In my opinion, running is one of the few truly primal sports left. It’s a sport that not only pits runner against runner, but, more importantly and more often than not, it pits the runner against himself. Simply put, running forces you to encounter, face and overcome challenges. For some, the challenge could be a brutal interval workout or that ever-so-dreaded long run, while for others that same challenge may be the alarm clock buzzing in their ear at 4:45 a.m.(!), signifying it’s time for their pre-dawn run. Finally, for others, simply mustering up the courage to start a running regimen in the first place is challenge enough.
Whatever challenges you face in your running program, know that they don’t have to be faced alone, but they do need to be thought through.
Below are some simple, yet often overlooked things to consider before you start running – either with or without someone.
Why are you running?
To get faster? Lose weight? De-stress? Enjoy the scenery? Compete? The list goes on and on and on. But without a clear understanding of what you want out of your running (remember, it’s yours and no one else’s), you could really be hindering the overall experience.
How accountable are you?
This is a big one. Finding a running partner, or even joining a running group, creates a sense of belonging and accountability … something many people need or want. Others may be perfectly accountable and look forward to their daily solo run to provide them time to think and relax. Either is great. I’d argue a mix of the two is best.
I know that for us, it’s helped dramatically having the other person there to help push you out the door to get that run in, especially on the days you don’t want to.
What are you looking for?
While this one is conducive to both running alone or with others, it’s, again, something to keep top of mind. Looking to PR? Make new friends? Socialize? Clear your head? A solid understanding of what you want out of your running will help you better realize what you need to put into it.
Envision the journey ahead
Try and envision yourself over the next 14-16 weeks, running 3, 4 or even 5 times a week and honestly ask yourself what your attitude and approach would be as the weeks wear on. Furthermore, imagine yourself at mile 22 of that next race. Are you happy being there alone? Would you prefer company to help you power through? That can only be answered by you.
Although these are simple things to consider, you’d be surprised how many people I’ve seen overlook them. Like at the IMT Des Moines Marathon in 2012, where I was slightly behind two runners who had clearly trained together (as evidenced by their matching “team in training shirts”). All of a sudden one of them decided to take off – leaving the other guy behind. While the guy chasing down the PR was happy, his buddy was completely irate – making it pretty apparent that wasn’t part of the plan. Think that guy’s last few miles were very enjoyable? Pretty inconsiderate.
For us, we enjoy a mix of running both together AND alone – and one thing makes that possible: communication. As our personal running goals have started to shift slightly, we are in constant communication about what we are running, why we are running it and, most importantly, what we want out of it. That’s why neither of us becomes that irate runner I spoke about before.
I think this quote sums it all up:
“I can give you a six-word formula for success: Think things through, then follow through.”
-Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker