To Run Faster, Find People Faster Than You

“One of the fastest ways to improve is to train with someone better than you.” So is written by Matt Carpenter on is site. True words from one of the greats.
Matt Carpenter
In case you don’t know who Matt Carpenter is, a quick background would include the terms: ‘The Lung’, ‘Pikes Peak Legend’, ‘Trail Running Dominance’, and ‘Ultra Running Anomaly’. The man has won the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon a total of 18 times and holds the course record for both. His is especially adept at altitude racing and running, hence ‘The Lung’ moniker attributed to his ability at hypoxic running. Currently he lives in Boulder, CO and still has an ongoing love affair with trails.

Interesting though, that while he lives near ample miles of beautiful trails he busts out two of his hardest workouts per week in his garage. On his $10,000 treadmill no less. I can’t delve too much into the treadmill bit just yet, it’s in working on some magazine articles that I ventured down it to begin with, but Carpenter’s reasoning for sticking to the ‘mill are quite simple, “It does not care what the weather is like, what time of day it is or even how I feel. Without exception my best seasons come after I spend the winter running with ‘Q’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

‘Q’ is capable of humming along at 3 minutes 20 second per mile even at a 25% grade. Carpenter has tripped too many treadmills in the past so he invested, he won’t need to worry about such things with ‘Q’.

If you want to get better, you have to be pushed by someone (or something) better than you. You have to be pulled along when you’re hurting, you have to be dragged along through the pits of pain, hang on, and keep going. Then come back for more. Why do you think racers enlist rabbits or pacers? Or athletes will seek out groups where they will be at the back of the pack?

The Africans are different from US athletes in that they all train together. Here we may have a smattering of groups but it’s not like it is over there. They get up, run together, eat, rest, run again…repeat. Together they train (and suffer), together they improve.

In a great article on Kara Goucher at RunBlogRun, she is quoted, “When I’m with a group of women, they don’t care if I’ve been up all night. They’re hitting the pace, and I’m going to get left behind if I don’t have the pace.” This is in explanation of a recent coaching change where her newest training partners are Shalane Flanagan and Lisa Uhl. Heading into the US Olympic Marathon Trials, two of the favorites are training partners. You can bet they push each other to be their best.

It works on all levels; you don’t have to be an elite runner to benefit from being at the back of the training pack. So find runners, seek them out.
running buddies
* Running time warp. If you’re graduated from high school, don’t be shy, go talk to a local team’s coach. When I was in high school we had a few awesome adults come out there and sweat out our interval sessions with us. Trust me, you could be surprised at how much fun it is taking a trip back to high school…runners are generally less annoying than typical ‘mean girls’ and they won’t make you sing Justin Bieber tunes. (maybe)

* Running clubs. Go to a running shoe store and ask if there are any local running clubs; many meet up during the week outside of going to races. Honestly, if that isn’t an option just ask the running shoe people at the store…I’m sure they can help you out.

* Treadmill befriend. Like Carpenter explained, the treadmill really doesn’t care if you’re hurting, it won’t back off unless you physically make it. I’ve come to like tempo runs on the treadmill because you can just zone out and not worry about the splits, they are taken care of.
alberto salazar
If you want to improve, often times it takes being the little fish in a big pond and then rising the ranks. What you DO have to be careful about, and I am going to stress this a lot: RESPECT YOUR RECOVERY DAYS!!! Was that clear enough? To build your fitness and strength you have to tear your muscles down with hard workouts, but you then have to allow them time to recover and rebuild.

That means if you have to run all your easy days by yourself so you’re not tempted to run too hard, do it. The most important aspect of getting faster is being able to hit your hard days…the runs in between are just getting time on the legs, recovering, and getting in the cardio. Don’t tire yourself out on the easy days. You have to strive to get better but also remember you must walk the fine line between pushing and NOT racing in every workout.

“One of the fastest ways to improve is to train with someone better than you.” So is written by Matt Carpenter on is site. True words from one of the greats.

1) Do you run by yourself, train with a team, meet with a group? Do you meet only for hard days?

2) How about treadmill running; have you tried any workouts on there or do you like the track, the garmin, heart rate monitor? What keeps you accountable and pushing?

3) Would you rather be the fastest person in the group or team or at the back/mid-pack?
I like to have other people faster than me. If you’ve ‘outgrown’ one group, maybe it’s time to move up to another and re-introduce yourself to the back of another pack? 😉

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21 thoughts on “To Run Faster, Find People Faster Than You

  1. I’m taking this as an excuse to run on the TM at least twice a week, ha! I do think it can be beneficial to be pushed by running with faster people. My problem is that I’m too shy to say, “slow down” and can end up hurting myself if I run with people TOO much faster than me on a regular basis.

    • there’s a fine balance…u want a group just a wee bit faster that if u stretch a bit u’ll be able to keep up and improve BUT u don’t want a group where it takes u making quantum leaps to keep pace. 😉

  2. I am totally living by this right now. I just joined a group that had only a men’s team. They are starting a women’s team as of when I joined. 🙂 So ya, I train with the boys and will race with the girls!

  3. Great post! I run by myself but run /w a group for my long slow runs. I find they keep me motivated to go the distance. I’d love to have someone faster than me to help /w my speed work 🙂

  4. Great advice about recovery days! Runners need this drilled into our heads:) At some point it sticks though and you learn to love, value and cherish your recovery days!

    When I got out of college I was totally intimidated having 4 or 5 girls on my team way faster than me. 3 years later I can finally see how much it has helped me shape my attitude about what I’m capable of! If they can do it so can I!

  5. Hmm that’s a good point about the TM – never really thought about that! maybe if I can teach my leggies to tolerate it I’ll be able to take advantage of that….in college I used to run with the women’s xc/track team for some of their workouts, or I’d run with my boyfriend at the time – he’s a pro triathlete now so his “easy” runs were workouts for me hah. Easy days were always alone, which was nice – I don’t think I could run with other people 100% of the time haha. I gotta find some peeps to train with around here once I get healthier !!

    • it took me a bit to get used to treadmill running, but after a bit it becomes second nature, just a few adjustments and then u’re good to roll. 😉

  6. Running with a faster person definitely helps me! Whenever my coach does workouts with us, he pushes me to keep up a good pace – plus I want to show that I can do that! Pretty much all the top runners on my team are around the same pace as me, so we run together and push each other too. I’m actually looking forward to not being the best on my college team so that I can strive to be as good as my older, more experienced team mates!!

    • that’s my outlook exactly!! u’ll do great in college, the ONLY thing to be careful of is getting too eager and pushing too hard all the time…make sure to keep the recovery days in check. but u kno that girl. 🙂

  7. i STILL need to get better at NOT racing myself every single day. eeeek. i am getting better at knowing the difference. but i think i am still learning that there is a general baseline that i have but also some days i am just tired so perceived effort may be harder at a typical “easy” pace and i need to adjust rather than just pushing myself and getting frustrated!

    • sometimes just chuck the watch on ur easy days, or play with a heart rate monitor to see wat a true easy effort feels like. don’t ever get frustrated if u even have to slow it down more on an easy day…it’s only the hard workouts that u really want to get after those times. 🙂

  8. When I first started to run, the treadmill was the only thing that I used…for the most part. Every now and again I would run outside. It’s funny, out of all of my friends, none of them are into working out or eating healthy, with the exception of one. It’s hard for us to meet, but we do e-mail each other daily with the mileage that we have done that day. 🙂 Asking a running shoe store is such a good idea, and never really thought about it. I think that I would like to be in the middle, but I hate that my backside jiggles, so I would probably be in the back!
    You have such great advice Cait! Thanks so much!

    • oh miss Brandi we are SO working on that self-esteem of urs!! i hope u don’t mind me dumping advice, and always tell me to shush up if u want too! 🙂 i only say so because i feel like i’ve been in the same position as u and understand where u’re coming from. i’ll tell u now, that ur backside is only jiggling in ur mind so don’t doubt that u’re mid-pack level! 🙂

      ya, def go talk to a shoe store and find some new running buddies…the great thing is runners are generally really approachable and love welcoming newbies…and it’ll be awesome to have even more friends! 🙂
      PS-and keep up the running and there won’t even be jigglies in ur mind 😉

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