Occasionally I’d go running with my husband, but “with” is sort of a gray area. Yes, we drove to the trailhead together, and yes, we did drive home together, but that middle part? The actual running? Not so much. Unless, of course, he needed a walk break, in which case he would briskly stride next to me while I chugged along. Yep, I’m that slow. My husband can walk faster than I run.
Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get my point. When you’re a slow runner, you think that the power of the group is not within your grasp and reconcile yourself to running solo.
But this post isn’t about what it’s like to be a back-of-the-packer (I’ve written about that here), but rather why it’s worth it to find a partner or club to run with. Check out below the main benefits of training with others.
The Benefits of Training with Others
There’s an old joke about how to run a marathon: find someone you don’t know and exchange life stories. It’s funny, yes, but also true. Even if you’re shy or introverted, a running buddy can be a great way to pass the time. And, if you have a good friend that likes to run, it’s an awesome way to catch up on each other’s lives. Last summer, my running partner was in the throes of planning a destination wedding. As we trained for the Philly half marathon together, that wedding provided hours of conversation. In fact, one entire run was dedicated just to discussing wardrobe options for the rehearsal dinner. No topic is too small!
SAFETY FIRST: running with a virtual buddy (i.e. on the phone) is a definite no-no. Even if you’re using a hands-free device, you’ll still be distracted from what’s around you. Just like talking on the phone while you’re driving, you need your attention to be front and center so you don’t get hurt.
Challenge Your Pace
After you’ve been running for a while, you might notice yourself gravitating towards a pace that feels easy and doesn’t require you to venture outside your comfort zone. But, if your ultimate goal is to get faster or stronger, running an easy pace all the time won’t help much. Sprints and hill repeat are a great way to build strength and speed, however, when left to your own devices, it’s easy to find excuses to skip them (and, if you need some new, creative excuses, come see me – I’ve got dozens).
This is where a companion or group can really help. Running with someone that has a slightly faster pace than you (maybe 30 seconds or a minute per mile faster) can provide the extra motivation to push your limits – even if it’s for no other reason than you don’t want your ride home to leave without you.
Conversely, I know there are those of you that like to go hard on every single run. This can lead to injury. If this sounds like you, consider finding someone with a slower pace that will rein you in a bit. Believe it or not, running slower than your regular pace is actually hard work! This is also a great time to work on your form.
Feedback & Accountability
Never underestimate the power of peer pressure. If you know that your BRF (best running friend) is waiting for you at 6 am and that she will be colossally ticked off if you don’t show up, well, that can be a powerful motivator. It can also help you complete your entire workout instead of finding reasons to stop early. A buddy or group can also give you that little boost when you feel like giving up and provide feedback on running form or breathing when you think you need help.
Running alone has its dangers. You’re far less likely to get attacked if you’re in a pair or a group. And, if you trip and fall or otherwise injure yourself, your running buddy can be your lifeline.
Finding and Choosing the Right Partner or Group
There are hundreds of running clubs and groups out there, and a quick internet search will probably turn up quite a few near you. One of my favorite resources is the Road Runner’s Club of America (RRCA) website. Local chapters of the RRCA are all over the country, and if you join one, you’ll find lots of group workouts and events you can attend. The membership fee is minimal and the network is huge.
Most local running stores sponsor free weekly group runs at various experience and pace levels. Just be sure to ask questions about route, pacing, and leaders before you head out for your first workout – you don’t want to get left behind. If you can find one that has track workouts, this is a great option. You can run with the power of the group and still go at your own pace.
Meetup.com is another awesome site to find local running clubs (and it’s free!). I did a quick search for running groups within 10 miles of my hometown and found 7 right away. Of course, if you can’t find one that meets your needs, Meetup is also a great way to start your own running club (although there is a fee involved if you are the group organizer).
If you’re training for a big race, many of the larger running events sponsor group training events for those that are registered. They’ll help you train for the big day and you might even find that you end up making some permanent running friends to run with after the race is over.
Jeff Galloway, the creator of the Run-Walk-Run training method, also sponsors running groups around the US and Canada. These groups are designed for runners of absolutely all levels and generally have a more formal structure and leadership style than local clubs. There are fees involved, but, in return, you get access to a lot of great running knowledge.