Solo or Social? Should You Run Alone or Find a Pack?

Running is largely a solo sport, and most people that start running tend to start running on their own. Whether you’re trying to improve our fitness, lose some weight or perhaps run a certain distance to raise money for charity the start of your running journey is often solo. As you spend more time in the sport, there’s a good chance you’ll become aware of local running clubs and be considering whether or not to join one. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of running on your own and running as part of a club.

Running on your own – the pro’s

Time Flexibility:

One of the best reasons to run on your own is that you get to control your own timetable. You can run whenever you want and there’s no waiting around for others.

Choice of Route:

As well as picking the time you run, solo running also lets you pick the route you run. Which means you can choose your favorite areas or trails to do your runs.

Can be relaxing:

Lots of solo runners find the time on their own peaceful and relaxing. You can listen to nature and clear your head or perhaps put on your favorite music and get into your zone.

Running on your own – the cons

a man on a bridge getting ready to run

Boredom:

Running is a repetitive task. As human beings, we tend to get bored of doing the same thing over and over again. Especially if we have to do it on our own.

Lack of Motivation:

Linked to the issue of boredom, it can become really tough to motivate yourself to get out the house and run. This is even worse on days where you’re tired and the weather is horrible!

Safety:

One big issue of solo running is that if you get lost or injured you’ve got no-one to offer you help or assistance. Ever tried jogging 5 miles back home on a sprained ankle?

Running as part of a club – The Pros

Most of the pro’s of running in a club are that it counters the negatives of running solo.

More interesting:

Club running sessions tend to be more varied, meaningless repetition and more interest.

a couple running on the bridge

More motivation:

Having a group of friends that you meet each week can make you much more motivated to train. Even on days when you’re tired and the weather is horrible you know you’ve got a team of people waiting to see you.

Safety first:

With other runners around you there’s plenty of assistance should you have any issues or injuries.

Steel sharpens steel:

Being around faster and runners with bigger experience can make a huge difference to your own achievements. You’ll most likely push yourself further and you’ll probably learn a huge amount from their experiences and wisdom.

Running as part of a club – The Cons

As you might expect, the cons of team based running are pretty much that it removes some of the pro’s of solo running.

No time flexibility:

Since clubs tend to have runs and training sessions scheduled at specific times you have to be available at these times in order to run with the team.

Little choice of route:

Although you might get some input on running route, you won’t have anything like the same level of control that you would have a running solo.

A smiling girl running

Lack of specificity:

Since club running sessions tend to cater to various types of runners, you may find those individual training sessions aren’t best suited to your individual goals as a runner. (Although to be fair with a little knowledge of running training you might be able to tweak some group sessions to better suit your own goals)

So which do I choose?

It’s a tough question, and as you can see there are definitely pros and cons involved in both options. I think it largely comes down to being honest about who you are as a person. (Notice how I didn’t necessarily say what you want to do, because sometimes what you want to do isn’t what you need to do!)

Personally, I think solo running is for you if…

  • You’re a highly self-motivating individual
  • Do not make excuses, and won’t chicken out from tough runs
  • You have a reasonable knowledge of running technique
  • You have a reasonable knowledge of designing training programs for running

men starting to run
On the other hand, I think Group based running is for you if…

  • You know you work better in a group
  • Being around other people tends to motivate you
  • You sometimes struggle with motivation when on your own
  • You’re a newer runner without much understanding or technique or training programs.

A lot of us like to think we fall into the first group, but the reality is that the majority of us fall into the second. We often need motivation and the support of a team. We also need the opportunity to learn from others and to gain knowledge of running and how to train to be better at it. Be completely honest with yourself and decide which group you truly fall into.

With that said, it doesn’t have to be one or the other

Some runners choose to combine some group based running with some solo runs. That way you get the best of both worlds. For some runs, you get the freedom to choose your time, route and exact style of training, but for those dark, cold nights when you’re tired you’ve got a team who is supporting you.

What’s more, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being part of a club for a few months, learning the ropes and then heading out to run on your own once you’ve gained a bit of experience.

Similarly, even elite level runners need teams and groups from time to time. Having people to push and challenge you can make a massive difference to your performance.

Runner

That’s it, my list of pros and cons for solo and group based running as well as my thoughts on how to choose the best type for you. Hopefully, I’ve helped you make a decision about your own running.

Any other pros and cons you think I should mention? Let me know in the comments section.

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29 Comments

  • i think these apply to all workouts in general! i find that having other people around (either who force me to go or people in a class which makes me work harder) is super helpful, but that timing aspect is annoying, especially if they’re busy! good things to think about (:

  • I always run solo..
    I’ve run with a team before and what ended up happening was either they had to wait up for my tired butt or vice versa, I had to wait up for their tired butt. Either way, we ended up becoming each other’s burden.

    When I run solo, I can decide when to speed up, when to speed-walk, when to pick up the pace and when to take a breather. After all, it’s 26.2 Miles, as long as I reach the finish line no longer than my previous personal record.

    But there’s an upside to running social or with somebody or in a team… you have somebody to chat and laugh with while you run.

  • Hi Agness, great roundup. I find it easier to do it with someone as the miles fly by! The only thing that can be annoying (and you touched on it) is when you’re all ready to go and your running partner is late. That really gets on my nerves especially when you’re up against it.

  • So I’m not a huge runner, but I do like to work out alone when I go to the gym. Well, sorta. It’s nice to have a partner to hold you accountable and make sure you both go together…but after that I like to go my own way. Thanks for this fun post, Agness! And happy Monday! 🙂

  • I don’t really run as much as I used to because my knees and shins can’t talk all the stress, so now I box… lol! Wait, I’m not sure that is much better on my body! 😉 Anyways, I do run from time to time though and I always do it alone. For some reason I can’t run as long when someone is with me. I’m a lone runner with music type of chick. I find running to be kind of like a meditation where I can clear my head, and if someone is next to me I just don’t find it peaceful. BUT I love all your pro’s and con’s for both! It’s funny how what works for one person, doesn’t work for the next. Yay to individuality! 🙂 Cheers, girl!

  • Oooooooo, I’ve done both and I think I prefer to run by myself. I don’t really run enough to start running with someone again, it was great motivation and you hardly missed a session but I prefer to just plod along on my own these days. Great post by the way Agness! I found your blog today via my friend Paul (Father Fitness).

  • I prefer to run solo because when I do I’m in the zone with my music! However it is very motivating/challenging to run in a group and it’s always great to change things up. This is a great post!

  • I typically run on a treadmill while watching tv and hubby is usually there with me working out as well. If I do run outside (not often) I don’t mind being by myself cause I kinda find it a bit relaxing and gives me time to think 🙂

  • It is nice to mix it up sometimes – it can be relaxing to run on your own and then sometimes it is fantastic to have someone to run with. It is great to read about all the pros and cons 🙂

  • Hi Agness, good points here. I run with my dogs. They are young labradors and if they are not exercised every day, I’m pretty sure they will eat me, lol.
    I bike with a group though. Love the motivation it gives me to go full out.
    Great to find you blog!

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