It’s no secret that I love running with my friends and I’ve often encouraged newbie runners to join groups or find a running buddy – knowing someone is waiting for you, often gets you out of bed and running with faster friends can make you push yourself a bit more. Also, when you’re struggling, there’s someone to encourage you to finish. And if you love a good chat like I do, you’ll probably have some of your best coffee dates on the run! So as you read this post, please know I am in no way playing down running with friends but I’ve learnt over the years, and perhaps even more so during this pandemic, that there are also many benefits to running solo.
“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power.” – Jesse Owens
1/ You Can Focus On Your Training: When running with others, you usually have to consider things like pace, distance and even terrain (hilly or flat, road or trail). You also have to find a way of accommodating different schedules and run expectations. But when you’re on your own, you get to follow your training plan with little to no adaptation. If you’re supposed to be doing an easy run, there is no temptation to increase the speed to match others or if you’re doing a speed session, you don’t feel bad if someone gets left behind. I’m currently doing a 10-week 10K training plan and I’ve loved the fact that I can focus on exactly what my training plan says, especially the interval runs which would be difficult to do with someone else on a different plan! I’ve also been able to listen very closely to what my body is telling me. I can easily feel when I’m slowing down and need to pick it up; or when I feel a niggle, I slow it down immediately.
2/ You’re More Mindful Of Your Form: Some may manage this when running with others, but when I’m engrossed in that juicy conversation and have to lean in to see if I’ve heard correctly… let’s just say issues of correct form may be the last thing on my mind! When I’m alone I’m more likely to check if I’m running correctly. Am I gazing straight ahead? Are my shoulders starting to hunch over? Are my elbows close to my sides? Is my core tight? Is my cadence normal? Are my knees happy? Correct form is so important as it helps to reduce chances of injuries.
3/ It Improves Your Mental Strength: Last week, I had a 3km time trial. I had asked my husband to join me as I felt I needed a cheerleader. But unfortunately he was called into work so I found myself alone. It was tough. With no one around to push me, I had to dig deep, to increase my pace when I was slacking and to finish the run with every bit of strength I could muster. I managed a 5:49 min/km pace and was so chuffed! The following day I had a 15km run and again was alone. I had to use all kinds of tactics – choosing an interesting route, listening to my favourite songs, telling myself – “The pain you feel today will be your strength tomorrow”. As this article highlights, when you always rely on others to get you through a difficult run, you may struggle to win that mental battle when you’re alone in a race. I’ve found that running alone teaches you how to motivate yourself, how to go up a gear and finish what you started.
“I am not afraid of storms. I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
4/ It Creates Self-Discipline: When I’ve set a date to run with a friend or a group, I will show up, no matter what because I hate letting others down. So if there is a run I’m dreading like the 18K I have this weekend, I usually hunt for an unsuspecting accomplice. But if you’re always running with others, you may find that when they cancel, you also end up skipping the run. This is where running alone helps. You develop self-discipline. So from the examples I shared earlier, if I didn’t have the discipline, my time trial may not have happened. One of the biggest advantages of running solo means you learn to get the run done, even if your motivation is waning.
5/ It Gives You More Flexibility: While I love the ‘concreteness’ of a running date, I also love the flexibility of running alone. If I wake up and want an extra hour’s sleep, I happily press that snooze button. Or if I had a long day at work and would rather postpone my evening run, I can also do so freely without feeling I’ve let anyone down. Being alone also means you run straight from your house or work without the added hassle of driving anywhere.
6/ It Builds Confidence: Amanda from Run To The Finish mentions this point about creating confidence. This was so true for me when I started running. Sometimes a group or even a good friend can make you nervous – am I holding them back? Would they be going faster if I wasn’t here? When you’re alone, you may find you’re more relaxed and can focus on your run without worrying. The more you run, the more confident you become which helps you to improve.
7/ You Get That All-Important Me-Time: Running alone gives you time to reflect on your day or week. It gives you that quiet thinking time that may not be possible in other settings or with other people around. You get to be alone with your thoughts. And as I said in a previous blog post, “I’m able to think clearly about things I’m struggling with. I can think without crying or getting upset. I’m able to work through things without becoming trapped in the emotion of it.” And sometimes you don’t need to think about anything at all. For today’s run, just being alone under a bright blue sky with the gentle winter sun on my skin was all I needed.
“Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days…I run, pound it out on the pavement, channel that energy into my legs, and when I’m done with my run, I’m done with it.” – Rob Haneisen
I love running with my friends and I can’t wait for my first run with them! But the last few months have reminded me why I also enjoy running on my own and what some of the benefits are. I highly recommend doing a bit of both – run with a friend or group especially on those days you know you need extra motivation or just want some good company. But also throw in days when you are just on your own – focusing on your training plan, checking your form, working on your mental game or just enjoying some relaxed me-time.
Are you happier running alone or with a friend/group? Are you like me and dabble in a bit of both? What other benefits have you found from running alone?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, Running on Happy and Organic Runner Mum! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.