Spreading the Bug: Running with Beginners
If you’ve got the running bug, you’ll know about it. And chances are, so will everyone else in your life. It’s not that you’ve got nothing else to talk about. It’s just that when you’re constantly looking forward to your next race, planning your next long run in a new location, and trying to analyse what might have influenced that Personal Best at the weekend, it can be hard not to let your enthusiasm spill out into everyday conversation. Most people will greet your passionate ramblings with a polite smile, or the age-old “You’re mad, I can hardly run up the stairs”. But every once in a while, you’ll meet someone who asks if they could come with you sometime.

Running with Beginners

Running’s one of those things that should be absolutely instinctive. Most people ran as children, and at some point in their adult lives will at the very least have run for a bus. But when it comes to pulling on their training gear and going for a jog, it suddenly feels like the least natural thing in the world.

If your new running bud has never really run before — whether they’re fit from sports or haven’t broken a sweat in a decade — here’s how to make sure you help them get the most out of it, without interfering too much with your own training schedule!

1. Set expectations first 

Whether they’re a novice or an expert, running with another person for the first time can be as much a question of etiquette as it is ability, so setting your expectations from the get-go is a must.

What kind of run is your partner looking for — do they just fancy some fitness and a chat, or are they looking for someone to motivate and push them? How long, how far, and how fast are they willing to go?

Discussing pet peeves is also a good shout. While some people love a bit of verbal encouragement, for others it can come off as condescending. And if you’d rather run in companionable silence than try and hold a conversation, make sure it’s clear from the outset.

2. Prepare them to walk 

All beginners’ running programs work on the concept of a gradual build — so leave aside your fantasies of running next to a newbie, stopwatch in hand, for the time being.

The mantra here is: “Everybody’s got to start somewhere”. It’s important that new runners don’t expect themselves to power through distances that their bodies just can’t handle yet. So, for those who genuinely haven’t run since school, pointing them in the direction of a running schedule for beginners, like the government’s Couch to 5K, is a good first step.

If you’re already used to training 5km and beyond, accompanying a newbie on a beginners’ programme can be tricky. As long as your running buddy isn’t looking for conversation (just motivation) you can tie in speed training for yourself. This could involve running ahead of your partner for 30 seconds, then incorporating a loop back to their position and a recovery run.

Even though there will be periods where your partner is walking, not running, they’ll still be covering distance. That’ll push you that bit harder to run ahead, and make sure you both get the workout you’re after.

3. Pace is everything  

Fartlek training alongside a beginner isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if the point of

your joint runs is for company, not accountability, you’ll need another way to make slow, conversational workouts worthwhile.

It goes without saying that, with beginners, you should slow your speed to what your partner can handle comfortably — so if their pace isn’t going to cut the mustard for you, choose a route with a distance that you can tack onto the end of it. Or, plan your training runs around your running date so you can treat them as recovery days.

While running for the sake of it might be new to your new cardio-pal, they may well be running-fit from other sports. Get a good idea of how fit they consider themselves before you run — helping them set a pace they can keep up for a prolonged period of time could be what they need to make running a habit.

4. Getting the right gear 

If you’re trying to think of running tips for beginners, the first thing you should do is to convince them to buy a pair of good running shoes.

If someone’s seriously considering getting into running, then it’s an investment that’s well worth it. A pair of specialist trainers will help make those first few runs easier, more comfortable and more enjoyable. Not to mention, they’ll protect fledgling feet from any discomfort or injury that could put a pin in their running career before it’s even off the ground.

Although running shoes for beginners exist on a spectrum, all that really matters is that they fit well, provide support and allow your feet to breathe. Remember that it’s not how much you pay for your first pair that counts, it’s how far you take them.

Running can be an intensely personal pursuit; competing against yourself as much as anyone else — but it can also be a truly fulfilling social sport. And even if you can’t see yourself incorporating running with friends into your regular schedule anytime soon, relish the feeling of spreading the running bug, and helping people get into it, one step at a time.