Convincing solo runners about the benefits of a good group

With all due respect to George Thorogood and his Delaware Destroyers, drinking alone and running alone are really not recommended activities. I’ve never done the former and used to do the latter. As I have aged, finding running partners with whom to train and race has really helped motivate me.

After seven years of high school and collegiate running (I did not run my freshman year in high school, instead holding onto some dream of gaining 50 pounds and meeting the minimum weight requirement for either marching band or football), I had tired of running at 4 p.m. six days a week with a group of teammates while the coach barked split times at us. It was “solo-city” for me starting in 1985.

The great thing about solo running is the freedom to run when you want, where you want, as fast as you want. And by solo running, I mean without a training partner and without a coach – no one to hold me accountable to the whims and fancies of a 20-something runner. The freedom was GREAT… for a few years.

Eventually, solo running leads to either diminished performance or diminished interest in the pursuit. My biggest problem wasn’t that I started wanting to run with others but rather it was locating ‘the others’. Running clubs were still relatively hard to find or were located only in larger communities. And I was still running at a pretty high level, making it hard to find a like-paced companion.

I stumbled into a group in central Virginia during a run in 1991. As I was running, a car pulled up next to me and the driver yelled, “Hey, you look like you’re moving right along. There’s a group of us who train together Mondays and Wednesdays at the local track. Come join us!” That was Greg Keller, former 3:50 1500 meter runner (and still a good friend), who introduced me to four other runners (including a 2:17 marathoner, a two-time Virginia state cross country champ, and a three-time Virginia state champion XC coach). I had found my group, and my running and performances soared!

Solo running can get you a pretty good way down the road toward your goals, whether it’s your first race or your first marathon. But many first-time runners and marathoners find success in groups such as the Leukemia Society’s Team in Training or BGR (black girls run) or a local running club such as the Middletown Athletic Club (MAC) or Smyrna Clayton Running Club (SCRC). Clubs often have a myriad of runners who are more than happy to share tips, schedules and even the miles to get you to your goal.

One thing about group running, and my bride Adrienne can attest to this, is that I was never a fan of running WITH people. I viewed it as running with an iPod that I couldn’t unplug and a pace I didn’t want to keep. I credit my Virginia friends and good friend Rob Goodman (also a member of MAC) with changing my perception of running solo versus running with others. And the Middletown club has only strengthened that perception. Check out www.rrca.org for more on running clubs in the U.S.

Go find yourself a partner or a club or an organization and watch your motivation and performance soar. With winter coming, it’ll make getting out the door a whole lot easier if your training circle is waiting for you in the sleet. Just leave the red Solo cups and the Destroyers at home.

Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andrew Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer.