The Benefits of Group Running

When I run, it’s just me and the road. It never matters what time of day, the number of cyclists or people that I pass – it’s always just me and the road. There’s a certain cadence in the runs I do alone. I always push, but I don’t always aim to outdo. Lately, I’ve been consistently running with at least one other person, if not a group. And it’s helping me become a better runner.

It’s challenging, because there’s a “dynamic” you have to account for. If you run with someone faster, it can be a struggle to keep up. If you run with someone slower, it’s a real test of patience. Although, I’ve noticed that, in both instances, there are certain benefits to group running. “Call it motivation. Competition. Or Accountability.” (NYT)

When I run alone, I have a habit of doing progression intervals: start slow, increase speed, increase speed, strong finish. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t drive my HR through the roof. When I run with someone faster than me, I lose that preliminary period of building momentum so I end up doing the opposite: start strong, reduce speed, reduce speed, but still attempt to finish strong. The two runs below compare a progression run vs. a non-progression (actually, I was struggling so much with the latter that I cut the run short by a quarter of a mile!)

On the other hand, if I run with a much larger group (still faster than me), it’s a bit different.

When you see 4 out of 5 runners really working hard to keep up their 8-9min pacing, you don’t feel bad about putting yourself through the same misery, because you’re all in it together. Group runs are pretty awesome because there’s mutual support. You end up talking to the person running next to you and you forget about the miserable parts of your run.

Hill? What hill? ….That mile-long stretch of uneven dirt and sand? Didn’t even notice.

Group runs are also great, because it’s never just about running:

  • You can expand your social and professional circle. I run with a group of entrepreneurs, start-up founders and co-founders, technophiles, and die-hard foodies. Have you ever tried knocking out a long slow distance run next to someone that can’t stop talking about gelato? It’s not easy.
  • You might have some of your best brainstorming sessions in the middle of a run.
  • You discover new things about your running route: a new coffee shop (apparently, great coffee), free WiFi hotspots, a random park…
  • You learn a lot about yourself (and, ideally, about the people you’re running with!)

If you don’t already run with a group, you should really consider it! Even “virtual” running groups are really influential these days. Anyone else running the #TwitterRoadRace on Jan. 21st?? There’s a reason why Nike+ held the Human Race challenge. It gets you out there, running.

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