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Running Group Etiquette : Different Paces and Distances (Coaches Corner)

What is proper running group etiquette when dealing with different running paces and different distance goals? Find out on today’s Running Coaches Corner!

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Running Group Etiquette: Different Paces + Distances

What is proper running group etiquette when dealing with different running paces and different distance goals? Find out on today's Running Coaches Corner! @suzlyfe

In a perfect world, you and your friends would all run the same pace and the same distance. But it isn’t a perfect world, is it? 

Different Running Paces Within the Running Group

One of the most common issues within running groups and anxieties in setting up a group run is the anticipation of different running paces. Different running paces within a running group is a very valid concern!  The group should always run at the pace of the slowest runner. Because let’s face it, you can run at a slower-than-your-average pace for a LOT longer than you can run at a faster-than-your-average pace!

How to fix Running Groups with Different Running Paces

First and foremost, discuss pacing ahead of time; if you are multiple minutes apart, then this might not be the right group. You might just need to meet up for brunch afterwards! There is absolutely no shame in different running paces, just like there is no shame in running more or fewer miles. It is just the reality of your run!

If you have enough people, consider starting together and splitting the group up having runners split off into different pace groups or pairs. If you have a small group, but everyone is at a different pace, start together and have an out and back so that you can have the visual of seeing your friends for the encouragement or to check in with each other. 

Now, if you want to run with someone who has a TOTALLY different pace than you, why not try to create a workout out of it? Instead of meeting up for a long run, for example, you could do intervals where the faster runner slows down and the slower runner speeds up (think recovery and work intervals). This works best on a track, but can be done anywhere, particularly if there is the opportunity for a loop. 

Regardless of what you decide to do, start and end the run together. Faster runners can use the time to do strength work, rehydrate or refuel, or stretch out as they desire. They could even run back out to meet the others and run in with them. Or just hang out and gab! 

Banana Holster in a Flip Belt Runner

Make sure you have your banana holster 😀

Different Distances Within the Group

With everyone on different training plans, training for different races, or not training at all, a running group is bound to have a selection of distances to cover on a group run! This is actually a fairly easily solved problem, but it can require a little creativity.

How to Fix Running Groups with Different Distance Goals

This is when you might not start or end together, but try to run the majority of your run together. For example, when I lived downtown and was training for marathons, I would meet Erica outside her apartment 4 miles away, we would run a certain number of miles, and then we would finish either back where we started or closer to me so that she could finish out her miles or I could finish out my miles. Along the way, we would pick up others from the running group and all run together (just make sure you keep track of your miles!).

Always run with your phone, public transportation card, credit card, or cash. When I was coaching Chicago Endurance Sports, I would often run down to the store, run with the team, and then, depending on the number of miles, run back or take the El home. In a real pinch, or if I was for whatever reason not near the bus or train lines, I could call an Uber/Lyft/taxi. 

Coach Susie running with pace group during Chicago Endurance Sports 20 miler at the end of Marathon Training!

Pace group for the 20 miler with CES

Dealing with Different Paces and Different Distance Goals within a Running Group

Ok, so if you are dealing with different paces and different distances, you might just want to go to brunch. Or meet up at a particular place for that recovery/speed interval. Otherwise, someone is going to have to compromise. 

Your pace or mine? #Running Group etiquette re: different paces + distances #runchat #coachescorner Click To Tweet

But hey, you can start together, run the middle or parts together, and or end together. As long as you find a way to share the run and the love of running, you are winning, right?

Now, who is ready for brunch?

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I am linking up with myself, Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and Ilka and Angela for Food and Fitness Sunday. 

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  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    There needs to be etiquette on cutting people off. I can’t tell you how many times someone raves in front of me only to slow down.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Dark Chocolate Raspberry Muffins {GF, Low Calorie, Paleo}My Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 5:03 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Oh, girl, I am only just getting started!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:59 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Mile by Mile

    I don’t run with groups but I could see how this would be a challenge. When Rob and I have run together we agree on a pace and then end up running faster for some reason, and neither of us wants to be the one to say we should slow down!
    Lisa @ Mile by Mile recently posted…30 Minute 90s Themed Spinning WorkoutMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 5:44 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahahahah omg that is totally me and Alex

      February 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm
  • Reply Lacey@fairytalesandfitness

    Great tips! That is one of the reasons I have stopped running with a group, because it has gotten a lot smaller lately and the people are not the same pace as my friend and I and we end up just running by ourselves. And I wouldn’t call two runner a group. But it is still nice to socialize afterwards and discuss how our run went.
    Lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…Shamrock Marathon TrainingMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 5:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So you are a pair within a group! Still counts!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm
  • Reply Heather @Lunging Through Life

    I won’t lie- this is a huge reason I don’t search more for running groups! I”m so afraid to slow them down. When, honestly, I am happy to run with others who are slower, so I don’t understand why i have in my head no one would slow down for me!
    Heather @Lunging Through Life recently posted…Annabelle: 15 MonthsMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 5:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You can’t think about it as slowing them down–you just run at a different pace!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm
  • Reply Kimberly Hatting

    I have been toying with the idea to organize a weekly or monthly group run. I don’t have a problem running “slower” than usual (and, actually I find that to be a challenge all of its own), nor do I dread over-exerting myself to go “faster” (much LOL). I know the runners are out there…just not sure how to make this appeal to the masses. We have a lake with an approximate 1-mile loop, so I know that’s a great option 😉
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…On the run…with AC/DCMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 6:37 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You should totally do it! DO it do it do it!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:57 pm
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner

    You know I am all about running with a group. We definitely have runners of all different paces and we do start together but split off into pace groups. It just seems to work for us even though people are at different paces. I would add the most important etiquette would be to arrive on time no one wants to wait for you.
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…Life Lessons Learned In The Lap LaneMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 6:43 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yes yes yes! Especially when it is cold and you have kiddos!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:56 pm
  • Reply Montana @ Pretty Lil Mudder

    The title of this really spoke to me because this happened to me when I was first running. I was training for my first half and a group invited me to run with them on a Saturday morning, saying they were doing 10-12 miles. I was planning on 10 so I thought it would be perfect motivation for me. I told them I was ‘slower’ than the girl who invited me and she said not to worry because there would be all sorts of paces available. When I got there that morning however, the only two people who showed up were 9 minute milers and I was an 11. So I was left completely alone the entire time because they ran much faster than I was able to. In defense of the girl who invited me, she did run back a few times to check on me towards the end and ran me into the finish. So that was nice of her. But the other woman (who was the coach!) didn’t bother to check on me at all, which I thought was really rude. IF you’re going to be the coach of a group it’s your responsibility to make sure all the runners have a buddy or that they are ok. Whenever I take the training group out from my store I make sure everyone is paired up and if there is someone who doesn’t have anyone to run with I slow down to their pace and I run with them. Idk…I guess I just feel responsible for everyone in the training group when I’m in charge and maybe others don’t think that way.
    Montana @ Pretty Lil Mudder recently posted…Gasparilla Amber Challenge Training Week 11: 1/30-2/5My Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 6:47 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It sounds like they really could have taken a cue from you. I’m sorry that you had that experience!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:56 pm
  • Reply Ellie

    Whenever I run with a group, I make sure it’s not a workout for me. I would never want to make someone uncomfortable or feel bad for being either too fast or too slow. I also tend to keep the mileage low, because it is a recovery run. My policy is that before the run we see how everyone is feeling and let the person who feels the slowest set the pace. It changes each week. To be honest, we could all probably do our easy runs slower anyway 🙂
    Ellie recently posted…Fueling Two Days in the Life (a double long run weekend)My Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 7:11 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha #nailedit!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    Such great ideas!! I haven’t really ever run with more than a friend at a time… never a group. But it sounds so inspiring!
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…7 Steps to a Perfect Valentine’s Day at HomeMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 7:17 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Running with a group is so much fun and so encouraging!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm
  • Reply Laura @ This Runner's Recipes

    I have only run with a group once and it naturally split into a few groups based on paces. I imagine it can be hard to coordinate runners across so many different paces, especially for large group runs. Whenever Ryan and I tun together, we talk about paces anf how far to go before.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Total Body Medicine Ball Workout for RunnersMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 7:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Alex and I do the same. It is hard (and frustrating) now that he is so much faster than me!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm
  • Reply RFC

    Great tips. I’m currently training a marathon group that is relatively small (only 12 runners) but their paces could not be any more vastly different if they tried! It’s always like piecing together a puzzle to make sure that no one is out there alone for a long period of time. Somehow, we get it done!
    RFC recently posted…Hallucination 24 Hour Race ReportMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 7:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Oh, wow. How do you manage it? What are your techniques?

      February 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    All the things you mentioned were my worries about running with a group. I’m fortunate that the group I met up with last week runs the same pace as me. I only plan on doing my long runs with them. I work every other Saturday, so my time with them may be limited.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…4 Reasons You Should Reward Yourself With a Destination Race and a GIVEAWAY!My Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 8:09 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, every little run helps, right? That was about how much I ran with my crew!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm
  • Reply Gretchen

    I’m starting to join group runs for my long runs and it helps SO much. Sure, sometimes I wish I could run faster, but the group helps me out so much mentally! Then other times when I want to slow down the group keeps me going. Love it!
    Gretchen recently posted…Tasty Tuesday : Vegan Smoked SalmonMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 8:10 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I will challenge you to do a few of those long runs by yourself as well, though, for the mental strength!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm
  • Reply Patricia @Sweet and Strong

    I have never been part of a running group but your posts always make me want to join one.
    Patricia @Sweet and Strong recently posted…Les Mills Bodypump 100 Initial Training ExperienceMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 8:35 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Well, I would love to run with yoU!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:52 pm
  • Reply Emily

    This has definitely been something I’ve wondered about, and I love how you explained it.

    February 8, 2017 at 9:20 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope it helps!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm
  • Reply Janelle @ Run With No Regrets

    Great tips! The pacing issue is a big problem for me when I run with certain groups…finding folks that run your pace if you’re a bit slower can be tough!

    There’s a group I’d like to run with but they meet way too far away. I need to figure out a way to join them along the way!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…Running 101: How to Be Motivated to Run and Train in the WinterMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 9:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Maybe try to meet with them once a month–then it is like a treat!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    I miss my running group. I remember when my friend Alain was training for his BQ, he’d run like 15 miles before meeting up with us on Tuesday nights and then he’d run the 5 or so miles with the group. I always thought that was such a good idea. We’d go for a beer after Tuesday night runs (and tacos), and then we’d do brunch on Saturday mornings. Each year one of us would qualify for Boston so someone would host a huge send-off party and the previous Boston runners would all bring their jackets and photos and videos. Ahhh I miss those guys.
    Suzy recently posted…The Adventure of HappinessMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 9:51 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That sounds like pure amazingness. I love it!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm
  • Reply Ange // Cowgirl Runs

    This is something I’m working on right now in our group. I’m really happy that most of us are the same pace, so it’s helping things along.
    Also for a half second I thought your banana was a duck.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Ultimate Coffee Date: FebruaryMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 10:16 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahahahahahaa. I can’t even respond to that lol

      February 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm
  • Reply Beth

    This is why I don’t usually run with a group, haha. Thanks for writing up this great etiquette guide–hopefully group runners and especially group leaders will listen to this and make group runs better for everyone!
    Beth recently posted…PB Cup and “Jelly” SmoothieMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 10:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope so, too!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:49 pm
  • Reply Nicole

    I just joined a running group after many years of training either alone or with a similarly fit friend. It has been hard for me, especially on long runs, because I know that I should be running an easy pace and the group runs JUST faster than I want to be running. I’ll try to keep up with them for the first several miles and then back off (luckily I usually have someone else who slows with me). The pace is still conversational but just feels more uncomfortable – do you think I’m hurting myself by doing this or it’s ok since I can still talk? Should I just start behind everyone and run my own pace for the sake of making the run truly at easy effort? Or is running a little faster than I’m comfortable actually good for me?!
    Nicole recently posted…2017 Cardiff Kook 10K Race ReportMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 10:31 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Running JUST faster should be ok, but maybe take out one other of your running workouts during the week. Because you are essentially doing a tempo run when you are out there! And I would try to get in some truly easy long runs as well, on your own–both to have those easy runs but also for mental strength. Does that help?

      February 10, 2017 at 1:49 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    Since my running group is on the smaller side, we opt to all start together and go for the out and back. Typically we all wait for each other to finish as well to check in and see how the run went!

    February 8, 2017 at 11:02 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Same thing we do with TC!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:47 pm
  • Reply Kimberly G

    Part of the reason I rarely run with my local running group is because I’m always left running by msyself. Either people run too fast or too slow for my pace lol
    Kimberly G recently posted…Running in the Dark with RunLitesMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We need to find you a better group!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:47 pm
  • Reply Hannah

    I don’t do group runs very often, but when I have done them there were 2 different distance routes and everyone ran their own pace on their chosen route but with the start/finish location.
    Hannah recently posted…Traveled trails: January review, February planMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is a pretty cool way to do it!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm
  • Reply Allie

    I SO miss running with a group…or at least a few friends. Usually my problem is not pace but timing. Most running groups meet on weekend mornings and those days are pretty packed with family time for me so…plus, now I’m doing pretty specific workouts for triathlon. Booooo…but this is great info for if and when I run in a pack again 🙂
    Allie recently posted…When Celebrities Have TwinsMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 3:31 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope you can find a group! You need a middle of the week day group. Or you just need someone to watch the kids for you.

      February 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm
  • Reply Nicole @ Fitful Focus

    There’s a running group here in Austin that I want to get to that always ends with beer. Sooooo EVERYONE wins!
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…Core De Force ReviewMy Profile

    February 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe


      February 10, 2017 at 1:45 pm
  • Reply Laura

    Great tips… a friend and I started a local MRTT chapter and have had to figure out the pacing issues. There are lots of moms who have never run before and want to start, plus everything in between!
    Laura recently posted…A Utah marathon? Plus giveaway!My Profile

    February 9, 2017 at 8:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OMG that must have been so chaotic but so fun!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:37 pm
  • Reply San

    I think this is why I haven’t tried a running group and mostly enjoy runs on my own 🙂
    San recently posted…What I read: JanuaryMy Profile

    February 9, 2017 at 1:17 pm
  • Reply Michelle @ Fruition Fitness

    Great topic! I often run with a LARGE group…sometimes I have a pace buddy, sometimes I run along, and sometimes I take it easy or push a little harder depending on who I’m talking to! We are lucky to have a wide variety of paces to accommodate all runners.
    Michelle @ Fruition Fitness recently posted…Life Updates and AnnouncementsMy Profile

    February 9, 2017 at 2:09 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I love having that flexibility! That is the best!

      February 10, 2017 at 1:21 pm
  • Reply Lauren

    Great post! I think this can really be an issue with groups. I found that things can sometimes naturally split up into different paces but sometimes needs to actually be done in an organized way prior to a run. I’ve found different paces to be nice, particularly if sometimes I want to take it easier and run a little slower or if I want to run a little faster, there is always someone to run with!
    Lauren recently posted…{5 Friday Favorites} Otters, Micellar Water, and TeaMy Profile

    February 10, 2017 at 9:32 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And you never want to get hurt by having someone who is bulldozing their way around! There is always going to be some sort of organic, mid run splitting, but you really need to do so in a bit of a formal way as well.

      February 10, 2017 at 12:59 pm
  • Reply Tracy Joshua-Morgan

    I run with a group and we are all different paces, our rule as a group is no runner gets left behind. I am one of the slower runners and what happens when we are out is the faster runners run ahead and then when they get a fair distance ahead they turn back to come to where the back is and then run ahead, they get their distance and speed and we all stick together. It works great for us!

    February 13, 2017 at 10:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I am 100% behind the no runner left behind rule. As a coach, I have to bop around to different paces, but I will go back and finish out runs with our athletes!

      February 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm
  • Reply Jenn

    As a slower runner, joining a group can be really intimidating. However, over time, I’ve fallen in with the right groups and it’s worked out well.

    However, the main thing I’m picking up from your post is brunch. Which is also amazing.
    Jenn recently posted…tuesdays on the run: stuff i love about runningMy Profile

    February 14, 2017 at 7:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe


      February 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm
  • Reply MCM Mama Runs

    If I have to run a certain pace, I generally run by myself. If I’m with a group, I want to socialize, so I’ll run at a more leisurely pace to chat rather than run alone. Generally though, I like to be in my own head when I’m running, so run by myself most of the time.
    MCM Mama Runs recently posted…A love letter to my BFF, RunningMy Profile

    February 14, 2017 at 9:27 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I like mixing it up every now and then, but I am with you!

      February 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm

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