Running Alone is Hard
As a kid, we are thrown into recreational sports. Soccer, basketball, baseball. We were introduced to physical fitness and the specialty of being a part of a team at a young age. As we got in to middle and high school, the decision to participate was increasingly our own.
Participating in a sport meant being with our friends which made us feel welcomed and supported. It not only motivated us physically but also emotionally by providing the connections and bonds that fulfill basic human needs. As we get older, organized sports are much harder to come by and so we gradually lose that identity that comes with being part of a team.
But, if you’re a runner, the landscape is changing and the opportunity to join a team and find your crew is thriving.
Post-collegiate structured group training for runners is a relatively recent phenomenon. It started among the elite runners, largely driven by a lack of US athletes represented in the Olympic Games in the late 80’s and 90’s. The motivation behind the formation of those early groups was to aggregate resources (coaches, nutritionists, sports and conditioning professionals, medical professionals, etc) and bring together running talent that would elevate each other beyond the level they could reasonably expect to achieve individually. The idea was to create a running ecosystem whose synergies would accelerate everyone’s progress toward their potential.
1) Access to Resources
A Coach or Coaching Team
When you join a running group you get access to educational and motivational resources that will help shape and elevate your training. Most groups have a coach or coaches that serve as the guide for the team and should provide education about training programs, be able to emphasize the purpose behind the training, and be accessible to the runners for questions and support.
Many running groups partner with running-focused nutritionists which can help with the day-to-day fueling questions and challenges and the specific needs during your race to help stave off that infamous marathon wall we all fear and dread.
Staying injury free and addressing injuries early is just as important as proper nutrition. And so, a run group should have a strong network of medical professionals (PT’s, sports masseuse, chiropractors, MDs) to assist with questions or provide therapy as needed. These resources should be qualified to help with both pre-hab (advising on exercises to prevent running-related injuries) but also rehab for when the injuries take us out and we need to rebuild before coming back.
A group can hold you accountable. We’ve harped on it before in a prior blog, but motivation ebbs and flows throughout our training. When we hit a motivational low there is no stronger support than that of our running group to boost us up and hold us accountable. By knowing that we will be missed (and potentially called out!) for snoozing that alarm, our running group provides the accountability that keeps us on track well beyond where we would if we were going it alone.
3) Motivation and inspiration
Different than accountability, your running group is your single biggest source of motivation and inspiration. It sounds obvious but running with people is better than running alone. Pace support and distracting banter on long runs. Someone to chase during track workouts. And the power of a pack that carries you through those days when you just don’t want to.
Being a part of a run group of widely varied abilities also lets you look ahead to the runners that might be a level above you and say “why not me?”. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but the inspiration that comes with seeing runners going through similar training should empower you to dream, to set goals and to strive to improve. Because at the end of the day, most of us aren’t going to the Olympic Trials but we do want to be better (faster) versions of ourselves.
So, in sum, a run group will make you run faster and will make your runs more enjoyable. Which, will ultimately lead to you running more consistently. So, find your run group. Because your inner-child is seeking that connection through sport. And when you find it, lace up together and watch the magic happen.