Running, an activity best done as part of a group
Although running is thought of as an individual sport and there are often references to the solitary nature of running (“The loneliness of the long distance runner” comes immediately to mind), I find that running is an activity best done as part of a group.
There are certainly some nice aspects of running solo: 1) no one to schedule with, 2) alone time, 3) time to think about the meaning of life (or plan your next blog article). These are why I think it’s great to get out and run by yourself every now and then.
But for the most part, I think a group to run and train with is the best way to have the most success. The recent resurgence in distance running by Team USA has coincided with the formation of training groups like Hanson’s Brooks, the Oregon Project and Oregon Track Club, Team Minnesota, Zap Fitness, McMillan Elite, the Mammoth Track Club and the Bay Area Track Club, just to name a few.
Closer to home I’ve been fortunate to be in the middle of group training. It started with the Thursday night track workouts at Kezar. Every Thursday evening since 1994 I’ve been leading track workouts for anyone who wants to train with a group. What you get for attending is not only a coach giving you a workout but also, and maybe more importantly, people to do the workout with. Even if the people at the workout run a different pace than you, you still have the feeling of being with others.
With social networks like Facebook you can even feel like part of a group when you are all by yourself. This past Christmas, during the two-week holiday from school, I started a Facebook conversation with several of my SHCP colleagues who were training for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon or 5K. I offered some holiday training tips and then challenged all of them to keep training consistently despite the distractions of bad weather, travel, family and holiday obligations. Everyone started posting their workouts to Facebook and a little bit (OK, not a little bit, but a lot) of peer pressure developed. The group members felt compelled to get in their run so they would have something to post. We even had a fun competition to see who could post a picture proving that they ran in the most extreme winter conditions.
For the Pamakids runners the month leading up to the KP Half Marathon may be the only time of the year that virtually everyone on the racing team is focused on the same race. It made it easy for me to build excitement for the race with workouts and training tips geared specifically for getting our runners from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park rose garden to the windmill via the panhandle and Great Highway as fast as possible. You could feel the team’s energy as they helped lead the Saturday Sports Basement training runs in January. Some of the runners were so caught up in the excitement that they took my advice and came to a special two times Lake Merced workout on Martin Luther King day (sorry about the storm, everyone) and attended the Dolphin South End Waterfront 10 mile race as a final preparation race for the KP Half.
I give the credit for the Pamakids’ race success to the energy of the whole group.