This is my first year running right through the summer. I have been running for about ten years, but it always played second fiddle to my cycling. The usual plan was to run during the months of September to December or January, and stop completely to concentrate on my biking. This year, 2014, I decided to keep both going side by side.
My recent runs have given me strength and perseverance. I have kept them interesting. I have mixed the easy and the challenging, the long and the short, the racing and the training, the solo and the group.
I want to write a little about one facet of running, namely the solo run. I love solo running. Most of my training is solo running, and I have discovered that there is something really really good about this type of run. I came across a link outlining the advantages of solo running, and I understand now how beneficial it is for me to head out for a run on my own. To summarise, the article mentions five benefits:
- You’ll listen to your body. When you only have yourself to listen to, you’ll hear what your body has to say.
- You can disconnect. Take a deep breath, take in the natural world, or just take an hour off from thinking about anything at all.
- Your run is your own. Going solo means you can run where you want and when you want.
- You won’t compete. When you run by yourself nobody is bored by your snail’s pace or judging you for having to walk up that steep hill. Your only critic is yourself, and you can be proud you got out to run that day.
- You’ll become more resilient. Running solo is more difficult mentally, but you can learn how to cope with a challenge, get better at testing your limits, and ultimately become a stronger, prouder runner.
I think one of the biggest factors for me is number one above. Since early spring I’ve had some slight niggly pains, particularly outside my left knee. On several occasions on my solo run, I’ve noticed the pain earlier and I’ve been able to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. More importantly, however, I’ve been able to decide to stop running without feeling guilty. In fact, I compliment myself on making a sensible decision at a timely point, rather than waiting until it’s too late. Sometimes, the walk home is even better! Sometimes, the little ache or pain is my body telling me to take it easy.
Conversely, even when I get an ache or a little dart of pain, it’s not always my automatic reaction to stop running. I have become smarter at knowing when to stop, or slow down, or indeed push through; and if I decide to push through to see how it goes, I am pleasantly surprised to find that I am able to do a good workout despite the little warning signals. When this happens, I am even more convinced of the value of proper warmup routines, and plenty cooldown time with stretching after my run.
I do not run with music. I have tried it a few times. It’s not for me. Instead, I can easily enter into a dream-like state quickly. I know that I sometimes run with eyes facing the ground ahead rather than directly ahead, so whenever I am road-running, I have to be very aware of traffic ahead and behind. Anytime that I an off-road, however, I am happy to tune out, and just day-dream my way along.
Solo running is good for me. That’s not to say that I do not need or enjoy company along the way! Far from it. I like the chat with similar-paced racers, as we pull one another along the tough patches, compliment one another on our “great run” last week or last month even, and generally support one another in whatever way we can. Of course, I’ve seen it happen also that good company on a race is fickle, because quite often the runner disappears into the distance leaving me to plod along behind, unable to up my pace. Equally, I’ve done the same on good days!
I went a-googling to find some tree-quotes, and while the caption for the picture above might be a bit ott, I decided also to use this one from the Bible: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” I admit I am not a biblical person, but the idea has just struck me that running alone is a form of closeness with God. Perhaps you may think that’s ott! However, not me.
Have you particular thoughts about running on your own, or about running in general? I’d like to hear what you’ve got to say…