When I started running, it was for social reasons. As a skinny, awkward-looking Catholic school kid transferring to my town's much bigger public school, the cross-country team was where I made my first high school friends. Most of our training involved long, loping runs out into the surrounding farmlands and forests, where we'd talk about high school concerns—girls, tests, parents, girls. We trained together, we ate together and, most importantly, we suffered together. The team was my tribe, and some of the only people I'm still in touch with from those years I met that first summer, and ran alongside for four years.
Nowadays, I mostly run alone, but I've found other things to love about the sport—exploring new parts of the city, honing my self-discipline, staying fit and happy and, yes, its independence. But not everyone sees it that way. Sometimes you just want someone else to run with, whether it's for motivation, socializing or mutual suffering. While you could just fall into step with a stranger at one of your local running hotspots and start chatting, that's not the most effective way to find a reliable partner who's a good fit. Here are a few good ways to go about it.
Before You Start Your Search
• Know your training pace. You don't want to partner with someone who'll slow you down or run you into the ground. In either case, your training will suffer. If you don't already know your general pace, time your next five or six runs, and average out your pace.
• Know when you can run. Are you an earlybird who likes dawn patrol laps at the park, or is after work the best time for you to hit the local trails? If you establish a time that generally works for you, it'll make finding someone with a similar schedule easier.
• Do you have a running goal? Training to qualify for Boston, or just training for your first 10K? It's important to share your goals with a potential partner, since that will dictate, to a degree, the kinds of workouts you want to do.
1. Hook Up with a Local Running Club
The Road Runners Club of America lists clubs all over the country, and is the best resource for finding one in your own backyard. A good introduction is to join a group run and find runners who match your pace. Also, many club websites have forums where runners post requests for training pals. Look for someone who matches your pace and schedule.
2. Join a Meetup.com Running Group
There are more than 1,600 running groups in 719 cities and 38 countries on Meetup.com. Meeting them—and joining them—is just a few clicks away.
3. Stop by the Local Running Specialty Store
Along with clubs, specialty stores are the lynchpin of the local running community. Oftentimes, they host regular group runs, post ads from people seeking training partners or do both.
4. Register for a Road Race
Many races offer free group training runs (tailored to the race's specific distance) to every registered participant. Before you sign up for a race, log onto its website and see if they organize training sessions.
5. Ask at Your Gym
Some gyms and health clubs have running clubs or running buddy sign-ups. Ask at the front desk. If they don't have that sort of thing, ask if you can post a note to a bulletin board search for a partner. Since everyone who sees your note is probably as into fitness as you are, you're more likely to find someone.
6. On the Road? Try JoggingBuddy.com
JoggingBuddy.com is a free website that allows members to find other members to run with, no matter where in the world they currently are. With more than 25,000 members in 118 countries, you can find a running partner—not to mention a local guide to take you exploring—almost anywhere.
7. Looking for Love? Try a Fitness Dating Site
OK, so maybe you're looking for a running life partner. If that's the case—or you just like dating people who share your love of fitness—register with a fit-focused dating site like RunningSingles.com or Fitness-Singles.com.
8. Consider a "Virtual Running Club"
Many sites—RunnersWorld, NikePlus and CoolRunning (New England only)—now offer online-only running groups, virtual trainers or training partners. OK, OK, we know it's not the same, but that pressure—even when applied via the Internet by your Norwegian running pal—may be just the nudge you need to get out and train more.
9. Try Craigslist
It's not great for this, but if you check out the "Activities" section under the "Community" tab, someone who's just as lost as you probably put an ad up searching for a training partner. Browsing isn't the way to do it, though, or you'll have to sort through a lot of absolute dreck—freaky personal ads, shady business opportunities and the like. Instead, use the search tool and put in key words like "running" and "jogging." Happy hunting!