There’s been a lot of conversations lately about running alone vs. running with others. I’ve spent the last three years running with others. I’ve maybe done the odd run alone, but the bulk of them are with friends. And every single one of the long ones has been accompanied! Most of you who run will know Lloyd’s feelings about running with other people – He feels quite strongly about it. ‘Don’t do it Spicer, because one day you’ll run around the corner, and they won’t be there. Where will that leave you?’. Sadly, I had to find this out for myself recently and it subsequently left me in a bit of a rubbish place.
I’ve never attested to being a great runner. I’m certainly not built for it. Being short and dumpy has no benefits for endurance running! But I persevered nonetheless and would say, have come quite far. I’ve completed a marathon, so can probably get away with saying I do OK! But I’ve never really relied on myself. I’ve always looked for others to keep me company. But recently I’ve come to realise that actually, Lloyd might be right! When it comes to running, you have to ask yourself why you’re doing it? Is it to get fit? Lose weight? Complete a half marathon? Whatever the reason, it’s YOUR reason!
It’s great to have the company, especially on those long jaunts out, but ultimately, I’ve realised with Lloyd’s help, that running alone will make you a better runner. Here’s why:
Between morning alarm calls, screaming children, noisy neighbours at work and constant mobile phone pings, it’s almost impossible these days to squeeze a moments peace and quiet into your average day. When you run alone, with no phone, no watch, no music, it’s just you and the road or the trail. Your thoughts are your own. All the niggly little snippets that have been bugging you can be thought over calmly without the worry of having to entertain a co-runner. While it’s sometimes nice to have an ear, or indeed be an ear, it’s also incredibly important to learn to take heed of situations yourself and deal with them in a calm and effective way. How many times have you heard someone say ‘that run has cleared my mind’ – and it’s so true. That time to yourself is priceless.
From a performance point of view, running on your own will make you a better runner. You’ll breath properly and pay more attention to your breath. Having a conversation with someone, regardless of how slowly or comfortably you’re running, will affect your form. It will make you breath more shallowly and in turn your muscles won’t get the oxygen they need to stay at peak performance. Your pace is unlikely to be natural for you. Whether you run at the same sort of pace as a friend or not, you will undoubtedly alter your natural rhythm . It’s just what happens. And when all of the above take effect, your form will suffer, leading to an increased risk of injury. Running alone is therefore of particular importance if you’re returning from injury or illness. You need to listen to YOUR body to avoid future setbacks.
If you’re training for an event, running alone is almost imperative. It will help you feel comfortable and prepared for race day. It will let you move into a familiar pace and listen to your body to know when it needs fuel and hydration, not when your running partner tells you that you do! I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard from people who have been on track for fantastic race results having trained with friends, only to get to race day to run alone for the first time and it go wrong! It’s not familiar. It’s different. There’s no one to rely on but yourself.
It might get lonely, but it depends how much you want it! If you want that medal or that time, enough, you’ll do what needs to be done. You’ll endure the quiet and the sometimes painful, head messing moments. You’ start to realise that running is 20% physical and 80% mental. It’s all up top! If you get into the habit of going it alone, you’ll only have yourself to answer to. And ultimately, that’s the way it should be. The only person you should ever be competing with is yourself. Because at the end of the day, you’re the only one who cares. Everyone who cares about you will be proud of you no matter what!