Do you prefer to run solo or train with a group? Personally I love them equally for different purposes. I believe that one can benefit from doing a little of both in your training. My journey into being a runner has evolved from solo running only into being part of a run club and having normal training partners while still taking time for a solo run as well. When I started running it was mostly solo. The first few times I ran I feel like I was just figuring myself out. It was excruciating and I would constantly ask myself why I was doing this. My best friend was a cross country coach and I was intrigued at her love for the sport. We signed up for a 5K color run with a few of our friends and she trained with me a few times before hand. It was nice to have someone to talk to but I was very self conscious.
After the color run I was determined that I was going to be a runner! I loved the feel of the race. The running community sucked me in almost immediately. The cheers coming across that finish line from people who had never met me gave me the sense of belonging I was looking for.
Fast forward a year and I was taking on my first ever 5 miler! I had raced a couple small local 5K’s and even placed in my age group once. I was learning to push myself and feeling great about my progress. My husband, who had run track in middle school but nothing since, decided he wanted to join me for the 5 miler. This began a training partnership that has driven us both to new heights.
Bryce and I began training together 3 days a week and upping our mileage. Every now and again we’d run solo if our schedules didn’t mesh, but for the most part we did all of our training together. In the beginning he pushed me… HARD. He was naturally much faster than me and sometimes it was really hard for me to keep up with him. My breathing was terrible. He would be carrying on a full conversation with me and I would be squeaking out words here and there while attempting to suck in air at the same time. I was determined to get better and not feel like I was slowing him down.
After about 2 years we were dominating our age groups. It was great feeling like a power couple and sharing those experiences with him. Our training runs became a pivotal piece of our marriage. It was 30-60 minutes of solid exercise as well as quality time together striving towards our goals. We were now pushing and supporting each other.
Last year, I began running every now and again with some friends on a trail near my house. I’m not a big trail runner but I enjoyed getting to run with my girlfriends other than just at races.
In December, Bryce finished out the season with an injury that has thus far taken him out of this running season (he is hoping to be back running this month!). I was faced with the loss of my training partner in the beginning training for my second half marathon. I had lofty goals of completing a sub-2 and I knew I had to rise to the occasion even if it meant doing it alone.
I began doing some long training runs with a friend of mine who was also aiming at a sub-2. She paced just behind me but didn’t slow me down enough to hinder my goals. Some days I was beyond thankful for this as I tend to push every training run to race pace and that is absolutely not healthy or smart. During the week I ran two nights solo doing 3-5 miles. These runs would be paced much faster and I was reminded of my love for solo runs. It was just me, the pavement, and a chattering squirrel here and there. I turned my brain off for everything but running for those 30-40 minutes a day and it felt good, although there were times I wished I had someone with me to make it go faster. That alone time however IS needed to push yourself and remind yourself that running is absolutely a solo sport. Having a team is great and the running community is the best support system EVER, but YOU run YOUR race.
The half marathon came and went and in the process I picked up yet another training partner. She and I pace dead on and have similar running goals and aspirations. We have also joined up with a running club. We’ve now run twice with the Run Club and I enjoy the structure. Everyone either runs their own pace or pairs with someone who paces with them. We have a start point and an end point. Sometimes we run local race courses, other times we just have a general area and everyone goes their own way. I enjoy this setup because, while we all feel like we are running together, no one slows anyone down and we still get the comradery of running with a group.
In conclusion :
Solo runs are important. It is great decompression time and it is time to learn to push yourself. If you can’t push yourself in your own headspace you cannot expect to do well. It’s about learning to get into a good mental space while embracing the suck. It is also good to break away from the group and do your own thing without feeling the pressure to perform or to keep up with/beat anyone. You also need to learn how to be accountable not only to a group but to yourself.
Training partners are GREAT! Having a good training partner (or two or three) can be greatly beneficial. Personally, I think your training partner should have a pace similar to your own. You can push each other and hold each other accountable. Having similar goals is a plus as well because you are able to mold your training to your next race goal. It is also nice to have a partner to do long runs with when you are training distance. As much as I love solo runs, I don’t enjoy running over 5 miles without a partner.
Running with a group can be beneficial. Running with a group has the perks of getting that race day feeling without the pressure of the actual time clock. It is good to get out and practice on a course with a group before a race and just gauge the terrain and know what you’re up against. It is also of course great to have the support of your fellow runners and be able to socialize other than just on race days.