BOSTON (CBS) – For some people running is a solitary sport. For others, a race like the Boston Marathon is the chance to be a part of something much bigger. Sharing that experience with friends can make it more meaningful, and also provide unique training and racing benefits.
People who run together run longer
There are some obvious and not-so-obvious benefits for choosing to train with or run the Boston Marathon with friends. According to coach and author Matt Fitzgerald, athletes can perform roughly 20 percent longer when they do a workout with another individual. “Because the presence of the other runners activates social instincts that increase your maximum suffering tolerance,” explained Fitzgerald.
When 2012 U.S. Olympic marathoners Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher became training partners in 2011, the pairing pushed both athletes to new levels. “If I didn’t have Shalane I wouldn’t be who I am and I never would have made the Olympic team,” Goucher told Runner’s World before the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“When Kara is pushing me, I know that when I go to a race and draw on that experience thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, Kara pushed me so hard at the end of workouts,’ I need to be able to capture that in a race,” added Flanagan.
Group running creates accountability
According to a study published in The Journal of Social Sciences, “The likelihood of joining and staying motivated during exercise increases when friends or peers engage in those same activities.”
Speed work is brutal both physically and mentally, which is why many people choose to do track workouts as a group. Training for a marathon with others makes a runner think twice before skipping a workout.
“It’s easy to roll over and go back to bed if it’s just you,” running coach and author Gail Kislevitz told the New York Times. “You know if you have a group waiting for you on the corner, you don’t want to be the one not to show up.”
The social perks
There is also an obvious social benefit to running with friends. Spending three plus hours together pounding the pavement gives people a chance to bond, while conversation can help alleviate boredom and pain by providing distraction and motivation.
“I ran my first marathon on a brutally hot day, and I hate the heat,” said recreational runner James Thomas. “If I hadn’t had my wife there making dumb jokes and teasing me, I think I would have quit at mile 15.”
Choosing a running buddy
Before choosing to run with a friend, it’s important to understand that the partnership works better if both people share the same pace and race goals. It’s also crucial for training partners to know when it’s time to stop talking and get to work, and when it’s time to cut each other loose if one person is having an off day.
“I didn’t want to hold my wife back,” said Thomas, “But she insisted she was happy to slow down and keep me company for the last torturous miles.”
On Patriot’s Day, 36,000 people will line up for the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon. Some will run solo. Others will run with a friend, a father, a sister or a charity group. But they will all run together.
Kimberly Bogin is an Emmy Award winning television producer who has been running marathons for 14 years. After her non-running friends banned her from talking about training, races and black toenails, Kimberly decided to write about it instead, working as the Running Examiner for the last four years. Examiner.com.