Running is like blowing out the candles on a birthday cake – you could do it alone, but you tend to get a lot more out of the experience when you do it with a group.
Here, run coach Dom Cadden shares some of the benefits of running with a group. It might be just the motivation you need to get your running on track in 2019.
YOU CAN’T SEE YOURSELF WHEN YOU RUN ALONE
Often you’ll never know there’s something about your running technique that’s holding you back, but it’s usually something that’s very easy for others to spot – even if they’re not a qualified run coach. Do you lean to one side? Do you land hard on your heels or overstride? Do you crumple at the core? Does your stride seem to be half the length of those around you? We all think we know how to run because we’ve been doing it most of our lives, but few of us have had any proper training. A good coach or other experienced runners can tell you when they notice bad habits, or when they think the issue with your lack of form is all in your head.
A GROUP KEEPS YOU HONEST
You can tell yourself that when you thought about running on Tuesday and Saturday it was just a suggestion that was totally up for debate. Tell the group you’re running on Tuesday and Saturday, and they’ll hold you accountable. Running groups are ruthless this way, maybe because everyone knows how easy it is to slack off when no one else relies on you. You’ll tend to push harder when you’re with a group – and suffering with others is always more fun. Something else happens when you join a group – even if you absolutely, positively have to skip a session with the gang, the commitment makes you more likely to do a catch-up run on your own because the pressure is on to keep up.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
When you’re busy and you run alone, it’s easy to fall into the habit of doing something that’s comfortable and familiar – same pace, same location or terrain, similar distance. Even experienced runners often neglect some aspect of their training, whether it’s speed, hill training, distance or strength training. Usually we’re physically capable of doing any of these sessions, we just struggle with the mental side. When you train with a group, someone has not only taken care of the schedule to make sure different types of training are covered, there’s extra variety built in due to the mix of abilities within a group.
COMPETITION KEEPS YOU KEEN
Ask any experienced trainer and they’ll tell you that some kind of training with a competitive aspect helps runners stay on track with their exercise. The competition might just be to improve and everyone in the group can appreciate that, no matter what their level. You may not run as quickly as the next runner, but are you improving at a faster rate? Competition and the markers it involves – whether that’s marking yourself against other runners or your own times, or other performance measures such as how good you feel or how well you recover – help conjure up positive memories of small victories. These boost your confidence, which helps you enjoy running more.
THEY’VE ALL “BEEN THERE”
The collective experience of a group will be an endless source of information, inspiration and support. Whatever it is you’re experiencing, someone’s probably been there before. Remember this when the negative voices in your head start telling you that you have to be good enough or well enough to train with the group. Join the group and you’ll improve faster than if you didn’t. If you’ve been sick or injured, the others will understand – it happens to everyone, so they’ll look after you. Slogging through some life issues and having trouble with motivation and time? The group’s all been there too, and will help take your mind off it while you punch out the kilometres.
YOU SHARE A GOAL
There will always be someone in the group who shares a similar goal. This automatically makes you teammates who will share strategies, training, gear and nutrition tips, and you’ll motivate each other no matter what the difference in your speed or experience.
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
Running with a group is just safer. You don’t have to be running through a warzone, gangland killing fields or even late at night through a dodgy neighbourhood, either. If an injury strikes or animals attack, it’s good to have others around. If you’re under the weather or pushing to the max, your run crew is there to keep an eye on you. You can go running in new places without fear of getting lost (or at least, getting lost together sucks less – most trail runners know this!).