After taking a few days off following the Brooksie Way Half Marathon earlier this month, I’ve been running pretty consistently. For the last few months I was mostly training for the Brooksie Way, and it has been kind of weird running for the last couple of weeks with no specific end goal. I’ve done a variety of runs during the last couple of weeks including some speed work, a couple of tempo runs, an eight-miler, a nine-miler, some hilly routes, and some easy runs. But it seems easy (for me, at least) to feel like I’m not pushing myself very much without specific goals or target training paces. I suppose I could just resume some portions of my half marathon training, but I’d rather wait until I decide on my next race before doing that so I don’t end up on a goofy training cycle prior to whatever ends up being my next longer race. This stretch of running with no specific goal has been going well, but it has also been a little directionless. Because of the lack of direction with my recent training, I’ve been interested in spicing up my running a little bit so I’m able to not only maintain my fitness while in this “not-sure-when-I’m-racing-next” limbo period, but also improve a little bit during this time.
I almost always run alone except for the once or twice a week I do a longer run with my wife. I rely on my Garmin watch for pacing, with any desired paces for a given run or workout dictated by a training plan; if I feel like I’m starting to slow down or am struggling to hit my workout paces, I try to channel some adrenaline or think of something that fires me up enough to give me a little extra boost. I used to listen to music every time I ran, which often gave me a nice pick-me-up but also messed up my pacing. A lot. So I don’t listen to music very often anymore when I run, and never during races. It can be tough though when I’m feeling sluggish five miles into a tempo run, for example, and could really use a boost to make it through and stay on pace.
One of my wife’s coworkers is a very talented runner who frequently runs with a group of other very talented runners. I’ve met a few more members of that running group over the last few weeks and every one of them is very friendly, welcoming, and supportive of other runners (regardless of speed or experience). We’ve had a standing invitation to run with them for the last several months, but for much of that time I had class on the evenings when they ran and we never joined them. Even after I finished classes we didn’t get around to joining them. Sure I was training for the Brooksie Way while they were training for bigger races that were much more important than ours and had things at stake for some of them, but I could’ve easily joined them and done whatever my scheduled workout was for that day. The real reason I didn’t run with them is that I was very nervous/apprehensive/shy about running with a group for the first time. I had many questions running through my head, each of which cultivated a little self doubt and helped keep me in my safe little bubble of running by myself:
What if they’re too fast for me?
What if I annoy them?
What if I violate group running protocol?
What if I ask stupid questions?
What if they laugh at me when they’re already way ahead of me five minutes into the run?
What if the workouts kick my butt and I have to quit early?
Etc., etc., etc.
What if…what if…what if?
The only thing I should’ve been worrying about is how stupid it was to not start running with them sooner! We finally took the plunge and joined them this week, and I really enjoyed it! Now I’m wondering why it took me so long to try running with the group. Obviously it’s not ideal for every run, especially during a training segment, but based on my very limited experience with it (and the glowing reviews of other people I know who have run with groups) I think it can be very beneficial. I know any of you who have run with groups or have regular training partners might be thinking, “Duh!” However, this is totally new to me and I was pretty apprehensive about running with anyone other than my wife. The people I ran with are great – although I had met some of them before, I had never run with any of them other than in a 5K race with my wife’s coworker and his wife. The people I met for the first time were also very nice. There are different talent levels in the group, including people who probably do tempo runs at a faster pace than I can run a hard mile, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue at all. The runners split up into smaller groups to do different types of runs after about a mile warm up, and I would’ve been welcome to run along with any of those smaller groups. I’ve had a sore back the last few days and we ran about 1.5 miles to get to the meeting spot…after the group warm up I was already at about 2.5 miles and my back was still a little stiff, so I didn’t want to push it with too long of a run. Luckily one of the groups was doing five-minute repeats (with two minutes of recovery) at a pace I could handle, and it turned out to be a perfect workout for me totaling about 7.5 miles including a half-mile cool down. It pushed me without messing up my back any more, and running with others definitely helped me keep my pacing in check. I really hope to run with this group more often, and I’m sure it’ll motivate me (especially during the tough winter months), help me become a better runner, and help us make some new running friends!
Do you ever run with groups?
If so, how often do you run with groups, what types of runs do you do with the group, and what do you like best about it?
How do you keep yourself motivated on training runs or workouts when you’re running alone?