BUILD YOUR OWN CREW
You don’t need to be part of an elite club to reap the benefits of long efforts with others.
DO Find enough friends.
If you’re assembling a group, enlist at least three running buddies, says Kelly Maurer, director of training for Charm City Run – that way, you’ll have at least one person to run with if the snooze button or a sick kid sidelines part of your group. Or you can join an existing run in your area to ensure you’re never flying solo. “Being in the company of fellow runners makes it easier to manage the inevitable mental and physical fatigue that accompanies a long run,” says running coach Matthew Forsman. Find a group through a local running club or sports shop, or via Facebook.
DO Rotate leadership.
Forsman suggests n ami n g two or three ‘captains’ who rotate planning and organising duties between them, from one week to the next. The captain creates the route and leads the crew through it. ( Things to keep in mind, says Forsman: safety for a group of pedestrians, ease of navigation, toilets along the way, and course difficulty.) If the route lacks water fountains, the captain may also drop coolers with water and sports drink on the course, or let the group know that they should bring their own fluids. He or she is also in charge of carrying a fully charged cell phone, in case of emergency.
DO Designate when.
If you’re organising a group, pick a day and time and stick to it (e.g. Saturday at 7am) to eliminate confusion from the start: “Everyone can put it on their schedule and prioritise it, like any other appointment,” says Maurer. If members of the group live on opposite sides of town, either choose a mutually agreed upon place in the middle as the meet-up spot, or alternate starting points every other week.
ChangeDON’T your pace.
Find running buddies whose pace is close to yours, or you’ll increase your injury risk. You’ll know the pace is too slow if it throws off your natural gait, Maurer says. To ensure you’re not running too fast, you should be able to carry on a conversation. (Runners with time goals may work racepace kilometres into some long runs, and you may not be able to speak easily during those, Forsman says.)
DON’T Force multiple stops.
The night before or the morning of a group run is not a good time to push the boundaries of what agrees with you, says Maurer. If you have go-to safe meals, choose those. If you don’t, avoid spicy foods or anything high in fat or fibre – common culprits when there are tummy troubles. Your group will probably stop to rest, but do your part to prevent the need for frequent, urgent ones.
DON’T Wear headphones.
The point of running with friends is to talk to them. And if you’re with a group of strangers, it’s still worth chatting: “Runners learn from other runners,” Maurer says. You have a common interest, so ask what races your companions are training for, their favourite places to run locally, and so on – you might discover a new event or route. In any case, carrying on a conversation helps the kilometres pass more quickly.