Running with a friend or friend can be a great tool, but is it always a good idea on your long runs?
Benefits of running with a friend
Long runs can be pretty dull, especially if you don’t vary the types of long run you do, or have to run the same roads that you use in your other training runs. Meeting up with a friend for your long run, having a chat or just running somewhere different to normal can be a breath of fresh air in your training.
Depending on your friend, you can potentially fire one another up and run better than you would on your own, gaining more fitness along the way. Safety can be a factor as well, so depending on when you have to run in the day and the area you live in, running with a friend may be the best option. Whilst it can be a great option, there are downsides to running with other people.
Benefits of running solo
Your pace and plan can be stuck to without issue. I’ve seen no end of runs derailed by running with friends where one has needed a toilet stop, a pain has cropped up which needed the group to slow down or a faster friend has encouraged them to push and caused too hard of a session or even injury.
When you run your marathon, although you may be in a crowd, you’ll likely be running on your own within that crowd. You’ll need to dig into your own mental strength reserves and have confidence that you can do this on your own if needed. Even if you are planning to run with a friend on race day, injuries can occur at any point, and it’s not unheard of for one person in the pair to drop out with a last minute injury or illness. If you’ve only run long runs together, suddenly the race is going to feel like a very lonely experience.
The chatty runs might make the miles seem faster, but they’ll definitely be slower than if you’re putting all your attention and breathing into running. This is obviously key if you’re pushing for a marathon personal best.
The emergence of running teams, such as the famous NN Running Team with Eliud Kipchoge might make you think “the best run in groups, so why shouldn’t I?”. Well, context is key. They run and train together, but their mindset isn’t that of helping each other through support, at least not for the most part. They’re there to push one another competitively. Running with your friends is likely to be very different.
Be a little selfish or selective
You don’t have to not run with friends at all. If you’re a club member you can still go to effort/interval session nights, or run your easy/recovery runs with friends and put the world to rights. I would say though that your long runs should be reserved, at least for the majority of the time, to solo running if you’re serious about reaching a challenging goal.
Written by Kyle Brooks, Running Coach based in Norwich, Norfolk