A few months ago, while discussing my race strategy with my coach, he asked me if I intended to have a friend run the last six miles of the marathon with me. Without hesitating, I responded, “Yes, of course!” He went on to ask me if I was sure I didn’t want to reach the finish line alone.
I paused and thought about that for a moment, then answered “No, I don’t want to reach the finish line alone. I didn’t get to the start line alone, so why should the race be any different?” That’s when it occurred to me that this was yet another area of running where opinions differ from runner to runner.
There are three choices available for arriving at the finish line: 1) run it solo, 2) run with a friend/training group/pace group, or 3) some combination of those two. Of course, this does not preclude one from wearing a costume, juggling, or running backwards on the way to the finish line, but that’s really more about style than function.
This means running the race alone with very little talking to other runners. Running completely within yourself and being solely responsible for finding the inner strength and motivation to reach the finish line. At the finish line, you will thank your family and friends for supporting you, but you will know that you were the one who did all the work on race day.
Or you can run with a friend (old or new), with a pace group or with a training group from start to finish. You will be relying on each other to push when things get tough. At the finish line, you will thank your family and friends for supporting you and you will thank your running partner(s) for keeping the momentum headed in a forward direction. Your legs/lungs/body/mind did the actual work, but their encouragement helped you stay the course.
You might start the race alone and then pick up a friend to pace you for the last few miles. Or perhaps you start the race with a pace group but then pull away once you are warmed up and feeling strong. Either way, you will reach the finish line from your effort as well as the assistance of others, similar to the “running shared” experience.
Who’s To Say?
These are some grey areas, or overlap, possible. Maybe the solo runner gets a motivational boost every time he high-fives a little kid. Or perhaps the shared runner draws strength from being in the group, but doesn’t like to talk much. For the most part, they can be placed into one of the three categories.
Then the questions arise: Is one way more admirable? Is one way better than another? If you run solo, does that mean you are tougher? Or does it just mean you are anti-social? Will one way make you a stronger runner?
What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.