Do I Have to Wait for My Running Buddies Even When It’s Freezing?

Dear Dumb Runner,

My friends and I are having an argument about leaving someone behind. Since you wrote the rule book [ED:
The Runner’s Rule Book, to be precise], I figure you’re qualified to be judge and jury.

We typically start our runs at 5 a.m. and the unspoken rule is that if you’re late, we don’t wait. This means the late party has to chase down the pack. On the day in question, I was late by 10 minutes. I texted to let my friends know, and they chose to wait for me. 

The scheduled run was 15 miles along the river and there were two runners waiting for me. Both are accomplished marathoners with the ability to outpace me at any given distance. So I deemed myself the slow guy.

At about mile 9, one guy said he needed a restroom. About two miles later, we reached two porta potties and both of my friends jumped in. Now, it’s cold in December in Minnesota and I didn’t feel like standing around. So I decided to keep going, assuming these fast guys would catch me.

They didn’t. Afterward they were mad, saying they couldn’t believe I would leave them especially after they’d waited for me to begin. 

Should I have waited? Should I be punished? Please keep in mind that sanctions from the group are possible, including but not limited to hill repeats after long runs and countless bar tabs.—Paul "El Gortien" Gorton, Twin Cities, Minnesota

Dear Paul,

I'm afraid I have no choice but to rule in favor of your friends. You should have waited for them. This would have been true under normal circumstances, and it's doubly true since, as your friends pointed out, they had waited for you earlier—presumably in conditions that were at least as cold as, if not colder than, the temps you faced at the porta potties.

Your contention that it was too cold to wait for them rings hollow, suggesting as it does a false choice between being a good friend and keeping warm. If you'd wanted to wait you easily could have, for example, jogged away for a minute or two and then turned around to jog back, repeating as needed until your friends emerged, looking relieved and rubbing hand sanitizer on their palms. That's what I would have done.

At a minimum, you could and should have told your friends, through those flimsy plastic doors, what you were up to. The Rule Book (Rule 1.23) makes clear that you owe it to any straggler or stragglers to be sure they’re OK with being left in the dust before you leave them in said dust.

On the other hand, you note that you began the run at 5 a.m. (well, 5:10), which is insanely early. It's not only possible but likely that your brain wasn't fully functioning at that hour. For this reason, I'm going to be lenient and sentence you to a finger-wagging and a verbal admonition not to do that again.

Also, after your next group run, doughnuts and coffee are on you. [bangs gavel] Court is adjourned!

Yours Truly,

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