This is a tough subject for a lot of people. Many people can’t even think about running alone while probably just as many people have the same feelings about running in a group. What makes one better than the other? Or is there no difference at all?
When I first started running I ran alone until I felt comfortable running. Kind of like how if you are out of shape some people will feel weird about going to the gym because of their embarrassment. Yet, that’s kinda the point of the gym, to help get yourself into shape…Right? But, I digress. After I felt comfortable enough in my own skin, running 3-5 miles at a time alone I then started to run with groups. I’d wake up at 3:30am 3-4 days a week to meet up with some friends to run before work, and then weekends I’d drive over an hour to run my long run in the city with a group in Pittsburgh.
This was all great, until for whatever reason I wasn’t able to make a run. Because of weather, work, or any number of reasons. So because I became so reliant on group runs I lost the ability to run alone. Or at least I lost the desire to run alone. It became very easy to just say well, I’ll find a group to run with tomorrow or I can take another rest day, no big deal. I trained for my entire first marathon this way, and luckily I was so motivated that I only missed a few runs. So I never really saw the effect relying on group runs was having on me.
The real problem started when I got injured after my first marathon, as I’ve talked about previously. Once I got back to the point of being able to run again, I felt just like I did when I first started running. My pace wasn’t what it used to be, my endurance wasn’t as high. So naturally I was embarrassed to run with groups cause I wasn’t “as good” anymore. Ridiculous right? This went on for some time. I was caught in this wanting to get better, but hesitant to run with a group, and somehow I just settled on barely running. I don’t recall how long this lasted, but finally I buckled down (still not as strict as I should have been) and began to just run on my own. All my runs, totally solo. And what happened is I fell back in love with running. It wasn’t an easy thing, my pace came back slower than it would have if I were with a group, I’m sure. But I truly loved to run again.
Running became my time. The only time I could disconnect from life, work, technology, anything at all. It’s where I got all my thinking done, solved my problems, and everything in between. This is also the time I found trail running, like real trail running. I had only ran trails a few times until this point. Trails truly revolutionized how I felt about running. I still love a good run on the road and a road race. Afterall, that’s where I started to run.
So, after a very long hiatus of running with a group, I somewhat reluctantly began running with groups every once in awhile, and you know what, it’s not half bad either. I really enjoy running with my tribe of runners. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, I definitely need my alone time runs. Something about just getting lost in the woods by yourself for 20+ miles on a weekend to know what you’re made of and really have some quality alone time.
All in all I’d say I prefer to run alone compared to a group, especially training for ultras or trail races in general, you quickly get separated and end up running alone for most of the race, so I look at it as a more practical way to train for some races.
But, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you run with a group or run alone, just make sure you keep moving forward and run.