Running with a group, even for a dyed-in-the-wool introvert like me, can be just the ticket to getting through those long training runs.
But no group of people will always get along. You may have an off day, or your running partner will one day just drive you up the wall. That is simply how relationships work (at least, that is how all of my relationships work).
Don’t let a bad running partner make those long runs any harder than they already are.
Running 20 miles is hard. Running 20 miles with a person who is annoying you? That can be agony.
Why Am I Thinking About This In The First Place?
First of all, I want to make clear to any of my current or former running partners reading this, I swear I’m not thinking of any of you. I got thinking about this recently when I was volunteering at a race aid station with a person who I’m pretty sure is the single most negative person I’ve ever met.
She couldn’t stand fruity Gus, she couldn’t tolerate chocolate Gu, she would never use vanilla Gu (but she insisted she used Gu). Just the thought of consuming sports drinks would make her throw up, as she made clear multiple times.
She hated races that had too much sweet stuff at the finish line and hated runs that had BBQ or other real food at the finish.
She hated spray sunscreen and hated when runners used too much sunscreen on their faces, leaving white streaks.
So why did this make me think about running partners?
She mentioned running with a club.
All I kept thinking is: what must she be like to run with? In the 5 or 6 hours I spent with her, I don’t know of a single thing she would tolerate, let alone enjoy.
How could someone put up with that conversation for very long?
What To Do With An Annoying Running Partner
Look At Yourself First
Let’s start with a moment of honesty and self-reflection (and you don’t need to admit this to anyone else, so be honest).
Try to pinpoint what it is about them that annoys you. Is it what they talk about? How they talk about it? Their tone? Their attitude?
Here is your moment of honesty – does this person really bother you, or do they remind you of things about yourself you don’t like?
A personal focus for me lately is to be less negative. While I’m a long way from being a Pollyanna, I’ve made definite progress and can usually find some sort of silver lining to consider.
I think my fellow volunteer’s negativity bothered me as much as it did because I’ve been so focused on my own negativity. I probably only noticed her negativity because of it. She was making me (continually) consider my own sore points.
And that is my problem, not hers.
Of course, recognizing this doesn’t make it go away. But knowing how to reframe it can make it a little bit easier.
Is It An Always Thing, Or Only Occasionally?
Does your running partner drive you nuts on nearly every run, or just occasionally?
Everyone has an off day. Heaven knows there are days when I’m no peach to run with.
If it’s only an occasion thing, chalk it up to mental training and run on.
After all, a big part of running, especially marathon training, is the mental training of adapting to and accepting discomfort, annoyance, and pain. Usually, the source of that pain is your legs or little voice that lives in your head, but on this occasion, it may just be delivered in the form of an annoying running partner.
However, if an issue arises on nearly every run, that needs to be dealt with.
While not every run needs to be amazing, most should be tolerable.
Is The Problem Only Around Particular Areas?
Does the annoyance arise only out of particular topics of conversation (such as politics or diet) or in regards to particular running habits?
If you generally get along great, unless she starts talking about her attempt to order a Starbucks latte that fits her hyper-vigilant keto, whole 30, macrobiotic, gluten-free, vegan, locavore diet, that can likely be confronted and managed.
If, however, you are annoyed by pretty much everything they say or do, that is another story.
If you want the running relationship to be saved, you are going to have to confront it.
Don’t be passive aggressive and hope your subtle clues of annoyance will be picked up on, interpreted properly, and acted upon. Trust me. I often try this approach first, and it has never once been successful.
Address the problem you are having directly and have a conversation about it.
I don’t claim to be an expert in having difficult conversations, but a few guidelines:
- Be direct, but non-threatening
- Talk about the impact the situation is having on you
- Acknowledge your own role in the situation
- Focus on specific actions that can realistically be changed
- Ask them to work with you on a solution (remember, you likely play a role in both the problem and the solution)
- Be an active listener
For the solution to work, both of you should commit to making the necessary changes.
While you are at it, find out if you are doing anything that bothers them. Fix what needs fixing.
Last Resort? Quit Them (Or Take A Break)
If everything about them annoys you, or if you’ve attempted solutions and there hasn’t been any progress (or at least an attempt to change), accept that it may be time for you to change running partners.
Move on, either temporarily or permanently.
Maybe you both just need a little time apart. Or maybe you are in different mental places and should run with new people.
Proper mindset is so important to your running success, spending a large chunk of your run annoyed at your running partner isn’t doing you any favors. And soon, if you haven’t already, you’ll start dreading your run in the hours (if not days) before the run, knowing what is to come.
And that’s no good for anyone.