Buddying up with another runner or a group is a great way to prevent your routine from getting stale, and to explore new running routes that you might not discover by yourself. When you're running with others, you might go farther and faster than you would on your own. The camaraderie will make the miles so much more enjoyable than they would be solo. Above all, it will help you keep your training on track.
"Having to show up is 90% of accomplishing the goals you set," says veteran marathon coach Gina Simmerling, a nurse based in Boulder, Colorado.
Don't be shy. It can be difficult to join a group of strangers. But everyone was new once. So introduce yourself just as you would at any other gathering where you are new. Chances are that a regular who spots an unfamiliar face will reach out to welcome you. If you don't feel comfortable showing up alone, bring along a friend for your first group outing.
Find compatible pacers. It's important to find a person or group of people who run at a compatible pace. Sometimes, it's easy to get caught up in the social dynamics of the group run. If you're running at a pace that's faster than what you can sustain, you risk getting hurt, or being unable to finish the workout. And if you're slowing down uncomfortably to run with the other person, it will be difficult to sustain the relationship.
Keep the competitiveness in check. A little friendly competition is okay. But remember, ultimately the most important thing is to improve your own fitness. If you get so focused on getting faster than another person, or catching up with a group, so much that you stop listening to your body and progressing at a pace that works for you, you risk injury.
Keep it real. Run with others who will be able to genuinely help you celebrate your success, and commiserate with you about setbacks, and genuinely want you to succeed. If you sense the vibe getting too competitive, it might be time to take a break.
Avoid comparisons. This is a BIG one! If you're juggling your training with a jam-packed work and family life, it's easy to get discouraged when you're running with others who are logging more mileage or faster paces. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others. All you can do is run as much or as well as you can in any given week or workout. If you can't reach your mileage targets, or complete the weekly workout, "don't give up," says Simmerling. "One or two bad weeks isn't the end of your running career."
Give it time. It's going to take two to three workouts before you start to feel comfortable," says Simmerling. "Most find that suddenly they have built a community and the fears fall away."