The 10 Types of Running Buddies (and How They Make You Better)
I didn’t always love running.
In fact, the only reason I got into running in the first place was because of the dreaded timed one-mile physical fitness test in my high school gym class.
I thought this was the one test I couldn’t study for, and had resigned myself to just getting it over with. But my dad would prove me wrong. After hearing that my mile-trial times were improving during practice runs in gym class, my dad eagerly took me to the gym as his guest to use the treadmill to train for the test.
When I proudly passed the mile test in gym class, my dad suggested we try running the 4-mile Great Pumpkin Classic in our hometown. After having just accomplished running ONE mile, the idea of doing four times that distance sounded insane. He might as well have suggested we try running to the moon.
But alas, my dad was very convincing. What finally won me over was learning about the oversized scratchy tee-shirt with a pumpkin on it that would be awarded to finishers as a badge of honor. Count me in!
So Dad and I signed up, and we started the run side-by-side. I remember things going fine until around miles two or three. That’s when doubts started creeping in my thoughts, saying things like, “I can’t run one more step. There’s still an entire mile left to go. This better be the last hill. I can’t breathe. When is this over?” I stopped running and pulled over to the sidewalk, defeated.
My dad encouraged me to get back up and keep going, so I slowly but surely started running again. Finally, the finish line was in sight. Being the mature, supportive teenage daughter I was, I sprinted the last 100 meters, leaving my poor dad in the dust. Sorry, Dad.
After that first race, running has become a core part of my life. Running isn’t my main goal these days, and I don’t race much anymore, but it’s still my favorite way to clear my mind and meet so many wonderful (also crazy) people.
Along the way, I’ve made countless running buddies and formed lifelong friendships.
The youngest person I’ve run with was 7 years old (when I was a Girls on the Run coach); the oldest was nearly 70 (through a first-time marathoners training program). Some of my buddies were Division I athletes in college; others were midway through life and were using running as way to fight addiction (Back on my Feet). I’ve run with newbies, seasoned runners, and everything in between.
Through my running experience, I’ve identified 10 main types of running buddies, though I’m sure there are more. Many buddies can fall into multiple categories. Here’s my take on how each type of running buddy can make you not only a better runner, but also a better person.
#1: The Influencer
No, I'm not referring to the social media type of influencer. I’m talking about the person who first plants the running seed in your mind.
For me, this was my dad. He exercised for health, but never forced me to run. If he did, I may have hated it. It was by watching him run that I first thought that this might be something I could do. He simply offered up an opportunity to join him, and I took him up on it.
As someone who has always struggled with hand-eye coordination, contact sports were largely out of the question for me. But running offered a way for me to be independently active while still being part of a community. And I probably would have never tried to run a race had it not been for my dad (and the beloved physical fitness test in school).
Any runner can benefit from having that first running buddy who helps you learn the ropes. The Influencer helps you figure out what shoes to buy, what to eat before you run, and the basics of pacing.
The Influencer helps you realize your own potential. They help you imagine what could be, simply by inviting you along. By doing so, they could change your life.
#2: The Social Beast
Some of my best relationships have come from running buddies. There’s something about being outside, jogging alongside another human that just lets you open up and share what’s on your mind.
I’ve been fortunate to have had some buddies who not only listened to me jabber on for miles nonstop; I’ve also had buddies who helped the miles fly by as they share details of their life with me.
The Social Beast is the running buddy who can keep the conversation going so well that you don’t even notice how many miles you’ve done or how many are left to go.
It isn't uncommon for them to make new friends along the run. I’ve learned some great conversation starters through my Social Beast running buddies.
A side benefit of socializing while running: you train your lungs under more stressful conditions, since you air for both talking and running. If you’re used to chatting while running and then go for a run without talking, it’s amazing how much easier it is!
Running with a sociable person is a delight. Over time, I’ve found myself being more motivated by the social aspects of running than the exercise itself.
The Social Beast can help you learn how to connect with people and can become a longtime friend.
#3: The Silent Thriller
On the other end of the spectrum from The Social Beast is The Silent Thriller running partner. Yes, this is the buddy who you can turn to when you just want to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Whether you’re stressed out or just want some time away from the busyness and noise at home, it’s nice to have someone you can run next to with no pressure to make conversation.
For chatty people like myself, The Silent Thriller is a good reminder that you don’t always have to fill the silence with noise.
The Silent Beast is content to just hear the sound of feet hitting the pavement.
With the Silent Beast, you get the safety and companionship benefits of running with someone, but you also get calming quiet.
Through quiet camaraderie, The Silent Thriller reminds you that on the run—and in life—you are not alone.
#4: The Speed Demon
I’ve never been a fast runner. But there have been times throughout my running life where I set a time goal for a race. And I can confidently say that I could not have achieved those goals without a speedy running buddy.
The Speed Demon is the running buddy who runs fast. They are typically super fit, intense, and precise. And when you run with them, you just do your best to keep up.
Depending on where you’re starting and how fast they are, your buddy may need to dial back their speed in order for you to see each other at any point during the run. Your Speed Demon may even plan track workouts because clearly they’re gluttons for punishment.
In high school, I remember being on an afternoon run with a friend when we bumped into my marathoning French teacher, who was training for one of her races. We started jogging together and she said (clearly slowing down for us), “Show me your race pace!” In other words, “Speed up, ya slowpokes."
I felt like I was back in French class. You know when the teacher says something to you in French that you don't understand and expects you to reply in French? Nerve wracking. In fact, a sense of dread came over me as I feared she would start speaking in French to us while running—the ultimate nightmare.
I wish I could say I stepped up to the plate and sprinted into action, but instead I mumbled some excuse about having to tie my shoe. I told my teacher and my friend to go ahead and that I’d catch up with them. I think I finally saw them again when we made it back to the parking lot.
Even though I couldn’t quite keep up, I still appreciated having someone push me and set a high bar. Despite my shoe-tying panic in that moment, I was flattered that someone I respected actually thought I that I could keep up. Years later, I would set my own high bars for myself.
Usually, people who set a high bar for you don't do so because they want you to fail. They do it because they believe in you.
Years later, I'm grateful for my speedy running friends (and French teacher) who have pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Keep those intense Speed Demons in your life. They make you better.
#5: The Hill Driller
“It’s all downhill from here.”
On many of my runs, I’ve contemplated the double meaning of this phrase. On the one hand, there’s the ominous interpretation; meaning, the best is behind us and things are going poorly here on out. On the other hand, the phrase can mean that the hardest part is in the past; the rest is smooth sailing.
Luckily, running usually takes the latter interpretation because you are literally running down a hill, which although tough on the knees, is generally easier.
When said by the Hill Driller running partner, it's music to your ears.
The Hill Driller is rough, tough, and isn't afraid of incline. Hills are their own kind of mental challenge, especially when they’re rolling, super steep, or seemingly endless. Sometimes you get to the top of a hill only to see another, bigger one lined up next.
An appropriate metaphor for life, right?
Running hills is intense and painstaking, burning your lungs and legs, causing you to doubt your abilities. If you want some humility, try sprinting up a steep hill.
The Hill Driller embraces the hard stuff and sticks by you on both the ups and the downs. The show you how strong you are.
And The Hill Driller knows that the best views come after the hardest climb.
The Hill Driller teaches you grittiness and resilience.
#6: The GoFarther
They'll make you an offer you can't refuse.
I’ve talked about how running buddies can challenge your running speed and intensity, but I can’t leave out one of the most essential components of running: distance.
The GoFarther running buddy is known to casually tack on one “just one more mile.” They may convince you to sign up for a marathon or some other crazy distance. They often take the scenic route instead of shortcuts.
Similar to The Speed Demon and The Hill Driller, The GoFarther running buddy challenges your default behavior and pushes your endurance boundaries.
By running alongside them, sometimes for hours at a time, you really get to know each other. You begin to feel the aches in your feet, the chafing of your skin, and the GoFarther is right there, experiencing it with you.
There’s something about distance that really defines running. Races are typically defined by their distance. Distance is a key part of running because it’s a true mental test of endurance.
The GoFarther can be a positive influence on all aspects of your life. When you feel like quitting or taking the easy way out, you’ll hear their voice saying, “Let’s just go one more block” or “Up for one more mile?”
In today’s world of immediate gratification, being able to stick with things and see them through is a rare and admirable trait.
The GoFarther running buddy gives you the gifts of perseverance and tenacity.
#7: The Weatherproofed
If you run outside, at some point the weather isn’t going to be nice. Depending on where you live and what time of year it is, it may be swelteringly hot and humid, frigid cold, or dark and rainy.
On those days, it’s incredibly tempting to stay inside, sleep in, or attend an indoor fitness class. While it’s perfectly fine to skip a run or two, a few days of missed runs can turn into weeks, which turns into months—and before you know it, you’re out of running shape.
That’s why you need The Weatherproofed: the running buddy who doesn’t bat an eye at some snow or rain drops. No matter what the forecast is, The Weatherproofed shows up to run, rain or shine.
From the Weatherproofed running buddy, you learn to let go of control. You adapt. You can't always control the weather, but you can respond to it.
It’s actually good to be uncomfortable sometimes, and it’s even better if you’re uncomfortable in good company.
The Weatherproofed partner teaches you how to be adaptable and dedicated.
RELATED: Are You Afraid of the Dark? Here Are 8 Ways to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
#8: The Trendsetter
Running is a cheap sport...at least it CAN be. Once you start signing up for races or buying gear to support your habit, it can really add up.
The Trendsetter running buddy appears to spend all of their disposable income on running gear.
They know about all the latest running trends. They’re using various apps and watches to track their runs. They have the latest running shoes, wicking tees, and compression shorts. They’ve got the headlamp, reflective vest, hydration pack, waterproof rain jacket, anti-chafing balm, electrolytes—you name it, they’ve got it.
In addition to the latest gear, The Trendsetter will know which new races are coming out. They’ll have researched the incline and course and know which races have the best themes and fun swag.
Even after the run, they’re drinking the special drinks made for post-workout recovery, or using special tools to work out muscle knots and lactic acid. They’ll take ice cold baths, do hot yoga, and see a personal trainer to help with post-run recovery.
The Trendsetter running buddy is fun to run with because they love to research running-related things (so you don't have to!). Their enthusiasm for running is contagious.
They’re your go-to buddy when you’re experiencing ailments like blisters or tight hamstrings. If you’ve got a running-related question, then The Trendsetter will likely know the answer, or will help you figure it out.
The Trendsetter shows you what it means to be passionate about something.
#9: The Chill Fill
Somedays you just need a chill run.
Going at 100% effort back-to-back is pretty unsustainable for most normal humans, and can lead to injury or burnout. It’s necessary to log some easy runs and simply unplug and enjoy the outdoors.
I’d argue that every runner needs a buddy who can keep it light and free. Rather than focusing on pushing times or mileage, The Chill Fill is just happy to be out moving. When you run with The Chill Fill, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
The Chill Fill may not track mileage or time. They might not even have a running route planned. They won’t freak out if you stop and walk for a bit, or take a detour and get some ice cream. It’s all good.
For Type A runners especially, The Chill Fill running buddy serves to bring them back down to earth. It’s important to remember that the world won’t end if you don’t stick to the exact training plan.
The Chill Fill can help take the weight off of your shoulders and remind you about the fun parts of running.
By stopping to smell the roses, The Chill Fill can help you practice self-compassion and relax.
#10: The Newbie
At some point in your running life, things will come full circle. You become someone else’s running influencer.
Running with The Newbie gives you the opportunity to share your running woes and wisdom with a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed buddy. They’ll probably have a lot of questions and you’ll feel wise sharing your tales of the trails.
By running with a Newbie, you can experience all of the excitement, eagerness, and curiosity you felt when you first started running. Remember your first mile without stopping? Then came the first 5k, then the first 10k, the big half marathon.
Now you can relive those milestones with someone else. In some ways, it's like you're a parent watching their baby take their first steps.
When you encourage a Newbie runner, you share in their successes.
The Newbie running buddy reminds you of why you started running in the first place and all the ways running has changed you.
RELATED: The protégé effect: how doing for others makes us do more
How having a buddy motivates you to run
I love a good solo run, but to me, there’s no replacement for a running buddy.