Solo or Group Running – which is better?

Solo or Group Running - which is better?

Which do most runners prefer –  solo or group running?

In posing this question to my friends, the answer proved to be a resounding “yes”!

“I need to run alone to listen to listen to the sounds in my head and to be free to listen to my body when it tells me either to push or to back off.” – Jim

“I like to train on my own- slap on my headphones and head out at my own pace, whether I’m pushing myself or not.” – Amber

At first, I figured running was a lone sport for the beginner. And honestly, as a newbie, I preferred it that way. It was all too new to me. I didn’t know how my body was going to react, and I sure didn’t want to hold anyone back. So I ran alone, earbuds in, music as loud as safely possible – because I didn’t want to run to the soundtrack of my own heavy breathing.

Fast forward to these days, when more often than not, I’m running with friends. Often we are all training for something, but we do use the time to socialize.

“I love to run with others. I get to share time, hear how life is for them and be inspired along the way. Social connection/ relationships are paramount to personal happiness and well-being.” – Meg

“I usually run/walk alone because I am slower than most.” – Deborah

It was at least a year before I started running and training with others. I still felt self-conscious about my own running. However, our running populace is quite diverse in age and experience, and I learned that running with groups can truly be helpful. We can share helpful advice, cheer one another along and tell each other how awesome we are!

For the first few years, I was really uptight about conversation during running. I really didn’t have the confidence in myself yet to try to do both.

I think I’ve finally learned to relax and just enjoy being out there running/jogging/walking with my friends and sharing the time together. We certainly don’t take it personally if one of us decides to run at his or her own pace for a bit.

“I enjoy being with my friends and doing something we love together. Also, with friends I usually have a tendency to push myself a little harder. As a woman I feel safer when I’m with others.” – Clara

I was anxious about this while training for a recent half marathon. My friend Jeff promised to run the race with me, and he meant the entire 13.1 miles.  I knew he liked to make conversation while running. I was afraid I would slow us both down trying not to be antisocial. As it turned out, we pushed each other along. I ended up with a personal best and had an extremely enjoyable 13.1 miles with my friend.

“I really like starting a run with my friends and talking with them, but towards the middle of the run I like the focus of being alone. Running with friends also pushes me to run harder, because I’m trying to keep up!” – Sarah

“I’d prefer to run in a group, because I am loathe to be the slowest in a formation and it motivates me to move faster.” – Alex

Solo or Group Running - which is better?
Donner’s Downfall (photo courtesy of Race 178)

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of both  experiences. I met up with a group to preview Leg 4 of the Reno Tahoe Odyssey. Nicknamed “Donner’s Downfall”, it’s one of the toughest legs of the 178-mile relay; 8 miles uphill, gaining an elevation of 1,500 feet. Our objective was to run for an hour, so that meant running as far as possible for 30 minutes, then turning around and heading back.

None of my regular running friends was able to make this run with me. So although there were a lot of people there, once we started running, I considered it a solo run. I made it about 2.5 miles up the mountain before turning around, and it was tough. The landscape was stunning. But I was really focused on getting as far as I could in the first 30 minutes.

When I turned around to run back down, I decided to remove my earbuds and enjoy feeling connected to my surroundings. And I did. The valley below me, other snow-capped peaks of the Sierras in the distance; the birds busily chatting amongst themselves, and the rush of the creek alongside the trail –  it was a beautiful experience and so indicative of the solo running experience. It gave me the opportunity to clear my head, enjoy nature in all its glory, and thank God for the beauty of it all and the ability to enjoy it in this way.

Solo or Group Running - which is better?
Enjoying the beauty and solitude of Donner’s Downfall

“I run solo to clear my head, work through real or imagined issues; I run with a buddy/buddies to be inspired or inspire.” – Jeff

That run was especially mellow after having run in a trail race the day before, Race days are so much fun, and obviously include many other people. I loved catching up with friends and meeting new people. It was great fun to start out the race together, spread out, and then cheer one another along as we passed.

And I can’t say enough about other runners. I had slowed to a walk to catch a few breaths before pushing the last quarter mile to the finish line. Another woman tapped me on the shoulder. She said,”I’ve been pacing you this entire race. We’re almost done!” And we ran across the finish line together. THAT is the spirit of the running community, and part of why I absolutely love being a part of it.

So there are most definitely things to appreciate about both the solo and the group run. I equally enjoy both scenarios and am most of all grateful to have the opportunity and the ability to do either, and both.

“Running with friends is very motivating. Running solo is good for the soul!” – Denise

Author: Shelley English

Shelley is a wife, mom and executive assistant who loves to spend the rest of her time running and writing.

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