It amazes me when I reflect back on when I first got back to running over five years ago that I used to prefer running alone. Or at least that’s what I said. I liked the alone time. I said:
When I see packs of runners going by, I occasionally feel a bit of envy for the camaraderie, but my more visceral reaction is aversion. Why? Because I love this time alone. I have always sought solitude and silence, and running is a perfect opportunity for it.
I think in fact I didn’t want to run with anyone because I thought I would hold them back. Because now I love running with friends. Anita, Julie, and I got really comfortable running together most Sundays, sometimes for a couple of hours when training for a long event.
With Anita gone to England for the year and Julie and not quite yet into our fall rhythm (because I’ve been traveling and she’s still paddle boarding because it’s so hot out!), it’s been challenging even to get out the door. That’s how accustomed I’ve become to running with people.
Last week I made a plan with Linda, my coach. She’s a speedster but she is also committed to running at a variety of paces. She’s also a great coach, so when I said I’d like to get out with her some time so she could give check my form and help me a bit with cadence, she happily obliged.
I met her at the park at the end of one of our unseasonably hot days, right after personal training with Paul (not the best scheduling but things were tight last week). Linda strikes a great balance between being forgiving and exacting. She motivates me to push harder and at the same time makes me feel okay about things when I don’t fit in all the workouts or complete them as assigned. She’s one of the most positive people I know and I was excited about getting together with her for my speed work.
I also wanted her to take me through the warm-up. Linda is extremely dedicated to the warm-up. It’s about five minutes at an easy pace followed by some dynamic stretching and then a few very short sprint-recovery bursts of about 60m each. It was raining a little bit when we started, but considering the heat it was welcome and refreshing.
After the warm-up we started in on my 8x200m intervals. Linda had her garmin set for the distance (as did I) and also to tell us when we were on (my) pace of 5:34 minutes per K. It’s a do-able exertion for me. I can maintain it pretty well for 200m and managed to do so for almost all 8.
Here’s where running with someone can make all the difference. If I hadn’t had Linda there telling me when to speed up or slow down (amazingly that was necessary a couple of times), I don’t know if I would have completed the workout as prescribed. I’m not even sure I would have gone. I doubt I’d have done as thorough a warm-up and I wouldn’t likely have taken five minutes of a cool down either. And all the while chatting (mostly Linda because I was feeling too exterted to say much except on the recovery intervals.
I’m heading to England for a conference now and I will be seeing Anita. Yay! Not sure if we will get out for a run together. Maybe. We will see. Either way, I’m pumped to get back on track with Julie when I return, and Linda and I are going to go out together again.
I don’t have a very recent photo of a real run with friends, but here are Sam and I running together during our book photo shoot (photo credit: Ruth Kivalahti of Ruthless Images). We don’t actually run together because on Sundays, when I’m most likely to want company for a long run, Sam is out biking (and she doesn’t do long running distances anymore).
See how much fun we are having? Running alone is all fine and good. I still appreciate it and I do more of it than with friends. But I love getting out there with friends and sharing the fun (and sometimes agony), talking each other through the tough bits, and connecting and catching up.
How do you feel about running with people versus running alone? What’s a happy balance for you? 😊