you think? Do you make pacts about staying together with your friends or significant others during races? Do you think it’s fair to stick to pacts if you have time goals? Have you ever had to leave a friend behind — or have you been the one left behind?

17 comments Add your comment


June 7th, 2011
12:29 pm

I have no problems running “my race”. I will meet up with friends and loved ones at the finish line to cheer them on.


June 7th, 2011
12:35 pm

! Yup I stay w/ the hubby, during the PRR & enjoy the same sites & people w/ him! It’s all about enjoying being American & independence on that day! <3


June 7th, 2011
12:42 pm

My rule – if we trained together, we finish together. It has been difficult for me to stick to this when I am the one that is faster, but I know how crushed I would be if I was the one to be left behind.

The rule should be that if you are okay with being left behind, you can leave others behind. Just make sure your friend or s/o knows that you will leave them before you sign up together.


June 7th, 2011
12:57 pm

I like to race on my own so I can do my best. I don’t want to worry about others’ speed or have others worry about slowing down for me. We always say see ya at the end. I think people should decide before the race if it’s ok to go it alone of if you’ll stick together through the end. If you say you’ll stay with them, you should.


June 7th, 2011
1:00 pm

I have been the leaver and the leavee. I think it’s fine to split up–but some people may be more sensitive. My friend left me around mile 8 of the Atlanta Half Marathon last year, and I was sort of relieved not to have to keep her pace anymore. I only finished three minutes behind her.


June 7th, 2011
1:25 pm

I am usually the slow one; especially on the hills. I have told my friends in the PRR with me that they are more than welcome to go ahead of me- and I mean it. I feel terrible holding people back and will be happy just to finish; this will be my first 10k!


June 7th, 2011
1:37 pm

I have been “the weak link,” before, encouraging running mates to leave me but they didn’t. After that I always made sure to train so I would not be the one holding people back. I’ve also been with other friends who were the weak links who did not train, and got angry/upset when I left them. I guess it depends on the situation. My boyfriend and I don’t race together. We both like to run to our potential.


June 7th, 2011
1:38 pm

Good luck on your first Peachtree and 10K sue!


June 7th, 2011
2:57 pm

I have had similar experiences; my wife and I train together for every race we run (Atlanta Marathon, PRR)and I get the urge to go, even after promising to stay with her. Since I am about pushing for my PB time, and she is about finishing, I do not see it changing. the guilt comes with the territory, accept it and run your race.


June 7th, 2011
3:09 pm

I have to “run my race”. I was fortunate to have a patient friend who stuck by me through 2 half marathons and 1 full marathon. I praised her and thanked her so much because I just can’t do that for someone. I have to just run whatever way I have to do it. For those of you who stick by us and adjust your pace for us – thank you!


June 7th, 2011
7:22 pm

My fiance and I signed up for the PRR together this year. I have been less active with my running since HS, and this will be his first 10K. When he first broached the subject, I had wanted to run separately if our paces were significantly different on race day, but now that I think about it, it’s much more likely that I’ll be running with him. It all depends on the situation, I guess, but his first 10K and P’tree is a notable event, and I won’t be running PBs again any time soon. We’re making the trip back to Atlanta for my sixth PRR (on my insistence), so I think I should just enjoy the run and celebrate his first 10K with him.


June 7th, 2011
8:34 pm

I always say “im slow as a snail. We can start together, but dont let me hold you up”. All my girlfriends are faster than i am. The only thing i have going for me is that i am consistent. I always finish. And I even have ran several half Marathons, and im STILL SLOW. :-) What im leading up to is… i ran the Disney Princess half marathon with my best friend. Shes way faster than me. I had ran a half marathon 2 weeks previous, and when we hit mile 11, i had to start walking. I told her to go. it was her first Half marathon, and i wanted her time to be good. She refused! and Pushed me to get moving. This bickering continued for the next mile or so, until i realized, she was NOT leaving me. When we crossed that finish line, i was so excited… and so was she. And yes, we did get to share that feeling of accomplishment together. That was my most awesome race memory. BUT, for the record, i would NOT have been mad had she decided to run on ahead. A true friend finds happiness in your success as well as their own.


June 7th, 2011
11:31 pm

It all depends on why you’re running the race. If you both agree you’re actually racing and going for your best time, by all means every person for him or herself. But not every race is a race. PRR is an event. So is a spouse’s, good friend’s or training partner’s first big race – whether it’s a first 5K, 10K or marathon. My partner has never been a runner and never had any desire to run a 10K, even though she would cheer me on at marathons and other events. But after dedicating a full year to getting fit, she set completing PRR as a goal last year. My normal pace is a good bit faster, but I promised we’d do it together. Seeing the race through her eyes, pointing out all of my favorite parts of the course, and seeing the joy and pride on her face as she approached the finish were all priceless. I wouldn’t trade any PR for that feeling and the wonderful memory of enjoying it together. I did the same thing many years ago with my mom. I’ve run many PRRs, but I’ll never forget those two races. Running and relationships aren’t about getting to the finish line as fast as possible – it’s all about the journey.


June 8th, 2011
10:49 am

This is why I don’t like to run with other people, period. I like to feel free to do my own thing. That’s one of the things I like the most about running. Only my own expectations and goals are in play. I don’t have to worry about letting anybody else down. I am a team of one when I run!


June 8th, 2011
11:01 am

My boyfriend and I have “trained” together, but he’ll definitely be running ahead of me at PPR. He’s been running it for the past 13 years, and is a seated runner (I’ll be in group B). I’d feel worse if I made him run for me. Plus, after he finishes he runs back, finds me, and finishes the last mile with me.


June 8th, 2011
8:02 pm

My son ran with me last year for his first PTRR, much to my delight, but when we passed the final photo point, even though we were wearing identical shirts, none of the photographers got us together which was a disappointment. Hope they get both of us in the same shot this year and we will finish together even though I he can probably do it faster than I can.


June 11th, 2011
6:19 pm

From my days as a ski bum, when the motto was “just because I sleep with you doesn’t mean I have to ski with you” – no, I don’t expect anyone I race with to stay with me and would not want to feel obligated to do so for someone slower than myself. I like to do training runs with other people, but for a race, no I don’t want the pressure of someone else’s pace and wouldn’t want to pressure someone else with mine.