Choose an Accountability Partner to Crush Running Goals Together

Running partners smile at each other as they run together

We love a casual run, but if you have specific goals in mind for your running journey, it’s going to take commitment and consistency to see progress.

For many of us, self-regulating that type of commitment doesn't work. Answering only to yourself requires a level of discipline that many people don’t have. So, short of having a coach or trainer, how can you make sure you stick to your running goals? The answer lies in finding a good running partner.

What’s an Accountability Partner?

Running with a buddy is always more fun. The companionship of another person as you hit the road for some miles is awesome motivation in general. However, an accountability partner is a bit more than that.

This person will share a commitment with you to hold each other accountable to your running goals. Whether that goal is to build a regular running routine, to run for weight loss, or to train for a race together, your training partner will check in with you regularly to ensure you’re holding up your end of the deal as you work toward your goal. Likewise, they will expect you to do the same for them.

Knowing that someone else is checking on you, depending on you, adds another layer to your commitment. You’re not just answering to yourself. Your reasons to stick with your personal running goals are doubly enhanced--you’re in this together!

Photos courtesy of Danelle Hankins

the legs and shoes of two women on a road run together

Things that should be aligned:


A race is a great place to start when looking at a shared training goal for accountability partners. With a return to road racing in full swing, signing up for a race together will give you an opportunity to use the training, along with a set deadline to enhance your commitment to getting some new hardware.

If a race isn’t your thing yet, you might work on increasing your distance in general, or commit to a certain number of miles per month. Where it can get confusing, however, is when one partner might be only focused on speed, and the other is looking to build distance endurance.

As those two goals don’t always increase at the same rate, it’s important to make sure your plans match. As long as you’re aligned with similar goals, it will be easy to make sure both partners work toward the results they’re looking for.


Even the most enthusiastic runner can have their off days. However, if one partner is always the “Debbie Downer,” it will soon feel like a burden for one person to carry all of the motivation on their own. Look for someone who will be just as dedicated as you are to your shared goals (most of the time).


Regardless of where you’re located, you’ll want to make sure you and your partner have aligning schedules. Obviously, with in-person meet-ups, you’ll need someone who can match your early morning running routine, or who prefers a weekend long run the way you do, so that at least some of your runs can align.

This isn’t quite as strict with a digital partner, but it’s still an important consideration. If one person works late into the evening, they may not be available to check in and see how your after-work runs went, for example.

It’s okay to switch things up as needed for unforeseen changes. However, if you know from the beginning that you aren’t aligned, this could be a red flag for your potential partnership. Being available to check in most of the time is key. Be sure to discuss your intentions for scheduling training to ensure the best type of partnership.

Running accountability partners smile and laugh on their run

Things that don't have to be aligned:


While in-person camaraderie is always super motivating, we learned during the pandemic shutdown that having a digital running buddy can be just as helpful. This can be a great way to stay connected with a long distance friend or partner.

Connecting can start with tracking progress on a spreadsheet, a shared notes app or using a fitness challenge on your favorite app, but it doesn’t have to end there.

Text check-ins, sending fun coffee rewards, and calendar reminders are other ways to engage with your virtual accountability partner and still feel the love and support from afar.

Running Pace and Experience

This one can be tricky. While you don’t necessarily have to run at the same pace as your accountability partner (especially if you are digital accountability partners), it’s important not to be too far apart in your pace or endurance ability. You’ll want to be able to commiserate over like running problems and celebrate similar wins.

This can be hard to do when your levels are far apart from a progress standpoint. For example if one person is a seasoned marathoner and their potential partner is still new to their running journey, the relationship will feel more like one of a coach and trainee instead of accountability partners.

However, if you aren’t too far apart in ability, a good partner can always help you level up without feeling like they are dragging too far behind. Where one person may be better at longer distances, the other can help push the pace on your shorter runs or track workouts. Even if you aren’t exactly the same level, you’ll benefit from your partner’s strengths as you adjust to each other’s running style.

Creating an Accountability Partner Plan

Two women run together on a road

Start with a conversation

Before you jump into this new partnership, you’ll need to be honest about your shared goals and motivation styles. Even a close friend may not realize how their new partner would prefer to navigate their fitness journey.

“Being honest about how you like to be motivated is huge. Are you a ‘tough love’ sort of person who enjoys a no-nonsense approach and to be pushed hard? Or do you need a bit more grace in your fitness journey, with positive reinforcement?” says Dominique Burton, RUNGRL Co-founder and cross training expert.

“Either approach can work, but it’s important to talk about that before you begin training together so there is a good vibe between you and less possibility for misunderstandings.”

Set up daily (or semi-daily) check-ins

Start a thread in your preferred place, such as Slack or What’s App and make it your designated motivation area. You’ll be able to look back at conversations, plans and milestones all in one place, and can even link a calendar for planned events.

It’s also important that you share not only your wins during these check-ins, but your challenges as well. Tell each other what you struggled with that day or that week, to help find solutions for a better experience on your next run or workout.

Plan ahead for weekly runs

Set yourselves up for success by not waiting until the last minute to plan your runs and workouts. Schedule your runs several weeks in advance, both your shared runs and individual workouts. This will make it easier to plan around them, just as you would other important appointments, instead of constantly changing or pushing them back. That way, you both can confirm that things are getting done with a glance at the calendar.

Establish milestones

“Running more consistently” or “becoming a faster runner’ are big, somewhat abstract goals. The best way to visualize your progress for these “evergreen” goals is to set up checkpoints along the way, to compare past performance to new progress. Each small win gets you closer.

The same applies for big goals as well, such as training for a marathon together. “Milestones are so important to maintaining motivation for a big goal,” says Burton. “Training for a big race can be super intimidating, but when you break it down into smaller, weekly goals, each milestone helps you feel accomplished and inspired to keep going.”

Celebrate together

Weekly or bi-weekly check-ins are great times to celebrate small wins. Did you both hit your mileage goals two weeks in a row? Treat yourselves to a coffee, manicure, or a fun night out together as a reward.

You’re more likely to stay motivated when you know that your partner is depending on you to reach each milestone. Of course, the biggest celebration is in order when you reach your larger goal as well (ahem, race day). Be sure to plan something you’ll both love to keep yourselves pushing!

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