Run in a group or alone?
Running has traditionally been considered an “individual” sport, like swimming, cycling, judo and many others, as opposed to team sports, or rather all those sports which represent a “game” in which the players are part of two or more teams, composed of several individuals and where each person has a specific role to play.
For many years the division between the various sporting disciplines according to this categorisation was clear: “I am a team player”, “I give my best in individual sports”, “teenagers have to take up a team sport to learn respect”, even as far as labelling the people’s propensity to certain jobs depending on what sports they play. A question on what sport one plays is quite common at work interviews; indeed, the answer to this question often led to the person being labelled “natural leader”, “member of a balanced team” or “individualistic and ready for a competitive career”.
Road running, possibly over distances from 10 km upwards, was an indication of a competitive and solitary personality, reflective and ordered, able to make great personal sacrifices and goal-focused.
Asking a runner today if this describes them, 50% will consider themselves far removed from this, because running has become a social sport, a very social one, at that.
Starting to run on roads, in addition to being an excellent choice, presents us with two possibilities: should we run alone in city parks or run in a group, choosing the running groups according to our level of fitness?
Both are equally valid choices, with pros and cons.
Let’s see what they are.
Running in a group:
All or most sporting associations facilitate collective running groups, with different levels, meeting points and times.
Running with a group of people can be a winning choice, above all if we run in the dark or in unfamiliar places.
PROS: running with others, at a set time, encourages us not to miss the appointments and motivates us more; it helps us not to give up and allows us to improve with others. Furthermore, running with others is more fun and “light”, akin to having an aperitif together; it is an opportunity to socialise and get to know new people or to get to know our friends better.
CONS: the group should be chosen carefully, because rivalry and competitiveness can arise within it and these are not always welcome. Above all, if we are just starting, we need to know how to set aside competition and run with others. If some individuals tend to prevail within the group, more timid people could find this highly demotivating. Secondly, we need to choose the group so that the level matches our potential. Even if we would like to run with a friend, we don’t necessarily have to go with those who are much faster than us, this would be frustrating and it would ultimately force us to abandon the sport.
It is the easiest activity: we just have to leave our homes and start, whenever and wherever we want.
PROS: running alone allows us to choose the duration, time and place. Even if we only have time early in the morning, or just 40 minutes, or if we decide it at the last minute, we just have to put on our shoes and start running. Secondly, if we are alone when we run, possibly without taking our telephone and music, we detach ourselves from the world, with no one to disturb or interrupt us. Running alone provides time which we can dedicate exclusively to our thoughts. Many managers use running alone as a time in which to analyse work problems and find solutions; it is also a very fertile moment for creativity.
CONS: just as we can decide to go when we want, if we are alone we can also decide not to go running. If we are in a downward motivational phase, the risk is that we invent excuses to stay at home. If we are conscious of the fact that no one is expecting us, it becomes much easier to postpone the run to the next day and then the next and so on. If we are at the beginning of our running career, running alone does not allow for receiving advice on techniques and training and puts us at risk of developing bad habits such as wrong postures and inconclusive training sessions.
In general, our advice to BEGINNERS is to join a running group once or twice a week and add another two training sessions alone on the days in which you cannot participate in the group. This allows you to monitor your progress, to learn the techniques and to keep training, without giving up those magnificent moments of total silence in which we only listen to our breathing and our footsteps.
If you don’t love big groups, place your trust in a Running Motivator, a person who will accompany you on your run, personalise the appointments according to your needs and help you in the initial few months to perfect your technique.