Sure, having a running buddy is great. It is nice to have company during those long training miles, or just someone to catch up with once a week while burning a few hundred calories. But every once in a while it can pay off to forgo the camaraderie and run solo. Here's why:
1. You'll listen to your body.
When you're with a buddy, the conversation or the effort to keep up can sap your energy and be a huge distraction. If you're distracted, your form might get lazy or you may become less aware of your surroundings, therefore more prone to injury. Some are better than others at staying focused, but it can be difficult when you're interested in a conversation. If you're free of distractions, you're more likely to concentrate on your form, keep time goals, notice pain in time and be willing to stop. When you only have yourself to listen to, you'll hear what your body has to say.
2. You can disconnect.
If you're like most adults, you spend a majority of your time around other people. You work with colleagues and clients at your job, communicate with your spouse and kids, write emails, maintain friendships, wait in lines, converse with the neighbors, sit in traffic, shop at the mall, or post on Facebook. You can spend a whole day without any time alone.
But you can run by yourself. Unplug from the crazy world and just relish that block of time when you don't have to make decisions or please anyone. Take a deep breath, take in the natural world, or just take an hour off from thinking about anything at all.
3. Your run is your own.
It doesn't matter who your run buddy is: your best friend, your spouse, your toddler in the stroller or the family's golden retriever. A run with a buddy is a run you have to share. It comes with expectations. You agree on a certain distance or speed and you accommodate different training schedules. You have to coordinate everything. Going solo means you can run where you want and when you want. You don't have to drive out of your way, or run three miles of intervals instead of the four easy ones you wanted to try.
4. You won't compete.
What if your friend has been running the Boston Marathon for 16 years and his or her long slow run pace is several minutes per mile faster than yours? Inevitably, you and your buddy are going to have different athletic abilities. And if you happen to be the slower mate, you may be tempted to compare yourself and become discouraged. When you run by yourself nobody is bored by your snail's pace or judging you for having to walk up that steep hill. Your only critic is yourself, and you can be proud you got out to run that day.
5. You'll become more resilient.
Having a bad run? Not a fan of the summer heat? It's comforting to complain about it to your running buddy. He or she will load you up with all sorts of mantras to keep you going. But what if you're alone when you hit mile seven of your long run and the thought of tackling that killer hill you forgot about makes you want to cry? You only have yourself to look to for motivation. Running solo is more difficult mentally, but you can learn how to cope with a challenge, get better at testing your limits, and ultimately become a stronger, prouder runner. So go ahead and get up that hill!Sign up for your next race.
Trisha Reeves is a half marathoner with over 10 years of running experience. You can follow her blog at barefootmonologues.wordpress.com.