Avoid "Friendly" Competitions
"When you get too competitive, you lose sight of your training program and you deviate from what's ideal for you," says Portenga. "In the end, it can sabotage your performance. If you're going to make a competition out of practice, then you should compete with only yourself." A better use of that time together, he says, may be to help each other through plateaus and work on checking off incremental goals. This is one area where veterans pair well with newbies: Running with a beginner can counter the culture of toughness that can take over between two experienced runners of equal ability. And practiced runners can help newbies stick with it.
The bond between running partners is unique: It lacks the shifting dynamics of a typical friendship, the baggage of family, and the professional distance of co-workers. "It's like being in therapy," says Lonneman. "The act of running somehow allows the words to flow easily. We share things on our runs that I might not even tell my closest girlfriend. What else are you going to talk about over 20 miles?"
Biochemistry may be what makes these highly compartmentalized relationships so fulfilling. "Your endorphins are flowing, so your guard is down," Walker says. "Cortisol is low, so stress is low. It's this parallel relationship where you aren't even facing each other. There's a rhythm; it's a meditative state.Sign up for your next race.