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How NOT to set a marathon PR: Tip 1

Friends Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan help each other after the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London.
Friends Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan help each other after the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London.Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A lot is written about how to set a marathon PR, and much of it is good advice. Here are a few tips on how NOT to run a PR in a marathon:

Run With a Friend

It sounds like a good idea. You did all of your long runs with your bestie and now the two of you want to travel and celebrate by running the race together. Don’t do it! Training with your friend is a lot different than running 26.2 miles with them. It’s easy to do long slow 20 mile runs with your best pal. You get to chat and it distracts you from the pain or boredom of the distance. But when you’re racing a marathon, and trying to set a PR, running with a companion can be a disaster.

First of all, talking takes extra energy. It may be great for the first 15 miles, but when you really have to push your limits, having a friend there can be an unnecessary distraction. This is never more evident than when you’re struggling and your friend is chipper and pumped. You might imagine that you'd like to have your buddy around for pep talks during the rough patches, but it can be annoying when you’re in pain. Hurt feelings can arise when you tell your friend to stop talking or to cut you loose and run ahead. You’ll feel guilty because you’re holding her back, and she’ll feel resentful (whether she says it out loud or not). Your best bet is to travel to a race with your friend, but agree not to run together from the start.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

If you’re just running for fun, and neither one of you has a time goal, run together.

If a much faster training partner has agreed to set all personal goals aside and pace you to a personal best, go for it. Warn the pacer up front that if you start to implode you may ask them to stop talking or stop running with you. No hard feelings.