I am a lone wolf. I roll out of bed every morning, move through my stretches and activation routines with my eyes half shut, and then head out the door to log my miles. I train by myself for the better part of the year, sometimes even having days where I do not actually speak to anyone until the rest of the world gets off work (unless you count the “Watch it!” shouts I give to the cars that buzz a little too close for comfort while I am running). Yes, it can seem lonely some days… but I love it. By running alone, I get to dictate the time I run, the pace I run at, and the route I take. I get to ponder things that have been on my mind, run through an argument for a legal case I am working on, and, in some instances, finish the run without being able to recall a single thought that ran through my head.
How I train is not for everyone, and though I do enjoy the alone time I have with the roads and trails, I like to jump in with a friend or two to help pass the miles from time to time. Training solo all the time can get stale and can sometimes cause a plateau in either motivation or performance.
Right now, I am training in Iten, Kenya. It is the one part of the year where I trade in my lone wolf ways and train with the pack. I may still get out for a few solo runs but, for the majority of my five to six week stint here, I always run with at least one other person. Being in the middle of my group training stint, it seems like an appropriate time to outline some of the benefits that can be gained training in a group, as well as some of the risks to look out for.
WHY YOU MIGHT CONSIDER RUNNING IN A GROUP
Running with a group or even one other person can help keep you motivated… especially in the dead of winter or after a long day of work. You are instantly accountable to someone else. Skipping a run means you may have to get crafty with your excuses, unless you come clean and say you opted to stay inside on your warm couch and watch Netflix. Nothing makes me more certain to set multiple alarm clocks than knowing that I have agreed to meet someone for an early morning run. No one wants to be that jerk who stands up a running buddy at 5:30 in the morning.
Having a pack to train with is also beneficial because it can help push you to the next level. Whether it is motivation to run that extra mile or two because someone else is tacking on, or a bit of a friendly rivalry that gets you to dig a little deeper at the end of a run or an interval workout, having other people training beside you (or slightly ahead or behind) can help you push through barriers that you may not have realized were even there. Train with someone faster, and you may discover you end up running a little faster. Train with someone slower and you may learn to appreciate the process of training a little better. I am always so impressed by the amount of work and determination I see in some of the slower members of a training group.
When training with a group, it is always important to keep your personal goals in sight, and your own limitations. It can be easy to get caught up with what your pack mates are doing and run yourself straight into an injury. Paces can quicken without much notice and before you know it, your easy 60 min run could turn into an hour and a half of hard effort.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do when training with a group is to learn to check your ego and not worry about other’s feelings too much either. If it is an easy day, don’t be that jerk who runs two steps in front of your friends. If it is a hard day, don’t feel bad if your hard effort causes you to stretch away from the group a little bit.
Running can be a very selfish and isolating sport. You have no teammates to rely on to help finish a “play”… either you get your bum across the finish line, or you don’t. It is all on you. You get out what you put into your training, which also means you get the satisfaction of knowing what you yourself are capable of accomplishing. Having a group to share in some of the pain and misery of training, the nerves of lining up to race, and the celebrations after you’ve crossed the finish line can help make the entire process that much more fun and victories that much sweeter.
If you, too, consider yourself to be more of a lone wolf, consider joining a pack every now and then- great things are possible!