I am a total introvert. A few months ago, I wrote a post about why introverts should (at least occasionally) run in a group.
My original plan was to have one of my extroverted running friends write a companion piece about why extroverts should occasionally run alone. However, after talking to them, I found they all enjoyed running alone. Not because they were really introverts at heart, or because of any particular quirk of extroverts, but because they simply enjoyed running alone.
So change of tack. I considered the reasons every runner, regardless of temperament, should occasionally run alone.
Why You Should Run Alone
While these reasons are true for any run, I was thinking specifically about the benefits of doing marathon training long runs alone.
Those can be the toughest runs to do alone, but there can also be the most benefit.
You Can Be Unapologetically Selfish
When you do a solo long run, you can run the route you want to run, at the pace you want to (or need to) run.
You can take it easy on days when you really aren’t feeling it without worrying about slowing up the group.
You can take the time to properly stretch after a run or stop for a mid-run potty break, without feeling guilty for making everyone stop.
Running solo is one of the few times in life when you can be unapologetically selfish – running on your schedule, at your pace, for your desired distance.
Listen To Your Body And Your Mind
Group runs are great for zoning out. Getting lost in conversation can make the miles just disappear.
While that’s great for getting the miles done, It can lead you to ignore what your body and your mind might be telling you.
If you run alone, you can more easily check in with yourself:
- How do you feel?
- Are there any odd twinges that you should stretch out better?
- What thoughts (either positive or negative), does your mind keep going back to?
There is a lot you can learn from paying attention to what is going on in your head.
This point is purely practical, but that doesn’t make it any less important – running alone is really straightforward.
Running with a group can create all sorts annoying logistics issues. When are you going to meet up? What time? How long do you wait for that one person who is always late? Will the group run too fast for the slowest runner?
Even if you aren’t the kind of person who will ‘worry’ about these logistics, they are things you still need to be aware of and plan for.
When running alone, you only need to consider one thing: what works best for you?
Running is a solo sport.
Even if you have a coach. Even if you are going to run with a pace group on race day, ultimately you are responsible for your race. You are responsible for having and following a fueling and hydration plan. You need to keep going when you want to quit.
Running with a group can provide some much-needed encouragement and support, but when push comes to shove, you are the only one who can (or cannot) accomplish your goal.
The self-reliance you develop running alone will benefit you in other areas of your life, likely giving you the confidence to do other things in your life alone.
Groups are a great way to encourage you to get out and run when you don’t want to. More than once I’ve gotten up to do a cold, dark long run that I really didn’t want to do solely because I knew a group was expecting me.
But an important skill to master, both for running and for life, is the ability to do a thing you may not want to do, based solely on your internal drive and discipline.
Starting a run when you only want to stay home, or pushing your pace, are little steps you can take to develop your self-discipline.
Connect With Nature
Japanese forest bathing is a real thing. It’s the idea that by sucking in the forest atmosphere, taking in the forest through all of your senses, you can reconnect with nature.
Running alone, especially during trail runs, can be an amazing opportunity to reconnect with nature.
(This assumes that running alone – especially on the trail – is something you are comfortable doing and is something you can safely do, which isn’t always the case.)
Work Through Some S**t
You know those epiphanies you have in the shower? A problem will have you totally stumped, then the perfect solution will pop into your head the second you hop in the shower and stop actively thinking about the problem.
You can make the same thing happen on the run.
Consider a problem you need to resolve, or ask yourself a question, before you go out for a solo run. Prime your thinking and then let your mind wander. You may surprise yourself. Chances are, your mind will come up with a solution to the problem during your run, even if you never consciously think about the question again.
I know my best ideas and brainstorms come when I am ‘bored’ on a run (pro tip: have paper or a note-taking app accessible – I’ve also lost many great ideas on the run when I wasn’t ready to capture ideas).