I haven’t always been a member of a running group. In fact, I trained for my first marathon entirely solo, not running a single mile with anyone else. It wasn’t until after that race that I began running with Team in Training, where I discovered that running with a group was a ton of fun and made the miles fly by. After that, it became increasingly hard for me to run alone – especially when it came to long runs. If I didn’t have someone to run with me, it pretty much meant that those miles were not going to happen, which is not the best thing for training.
As a convert to group running, I faced an interesting quandary this year when I decided to start training by heart rate. For the uninitiated, heart rate training involves figuring out your max heart rate and heart rate training zones and then training exclusively within those zones. To make a long story short, many runners run their easy efforts much too hard and do not give their bodies adequate time to recover. Heart rate training takes speed out of the equation. This requires that you work at whatever pace is within your training zone. As a result, this type of training makes you slow down a lot for a while until your endurance improves and you can run faster at a lower effort level.
Because my paces have slowed down so much (although they are creeping back up, slowly but surely!), it is pretty much impossible for me to run with my old group for right now. While that was hard at first, I’ve realized that there are certainly some benefits to running by myself. I’ve even come to enjoy it.
- You can go running any time you want. Don’t feel like getting up at 5:30 on Saturday morning to get that long run in? No need. 7 am it is.
- You can run at whatever pace you want. Whether you’re feeling super speedy or slow, the choice is yours.
- You never have to feel guilty about “messing up” someone’s run if you’re having an off day.
- You can start and end every at your house. No more driving 20 minutes to meet up with the group!
- You never have to worry about how many miles everyone else is doing. Just do your thing!
Of course, group running will probably always be my first love, but there is something about this training cycle that is really special. I’m getting back to my running roots. It feels good to be reliant on myself for motivation and that extra burst of energy when I need to push through. I look forward to rejoining my group, but until then, I’ll be my own best running friend this fall.
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