When Running Together Can Mean Racing Apart

Jared running up front in the Seneca Creek 50K.

We’d talked about. He was going to leave me.

And that was ok.

It was a 20-degree March morning and Jared and I were lined up for the Seneca Creek 50K. The race hadn’t even started yet but I knew I was about to get dropped.

How? Because also lined up were Jared’s very fast friends: Shawn, Pete, Geoff, and Justin. I looked at those fast boys and then I looked ahead at the trail.

He was going to leave me.

And that was ok. Or at least that’s what I kept repeating to myself.

Dating your training partner is fantastic for so many reasons — last year Jared and I ran almost 800 miles side-by-side, including August’s Bigfoot 200 in Washington.

But I always have to remind myself of one minor (yet huge) detail: We are not the same person.

I was thrilled with my 5:48ish time for 32 miles. It was a great first race of 2017.

While it’s great to run together, we don’t always need to run the same pace; we don’t always need to run the same mileage. He’s a high-mileage runner, and I know that trying to match him mile-for-mile is just going to earn me some involuntary time off.

Also important? Remembering that while our race schedules my line up, our race goals may not.

And that’s ok.

Seneca, the first real test of of our fitness this year, was also going to be a test of my restraint.

I wanted to go have a strong race, run happy, and finish feeling like I didn’t need a lot of post-race downtime. Jared had eyes on a fast finish and a possible distance PR.

Seneca in 2015 had been his last really fast race. His nagging Achilles issue, combined with Bigfoot training, meant 2016 was full of fun, but long and steady (i.e. slow) miles.

Now for Seneca 2017 he was feeling healthy and fast. I knew putting down some quick miles would mean huge things for him going into an aggressive year.

That frozen Saturday in March I knew Jared wanted to burn it down, but I knew trying to keep up with him would mean me burning up.

So when the gun went off I hung back and watched the fast boys bounce off ahead of me. I knew I could keep up with them for a little while but I would certainly pay for it later.

So … restraint. It kind of stinks. Watching your person run away is tough, but I wanted him to have a great race and spend some quality miles with friends he doesn’t get to see often.

And I didn’t want to suffer.

I ended up running the strong race I’d hoped for, finishing in 5:48 — a pace-per-mile in the 10:30s for the 32 miles. Jared ran sub-9s.

I would have died.

Jared and I run a lot of races together, but not always together. We enjoy the time, but we also don’t mind miles apart — whether those are solo or spent catching up with other friends.

Anyone who races together — couples or just training partners — should be clear on expectations before you get to the start line. Is this a fun run or a race? Will you wait if one of you has to stop or slow down? Who has the car keys?

Before Bigfoot we talked at length about how we’d stay together if it was convenient for both of us, but that there would be way too many variables to plan to stay together the entire time. We agreed, that if one of us felt good and the other didn’t, we’d split up.

No guilt.

And we did split up — for a whole mile.

He hit a rough patch early on, and when it was clear he wasn’t medically in danger I ran ahead to the aid stations to try to empty the sand out of my own panties, hoping he’d bounce back and catch up.

He did, and we ran the next 170 miles together.

Who knows what we’ll do when we hit the starting line of the Tahoe 200 in September. We’ll likely go in with the same game plan: Run together until we can’t. That might be 10 miles in, a day in … who knows. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Just having my person out there, somewhere on the same trail, is comforting.

There aren’t many rules in ultrarunning, but these two always hold up: Do your own training; run your own race.

But it sure is great when when those two line up and you get to spend miles and miles making memories with your best friend.

Happy running, friends.

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