A friend wants me to run with her, but she’s quicker than me. Is it a good idea?
Pairing up could help both of you, if you take time to plan your joint runs.A slightly faster friend can act as a pacer – many studies have shown that the presence of another runner can help you draw out a better performance than running alone. It’s called the ‘co-action effect.’ In a study at the University of Essex in 2016, the presence of a competitor drove cyclists to a faster time trial finish than they could achieve alone. Your friend will need to be mindful of your pace and effort level and aim to keep just half a step in front, in order to maintain an ‘invisible string’ linking you. She’ll also be providing some valuable wind resistance, if it’s a blowy day!You could also do tempo runs – 20-30 minutes of running just outside your comfort zone (think ‘comfortably hard’).
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If you’re doing speed work (or hill reps), then you can both tackle the same session without needing to match each other speed-wise, as the distance covered in each rep is short and repeated numerous times, so you’ll never end up very far apart. I’ve found that the odd word of encouragement or nod of recognition of the discomfort we’re suffering from a fellow runner can make a speed workout feel that bit more pleasant than doing it alone, even if we’re not actually running together stride for stride.Another training tactic is for you to set the pace and your faster friend can enjoy a recovery run. Runners are notoriously bad at achieving the necessary ‘almost effortless’ pace required to make this type of run truly a recovery strategy and not just more miles at a steady pace. She could practise running very slowly without shuffling or losing good posture and form.On long runs, it’s important you lock in to your own speed. Your friend could run on ahead every now and again, then loop back to you. Or she could slow down to your pace, but that takes some skill and discipline, so if possible, monitor pace with an app or GPS watch to ensure it’s not creeping up.Do go solo now and again as well, though, to make sure you tune in to your own body and learn to read its signs.
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