Benefits of Running Alone

thinking runner

Do you get lonely when you run alone? I don’t. Sure, it’s nice to have someone along for a run once in a while maybe even a few days a week, but there are benefits to running alone too. Running is a great way to clear your head of all the stresses of everyday life. Talking with others about stresses is helpful, but breathing fresh air and just letting go of it, can be even better.

Running alone gives your brain the space to wander and create. I do some of my most creative thinking when I’m running alone. If you have someone there talking with you, you spend your energy processing what they are telling you and responding to them. This is probably my favorite thing about running alone. During the first twenty minutes to an hour, I think about a lot of things. Thoughts just jump in and out of my head, but then it goes quiet and the magic begins.

As an ultrarunner, you can potentially spend a significant amount of time alone during races and if you don’t train alone and become accustomed to being inside your own head, it can get scary. The critic inside your head is rarely a nice guy. Your mood goes up and down during a 100 mile race and if the race is the first time you are having to deal with that without another person to distract you, it’s going to get ugly.

There is an old saying among runners, never try anything new during a race. That means no new types of clothing, gear, or food. It applies equally well in this situation too.  You want to be able to mimic your race conditions as much as possible during training including elevation, gear, food, terrain, shoes, clothing, drink mixes, and yes the people in your head.

Running one hundred miles takes both physical and mental training. You have to learn to deal with whatever is inside your head or it could get the better of you during your event. The sooner you can learn different strategies for dealing with any self-defeating thoughts and negativity the better all of your runs will be.

One of the most effective ways I’ve learned to deal with this is through awareness. I know the tough times are coming and I know they will pass, so I stay focused on what’s around me. I stay present feeling the ground beneath my feet and taking in any other information my senses are picking up on. Your brain has a hard time criticizing you if you it’s filled with sensory information.

I try not to linger on any negative thoughts. If they just won’t go away, I begin challenging them by coming up with as many experiences I’ve had which contradict whatever the negative thought is.

What do you do to counter act negative thoughts during a race?

Misery loves company

running hills

Freezing temperatures, 35 MPH winds, 105 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 miles and speed work. Running is hard work and when Mother Nature or your training schedule is against you, having a running partner can be the difference between rolling over in bed or rolling out of bed.

A running partner can be very difficult to find. Running partners is usually what happens. Ability and goals determine what is on your training schedule and everyone’s ability and goals are different. It can be challenging to find someone who matches up with you and can be your sole running partner.

This critical motivation may have to be more of a patchwork of individuals. Someone who can run long and slow with on the weekends and someone else who likes to do speed work or hill training (this can get even more complicated if you compete in triathlons).

The most important aspect of your running partner is personality. If the two of you don’t mix well, it really doesn’t matter what the run for the day is, it will suck.

As far as running partners go, I can take them or leave them. I’ve run on my own for years and still enjoy running alone. However, over the last month Spongebunny and J$ have been coming out to run with me in the mornings. I’ve known these two men for years and we have worked out any personality conflicts between us. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses in running and other aspects of life (there are some in depth conversations that occur when you are stuck in a van with five other people deprived of sleep for 36 hours).

Spongebunny is very kind hearted. He never complains regardless of how difficult the run is. He is willing to work hard and learn to improve his running and meet his goals. Spongebunny runs about a ten-minute mile on average and is working on his first marathon. His superpowers are consistency and reliable as a runner.

J$ is generous and quick-witted. He puts his relationships with people before everything else. There is little that gets him down and his sense of humor can always brighten my day. J$’s superpowers are running hills and ripping through flat miles faster than anyone else on my team.

The two of them provide balance to my running. Spongebunny is slower than I am so on easy days it is good to run with him. But he is also a great speed work partner because he won’t complain and doesn’t give up. J$ is great to run hill work with because he will push me harder on those hills than I would do them alone. He is also an excellent partner for speed work because he offers a challenge.

Balance is key when picking a running partner(s). If one of you is far ahead of the others, you may have to train alone when working on that particular skill. I run farther than any of the people I run with, so I end up running at least a portion of my long runs alone and then meet up with them for the last ten to fifteen miles.

Running is hard, sharing the difficult times with friends will benefit both of you.