To me, one of the greatest things about running is the camaraderie of running with some of your friends. For me, that means Team CRUD (Coloradans Running Ultra Distances). We generally have one hill tempo run each week (Thursdays) and one long run (Saturdays). In the summer, we add flat hard days on Tuesdays. The long runs vary from location to location, but our hard runs are always the same, allowing us to compare workout to workout and year to year. In order to train successfully with a group, there are few things to keep in mind.
Remember that if you are running with people slower than you, you should always adjust your pace down rather than forcing them to run faster. Going slower isn't going to hurt your training much at all, but going faster than "long run" pace will certainly hurt the slower runner, and their hard runs will then suffer the following week. For CRUD long runs, we typically do break up into several groups since we have a wide range of abilities, but there is still going to be compromises that need to be made in each group. If you are a faster runner and can't fathom running any slower than your "ideal" pace, a group long run probably isn't for you. I do most of my long runs with Rick H, who has PRs about 20 percent slower than me, but by slowing down some we are able to both enjoy the runs. On new runs, the fast group carries flour in a water bottle and marks the turns for the slower groups (no Homeland Security, that white powder isn't anthrax).
On hard days, while each runner should run exactly the correct pace/effort for themselves, there are still ways to run together. Based on our own workouts, here are a few ways to run together even on hard days.
1. Handicapped Tempo runs. Our Thursday hill tempo run takes place up a 4.2 mile road hill in the winter (average grade=7.5 %) and a 4 mile trail hill in the summer (average grade = 11%). For each run, we establish a "par" time and everyone adjusts their starting time accordingly. For example, for our winter hill workout, we consider 40:00 as the par time, and we list 6:40 AM as the finish time of the run. Each runner starts before or after 6:00 AM by enough to make it to the top at approx. 6:40. This is a great way to turn the workouts into a fun competition as well because the first person to the top is the "winner." If you get to the top before 6:40, you have to start later the following week. We used to make it even more interesting by making the winner carry a spiky wooden pineapple (our team symbol) up the hill the following week as a handicap. We all then run down the hill together.
2. Swimming style workouts are perfect for runners of approximately equal ability to run together. For example, a number of us used to do a workout in which we ran 20-25 x 400M, starting each work bout every 2 minutes. This means that the faster you run your 400, the more rest you get but you still all start together. In my prime, I was doing 25 x 400M (10,000M total) in 68 seconds, meaning I got 52 seconds of rest each time. By the way, this is essentially a tempo run since you are getting short rest (usually a jog) and your HR ends up staying fairly high the whole time. This is a great modified tempo run for athletes training at altitude because the 400M is short enough that you can still run at or faster than LT pace. Now days, we do this type workout in a park with a dirt one mile loop. One group can do this starting each mile every 6:00, another group 7:00, etc.
3. Any kind of shorter hill repeat where you run up and down. While you aren't necessarily running together after a few repeats, you constantly see each other and feel like you are working out as a group.