After a long absence, I’m finally linking up with Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia for this week’s Friday Five: 5 Ways to Share the Fitness Love. Well, I really liked Courtney’s take on this. My initial thought was “um, social media?” But when I saw Courtney chose to talk about running buddies, that got me thinking. As a runner who usually runs solo, at first I thought this would be a tough topic for me. Then I realized part of the reason I run solo so often is because I have specific needs from a running buddy, which narrows the 5 ways down.

image11. Appreciate this time. I won’t ask anyone to hang out or run with me if I feel like I’m a chore to them. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost closeness with friends after cancelling on them too many times, too. Time spent in the company of others, whether running, having coffee, or just being near each other watching TV, is factually necessary to sustain life. Be grateful to have someone literally by your side!

2. Be a cheerleader. This doesn’t have to mean screaming and shouting and waving flags. Once my friend Jescie and I went out for 10 miles on the B&A trail near her home in Severn, MD. When I arrived, she knew that her body was telling her she wouldn’t be able to make 10 that day. She was going to turn around at 3 to walk until I caught back up to her running. When I did catch back up to her, at 7.5 for me and 4.5 for her, I was almost toast. For some reason my groove had gone out of whack and I told Jescie, “I got nothing left.” She very calmly and pleasantly said, “Okay, let’s just run to that bridge, slow as you need to, then we can walk.” We did. We walked for a minute and again, very calmly, she said, “Up ahead is a mile marker, and then it’s just a mile left. You can do a mile in your sleep. Let’s run to the mile post.” And so forth until my watch beeped 10 miles. Sometimes being the person who can look at things in small chunks instead of “omg I have so far to go” is the best way to be a running buddy!

3. Be a good storyteller. My friend Ali is world-renowned for telling the longest stories ever. In casual conversation, we laugh with her about her ability to turn what could be a 5-minute story into a 20-minute story. However, on a run? This trait is golden. Once she and I went out for a 4-miler while training to run a half marathon together, and we came upon a long incline. I asked Ali to tell me a long story to keep my mind off the uphill. I now know every single detail there is to know about her first and second dates with her now boyfriend, and we finished that run feeling like beasts.

4. Be willing to have some fun! During the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Half, Ali and I were both nervous – she wanted desperately to beat her PR, and it was my first half back from injury and I had no idea what to expect. The nerves melted away when the start line played Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” and we danced in our tutus the same way T-Swift does in the ballerina segment of the video. The rest of corral 9 started laughing appreciatively too, at our reminder that we all signed up for this voluntarily – why not have some fun? No one is making you run!

We take this very seriously.

5. Push each other and yourself. This is different than being a cheerleader. When I spent the first half of summer 2014 doing speedwork once a week with Courtney and Julie, it wasn’t just because both of them are awesome girls with super positive personalities and down to earth outlooks on running. It was also because I knew running with runners more seasoned than I (they’d both completed marathons and had faster half marathon PR’s than myself) would make me a better runner. Knowing I had not one but two running buddies expecting me made me show up more often than I wanted to after a long day at work. I wasn’t quite at their level and could never quite do as many 800 repeats as they were doing that day, but I always wanted to try at least one more than I’d planned on going in after seeing how hard they were working.