When I was a young child, I always preferred to play alone more often than with others. I remember adults commenting on my ability to play by myself for hours. I had only a few friends, which was just enough for me. None of my friends were friends, so it would be individual hang outs all the way through most of my life. I like one-on-one chats, small groups, or just being me.
This still continues today. I can count on one hand (maybe two with spouses!) how many friends I have. Sure, sometimes I feel “uncool” but I really can’t handle that many more people in my life. I like to keep it simple. Plus, very few of those friends, are friends with each other. So, I appreciate them all individually.
Add in that my mom used to always tell us, “Be a leader, not a follower.” I took that advice to heart, sometimes to a fault. I have never done well following what other’s want me to do or want to do. Instead, I prefer to be at the helm, guiding the way. It’s served me well throughout life, especially within my career. When I do fall into the follower position, I tend to feel frustrated by it.
What does all of this have to do with running?
I’ve learned something very important this year about myself, of which I was blissfully unaware of until yesterday:
Ever since I started running in 2002, I wished to be a part of a running club and go on group runs. I always saw them in the park or at the boardwalk, and even joined several running clubs the first few years. I never felt comfortable enough to show up and run with others, so I just didn’t. I ran several years mostly by myself, in love with my new found individual sport, sometimes inviting Chris along for the run. I was never the best at team sports, either.
What I didn’t realize was how lucky I was when I first started running with Keith. Now, he is a super fast runner in my book. He runs 5ks in less than 20 minutes. A time I’ll never see on my best day (and that’s ok!). So, when we set out to run all those years back, I told him, “I can only do 10min/mile pace, please don’t push me to run faster.” Ha, now I can do about a 12min/mile pace!
He never did. Even throughout my pregnancy, he never made me feel once that my pace was too slow or that I was hindering his training if I needed to stop and walk. He’d just log his faster miles before or after our run. At times, I felt like I was holding him back, but he never let on that that was the case. Well, there was that one time… just kidding.
So, for years, I only had one real running buddy plus Chris (who never pushes me unless I ask him to!). I thought, yes, I enjoy running with others. With that thought, I brushed off the one time we tried to add a third person to the mix, with frustrating (for me) results.
Anytime I run with others, I never plan to run fast or work on anything other than a long, friendly, relaxing conversation. I usually run much slower, and hope that they don’t mind. From what I’ve learned, usually they do and then they say “Come on, let’s go faster.” And from there, the run sucks.
For several years after my dad passed, I couldn’t get out on the trail alone. Something stopped me from running at all, by myself. I had to run with Chris on the bike next to me, or with my buddy Keith. Up until this year, I hadn’t really run alone in 5 years. I thought I needed to run with others. I thought I was a group runner. After a conversation with a co-worker who found my “need to run with others” strange, because she loves to run completely alone all.the.time, I started to reflect on my runs more.
Coming back to running full force this year has been awesome, but with it I have been forced to do 95% of my runs alone. My running buddy is laying low. I attempted to run with about six other people in that last two months, and to be honest, I didn’t love it. A third were friendly, and got my “I like to go slow and chat” idea after the first run together. The others, well, they just didn’t get the idea and made my runs far more stressful and frustrating.
I’m not sure why when I run with others, I just can’t go faster. I like to do a slow slog, at my own pace, chatting about what’s happening in life. Some people just can’t handle that idea. I’m not sure if it’s got to do with lack of training, or too much focus. Some runners run the same pace, the same distance, every day. And that was their plan for the run – which boggles my mind for training. My focus is on variety: tempo runs (alone), speed-work (alone), easy runs (with others?!), easy long runs (mostly alone).
So, I’m not going to blame the people I’ve attempted to run with, but I’m going to blame myself. If it’s something that seems to keep happening, then I can’t say it’s all of them – it’s got to be something with me.
With much reflection, I’ve realized that I don’t enjoy running with others so much. I like showing up, with a focus on my own pace, goals, and relaxing meditation on the run. I don’t like feeling anxiety about how fast, far, or what pace they need to be or will try to push me to.
I guess I’ll just have to stick with other sports like playing tennis or shooting hoops with others, or maybe just walking and talking. Runs, not so much.
Do you run well with others?
Are you a large group friend person?
What’s your favorite sport/activity to do with friends?
I always love to play tennis, which you definitely can’t do alone.