I have a confession to make. Despite completely agreeing with and regularly writing about how good/safe/beneficial it is to run with others, I usually run alone. One year my goal was to run with someone else once (just ONCE) a month. The only reason I succeeded is because my daughters took pity, and each agreed to join me for a short run as long as we could walk whenever they wanted for two out of the 12 months.
My laundry list of barriers is no different from anyone else’s: scheduling conflicts, anxiety over being too slow to hang with a group, having different goals than others and being set in my ways (in my case that’s code for being stubborn AF). Yet when I do run with someone else, I usually enjoy it to the point where I realize it needs to be more of a focus.
At its core, running is a solitary sport. And there are plenty of times when that’s exactly what is needed or desired. But grabbing a friend, or several, on occasion is wise too. It’s good motivation, important for mental health and, as long as you’re smart about the company, a lot of fun. Thus why running groups and races are so popular and why so many running stores offer group runs once or twice a week. The Healdsburg Running Company has even added a group pool run to their weekly schedule because solitary pool running, especially when injured, is a one-way ticket to a woe-is-me mood.
Lately, I’ve been on the injured reserve list more often than not, which further fuels my avoidance of asking anyone to go on a pokey run or even a hike. For me, work trips are the one time where running in a group is a given, and, whether I’m learning new running techniques, talking product on a run or exploring new to me places, it’s always a good excuse to get out of my comfort zone. This past week though, I was heading into a three-day running camp unable to run. I hung back as everyone else debated how far and fast to go, fully expecting to go on a solo hike. What I didn’t know was that the two professional athletes on the trip weren’t running either. One was in recovery mode from a cranky Achilles and the other was taking time off after a long season of racing. So, we all went for a hike together. Sure, there was that initial moment of, “Well this sucks,” when the rest of our group ran by, but it was three of us thinking it, not just me.
Usually on a run or hike, I’ll try to mentally note all the thoughts going through my head to talk about later, but being with others meant we were all tossing our ideas into the mix. We discussed gear, PT, the magic of running and movement, #MeToo, the joy of competition, pushing yourself, wine (we happened to be in Sonoma) and whether koala farts smell like mentholated cough drops due to the fact they eat eucalyptus (if you know the answer, please share).
For those who have regular running partners, this is the norm. For the next two days it was my norm too. And it even carried over to when I got home. An early morning “coffee or run?” text from a friend who had moved to town the day before was an easy “Yes!” After hello hugs, her very first comment was, “I’m so sick of doing things alone!” We agreed we would rather do things alone than not at all, and truly appreciate the freedom to do so, but having company, at least some of the time, was rather nice too. At the end of the day, our pace was a little slower than her standard and our miles were shorter than mine. But neither of us would have changed a thing.
In fact, we’ve already scheduled another meet-up for later this week. I’m even contemplating a new goal: running with someone else once a week …
Editor’s note: The camp I attended was organized by Healdsburg Running Company in Healdsburg, Calif. and sponsored by La Sportiva. For more information about camps, reach out to Skip Brand at Healdsburg Running Company.