You don’t need to be part of an elite club to reap the benefits of long ef­forts with oth­ers.

Runner's World South Africa - - Personal Best - BY JES­SICA MIGALA

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.

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