7 Great Benefits of Solo Running – Why I Prefer To Run Alone
In the beginning I thought I should try and join a running club to learn more about running. Instead I started to run alone, and carried on my own. I simply got to like it that way from the start.
It felt good and natural, I felt at ease.
Running in a group with others, especially more experienced runners, has many benefits. You pick up good tips in real time. If there is a good coach involved you will learn even more.
I would never suggest to anyone that running in groups or just with a friend is better or worse than running alone. It’s just different, with its own set of good and less good things.
But if you do decide that solo running appeals to you more, what would you get out of it? What are the benefits? Why am I doing it?
When you run by yourself YOU call the shots
Organised running has its rules. Well, it’s organised, to start with. Training starts at…… Race starts at…. Friends will pick you up at…..and will take you to…..You can be under pressure to be there on time. If you live in a big city you may be running late because of traffic or other things that make people late. You may not be ‘feeling it’ and yet you need to be there because you’ve promised that you would.
No such issues with solo running. I will choose the route on the day and time when it suits me. And I will run that marathon on that Saturday, or maybe Sunday, or, why not, Monday even.
I want to have fun and as a solo runner I can simply do my own thing in my own time.
Less injury risk (as you run at your own tempo)
I once ran with a friend who was naturally faster than me. His comfortable zone was my fast zone. And for some reason I let him lead the way. In the end the 7km run was done but I was really tired.
When you are racing, you may be in a group but you are very much alone. You are competing.
When you are running with your friends leaving somebody 350m behind is just bad manners. But then, maybe your friend simply cannot keep up? Or maybe a faster friend feels bored and unmotivated when running slower?
In other words, your slower self may put more than necessary pressure on your body and if that happens more often you may be running a risk of injury. You may get tired sooner and simply slip and fall.
When you are run by yourself, you pick your own tempo. You make yourself more comfortable by slowing down. Or stopping.
You’re in charge.
Solo running can be more relaxing
Let’s say that today you have decided to work on your breathing. Or you have decided to give faster pace a go. Or, why not, you want to work on form and different runs, sprints/intervals or tempo.
You can relax because it’s your set of rules and your timing.
You can take as much time as you wish.
You can stop-start without annoying anyone. You can concentrate better simply because you are not being told to concentrate and pay attention. No friends to chat with, no coach to listen to.
Make mistakes and either try it again, or move on.
Improving your technique is much easier in your own time and when nobody is watching. It’s actually fun. You are inside your own chill zone, created by you, for you. Pressure? What pressure?
Running alone develops your mental strength
When going gets tough you need every bit of energy that you can muster. Mental as well as physical.
Yes, having a good friend by your side offering you much needed support can be of huge help. A good coach would know how to give you an extra edge when it all seems hopeless and lungs and legs are losing the battle.
But when you are on your own, when you run by yourself, immersed in your own thoughts there is nowhere to turn to but your inner self. That’s where you can build your own mental strength and learn how to rely on yourself when energy is in short supply.
During marathon distances and some long runs I only had two choices to finish them when it became hard and dark. Option A was ‘stop and go home’, which nobody likes to entertain if it can be helped. Option B was ‘focus and convince yourself to get going’. I took that second option.
Nobody can take away from you the power of mental strength that you have learned how to build – by yourself, on your own. You can then practice that mental resilience and apply it to other troubles in life if you ever come across them.
Your creativity gets a boost when you run alone
If you were a running painter, the road maps would be your empty canvas.
Over the years of solo running I have created a whole bunch of running routes that constantly evolve depending on where my mood takes me. Sometimes I start from my front door, sometimes I drive to a location and explore from there.
That way I am keeping my mind fresh.
If you are training with a club your coach will come up with a training plan and running routes. Even running with friends cannot always be a wild shot of freedom. You’ll have to talk it through in a nice and democratic manner, but still – it won’t be just your decision.
On your own though, if you decide to run for three hours in an area size of a boxing ring, you can do it.
When I run alone I tend to switch off and enjoy the surroundings. Sometimes I simply put my mind into deeper thoughts and think of what blog I am going to write next. This one in particular came in place around London’s Hyde Park. When I get home I simply put finishing touches.
Mental creativity when you run alone is something that can genuinely surprise you. Try!
Nail that routine
There are runners who just go out and run, then go home. That’s fine.
It is very unlikely that both you and your running friends will share the same enthusiasm for the same exercises, duration and type of runs.
All those routines are beneficial. They make you a better, stronger runner. They teach you how to reach your running goals in a structured way. My marathon training would not be complete without such a routine.
Of course, a running club should offer you all those tricks but the main difference here is that as a solo runner you are doing them the way that pleases you. Your time, your place, your tempo, you laws.
That, for me, is priceless.
Running solo increases your body awareness
I always repeat the mantra ‘listen to your body’.
Very often you will get those deep signals if something is not right during the run. A sudden sharp hit in the thigh that comes and goes? Maybe a discomfort in that right ankle when taking the right turn? What’s that sensation behind the left knee?
When running distracted or chatting with your running partner, the signals may come and go undetected. But when you are solo and focused, they simply don’t. Not only can you locate them, and maybe work on the problem later with ice and rest, but you can be very specific if you end up talking to a physio or anyone else who can help you get rid of it.
You will also get a better understanding about how your body works and what needs changing. I noticed which areas get more tight and based on that I worked specific stretching exercises and managed to relax them. I realised the little strain around both ankles, a sure sign that the shoe change was overdue.
The body is an amazing, complex and rewarding instrument. Listen to it more.
Running benefits your health whether you commit to run by yourself, in a group or if you mix them both together. I prefer solo, many do as well – but many others will prefer a company. All that is well. We are all different types of runners, with varied styles and personalities. The choice is yours.
If you, like me, decide that running alone is the thing, do pay attention to some safety points. Before you set off, let somebody know where you go and when you’ll be likely to return. Be aware of your surroundings. Be visible, in towns or trails. Wear a high viz and carry a torch when running in the dark. Don’t forget to take your phone and some ID.
And finally, don’t forget, ever, to enjoy yourself!
I hope that sharing my story, and what I have learned along this journey, will inspire you to get started and to keep going. To keep striving and being the best you can be. In running and in life.
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