Yes, You Can Train For a Race By Running With Friends—Even When You Run Different Paces. Here’s How

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You’ve done it. After clicking on “register,” you and your BFF are committed to running (and training for) that half marathon. But what about if you run at completely different paces? Or one of you is out for a PR, but the other just wants to finish? Can you still train with one another?

Having a workout partner who keeps you accountable will help you push through those training days when you lack the drive to lace up those shoes and get moving—even if you run at different speeds.

We found out from the experts how to tailor your training plan to enjoy the benefits of running with friends and still hit your running goals. Here’s what they have to say.

Benefits of running with friends

“There's nothing better than knowing you have someone by your side to encourage and motivate you when you're feeling down, and that you can do the same for them when it just isn't their day,” says Katelyn Tocci, UESCA-certified running coach and managing editor at Marathon Handbook. Check out the perks of running with a pal:


You love to run, yet you can still come up with a million excuses to skip it. We’ve all been there. It was a tough day at work. Or the baby was up all night. Your to-do list is a mile-long and a run isn’t at the top. Maybe it’s all of the above.

That’s when a partner comes in clutch. “Running with a friend is an excellent way to hold both parties accountable for their training. Even though most runners are genuinely dedicated, there are inevitably days when we are enticed to hit the snooze button and roll over," says Tocci. "On these mornings when motivation is lacking, knowing your running buddy is relying on you to show up at the track or park makes you much less likely to skip the workout. They are counting on you, and you count on them."


When you do show up, you not only get the training in, but you get precious time with a friend. Chatting with a workout partner can ease stress and lift spirits. And it makes your running easier. “This mutual support can transform a challenging run into a much more manageable and enjoyable experience,” says Tocci.

Furthermore, running with friends can boost morale when you’re feeling low.

“We all have moments of doubt when we feel like we just can't do it or aren't good enough," says Tocci. "Running buddies inspire each other, look up to each other, and plan exciting goals together.”


Need a little playlist help getting through those first miles? “When you see people running with headphones, it’s often to entertain the mind during running (which can sometimes be monotonous) or the little spikes of dopamine we get from a fast-paced song,” explains Michael Mazzara, CEO of Half Marathon Guide.

“Running with someone allows for the same level of excitement and distraction that many find to be a necessary complement to the running experience.”

Increased speed

Lastly, running slowly with someone may help you run faster. “It’s becoming more commonly known that training adaptations (the process of getting faster, fitter, and building endurance) come when training in zone 2," Mazzara says. "Zone 2 is 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate." The exact beats per minute will vary depending on age and fitness level.

Running with friends ensures you settle into an optimal training zone—no heart monitor required. “It’s called a ‘conversational pace.’ Zone 2 is the amount of effort required to sustain physical activity for an extended period of time—think, 30 to 60 minutes or more—while able to speak the entire time without huffing and puffing,” says Mazzara.

So how does spilling the tea while you run make you speedier? “First, at this effort, runners get injured less. Consistency yields better fitness returns over time. Secondly, it has to do with increasing the quantity and size of mitochondria in your muscle fibers. Simply: Slow running improves the amount of energy capacity you have in your muscle fibers,” Mazzara explains.

5 tips for training with someone faster…or slower

Perhaps for one of you, crossing the finish line is the main goal, while the other is gunning for a race PR. You don’t have to go it alone. “No one needs to sacrifice their training and pace to enjoy training together,” suggests Tocci. Here are some strategies to implement so you both succeed.

1. Perform your speed work individually but at the same place

Your fastest pace may differ from your friend's. So when you’re looking to push yourself during intervals or sprints, you can run separately at the same location. “You still meet up for the speed work, enjoy a warm-up together, do the workout in the same place, but not at the same pace, and then finish together with a nice, easy cool down,” says Tocci.

2. Adjust your pace—slow down!

This goes for the faster runner. Remember that it’s to your advantage to train in the zone 2 sweet spot.

“It’s really important for the running buddy to slow their pace and to be mindful every mile," Mazzara says. "Injuries among runners often occur when pushing beyond physical capabilities. Especially when training with a friend—you may ignore how hard you’re actually exerting yourself.”

The slower runner should set the pace.

3. Do your recovery and easy runs together

“Pace training and speed workouts will only make up about 20 percent of your training, depending on your training method. So you can still enjoy your recovery runs and easy runs together and take advantage of the warm-up and cool-downs before and after each speed session,” says Tocci. “Running [recovery runs] at a slightly slower pace than you would on your own will not affect your training. From experience, it makes your aerobic base even more solid.”

4. Connect for a portion of the run

Your running buddy may run longer or faster than you. That’s okay. “Join them for the final few miles of their long run session," Mazzara says. "Maybe you can sustain the same pace over a shorter distance. Or, join them for the cool down miles on the back end of their tempo or speed workouts.”

5. Meet up for strength training and mobility work

There’s more to race prep than running. As you gear up for your big day, running-specific strength training can improve performance. You’ll also want to include active rest days to allow your body to recover from your high-intensity runs.

“Do your gym workouts and any active recovery sessions together,” suggests Tocci. Partnering up will ensure you don’t neglect these essential accessory workouts.

Sometimes running isn’t the hardest part of training for a race. Race prep can be difficult. There’s a sacrifice of time, days where you lack motivation, and a nagging urge to give up. Tocci reminds us that loneliness does not have to be a part of the experience.

“Having someone by your side for those challenging moments can change the entire course of your run. Whether offering some encouragement or running alongside in solidarity, they can help you get through that rough patch. When your buddy is facing a similar challenge, you'll be there to lend a helping hand.”

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