I have always enjoyed running with other people. Even when I was new to running and had little or no confidence, I still wanted to run with others. Being a relatively shy person, I seem to come out of my shell while running. There is one group that I consider my primary group but I have run with many of the local groups. I also can not pass up the chance to run with one or two friends whenever they ask. At this point, I estimate that group runs and runs with friends comprise somewhere between 40% to 60% of my weekly schedule. It is not that I do not want to run alone. I absolutely love a solo morning run around the lake when the sun is just coming up. There is nothing like it. I enjoy both and try to have a balance between solo and social runs.
Running with others sometimes makes me push a little harder but I believe that solo runs are where I truly improve. This is when I do things like interval, tempo and endurance runs. These types of runs just do not seem to work well with others. These require specific paces and distances and other people have different criteria. Thus, I find myself going too hard, too slow or a running a distance the is not ideal. In fact, people in general that are not even running with me cause me to go too hard during an endurance run. I need to be completely alone for these.
Another problem that can cause problems when you have a variety of people running with each other is obviously pace and distance preferences. There are a few solutions for this. First, the group needs to find a common ground that everyone is comfortable with. This means that one or more people will simply need to slow down and/or run a shorter distance than they would normally run. Another solution if the group is large enough is to simply break up into smaller groups based on their desired run criteria.
I have been running with a local store group almost 7 years now and have met a ton of people on those runs. It is one of the highlights of my week. It is a chance to share experiences with other like-minded people. These people get it when the subject of struggling through a long run comes up or you can not decide which race to sign up for. Most of the time it is a group of a half dozen regulars but the roster of regulars has changed over the years. There is only one person left who has been with the group longer then me and the two of us sometimes take about “the old days” with the current gang. We joke about how we will still be here years from now.
These runs are so important that whenever I plan out a training schedule, I make sure to pencil in the group runs with the store as “active recovery”. Active recovery runs are shorter runs than the workouts and they must remain slow are it affects the next day’s hard workout.
Until recently, this is the only group that I have run with. This past year, however, I tried out a few other local groups. One was about 8 women who ran at a 12 minute pace, another was about 15 people who split into 3 or 4 small groups and another had about 100 people with pacers carrying signs!! The last one was imply too large. It felt like I was running in an event where I basically ran alone surrounded by small pockets of friends who mainly stuck to themselves. This might be fun if you have friends to do it with but it was not very fun for someone who did not know anyone else.
So ya. If you have not tried a group run, give it a shot. If that one does not work, give another one a shot. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I have seen these group change people’s lives.