Group Vs Solo Running: The Good And Bad In Both
As an avid runner, I run in a variety of different settings. Everything from running the road near my home to looping the community where I work, I often take myself off-road for some trail work. When I started coaching runners back in the early 90s, that is when I realized the joy and camaraderie of running in a group.
However, sometimes a solo run is exactly what your body needs. Let’s explore positive aspects of each.
Safety in Numbers If you are prone to running early in the morning or late at night, in addition to your safety gear you might find safety in numbers!
Group Running Benefits
There are many benefits of running in a group.
✓ Safety: Many runners love the fact that they feel safer when they run with a group. Depending on where you live, this can be an important piece any time of the day. Here in Northeast Wisconsin where I live, many people prefer their pre-dawn runs to be with friends so they are not out alone.
✓ Company: Who doesn’t like someone to chat with while they run? Let’s face it, the company is great – especially when you are running long!
✓ Community Spirit: Anyone who has witnessed the local She Runs This Town in the Marinette-Menominee area where I live can completely understand this dynamic. This group of women has kept one another sane during difficult times. Whether it is the monthly challenges that have people setting mileage goals or the forum in which people can ask questions, runners often find themselves experiencing a newfound sense of community.
✓ Fun: My local group hosts everything from Tutu runs to Beach Theme Runs to What’s Your Favorite Sport Team? These themes give people an opportunity to get together and experience running from a very fun perspective. Some of our more elite runners find themselves enjoying the lighthearted approach to running, which is new to some.
✓ Performance: If you are running with a group that has some runners who are faster than you, you might find that in your quest to keep up (or at least keep the group in sight!), you are running faster as the weeks go by. In addition, many groups hold weekly track sessions or post-core challenges that help you to get stronger.
✓ Commitment: If you struggle to motivate yourself to run early in the morning or to get your long mileage in, the commitment of having someone expecting and counting on you can be helpful. Over and over I hear people saying, “I might not have done X, Y, Z were it not for my group.
✓ Friendship: Some of the best friendships come out of group running. What starts out as running buddies often turns into an incredible support system with friendships that last a lifetime. And let’s face it… running people will get you in a way non-runners won’t.
Sarah Wiliarty of Middletown, Connecticut, says, “The best part of the Badass Lady Gang is Friendship which is like Company, but different. Good running friendships are like Aristotle viewed friendship. Aristotle considers virtue friendship as the highest form of friendship between two people; unlike the first two kinds of friendships which are more based on self-interest, virtue friendship is based on ‘mutual concern of each person for the other for his own sake'”
In the past year, this has meant celebrating one another’s birthdays, listening to job troubles and supporting the friend whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. It means being good role models to one another. It has been life-changing.
Fun Theme Runs! Many running groups keep things fun by organizing and hosting theme group runs. Although this one was attached to a small local race, the group signed up specifically to be part of the Santa-themed run (as well as supporting a local nonprofit organization).
Solo Runners Speak Up
There are many reasons why some people run alone. For some, solo running is out of necessity. Whether you are a parent with young children at home or you have a crazy work schedule, sometimes people just struggle to mesh their schedule with someone else.
Solo running is also a great time to clear your brain of the noise and pressure of life. Sure, you can sometimes do this when running with friends. However, other times, those moments to yourself are the best moments in the day. Simply put, it can serve as “me time.”
Running alone also allows you to always focus on your training regiment. Some runners feel compelled to run the pace and/or distance of the group. When you run solo, it is your pace, your distance, your workout, every time. Although, runner Therese Schweyer would tell you that if you find the right group, everyone can adjust to his or her needs.
Going it alone can also build mental strength, as it is just you and the road. Gutting through tough workouts and long runs alone helps you to realize that when push comes to shove, it is just you and the open road.
Therese Schweyer, “I have been running with my group for so long I have lost track of the number of years we have been meeting up. And we don’t always run the same mileage. Everyone is open to what they need, mileage-wise, and we just adjust or split up as needed.”
Carolan Garceau of Waukesha, Wisconsin states, “I don’t feel like I run solo because I run with Kato but I don’t have much other choice! I have to run when I can fit it into my schedule. Having a full-time job, two toddlers, and living in an area with no street lights… I can flex my work schedule to get a run in but usually, that means I run at weird times and I must run solo.
I participate in group runs when I go to my hometown and I love the camaraderie and how it feels so much more relaxed. I feel a lot less anxious and I run more casually, as opposed to for distance or pace.”
Dana Prentice says, “Running solo is one of the few times I am alone. At home, I am with my husband and kids and at work, I am surrounded by coworkers. When I am out running it is just me and I enjoy it.”
Kim Johnson says, “I am definitely a solo runner the majority of the time. During the week I run super early, before work, and there is no time to drive to a meet-up or socialize. As an ultramarathoner, on weekends I run really long. Mostly I just run near home by myself.”
Jeff Hettrick of Avon, New York, “I was a solo for the first 6-ish years of my running career. It worked well for me because I could run when, where, and how I wanted. I’m not a very good planner so coordinating a meet-up with others is a challenge of challenges for me. Upon my wife’s advice, I started running a group and it was a game-changer for me. I actually looked forward to my weekend long runs. The group gave me the accountability to get up and moving in the morning and get out the door when motivation was low, especially on those cold and snowing winter mornings.
They also opened my eyes to new running routes and new places to run, which equally helped up my motivation and enthusiasm for running. It’s easy to get stuck in a running route rut and the group squashed that.”
Pick Your Preference
Of course, whether you run solo or with a group, it really is up to personal preference. Many runners to whom I spoke stated that they usually enjoy a balance of both types of running. Running solo helps with many things such as convenience, working on things like pace, and it is a good time for alone or “me time.”
Groups, on the other hand, give runners a chance to socialize, keep the brain busy on long runs and build friendships. There truly are benefits to both and this author/runner encourages you to branch out and try both!