A Little Help From Our Friends
Distance running is often an individual pursuit. We challenge ourselves to go longer or faster than we did last month, or last year. Each runner is motivated by their own personal goals. Obviously, it’s possible to maintain that independent spirit and train entirely by yourself. Some runners truly enjoy the solitude, the time alone with their own thoughts.
So why do so many runners choose to participate in group training?
First, we’re all social creatures. Working with a group – toward a common goal – creates a bond. Especially when doing something as difficult as training for a marathon, we learn things about each other that aren’t often apparent in everyday life. It’s not unusual for training partners to start out as complete strangers, then grow to become best friends. Relationships are formed that go far beyond the weekly workouts.
Those types of relationships also work to hold you accountable for your training sessions. It’s much more difficult to shut off the alarm clock and go back to sleep when you know that your group is expecting you. While you still have to do the work, the group gets you out the door and the camaraderie makes the miles go by faster.
Another advantage of group training is that everyone benefits from the experience of others. Our fellow runners are often our best source for information on training, nutrition, shoes, injury prevention and all of the other little things that go into race preparation. Many group training programs also offer formal seminars on these topics and many others. They also offer professional coaches and leaders who are experienced in training and racing. This type of information can be especially beneficial for new runners, or those who are attempting a new distance.
Group training programs also offer a set training schedule, established well in advance. You don’t have to rely on one or two people to rearrange their schedules for a long run or a track workout. The group will be there, even if those one or two people have a conflict. The group provides consistency and reliability, even if the outcome of training can be unpredictable.
Finally, the group allows everyone to be part of a team. On race day, their cheering section becomes your cheering section. If you wear a common uniform, the effect is magnified. You’re identified as a unit that has worked together toward a shared goal. The event becomes bigger, more important, because you truly care for those who run beside you.
Running is an individual pursuit. But it also provides an opportunity to create something more important than the individual – a bond between people who have shared something both difficult and rewarding.