Running Alone vs Running with a Group

Running alone in the sunset

Many runners wonder if running alone vs running with a group is a better for them.  After all running can be as solitary or as sociable as you want it to be.  

Ultimately your decision will depend on what you are trying to achieve and your personal preferences. Below are some pros and cons of each.

Running Alone

Imagine that you wake up in the morning and decide to head out for a run although an extra half hour in bed sounds good too. You know that you'll feel guilty for not getting up, so you put your kit on, grab a snack and your water bottle and you head out the door. You are totally independant, there is no need to wait for someone else or head off to a meeting point and you can run at whatever speed and for however long you choose. Your run is just for you.

As you start running, your mind wakes up and you start thinking about your day ahead or thinking about yesterday and analyzing the highs and the lows. You start to have an internal chat to yourself and it helps organise your thoughts. Suddenly some of your worries from yesterday seem less important today.

After a gentle warm up, you decide to pick up the pace and practice a few strides along the old railway track. Then after another slow trot, you decided to do a couple of miles at your 10k pace. You're niggling Achilles heel seems to be OK today and its good to know that you can slow down if you want to. You are in control.

On the last stretch home, you realize that you are breathing harder than usual, so you slow the pace a bit. You also decide to practice perfecting you running posture as you know that you can be a bit sloppy, especially if your mind wanders too much.

When you get home, you feel relaxed and proud of yourself for getting up before everyone else and making yourself go for a run. Tomorrow you might explore a different route if the weather is nice.

Pros of running alone

  1. You are not tied to a schedule/group so can be more flexible of when you run.
  2. You can run at the pace that you wish and the length of time that suits you.
  3. You are less likely to get injured as you are not trying to "keep up" with faster runners and thus over exerting yourself.
  4. You can clear your mind and work through things that are bothering you.
  5. It improves your mental stamina as it is YOU that has to boost yourself when you are feeling tired.
  6. You will find it easier to focus on your form and breathing as there is no chatter around you.

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Running with a Group or Club

Running Group

Imagine that today is club run day. It starts straight after work so you need to be organised and make sure that you take your running kit with you.

Mid afternoon, you start to feel sluggish and wonder about not going running tonight. However you had promised to introduce a new friend to the club so it would be unfair not to go.

You arrive at the meeting point with 5 minutes to spare, just enough time to say hello to everyone. It is nice to see so many familier faces and some new ones too

Today's one hour run is being led by Geoff, a 65 year old "self trained" coach. He wants  to do a hilly route which is always a challenge. You dread hills but then you know they are good for you from time to time and besides, if Geoff didn't push you, then you might not do them.

The first couple of miles are easy pace so it is a good chance to chat and jog along at the same time. There is quite a lot of gossip ;-).  Having had an Achilles heel issue recently you worry a bit about the pace but it seems OK today.

Then the hills start. Being a slower runner, the hills are intimidating and you are near the back of the group puffing and panting. Liz who runs like a gazelle on the trails, comes back to join you and gives you some advice about how you need to pump your arms on the hills to make it easier. It's nice when more experienced runners impart their knowledge.

On the final stretch home, someone takes a tumble. Everyone rushes to the rescue but thankfully it is nothing serious.

You all arrive back at the car park exactly one hour after you started. You feel pretty exhausted but also exhilarated. A few group members are meeting up at the weekend to go for a 2 hour run through the park followed by a pub lunch. It sounds fun and you offer to be a driver so that means you better not be late.

Pros of running with a group

  1. Groups provide a sense of camaraderie and social friendships.
  2. You can benefit from the support and advice from other group members.
  3. You are more secure especially if there is an issue such as a fall or unfriendly dogs.
  4. Running with a group makes you accountable so you are less likely to skip the run. It can be difficult to back out if you have made a commitment.
  5. Running with a group makes you more competitive. Healthy competition among friends is not such a bad thing.

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How to decide - Running Alone vs Running with a Group

It all depends on what you want to achieve and how you feel and remember you don't have to choose one or the other as you can do both if you so wish. 

Some people love the solitary feeling of running alone and for others it is scary as they worry about getting lost  or being attacked by a dog. You might find that if you are training for a race and following a training plan, then it is easier to run on your own as you are in control of your pace and time. On the other hand if you need to be motivated and encouraged, then a group might work best for you.

A lot of people choose to run on their own most of the time and then run with a group or club once a week.  If you do join a club, choose it carefully. Ask around and pick a club that suits your needs. For instance if you are a beginner, joining a highly competitive club might not be best for you. It doesn't even have to be a club as there are many informal groups of runners who just 'run for fun'.

At the end of the day there is no right or wrong in running alone vs running with a group. Basically you want to enjoy running and you don't want to get injured, so choose what suits you and how it fits in with your lifestyle.

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