Athletes influence the training pattern of friends, even if they live miles apart. That was the conclusion reached by a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) School of Management who trawled through five years worth of data gathered from 1.1 million runners of all standards from around the world.

From the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the team mapped the mileage, running frequency and pace of each participant every day for five years. They also tracked what their friends and training partners were doing on the same days, wherever they were geographically located.

Results were fascinating. If a subject recorded running for ten minutes longer than usual on a particular day, their running colleagues would unwittingly extend their run by about three minutes, even if the weather was awful.

Sinan Aral, a management professor at MIT who led the study, concluded that “running can be socially contagious” and that the effects “go beyond correlation to causation”. In other words, the more miles you run, the more likely your friends and family are to up their weekly mileage too.

We always recommend finding a training partner for safety but also for the enjoyment, the natter on your 5k weekly route or just to keep up that pace from some healthy competition.

If you haven't found your running soulmate, check out the Great Run Local website to see where your nearest local running group is. 

This article was first published in Athletics Weekly. For more of the latest running and athletics news, plus performance features and much more, grab a copy of the magazine or check out