Benefits of partner running

When Beverly Hadgraft wrote her e–Book, The Unstoppables, she interviewed hundreds of people who had achieved good health against the odds. At the end, she realised there was one factor above all others that guaranteed long-term success. It was support.

There was the woman whose hubby joined her on an evening 10k walk and was endlessly cheered on by encouraging neighbours. There was the woman whose equally overweight friend signed up to the gym with her, and no matter if they could only manage two minutes on the exercise bike – they kept going and kept challenging each other to cycle one minute more.

Then there was the woman whose whole office supported her efforts to improve her health. Her boss let her change her hours and every time she left to meet her trainer, her workmates would write motivational messages on her arms.

These stories would come as no surprise to Andrew and Sue O’Brien, the Melbourne couple who established Partner Running.

Partner Running came about after Sue – the niece of Aussie running legend Ron Clarke, and a former international triathlete – weaned Andrew off cigarettes and alcohol and onto fitness, and agreed to run the first 20kms of a marathon with him.

She ended up running the whole distance, the pair crossing the line holding hands and cheering, celebrating the joy of working together. “It was so much fun, we decided to do it again,” says Andrew.

They did many more marathons and at every event, no matter how they felt or what injuries they were battling, they always crossed the line together, holding hands. Afterwards, someone would usually come up and tell them: “Gee, I wish I had someone to run with me.”

The couple were inspired to combine their skills and encourage others to discover the many benefits of training together through their website, and of course, they have continued to run countless marathons including eight in eight countries in eight weeks. More recently they have moved on to endurance events.

For Sue, the benefits of partner running have been surprising. As a top-level athlete from a family of sporting heroes, she says she had the philosophy you should always aim to go faster and do better, but explains: “With that attitude comes disappointment if things aren’t quite right and you get injured or don’t feel good on the day.

“When you’re running to support someone else and your success is judged on finishing together it’s a completely different perspective. It’s stress-relieving instead of stress-making.”

11 reasons why it’s good to train with a partner

  1. Setting goals and sharing the thrill of attaining them alongside someone else is really motivating.
  2. You get to spend regular, quality time with your partner, child, sibling or friend – and deepen your relationship.
  3. Committing to exercise with someone else, makes you more likely to turn up.
  4. Training with a partner gives you someone to share your improvement and successes with, keep you accountable, or simply get you through the tough and boring times.
  5. Establishing goals, ground rules and a review process for training and improving together often spills over to benefit other areas of your life.
  6. According to the Runtastic, an average solo training session lasts 36 minutes, while an average workout with a friend lasts 42 minutes. Meanwhile, couples who worked out separately had a 43 per cent dropout rate compared to people who worked out together and had dropout rate of just 6.3 per cent.
  7. When your partner or friend’s success is your success as well, and you’re not always in competition, it can lead to happier relationships.
  8. If you’ve slipped up on your training program because of injury or work, it helps to have a partner to get you back on track.
  9. You’ll learn about good communication and expressing your feelings – a University of Aberdeen investigation found that emotional support and encouragement was even more important than practical support like never missing a session.
  10. You’ll develop a mutual “yes we can” attitude.
  11. Entering a run in another city provides a fun, mutual focus for a weekend away.

Partner running tips

  • Find a partner. It can be anyone you’d like to connect more with. Try to find someone who’s a similar standard or who, if they’re much better than you, won’t mind running at your pace.
  • Clarify what you want to achieve and how you want to go about it.
  • Set and commit to a training schedule.
  • Include children if you can. Adults often forget how excited children are to be included in their activities and how inspiring it can be for them. It doesn’t matter if they can’t run alongside you, they can still cycle.
  • Establish ground rules. It’s not about competition, it’s about support, so if one person is struggling with the pace of the run, feel comfortable to say “slow down” rather than burn out after five minutes and end up having a fight! Leave smartphones at home if possible or agree to only take super-urgent calls when training.
  • Plan and research together. Everything from how to improve your running; to choosing new, safe routes to how you’re going to get to your race and celebrate afterwards.

Real Insurance is proud to sponsor the Sydney Harbour 10k and 5k race. Learn more here.