An often hidden benefit of group training is the chance to give back to the sport and our fellow runners by sharing our experiences and offering others motivation.
Written by: Scott Jurek
This column first appeared in the September issue of Competitor Magazine.
An aspect of running that I have appreciated over the years is the sheer simplicity and accessibility of the sport—all you need is a willingness to get out the door and put one foot in front of the other. While the individualistic nature of running allows for self-reflection and personal growth, training in a group offers new motivation and inspiration, and an opportunity to give back to the sport.
Some might consider running for anti-social or introverted people, but experts have revealed how running in groups was a central aspect of persistence hunting for our ancestors. Anyone who has raced or trained in a competitive group can testify to how a pack can affect an individual’s performance by pushing the pace.
I often ran with older ultrarunners when I first started running in Duluth, Minn. Although the pace was slow for me, the stories and wisdom we shared were priceless. I not only learned how to be a better ultrarunner, but also was inspired by how tough those runners were. It made long solo runs easier knowing how my older badass buddies trained. I still go for easy group runs with “old timers” and I wouldn’t trade those slow miles on the road and trail for anything.
But, sometimes we need a kick in the butt to push us beyond our normal pace and incorporate tempo and track workouts that we often avoid. This is where group training thrives and the benefits are huge. How often during training have we felt like we had nothing left? But thanks to the encouragement of fellow runners we somehow access hidden reserves to surge the last few miles. The group motivation doesn’t always have to come from someone the same speed or faster—just completing a hard workout while others are doing the same can provide motivation.
For example, it was always hard for me to get out for midweek track sessions when I was in Seattle during my peak 100-mile trail training. However, when I met with a group that was also doing high intensity work, even at slower paces than me, I received a huge boost of motivation to push through the 1,200 meter and mile repeats.
While the older runners provide wisdom, the young guns provide inspiration. Runners new to the sport often bring lofty goals and new zeal for training and racing that can rub off on veteran runners who may be in a rut. One of the reasons I moved to Boulder was to spend time training with younger runners who inspire me with their love of running and desire to access new levels of potential. We share ideas about training and racing, allowing us all to become better runners while reaching our goals.
An often hidden benefit of group training is the chance to give back to the sport and our fellow runners by sharing our experiences and offering others motivation. The future of the sport relies on this premise. I’ve met people all over the country for easy group runs; maybe I’ve shared some knowledge or just provided company for a few miles, but for the little I gave, a whole lot of motivation was given back to me, reminding me why I run.