Should You Run Alone or in a Group?

“Well, I really just want to run at my own pace.” “I HATE talking to other people while I run.” “I need the beat of the music to pump me up! If I’m not wearing earbuds, I just can’t run.” “I don’t want anyone else to see me when I’m gross and sweaty.” “Running is my alone time, no intruders allowed!” “I don’t like the time of day that I run being constrained by someone else’s schedule.” “What if everyone is running too fast for me?”

Do any of these refrains sound familiar? It’s not uncommon for people to have a mental block about running in groups or with other people, and those excuses are all valid. Sometimes schedules just cannot accommodate running in a group situation, but for most runners, there is a case to be made for running in a group, organization, or with other people. The first step is giving it a try: “There’s a lot of intimidation for beginning runners early on to go into a group,” says Rob Udewitz, a clinical and sports psychologist in Manhattan. “They think it’s like gym class and they’ll be the slowest, or be last. But that quickly dissolves.”

The Benefits of Running in a Group

You’ve heard the refrain a million times: accountability makes a difference, and having someone who will notice if you aren’t showing up to get your run in, theoretically, should make you commit to running or working out as much as you want to. When your group is waiting for you, you’re less likely to skip the run or head home for a glass of wine and Netflix after work instead of hitting the road. Although nobody likes to admit it, our egos don’t like to make us the last in line. Once you’ve vocalized your intent to run with the group, it’s easier to follow through on that commitment.

There are other more subtle benefits to running with a group, though. For one thing, runners are generally pretty likely to talk about running: the gear, the upcoming races, the popular runners and running trends. Being around a group of people who are really passionate about running rubs off, and before you know it, you’re going home to your family and talking incessantly about ultramarathons and using running lingo that they don’t entirely understand. What seems like casual conversation is actually an important motivational tool, helping you learn the language of a subgroup and of a sport (especially if you’re a new runner). Don’t discount these pre- and post-run conversations: They can often be one of the most important aspects of the group run.

Safety in Numbers

Running in a group is also an automatic way to spend time with people who share a common interest. The seriousness of local and regional groups varies depending on their motivations. For example, a list like this will reveal dozens of clubs that meet 5-7 times weekly, often in different locations. These groups will be serious runners, who might be training for a race together or at the very least, want to commit to getting out and moving their legs several times each week. There are also different and more relaxed groups in each city, though. Check your local running store (like Fleet Feet Sports) to see if they have any couch to 5K groups or run clubs that meet outside the store before heading off on a run.

In terms of safety, the Run Fit Running Club notes that “If running with a group on or across streets, cars are more likely to take notice and give you the right of way than they might if you were running alone.” Large groups of runners are also more difficult to approach or attack than a runner on their own.

Finally, running in a group provides a consistent schedule and something to mark on your calendar that will keep you motivated and excited. If you’re usually flying solo, make it a point to give a group run a try! You can join a group, or just grab a few friends. Either way, running with other people will help you reap some important physical and social benefits.

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