Running Alone: 5 Powerful Benefits of Going for a Solo Run

Do you prefer running alone or going with a group?

Is one better than the other?

Running’s charm comes from its versatility.

One run can look vastly different from the next depending on:

  • The kind of day you’re having
  • The mood you’re in
  • The weather blowing through overhead
  • Who you’re with
  • How much energy you have in the tank, or...
  • What thoughts are bouncing around your brain 

Running alone = You vs. You

Unlike other sports in which athletes might need to “suck it up” to keep up with the rest of the team, running’s individual nature makes it a bit more adaptable to changing conditions. 

Yes, you might rely on a coach or plan to guide your training.

But in the end it comes down to You vs. You on a day to day basis. 

Your needs sit in the driver’s seat. 

The secret to becoming a better runner

Running alone doesn’t mean you're in an environment where you can’t push your limits.

The lifelong process of becoming a better runner still takes an astonishing amount of hard work that you’ll need a strong support system to help you churn out.

Owning your power as a runner isn’t the same as giving up on your goals and only following your intuition. 

  • You always lead running alone. In reality, the empowerment that runners find in taking their place at the helm only strengthens our resolve to chase challenges. 
  • Choose the challenge. The difference is that we’re choosing the challenge rather than merely accepting it from some outside source. 

QUESTION: Do you put more effort into cleaning the kitchen when it’s your decision out of a genuine desire to cook in a clean space than when someone else asks you to? 

It’s the same with the run that you CHOOSE to go on versus the one that you have to finish.

Sure, you might sometimes choose five miles instead of forcing seven, but those five would likely feel smoother and faster than any of the seven.

So how do runners cultivate this power of choice in their training?

Running alone.

Social runs offer the chance to:

  • Lean on support systems
  • Pick up new habits,
  • Break out of routine

Running alone develops intrinsic motivation: the internal flame that fuels our desire to run without any outside input whatsoever.

That’s the juice that we’ll need most in the middle of the hardest races and efforts when it’s just us against our own doubts.

Sometimes the greatest growth comes from the gift of our own company.

Don't quit your social runs. Just carve out some time to tap into the power of running solo, too.

Check out these FIVE powerful benefits of running alone:

1. Ditch the ego

1. Ditch the ego

When you’re running with others, it’s all too easy to try and keep up with your speedy companions or let a fiery conversation quicken the pace. 

While this can be a great tactic to help take the edge off of tough workouts, it’s not such a good thing in the middle of a long run when you need to...

  • Save enough energy to finish strong
  • Take it easy on recovery runs when you’re supposed to be refilling the tank 

But it’s hard to hold back when you’re vibing with the energy of others. Right?

Even the friendliest social run can turn inadvertently competitive if your ego perceives a challenge. 

It’s often harder to go slow than it is to pick up the pace, at least mentally.

Why? It means putting a cap on your abilities. 

In those cases when it’s really important to keep tabs on your pace for longevity or recovery, it may be best to separate yourself from outside influences. 

2. Recover from injury or illness

2. Recover from injury or illness

After a period of time off of running to let yourself heal, it’s crucial to ease back in.

If you’ve been sick, your body needs time to readjust to higher levels of activity. 

Going straight from zero to 100 adds stress to an already weakened immune system, which could lay you back out on the couch. 

 

It’s the same with returning to running from injury.

QUESTION: What's the reason smart runners tend to ease back into running after injury with lower mileage or a run-walk combo?
ANSWER: To restore strength progressively and keep from shocking the vulnerable area. 

 

In both cases, it’s important to listen to your body. 

"Running with others can motivate you, but it can also make you go at a different rhythm than what your body naturally wants in order to heal.”

—Dr. Sergio Florian, ultrarunner and Xterra champion

No one but you really knows how much you can handle in the recovery stages.

Running with others can make it all too easy to forget the limitations that you need to set for the sake of your health and the quality of your running in the long-term. 

3. Squeeze it in

3. Squeeze it in

For those of us who don’t run for a living, getting in all of the runs that we need to prepare for races, hit a PR, or build stamina can feel like playing Tetris with the calendar.

Sometimes the run has to fit in the tightest and strangest time gaps, like

  • Early in the morning before dawn peeks out, or...
  • On your lunch break right outside the office doors. 

There were a good few years of my life when the only time that I could make my weekday runs happen was right at 3 p.m. on the dot between two work shifts. 

Put simply, the run that happens is better than the run that doesn’t.

If you can’t make it to your regular run-club session on a busy day or your schedule demands that you run at an unusual time, it’s ok to go it alone. 

Making the time however you can is a lesson in self-sufficiency as you prove that you’re allowed to cater to your own needs. 

4. Practice resilience

4. Practice resilience

Anyone who’s run a marathon will tell you that the last 6.2 miles are the hardest. 

As an ultrarunner, I’ll take that a step further and say that anything past 20 miles - no matter if you’re going for 26.2 or 100 - feels equally tough. Why?

Every mile past that mark comes with a side of uncertainty.

Most training runs won’t take you much further than 20 miles at a time, so it’s tough to know exactly what to expect at those limits of your ability.

Even if you had run the same distance at the same speeds in training, the human body won’t necessarily respond the same each time because of natural variability in your surroundings and physiological stress responses. 

Learn to expect the unexpected

This means that we will inevitably encounter unexpected challenges along the way if we’re really pushing the envelope. 

  • The best way to prepare for those situations is to strengthen our mental resolve. 
  • Companions can help to motivate you, but the real work takes place in your own head.
  • The second that your mind says it’s done, your race is pretty much over. 

Hard workouts and long runs on your own serve as opportunities to practice getting your brain on board for the tough stuff.

When there’s no one else around to distract you from the discomfort, your own mental toughness shines through.

Techniques that can help you ride the waves of adversity all the way to the finish include:

  • Motivational phrases
  • Breathing exercises
  • Pace bursts
  • Segmenting - breaking big efforts down into bite-sized achievements
5. Find clarity

5. Find clarity

We all know those days when it’s hard to think straight because our thoughts are tied up in a million knots.

Stress that stems from:

  • Home life
  • Work
  • Relationships
  • Health concerns
  • Financial worries...

Just to name a few, adds up over the course of a long day or night. Once it’s time to run, those thoughts are all but bursting our brains at the seams.

Even if we don’t have someone to share all of those thoughts with, running alone gives us a chance to air them out.

We’re so ubiquitously surrounded by technology most of the time that it’s hard to work through problems, or to even understand how we’re really feeling underneath all the noise.

Running alone eliminates the noise (especially if you challenge yourself to leave your headphones at home every once in a while). 

There’s no way to stare at a screen while you’re on the move. 

Guided by the simplicity of the winding trail or road ahead and the rhythmic pounding of footsteps, runners can enter a state of moving meditation, free from outside distraction. 

Tap into the power of running alone

Social runs help connect runners with their communities, but running alone fosters a different kind of connection that’s just as important: the relationship you have with yourself. 

Make space for a little bit of each in your running routine to get the best of both worlds. 

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Lucie Hanes
Ambassador
Eagle, CO

Ultrarunner, rock climber, occasional artist, fond of good wordplay. Small human on big adventures with big goals and big feelings.

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