Long distance runner what you standing there for? Get up, get off, get out of the door. --"Fire on the Mountain," Robert Hunter
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten used to running alone, and I admit I like being able to change my plan or workout part way through without anyone else grumbling or sneaking out the door whenever I can with no plan at all. There’s a freedom to having no one to coordinate with, just lace up, head out the door, and go.
I had gotten used to running with partners, from just one other person or a small group to huge meetups. Running solo was reserved for busy days when I had to fit it in when I can. Then COVID-19 happened, I began running by myself every mile, and it became my new normal.
As restrictions have eased, I started meeting with small groups again in the past week, and I needed it. Between life stress, the increased heat and humidity, and general lack of motivation lately, running with friends has been the difference.
We ran roads and trails. We laughed and vented. We talked and were silent. We just were together, and it was just what I needed. It was so very good for my soul. And after not seeing my running friends in person since March, it was admittedly hard for me not to tackle hug each of them!
Running is certainly a solo sport when you get down to it, just like writing, and I love my solo miles, but running with friends certainly has its positives, just like writing groups do. There’s such a benefit to community alone, but we can also get that online. Seeing people in person is certainly different. In this post, I’ll go over three benefits to running with friends and some best practices on running with others during COVID-19.
3 Reasons to Run with Friends
- Motivation—Let’s face it, getting up before dawn is tough for many of us. When you’re not meeting someone, it can hard not to hit the snooze button over and over again. I’ve meant to get up before dawn for sunrise trail runs nearly every weekend, and I’ve only actually done it a couple of times. If I’m meeting someone like I used to do for almost every long run, it’s much easier to pop out of bed not wanting to be late and inconvenience someone else, just like it’s easier to produce a piece when you know your writing group wants to see it at the next meeting.
Even with running in the afternoon, it’s easy to get drawn into answering emails and leaving the house much later than intended if you’re not meeting someone. Meeting someone or two can help get your butt out the door.
- Distraction—Sometimes the miles get tough, and we get in our own heads. The miles drag on, the hills seem never ending, and the urge to quit takes over. That little voice tells you to back off or cut your run short. Having the support of friends to talk to can distract you from the pain and make the miles go by faster. It may not make you faster, but it can certainly reduce your rate of perceived exertion. If you want to go far, certainly do it with friends. And from personal experience, when you have a friend to use all the bad words with, hills seem easier.
- Emotional release—No topics seem off bounds with runners. We talk about injuries, chafing, poop, you name it. We talk about training, work struggles, and family issues. We tease each other and let off steam. Running itself has many emotional benefits, and combining that with someone to talk to can help relieve that pressure valve and improve cognitive function as well. An impromptu rock scramble mid-trail run and a finish up a steep hill can feel cathartic if there are others around to listen to your grumbling. It doesn’t hurt to stick your tongue out at the route setter when you top said hill either.
Best Practices for Running with Friends During COVID-19
While large races and group runs probably aren’t the best idea yet, there’s nothing wrong with getting together as long as you follow some best practices:
- Keep it small
- Don’t share food or drink
- No spitting or snot rockets
- Keep your distance
Even if you’re a dedicated solo runner, taking the time to run with another person or two will help you in more ways than you know. There even might be a post-run beer, ginger or otherwise, involved. What are your favorite things about running with others?