I’ve gotten a lot of people to try running over the years; some loved it and have stuck with it on their own, while others hated it and cursed me for deceiving them by ‘making it look easier than it really is.’ Running – like any sport – is not for everyone, but that’s no reason anyone can’t at least try it. Despite the stereotype, being young, tall, lean, and having good knees are not necessarily mandatory requirements. It is sometimes very surprising who finds solace, fun, and/or friendship in running. If you’re looking for ways to share your favorite sport with some new friends, especially those who are a bit reluctant to slap on some short shorts and a sweatband to join you for a few laps around the lake, here are some tips to keep in mind when introducing someone to the sport you love.
Find a Connection
Why do you think your friend would like running? Just because it meets a need for you, doesn’t automatically mean it will offer that same relief to your friend; so figure out how you think running may benefit your friend. Are they in need of a new stress reliever? Are they looking for a new hobby? Do they want a healthy goal to work toward? Are they simply attracted to sweaty guys in Vibrams 5-fingers? Whatever you come up, be sure to share it with your friend, so they know you have their best interests in mind – not that you’re just in need a new running partner
Start with Spectating
Invite your friend to watch a race with you. Extra points if you both know someone running the race, as the fun of spectating is multiplied when you have a familiar face to look for and cheer on. Anyone who’s been to a fun run or marathon will tell you that the excitement and energy is palpable and contagious. Most spectators at a race are either runners themselves, used to run, or will find themselves giving it a try in the near future.
Pick a Memorable Route
We all have our ‘usual’ running routes, many of which are simple loops around our house, determined primarily by convenience. For a friend’s inaugural run, however, it’s worth it to make a bit more effort. Find a fun trail (preferably not too technical), a route with a view, a path near water, or at least a route that ends near a place you two can catch a drink or snack afterward and talk about how the run went (and see if they’d be willing to join them again). Who wouldn’t be more likely to return after having a good time?
Focus Only on the Positive
The odds are likely that a first-time runner will make some rookie mistakes, such as going out too fast to impress or ‘keep up’ with you, want to walk when they’re tired instead of simply slowing down, or not know how to properly handle a side ache. Reassure them that these things happen to us all when we’re starting out, and it’s a learn-as-you-go type of sport. Try not to fall into a lecture, and offer advice only if asked. Even then, keep it succinct and focus more on what they’ve done right so far.
Don’t Be Annoying
If you’re able to get a friend to agree going for a single run with you, be particularly conscious of allowing them to set the pace. It’s very easy to get caught up in a conversation and speed up, just as it’s easy to go from answering a simple running question to a full on know-it-all lecture. Be extremely conscious about avoiding these pitfalls on your friend’s first run, as neither experience will be all that fun for them. Instead, find what they’re doing right and point it out sincerely (“You have great natural form!” or “You picked a fun trail to try out!”).
It’s always fun to share your passions with those you care about, whether they take to it as strongly as you do or not. Hopefully, you can convince someone new to give your sport a test run, but if they aren’t convinced after you’ve tried everything above, it may be time to just accept that running is not for them at this time in their life. And don’t be shy about returning the favor and giving one of their passions a go as well. You have every bit as much to learn as you can teach.
By: Audra Rundle