Should you run as part of a group?

February 26 2018

Running as part of a group is something that’s trending in 2018 - for all the right reasons. It’s great for motivation, inspiration, expertise and improving your speed. If there’s someone joining you on a run, chances are you’ll go faster for longer. Successful runners have long worked with this group training philosophy and plenty of the greatest runners ever have used it to their advantage, such as Mo Farah, who regularly trains with friends.

Here’s how running with a group can help you...

Motivation

By running with others, you’ll quickly discover that there’s always someone faster than you. If you’re looking to improve your speed, setting yourself goals to close gaps at the front of the pack will help you run faster. Using Mo as an example, after getting well and truly beaten at the 2008 Olympics, he joined a group of Kenyan runners with exactly that in mind. Trailing early on, he slowly but surely closed that gap and after a year or two, moved to the front in London and then Rio. 

Consistency

The best training regimes are those that build up slowly but surely – something a group dynamic can provide perfectly. On the days you don’t feel that good, setting into a comfortable pace in the middle of the group is just as beneficial as leading the pace on your good days. Training is often described as building a wall brick by brick, so you’ll need unspectacular days when you do just that, chatting away, telling stories and generally not worrying about those bricks as long as they’re being laid!

Accountability

Running is so popular because you can do it solo; get your shoes on and head out. However, it’s that simplicity can also be a problem. If you don’t go, there’s no-one to hold you accountable. It’s why so many people give up. In a group, the simple dynamic of agreeing to turn up creates a strong bond. Group running also works well if you’re feeling low or lazy. Your running partners will encourage you to either stop that particular run because you’re not too well, or convince you to pick up the pace.

Expertise

Of all the reasons to join a group, this is perhaps the most important one, particularly if you join a registered club. The expert advice you’ll receive as part of a running club is second to none. For example, England Athletics registered clubs offer world-class coaching, free, as part of your membership. It’s where all the greats have started; from Roger Bannister and his sub four-minute mile in 1954 to Mo Farah and the next generation of superstars. You’ll get everything you need, from advice on physiology to nutrition to sports psychology, as part of the deal. Club coaches have all the training needed to help you improve - all the way to international stardom if needed! Take a look at England Athletics Online for the club nearest to you.

Charities and online

Running for a charity is also a great way of benefitting from group dynamics. Even if you prefer to run alone (and plenty do, we’re all different after all), you can still benefit from the expertise and motivation elements by signing up for a charity. More often than not, they’ll be able to offer coaching programmes, get togethers, kit advice (and discounts) and all the inspiration you’ll ever need. Plus, they often provide excellent forums where others runners are only too happy to share their experiences and answer any questions you might have. Take a look at Run1000Miles on Facebook for instance to see how one group is working well together towards the goal of running 1000 miles in 2018.

Fun!

If we tell you that the next workout you should consider is 20x400m with a jog 100m recovery that would (understandably) sound rather daunting. If, however, it’s with a group of five others who’ll lead one each, it already sounds like a bit more fun. Sports scientists have long known there an improvement in performance produced by the mere presence of others, and as a result, you get caught up in the pace, and you might not recognise how fast you’re going… and if that’s not fun, nothing is! British record holder for the 80m hurdles Pippa Earley sums it all perfectly:

“This season I have a new set up where my good friends Amber Annings and Olive Cole stay over with me on Fridays and we train Fridays and Saturdays together, this has been so much fun and we relax together after training Friday evenings.”