There is nothing that pumps my adrenaline more than training and competing against my running friends. All the times we have pushed each other in training through the wind and rain, those hot summer afternoons or cold winter mornings. We might even have a crack in the last rep against each other to see who's got the most gas left in the tank, or see who’s been slacking off in the other reps.
On the track I’ll often hear one of my friends/athletes yell at me to run faster to catch up to the guy 5m ahead of me, my teammates often waiting for my race to finish before they even start thinking about cooling down. I would do the same for any of my friends. It's even more fun when you’re running against each other; you finally get to see how all your hard work is being paid off against your training buddies who you’ve shared memories and bonded with over the last few years. It adds another level to the competition, compared to just running in a heat with no one you know too well. I mean, who would want to lose to another training mate in the same heat as you. I have lost to training friends a couple of times and it isn’t the best when you get roasted by your teammate/s about the race.
But this relationship you develop from running with your training partners is a brotherhood that is different from those you develop elsewhere.
This kind of support, this brotherhood, among runners is crucial for success, not just within the sport but life in general. My year 11/12 maths teacher shared with my class an acronym that I still use today. He taught my class the acronym CHAMPS to aid us with our studies, but this can apply to sport as well: Commitment, Hard work, Accuracy/Action, Motivation, Passion/Persistence, and Support. He highlighted that the most important word in this acronym could easily be Support, because if you don’t have someone to help you get through your studies/life, it’s going to be very hard for you to do really well. Bradley has already talked about having support in his goal setting blog, and as he mentioned, “having someone as a backbone” is critical to one's success.
You can get support from your family, work mates, etc., however, the support you get during training from your training partners is different. All of you are going to go through similar phases of fatigue throughout the session, all of you are going to suffer in the session, all of you are training for a common goal. It is something that is bound to occur, and having someone there with you throughout the session can help you improve your performance.
From personal experience, having friends train alongside me has helped me get through some of the hardest sessions I’ve had to run through. From the long running sessions I’ve completed in the middle of the Cross Country season, to the gruelling drop down 200’s, even for the Sunday long runs; knowing that I’ll always have a training partner to run with helps me get to training on time and that the session will be a little bit easier since I’ll have someone to be next to.
What about this type of support in competition? Have you noticed how hard it is to get a really good time in a race when it's just you with no one near your position? Or how unexpectedly quick you might have gone because you didn’t want the person next to you to win? There is a reason why the top runners sometimes ask for “pace-makers” to accompany them to help break that record, or to make that national qualifying time, and it has to do with your external and internal focus.
One of the first scientific articles I came across was from the book How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Mind of Psychology Over Muscle. In this study (Williams et. al, 2015), 15 male cyclists undertook a 16.1km time trial on a stationary bike under 4 times; the first two were completed by themselves with an avatar on a computer screen (the first to familiarise and the second to use as data), one was completed with no visual avatar, and the last trail had not only the athlete’s avatar, but another competitor on the computer (programmed to be go as fast as the athletes PB).
Oddly enough, everyone completed the test significantly better when having a competitor ride against them, even though it was just a computer. The scientists who conducted the study proposed that the competitor distracted the athletes from focusing on their internal factors of performance, such as perceived effort, and compelled them to try and attain a better result than the computer. By looking at this article, you can see why having someone competing against you can help produce faster splits/results.
Camaraderie is often defined as the trust between friends, or a group of people, that is developed over a long period of time. Many people will say how important this is for teams to be successful. But what about individual sports, such as running? At times it can be a very lonely sport.
When I first started running competitively, there were plenty of races where I only knew people that I trained with, and most of the time they were too fast to be in the same heat as me. I would always be stuck with random people I never saw before, let alone competed against. It would be hard to get the right splits, because either the group would go out too fast or too slow to achieve a PB, and I wouldn’t know what scenario it would be. However, as time went on, I was able to remember runners I had raced before, even talking to them before the race.
I was starting to remember how some of the other runners would race an 800m, the tactics used, etc. You also develop a sense of trust within the running community, knowing that everyone who is competing is going to give it 100%, like yourself. Knowing these aspects of the race makes it easier for me to focus on what needs to be done, who can help me in the race (if there anyone I can sit & kick on), and roughly what times everyone else is going to get.
I hope all who read this have these kinds of relationships with their teammates and other runners out there, as these are important for your success and commitment to the sport of running.
Keep up the running,
Williams, E. L., Jones, H. S., Sparks, S. A., Marchant, D. C., Midgley, A. W., & Mc Naughton, L. R. (2015). Competitor presence reduces internal attentional focus and improves 16.1 km cycling time trial performance. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18(4), 486-491.