Back in the day, running was not a mainstream activity. It was hard to find others who had the same running psychosis as the rest of us, thus the common portrait of the solitary runner—man versus road—alone. The loneliness of the long distance runner was a life that many lived. Nowadays, running has become extremely popular. We no longer have to be solo runners. We can be social runners.
The power of training with a group is the strength of the pack. Sports psychology shows us that we are stronger as a group than as individuals. The esprit de corps that's developed in the pack gives us the strength to tackle and achieve more than we thought possible as a one man wolf pack. Sure, there are times when running alone is preferred, but finding time to join a group has numerous benefits.
Therapy | Training in a group is like group therapy at 10 minutes a mile. There are support groups for all of sorts of conditions and addictions. Ours simply happens to meet on the roads. Finding others in training with similar interests who understand what we are going through is invaluable. Those long runs tend to fly by when we've got a group of friends to socialize with.
Accountability | Being a part of a group that expects you to show up motivates us to get out the door. Show of hands… How often have you shown up for a run with friends on a winter’s morning that you otherwise would have skipped? We can’t let our posse down!
Social | Finding others whom you might never have met in any other aspect of life builds bridges. You can find cool new restaurants, great parks, fun races, and best friends you never expected to meet. Heck, I was in a wedding this weekend for a couple who met in group training!
Safety | We all know the saying that there is safety in numbers. The pack helps to protect us from those with bad intentions who might look to take advantage of a solo runner. Also, if you do happen to get sick or injured mid-run, you will be forever grateful to have companions.
Improvement | Organized group training offers coaching, planning, and education. The encouragement and training benefits help push us to become better, healthier, and faster runners. Having a group to help push you along on those tough days will allow you to experience increased running performance.
Why go solo when you can roll with so many fun folks? Joining a training group is the best way to take your running experience to the next level. So much for the loneliness of the long-distance runner!
Tim Cary is Head Track & Field and Cross Country for Lindenwood University at Belleville and the former Fleet Feet Assistant Training Manager. Over his more than two decades of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to subscribe to our blog.