Running is inherently an individual sport.
OK, sure, if you are on a high school or college cross country or track and field team, I suppose you can consider running a “team” sport. But for the rest of us non student, recreational runners, it’s just us, our sneakers, and the pavement. (Or the trail, or the treadmill…but you get the idea.)
There’s no denying that one of the great things about running is the fact that you don’t need anyone else to participate in the sport. In fact, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that one of the huge appeals to me as a runner is the opportunity running gives me to have alone, quiet, “me” time.
Time to reflect on my day, brainstorm posts like this very one you are reading, and solve the
problems of the world…or at least the ones in my own little world.
But one of the other really great things about running is the community. Runners are some of the most amazing, caring, encouraging people on this planet. And while there is nothing wrong with solo running, I’m going to boldly say that if you haven’t joined in on a group run, you are missing out. Here are ten reasons why:
10) Accountability. It’s hard to hit that snooze button when you know someone is waiting for you. It’s so much harder to sleep in when you know an entire group is waiting for you, and will likely give you a hard time the next time they see you if you skip this run.
9) Learning about the latest running gear/nutrition/races on the market. Let’s face it, this type of stuff doesn’t typically make the front page of the news, so it’s great to have some insider sources.
8) Having someone by your side to distract you from the endless, boring, long run miles. But even better…having someone by your side to share the amazing “it feels like we’re flying” miles.
7) Learning tips and tools of the trade from experienced runners, like how to properly perform a “Farmer’s Blow”.
6) Being entertained by the “old timers” who always have outrageous tales to tell, like the one time a local runner ran a whole mile off course, got chased by a raccoon, drank half a beer, and still ended up winning the race (this may or may not be a true story).
5) Broaden your friendship horizons. I’ve been on group runs with people from completely opposite backgrounds who voraciously debated opposing sides of hot topics, typically political or religious issues, as the miles ticked by. Chances are these people wouldn’t have normally given each other the time of day, yet through running, they have become close friends.
4) Become a faster runner. Hanging onto a pack of runners who are slightly stronger and faster than you can force you to step out of your comfort zone, push that lactic threshold, and train harder. But on the other hand…
3) Other runners can keep you in check. Does your workout call for a long, SLOW run at a specific distance? Staying back with a slower group will prevent you from pushing the pace. Be sure to tell the most sensible one in the group what your prescribed workout is, and they’ll remind you not to try and be a hero and run further than you should.
2) Free “life” advice. On group runs I have heard everything from how to deal with a teething infant, to suggestions on the best Chinese food take out restaurant in town, and absolutely everything in between.
But the number one, hands down, reason for joining a running group?
1) Finding other people who understand your type of “crazy”, like going to bed early on a Friday night just to wake up at 5:00 am and run 20 miles through a snowstorm the next Saturday morning. For fun.
So if you haven’t given your local group run a try, go. Join them. You don’t have to give up the solo life of a runner just yet, but the camaraderie, laughter, and valuable training (and life) tips you will take away from a group run will only enhance your running experience.