Dave asks: My annoying running partner complains before every run. We meet up in the mornings, and the excuses start as soon as he gets out of his car. They range from not sleeping well, to his back hurts, to a bad week at work, to the time of day and so on. This starts runs on a negative note. How do I handle this?
As the saying goes, the best defence is a good offence, so your running partner may be preparing himself (and you) for a poor performance in case he can’t keep up on your run. Negative talk is usually a form of anxiety. Runners tend to use this tactic as a defensive mechanism in case they don’t perform well – sort of like hedging a bet. It happens more often before a race, but obviously it can also happen before a training run as well.
Regardless of his reasons, negative talk is indeed a buzzkill. Whether it’s intentional or not, it deflates everyone when done in excess. What’s more, negative talk can actually hurt your performance while the opposite – positive self-talk – can boost your performance. Remember that how you perform on any run is not just about your physical fitness. A better approach is to talk positive to draw a good outcome instead.
It’s important to note that running partners don’t progress at the same rate even when doing the same workouts. While you two may have started out in the same place, it sounds like you are at very different spaces – whether it’s the distance, the pace, or both – in your fitness now. Perhaps your running partner isn’t feeling confident in his ability. It’s easy to become deflated when you can’t keep up with your training partner.
If this keeps up, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart talk. Be honest and tell him you hear his negative comments before the runs, and you are concerned about him and need to know what is up.
When training partners find themselves on diverging paths, one option is to join a new running group. A larger group can provide a chance to find other appropriate training partners who you can train and race with.
Another option is to change up your running schedule to accommodate both you and your partner’s needs. For example, the faster runner can meet up with their friend on easy run days. (Just be sure to run at their pace!)
Or, if you are wanting to run longer than he does, run his pace and his distance first, and then complete the remainder of the run at your pace. This can be a great way to increase your overall mileage in a gentle manner and enjoy your running buddy at the same time. The point is to find some common ground that keeps both of you happy.