I’m a huge proponent of group runs. The buddy system (despite this hilarious headline from The Onion) is a huge source of motivation, accountability, and enjoyment when it comes to training. Shared joy, as they say, is doubled joy – whereas shared sorrow is halved sorrow.
And I’ve been lottery-level lucky with running groups. The first group I ran with was out of Fleet Feet Chicago, where we trained for the 2014 Boston Marathon and Chicago Marathons. I made some extremely close friends and travel buddies out of that group, and saw my Marathon time drop by about 10 minutes, so the benefits of group training became very apparent.
Within 6 weeks of moving to Portland in 2015, I got plugged into a running group that has been my main source of friends, training partners, and competition (only of the best, co-motivating, win-win sort).
But group runs, for all their obvious benefits, can become a bit of a crutch or even a distraction if you’re not careful. If you don’t have a set training plan it can be easy, tempting, and even fun to just plug yourself into other people’s workouts. But if you are training with a coach or aiming for a really specific goal, group runs often won’t work because of differing paces, schedules, locations, etc.
When training for the 2017 Leadville 100, I had to do a ton of running on my own. Training for a race of that distance and elevation requires a lot of really slow (for me at least), long runs and it’s tough to find someone who wants to run for 5 hours at a 10 min/mile pace.
When I decided to try for a PR at the 2018 Tokyo Marathon, I also found myself running at times and paces that didn’t match others. I was lucky enough to have some much-needed company on a few of my longer runs, but most of my mid-week runs were solo.
Two things made this reversion to solo running bearable and indeed enjoyable – 1) Podcast proliferation and 2) Delivery mechanism.
There are now roughly 500,000 podcasts out there, which means a TON of high-quality audio content for everyone to consume, including some of the most random-ass shows…
- There’s the Gilmore Guys, which is, yep, two boys talking about The Gilmore Girls.
- There’s Guys We F****d – about… 🤭 you guessed it .
- There’s Missing Richard Simmons, about why Richard Simmons hasn’t been seen in like 1,000 days.
- There’s The Princess Bride Minute – 90 one-minute, scene-by-scene episodes analyzing the movie The Princess Bride.
- And there’s X-Minutes – same as above, but for Marvel’s Mutant Movies, starting with 2000’s X-Men.
My personal favs are Hardcore History, CASEFILE – specifically the one about The Silk Road, The Kevin Rose Show (one of my favorite online personalities, covering everything from tech and health/wellness to gadgets and culture. His newsletter is also worth a spot in your inbox.), and The Waking Up Podcast by Sam Harris. Sam is a controversial guy who I don’t agree with all the time, but he’s arguably the most eloquent man I’ve ever heard speak. His thoughtfulness and logic are endlessly satisfying in a world that seems to be coming more unhinged by the day.
The other thing that made my reversion to solo running tolerable and even enjoyable has been AfterShokz headphones.
As I’ve mentioned a billion times on The BibRave Podcast and during #BibChat, most of my running life has been without any headphones or audio content. It’s just unsafe to shut down one of your senses while running, and cords and I are just not friends. So after a treadmill tangle that lead to a #treadmillfail, I basically swore off headphones… until I found AfterShokz.
AfterShokz use both bluetooth and bone-conduction technology, so that means no cords and no shutting off one’s auditory senses when running. The battery life is incredible (they lasted the entire duration of this 5+ hour run), they sync immediately, they allow me to hear what’s going on around me, and they soften the dread of a cold, early morning solo run.
I loved the AfterShokz Trekz Titanium, but their newest edition – the AfterShokz Trekz Air – have been a huge improvement. Lighter, more comfortable, better sound – wins across the board.
OMG Tim! What happened in Tokyo?! I totally care about your race!
Aren’t you just the sweetest!
Well, since you asked – I PR’ed! I was able to move my PR from a pretty stubborn 2:46 and change, to a 2:44:13. This was easily the most fun I’ve had training for a road race since I got hooked up with my first training group, and it was a much needed road running revival. I also worked with a new coach this time around, and he did wonders to help me rediscover why I love running, why I love difficult, grinding training sessions, and why I should be grateful for each and every step.
So – I’m a huge believer in the group-training effect. There’s so much to be gained from a shared joy and/or doubled joy perspective, and as your peers get faster and faster you’re likely to start eyeing up and running some faster times. Especially if you feel your enthusiasm for running wane or plateau, definitely latch on to a group in your area.
If there isn’t a group nearby, or you’re like me and just haven’t been able to link up all of your running schedules with people nearby, I highly recommend incorporating some type of audio content (audiobooks, podcasts, music). It really helps the miles fly by, and if you’re really getting into a story of, say, one man’s 100 mile odyssey through the mountains of Colorado (😉), it makes getting out the door that much easier!