Image of the June 2013 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
June 2013 Issue
Home / Articles / Skills

How to deal with slow coaches

Wait up! Photo: Roger Pennycuick

Racing ahead isn’t really an option, writes Matthew Pike

I despise the dull pain that intensifies with every stride. I hate not knowing whether my legs will collapse in a jellified heap with each new step. I detest the sweat pouring into my eyes and my heart beat sounding like a pneumatic drill. And I want to punch the false summits in the face, for teasing me into believing I’m near the top.

Yet all this hatred pales in comparison to how much I despise the cheery bastard 100m ahead telling me there’s not far to go.

You know the sort – the one who tries to convince you that the view where they are makes the toil worthwhile.

The one who points out all the fascinating sights you’d been longing to see but are now past caring. The one who assures you that this is as tough for them as it is for you, even though they’ve been sitting on the rock for 20 minutes pretending not to care that a sudden lack of pace has been thrust into their life.

They may be your best mate, but you interpret their words of encouragement as patronising cockiness and their regular breathers as a way of emphasising just how slow you actually are. How can you avoid this situation which is no fun for the slowcoach lagging behind or the cheery bastard desperate to get on with it?

For those trying to hide their inferiority we just say, swallow your pride. As soon as you know they’re either fitter or faster than you are, tell them. This way you’ll lower expectations and reduce the pressure on you to keep pace.

Tips for the cheery tramper

Mentally accept that: ‘Today is not a day that will push you to the limit. You may not achieve all you want to achieve. You may not make it home in time for the rugby.’ Enjoy it more as a leisurely day out with a mate than a brutal day on the hill.
For the faster walker: Let the slower one go first and don’t breathe down their necks in a none-too-subtle act of pressure to speed up. You may not enjoy the pace so much, but your buddy will get through the day without wishing to wring your neck.
Encouragement is great but don’t overdo it – the odds are they’ll know what you’re trying to do and overkill will only encourage thoughts of neck wringing.
Use your extra energy to relay amusing anecdotes, whether related to the hills or not. This doesn’t require the struggler to speak and will take their mind off the task at hand.
Find out whether the slower party prefers to keep plodding or stop for regular breaks. If they like to stop, point to landmarks ahead at which you can both stop for a rest. If they’re a plodder, just stay a few strides behind and do nothing to break their rhythm.