When it comes to running, are you a lone wolf, or member of the pack? My preference leans towards running in a group, but I can see where going it alone has its advantages. Here’s a pros and cons list, with some input from running experts across the country, on the best circumstances for each.
Running with a Group
#1 Someone to hold you accountable- You can’t let your training partner down, so you can’t let yourself down. Running coach, Jasmine Niemiec finds running in groups to be motivating. “I do better with a group! Even if we only meet once per week, that 1 run holds me accountable for all my runs that week!”
#2 After run beer/coffee/dinner makes for more time to meet and bond- Big groups will often meet back up after a run to grab coffee or a snack. This is a great time to meet new people or catch up with old friends. This is how I met my husband!
#3 Learning tips and tricks from other runners- Running in a group means you have access to people who have lots of different experiences. You can ask for advice on anything, someone will have an answer.
#4 Get inspired by people in your crew- Dr. Jason Karp author of The Inner Runner said, “running in a group gives us a chance to share — to share our highs, to share our lows, to share our funny stories…and to share our experiences of being runners.” Everyone has a story. By getting to know other athletes you can find inspiration in how they got started, why they run and what makes them tick.
#5 Someone who is willing to listen to you about all your training- You know you’re annoying some of your facebook friends when you post about training all the time. You can let it loose and share details and gripes to someone who understands your struggle.
#1 A pace that’s too fast or slow- Many groups are well established and have a pace you might not feel comfortable with. Jasmine mentions that people might not be running at their ideal pace in a group. Luckily with an easy run, there is some wiggle room.
#2 Won’t fit your schedule-Groups have set times, if your schedule isn’t flexible or you work odd hours it might be hard to find one that works for you.
#3 It’s inconvenient to meet somewhere- There’s nothing easier than stepping out your own door and starting your run. Meeting in a pre-designated location adds extra time and extra distance to your run.
#1 Alone time- If you’re around people all day, and/or you have kids, you likely cherish this time.There’s no one you have to listen to, no one you have to talk to. Just you and the road (or trail).
#2 Control your own speed — Laura Norris from thisrunnersrecipes.com finds that running solo lets her focus on her training, “I can complete the exact workout in my training plan, whether that’s a tempo run at my goal race pace or an easy run.”
#3 Guilt free podcast or music enjoyment- When you’re with another runner it’s rude to plug in and zone out. When you’re alone you can listen to anything you want.
#4 Building mental toughness- Both Jason and Laura mentioned that going solo helps prepare them for the hard race miles. Laura said, “Running solo builds my mental strength. I’ve done 20 mile long runs by myself, and then on race day the added benefit of the crowds and other runners are an extra mental boost that I can draw from.”
#1 Safety- Some of the women I talked to mentioned that they’d like to run alone, but due to safety concerns feel more comfortable running in a group. Running alone means you need to be aware of your surroundings.
#2 Control your own speed — You decide your pace. Which means you could go too fast or too slow depending on what your goals are, it’s all on you.
#3 Can get stuck in a route rut- Going it alone means also deciding where to go, it’s easier to stick to a single route and never stray. This gets super boring.
#4 More likely to opt out of going- If you have no one else waiting to meet you, you may decide to skip the run or “do it later” aka, never.
So what do you think? Running alone is convenient and you can be more focused on speed work. But the inspiration, camaraderie, and fun of an organized run can outweigh the solitude of owning the road. A mix of running in a pack, to keep the runs varied and fun, with some lone wolf time to keep yourself focused on your goals is a great approach to training.