Running with other people is neither as complicated nor as simple as you might think. It's like absolutely anything else you do with other people. I wouldn't play chess with Bobby Fischer, for example, even if he were still alive, because it would be an utter waste of time for both of us. Nor would there be a whole lot of Kenyans out there who would run with me for obvious reasons if you've seen my Dailymile log.
Finding someone whose pace, endurance, current health, etc. matches yours is no mean feat. Consider the distance between two runners of similar (but not identical) pace times; a couple of minutes over 30 kilometres translates into hundreds of metres. Therefore running with someone who is roughly the same speed and endurance level as yourself will always involve some give-and-take. It's almost as much about personality as it is about skill level. Both parties have to be quite willing to take it as it comes or change things up along the way. Doing training runs with other people is like jazz.
Which is why I've been really lucky to have had such great running partners in the past couple of months. The Run For Life gang are faster and younger than I am. However, we have had some great long runs, great conversation, great exchanges of advice and motivation. The great thing is that, when there are three of us running together, we have become totally cool with each other's specific styles after only a handful of runs. And it's great to have the company to make the miles melt away behind us.
I ran 32 kilometres with Runnrgrl last Saturday, and that was incredible because neither of us had done a training run of that length with another person before. That's 3 plus hours, quite a long time to pass in a trying physical endeavour with someone whom you really barely knew previously. It went amazingly well; conversation never flagged, and we made it in a quite commendable time. The real test came near the end when I started to seriously fall apart from the heat and from what I think can be attributed to aging shoes. Runnrgrl was incredibly patient, allowing me to walk for a couple of minutes while masterfully dragging me along. In fact, I would go so far as to say that she demonstrated coaching skills that I have never encountered personally before. Her diplomatic manner was truly impeccable, because I know I was starting to get a bit whiny. At least I felt whiny; really I was dizzy and staggering, but I know that I had something left in the tank and she refused to let me finish on a less than heroic note. On top of that, it was actually her who had had physical challenges recently so we fully expected that she would be the one limping to the finish. Her pace actually increased as we went, and she seemed to get stronger. Always surprises when you run with other people.
I still like running alone since that's what I'm most accustomed to doing. And it's highly unlikely that I'll find anyone to run with me at 4 am in the near future. But running with other people unquestionably adds a dimension to the exercise that is crucial, because in the end life is infinitely more interesting when you do things with other people, and running is no different.