The Lonely Runner

For my first two half marathons I trained on my own. I loved getting outside and hitting the trail and just having the “me” time. It was a time to think and reflect and clear my mind. I really enjoyed the alone time and didn’t see a reason to run with a group. When I registered for my 3rd half marathon, I decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society. With the fundraising sign up came the opportunity to train for free with one of the local running clubs. I decided to give it a try and was fairly instantly hooked. In fact, I just trained for my previous half marathon with the same group and signed up for the full year membership days before this past weekend’s race.

First Half Marathon - all solo training.
First Half Marathon – all solo training.

Still, there are many (not just one of you, and you know I’m talking about YOU!) that swear by running alone. I’ve found that when I chat with the lonely runner to find out the reason for not at least trying a running group, the response is generally group running-myths (or simple fear of the unknown). Here are some of those myths busted.

I like my “me” time
Just because you join a running group doesn’t mean you’ll never run alone again! I only run with my group on Saturday morning’s which means my weekday runs still give me that “me” time I crave. Plus, if I am really feeling the need for a long run by myself, then I just skip the group run and head out on my own.

I can’t chat while I’m running
If you know me, you know my immediate response to this is always, “Then you’re running to fast.” Your long runs should be done at a conversational pace. If you can’t have a fragmented conversation while running, you’re running too fast. And don’t worry, no one expects you to talk all of the time. There are some Saturday’s I simply run along and listen to other’s conversations or I pair up with someone that is happy to do the talking. You’d be surprised how some good conversation can make your total running time feel a lot shorter.

I’m a slow runner, I cant keep up
Don’t just find a running group, find the right running group. This will make a huge difference. The training group I run with has different pace groups ranging from a sub-8 group all the way up to a run/walk group. There is truly a place for everyone. I run with the 9:15 (9run5) pace group and while we run together on Saturday’s, on race day it’s a whole different story! I run with multiple Boston-qualifiers, a level I will never reach. Not trying to put myself down, but I just don’t possess that type of speed. That doesn’t stop those in my pace group from congratulating me and sharing in my joy when I run my half marathon at a pace that’s slower than their full marathon pace. We’re all in it together.

I’m gross when I run
We all are, but when you run with a group of runners no one notices. Bodily functions? What do you think a group of runners talks about on 45+ minute runs? At the beginning of my race in August, I told one of my group members I had peed in the trees behind the grocery store. Her response? “Oh! I pooped back there last year!” Runners are gross. Please, join us!

Putting aside fear of the unknown (which is what I believe every single one of the above myths is really about), there are some big benefits of running with a group.

Camaraderie
I can’t speak for all training groups, but mine is more than a social group. In fact, we joke that we are a cult. Like I already said, it doesn’t matter that my best is running my half marathon at the same pace others in the group run a full marathon. In fact, one of my favorite moments from this past weekend’s half marathon was when a fellow 9run5er cruised up next to me after mile 10 and asked how it was going. I told him I was ok, but ready to be done. He very nonchalantly said, “Well, you’re a good way into the race,” before speeding away at the 7:45ish pace that he ran the entire marathon. On Saturday’s we run in the cold together, we run in the rain together, we run in the snow together, we run hills together, and we squeal about cute dogs together. We line up at the start together, run part of (or all of) the race together, and celebrate together. Then when the season is over we eat dinner together and countdown together until training starts again. I have made some amazing friendships this year just from heading out for a run (shout out to Courtney & Nicole!).

BRRRR.
BRRRR.

Motivation
Rain, sleet, snow, ice, heat, cold. When you have a great group of people you run with there is no lack of motivation to get out there. I doubt I would have done a single run outside this past winter if it hadn’t been for my group runs. The one I remember best is a 7 mile run where the temperature didn’t get above 17 degrees. “That sounds miserable.” It wasn’t, because we all laughed together about not being able to feel our hands or feet and once we got warmed up the cold seemed like nothing. Never did I think I’d be getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday to make it out for a 6:30 am run. But I did, every weekend this summer.

Support
I guess this could fall under camaraderie, but the support I received when I got injured and had to drop out of my race in May falls into a different category for me. Courtney had been there before, knew how I felt, could relate, and kept me from feeling down in the dumps about it. It helped me to accept that injuries are a part of running and not being able to run with the group stunk, but I knew others in the group had been there before and knew how I was feeling. A lot of running injuries are common and there’s a good chance someone in your group has dealt with it and can recommend a doctor or PT. For me, having a physical therapist and a chiropractor in my group to reaffirm what my doctor was telling me was a nice bonus.

So I urge you, before you declare that you are absolutely a solo runner, give group running a try at least a couple times. You may just change your mind.

What is your favorite thing about training with a group?

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