At its core, running is a solitary sport. You are racing against your personal best and covering the long miles alone, even when surrounded by thousands of other people on a popular course. You alone put in the training time to prepare your body — and only you know if you’ve done everything you can to be ready for that starting line.
All of this considered, many runners don’t like to go it alone and with good reason; the miles can feel like an eternity during early morning training runs. If you are thinking about making the transition from solo running to being part of a group, will it change your training? The simple answer is yes — in a good way.
Here’s what you need to know about running with a group, including proper etiquette to make sure everyone reaches their goals, both together and individually.
THE BENEFITS OF GROUP RUNS
If you’ve only trained alone, you may quickly see benefits from training with a group, including a boost in your morale. No more slogging through long training runs alone or having to will yourself to do just one more lap around the track.
“When you inevitably face a training slump, having a group of runners to hold you accountable might make it easier for you to train through it,” explains José Miranda, co-founder of Educated Running. “Running in a pack can be less mentally taxing than running on your own, especially if you are pushing your limits.”
In addition to helping you stay focused on your training, the adage that there is safety in numbers is also a benefit. Mike Rush, co-owner of Rush Running Company in Arkansas, adds that it is a lot easier to see a large group of runners wearing both passive and active articles of reflectivity.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
Joining a running group can feel like being in school again, trying to navigate social circles and find friendly faces. As an adult it can be hard to make new friends, but luckily, a shared love of running is the perfect ice breaker.
“Never be afraid to join a group,” urges Miranda. “Runners are generally welcoming and a good coach will do their best to accommodate your level of fitness.”
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If you don’t know where to start, heading to your local specialty running store is a great place to get plugged into the running culture in your area. Many stores, like those owned by Rush, facilitate group runs weekly. Though you will want to find a group of runners who train at a similar pace to yours, don’t let the fact some runners are faster become a source of intimidation.
“Typically, it’s easier to run with a group composed of people of different paces when you do either a tempo workout or a fartlek,” suggests Rush. “With these, the group can stay together for the warmup and cooldown portions of the workout.”
Miranda also adds that looking toward the faster runners is a great way to stay motivated, and as you work to gain speed each week, can even help you reach a new PR.
ETIQUETTE RULES OF THE ROAD (AND TRAIL)
Once you’ve found the right group, here are a few simple rules of etiquette to follow:
1. STAY ENGAGED
“Leave out the headphones and engage with your group,” says Rush. “This is not only for your safety, but for the social dynamic, as well.”
2. BE POSITIVE
“Group runs — particularly those designed for recovery purposes — are a great time to socialize and to remind one another what we enjoy about running,” shares Miranda.
3. RUN WITH THE GROUP
“Several runners have the bad habit of starting with a group only to maintain a 10-meter lead or run 10-meters behind,” notes Rush. “This essentially removes them from the social aspect of the run.” Miranda adds that for proper pacing, know whether you can keep up with the general pace of the workout before you commit to running it.
4. FOLLOW ALL TRAFFIC RULES
“If you’re on a road or trail, this means stay to your right,” insists Miranda. “If you’re running on a track, this means run counterclockwise, and only run in the first lane if the pace at which you are running is relatively fast.”
5. GET DOWNWIND
This final rule may seem a bit silly, however, in terms of courtesy it’s extremely important. “This can be a semi-taboo topic for those non-runners out there, but here it goes: When you’ve got a case of the toots (don’t lie, we’ve all been there) politely run toward the back of the group,” Rush encourages. “There’s nothing worse than the leader of a group ‘crop dusting’ the entire group.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN