So first of all I get it, we all love running with our friends, but running solo can really help you PB in the long term and here is why.
When you race and are after a very specific goal unless you have a training partner with exactly the same ability as yourself, which is very doubtful as we are all individuals, you will race solo among others.
This is normal – even twins are different as although their physical aspects could be the same, their life experiences and mental make ups will make them different and individual athletes.
During a race you need to be able to focus and know when to push, when to back off and when to just hold steady. These are skills can be learnt in previous races but are applicable to athletes of all levels from those running their first 5k to those who are part of the hundred marathon club.
Running is an individual sport and it is important that you know your own body how to manage this within your limits not someone else’s.
Just running solo can be a challenge for some, I often hear ‘but I can’t run without music or a podcast’ from there my next question is always ‘why’s that’ – in most races nowadays headphones are banned – plus I’ve never seen an elite athlete at the Olympics or a Marathon Major running with headphones, so why are they different?
It could be a mental health issue, runners often use our sport to help them remain stable and just being in your own headspace can be a challenge for some, but that is another whole topic of conversation for another day – just remember on race day you won’t have headphones or risk being disqualified.
So running solo can be great preparation for no headphones and focusing on tasks like level pacing.
Personally I’ve never worn headphones, I always like to hear what is around me, it could be a car, a bike another runner – I like to be aware of my surroundings and in ‘my moment’ not distracted.
If we take pacing as a skill – which it is – a solo training session can really drill down into level pacing especially if you are looking for a specific time. You will need to be able to hold a pace, if you go off too fast in a marathon you will normally suffer for this from mile 20 onwards. I recently went out for a tempo run with the aim just to maintain a set pace throughout, after my mile warm up I focused on this and achieved my goal outcome from the session. If I was training with another or in a group there would always be less focus on me and more to the group dynamics.
I hope you are now beginning to see why running solo can help you PB in the long term.
But don’t despair, running with others can also be beneficial too, just from the social aspect and having friends around you can help – we are pack animals after all. If you are running with faster athletes you will push yourself to achieve faster training runs as you will need to keep up, but unless one of the faster guys paces you, they won’t be there on race day. Within a group you can learn some basic race craft, sitting on the shoulder of someone before moving past them (without them knowing you are practicing) and just running within a group of others & the etiquette within, which can come as a shock during large race.
So when you run solo you will learn about your own body, it’s limitations and your own mental strength. You will be able to develop your own strategies for how to maintain a level pace and distraction techniques for when times get tough (I use percentages of the race completed & target getting to objects / people I can see ahead) but these are very personal to yourself as an athlete.
When you run in a group or with another you can’t learn these skills, so running solo can help you achieve a PB in the long term as these skills will take time to develop.
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