The Glass Debate For Running

Published on 02/21/2018

  • The Glass Debate For Running

My husband and I are very different, which we feel is a good thing and probably one of the reasons we have had a successful marriage for 25 years. While he is spontaneous, I like everything planned ahead of time. My husband is very outgoing, whereas I tend to be more introverted. He likes to go out while I prefer to stay home. He hangs onto stuff and I am constantly cleaning, organizing and decluttering. We don’t agree on music, movies or some food. My husband is a glass half-full person. I am the complete opposite. “That glass is only half full. Where is the rest?” We also differ when it comes to our running preferences.

Decades ago, with my urging (he wants me to make sure the readers know), we joined Phoenix Fit. I thought it would be a fun way to make some new friends while training for a marathon. It was fun and we did make life-long friendships that we continue to nurture to this day. But what became apparent was how our running preferences differed. My husband thrived on running with people. He and his running buddies became inseparable, even running together outside of Phoenix Fit. They ran together at least twice a week for years. Our friends called them the Three Musketeers. My husband also liked running with a goal in mind. Races kept him on track with his training.

I, on the other hand, tended to run alone, even in the group setting. Although I would regularly start off with a few women, after a mile or two, I would purposely drop back, letting them pull ahead. And I was fine with that. It allowed me to get into my “zone” and click off the miles.

Now skip ahead to the present. We still have those same running preferences. After my husband’s running friends moved to other states, he fell off the running wagon for a while. Other sources of motivation to lace up his shoes and head out the door evaded him. Eventually, his struggle ended when he decided to start a running streak which culminated with training for and completing a 50-miler.

As for myself, while I did enjoy the marathons and all the other races I have run over the years, to be perfectly honest, I enjoyed the training more. I could have skipped the races altogether and would have been totally happy. These days, we workout together 99% of the time and we still don’t agree. He wants to talk the entire time, while I keep saying, “I’m trying to concentrate on running. I can’t talk to you. I’m trying to breathe!”

I’m sure we are not alone with our running differences. Most runners tend to lean one way or the other, whether they prefer to run solo or with friends. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, although the best bet is to mix things up. Here are some thoughts to consider for both methods.

Running alone can be a meditative experience. It allows you to hit the mute button and disconnect from all the nonsense in your life. Many runners, myself included, do some of their best thinking while running. I often come up with my most creative solutions to problems in the middle of a run. Or perhaps you don’t want to think at all. Just put one foot in front of the other and let your mind wander.

Running solo also has performance benefits. When you’re by yourself, you can better focus on your pace, form and breathing. Choosing to run with a group at a casual pace may be easy but doing that can limit you from reaching your potential. On the other hand, running with people who are too fast can push you into doing more than your body can handle. Running alone allows you to listen to your body.

Additionally, heading out the door by yourself will enable you to reap rewards on race day. You’ll feel comfortable finding, and sticking to, your own pace, without relying on a partner and you’ll get practice recognizing when your body needs hydration and fuel. Running alone allows you to develop tactics to help you become mentally stronger and better able to handle the highs and lows of training. Each time you finish a solo run, you gain a little more confidence in your abilities. No need to give anyone else credit for pushing you through a tough run.

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. One of the main benefits of running with a group is accountability. It’s hard to climb out of bed when it’s dark and cold and it’s hard to put on your running shoes after a long day at work. Knowing there is someone waiting for you might just be that little extra motivation you need.

Another perk of running with people is the positive peer pressure it imposes. When you run with other people, you will tend to put forth more effort. Getting caught up in the group mentality may increase your speed without you realizing it.

Many runners find running with people intimidating and overwhelming. Finding a group of like-minded runners however, can open your eyes to new ways of training and can inspire you to try a new race, distance or a new workout. Running with others can also make scary workouts seem bearable. If you’re scared to run hill repeats or intervals, try them with some running friends. Suddenly time is flying by, you’re gasping for air with some running cohorts and you’re sharing in the group effort.

The best way to determine your running preference is to get out there and try different methods. You’ll hit your stride before you know it.