In Long Distance Running there is the tendency to form fellowships to push-through together. Although these may be unique and useful relationships it’s a thin line between success and failure of such fellowships. To not be mistaken: if it works out it may be the greatest experience you will ever have and create live-long memories.
Personally I would never commit to a long run together by default unless I know the partner(s) extremely well. And by extremely well I mean extraordinary well. It´s more the sort of: in literally every imaginable situation I know how the other will react and we have a plan for this. Obviously this needs to be true for the other fellows with regards to your reactions as well or this does not work.
The common issue with this is that every imaginable situation is a wide playing field when being out there for days.
And again – there are plenty of good reasons to form fellowships. First of all things are in general more enjoyable together. To go through rough situations and being able to laugh about or fight through together is really great and can help a lot. You can support another with motivation, gear, food – whatever may be needed. You can benefit from key abilities and share responsibilities: while one is navigating the other can take a mental “rest” and just follow, the other may have the spare food or clothing which could substantially help yourself, the other can remind yourself to keep up with food/water. A relationship which is beneficial for everyone which at the same time helps the time to pass a bit faster. Really helpful.
But what if that’s simply not enough? What if it all starts to be a burden rather than a supportive combination? Do you have these situation planned and covered as well?
What if that walking-running mixture the fellow is doing simply fucks you up? Will you be able to tell him/her? Do you know what the consequences are to stick together for you and your idea of the faith of your personal journey? Are you really sure that sticking together and enduring this situation is not only temporarily ok but will not backfire on you later in the run?
What if the hard time your mate is going through is totally fine for you and in principle you are ok to just walk/rest for a few minutes/hours until its get better but by having a realistic look on your watch you realize that you start failing on cutoff. Will you tell your buddy: listen: you seriously need to speed-up or I will need to leave you for good and speed-up alone? Can you cope with that? Did you discuss that upfront? Does your fellow know that this reaction may come and does he/she has a plan to not break immediately when facing this so that there is a chance that – once more energy is back – your fellow can continue his/her own fight with the potential to reach some dreams?
What if breaking the fellowship is needed – is everyone prepared for this so that it does not mean the end of running for one or the other? Although running together everyone should be always prepared for running alone by all means. Expect the worse to happen. At any time. Whatever your exit strategy may be – its advisable to have it at hand. It may be simple things like having you earphones ready when it comes to that point.
After all all members of such fellowships have different dreams and expectations and even more important: different level of determination to reach them. It’s impossible to be united on these and it’s even more impossible to have similar exit strategies when all goes down the drain. To at least have a rough understanding what the other may need in these end-of-world situations will be a huge advantage for the faith of your fellowship. Even if it means to split up.
There have been situations in which I told someone to speed-up because we were running short on cut-off although I knew the other was destroyed at that moment. There have been horrible nights with significant weather in which the running/walking/rest routines could not be synchronized anymore – in one of them we decided to split. Although this was a significant risk as the both the inside and outside conditions were calling for DNF we made the decision. On both ends there was hope it could work-out and after hours of horror for both of us it was a relieve to see the other headlamp again on the horizon: at the end it was the perfect decision and had the desired effect.
Having a dream and an overwhelming desire to reach this is key in Long Distance Running. Shared dreams is something you may hope for at the start line but is something you need to put a lot of effort in while running while on the same time you want to be ready to follow your personal dream with no excuses. Shared dreams are for sure worth to work for but sticking together for too long may become a disaster. If it works out though it’s purest gold.