The benefits and disadvantages of running alone
Although parkrun has been a vital part of my running journey, I actually do most of my running alone. I have been really indecisive about joining a running club until now, and although the online community has been amazingly supportive so far, I’m finally about to take the plunge and try out a local running club. Ahead of my first ever session tomorrow evening, I started thinking about the aspects of solo running that I love, as well as the aspects I don’t relish quite so much.
Let’s start with the positives. There are definitely plenty, otherwise there’s no way I would still be here working my way towards running the Paris marathon next April. But what I really love about running alone is the complete freedom that comes with it. When it’s just me, I can lace up my trainers and go out running as far as I want as fast as I want. If I’m really pushed for time I can grab my keys and be out running around the block in a matter of minutes, rather than arranging a place and time to meet and worrying about running late (no pun intended!). I can use the time selfishly and listen to podcasts or music, which both educate me about technique, kit and nutrition, and motivate me to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Running alone is my chance for a bit of self-indulgence; it takes my mind off any other stresses I’ve faced that day.
But with freedom comes the need for discipline. With no one depending on me to show up, it’s so much easier to cut a run short, slow down too much, or even skip it altogether. I also feel much more uncertain about trying different types of running workout, such as mile repeats, tempo runs or hill sprints on my own, without the support and structure of a team or club. It might surprise you to know that most of the time I feel like I still don’t really know what I’m doing with this whole running thing, although I am getting a bit more adventurous. This has been predominantly since I began researching a proper training plan for my next half marathon.
Another worry I have when running by myself is getting lost. It sounds ridiculous, but I really am that bad with directions. I’d love to do more off-road running and circular routes, but panic about ending up having to run much further than I planned to, or not knowing the way back. I’m really lucky to have some great friends and colleagues who have offered to show me different routes further from the beaten track, but when everyone is leading such busy lives, it can be hard to find the time to organise these outings and I usually end up sticking with the security of the routes I already know.
Finally, although I have waxed lyrical about how much I love the pleasures of time spent running solo, when the going gets tough, sometimes I wish I had the distraction of other runners to chat to and spur me on, rather than having to dig so deep to make myself my main motivator. I am also really looking forward to meeting more people who share my passion for running in real life to bolster the support I have already gained from the online community, and for which I am truly so grateful.
Watch this space to see how I get on with my first venture into club running!
Do you prefer running in a group or alone? Do you belong to a physical or virtual running club? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to hear your advice or anecdotes.
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