(The Myth of) The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Posted by Filed Under: Running Tips, Training

A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…

…some bad things happened in my life. So, I started running. I ran by myself because I needed the “alone time”.

Years past and, for some long forgotten reason, I stopped running. Then, some more bad things happened so I started running again but this time, with lots and lots of people because the last thing on earth I needed was “alone time”.

lonely markYears past and life changed – this time I’m happy to say for the better. I started a family and got more serious about my career, and many of the people I’d been running with went through similar changes.

And so I recently found myself running alone again. Do you know what I found out? I found out that I love running alone.

We often hear about the terrific reasons we should run with other people. Reasons like:

  1. It helps you deal with the boredom of long miles
  2. Meaningful friendships often blossom out of the intense talks you can have on a long run
  3. Running with other people can help you maintain a conversational pace that is perfect for fat-burning long runs

Those are all good and true reasons to run with other people, but you rarely hear the other side – the terrific reasons to run alone. Well, I’m here to provide balance.

Eight Great Reasons to Run All By Your Lonesome

  1. Solve the World’s Problems: Want to figure out the solution to a problem at the office? Had a quarrel with your spouse? No problem, just go for a nice, long run. All will be well in sixty or so minutes of running all by your lonesome.
  2. Find a Deeper State: Yoga gets all the credit for meditation, but I often find myself in very relaxed, meditative type states while running. And these moments only happen while running alone.
  3. Mind, Body & Spirit: How do you get your mind to recognize when your body is working too hard …or not hard enough? Or how do you unlock secrets for breaking through seemingly unbreakable limits? Answer: You must listen. But there’s one catch: The more alone you are, the greater chance you’ll hear the messages your mind, body and spirit want to share with one another.
  4. Tame the Scheduling Beast: Anyone who has a family and career knows how hard it can be to fit running into a busy schedule. Attempt to make that schedule mesh with someone else’s schedule and you just might pull something. Running alone is much easier on your ability to make running fit into your life.
  5. Hit Your Optimal Training Paces: Believe it or not, running with others can prevent you from reaching your potential. Why? Because no two people have the same capacity for running. That means that if you run with other people, someone’s not going to be running at an optimal training pace. The more time you spend alone, the more time you spend training at paces that are best for you.
  6. It’s Good Practice: If you race – really race races, you’re alone out there. So, it stands to reason that if you practice running alone, you’ll have what it takes to push through the lonely rough spots we often find ourselves in while racing.
  7. It’s Natural: Some of the most intense connections I’ve ever had with nature have been while running. There are moments where I’ve felt so in tune with the swaying of trees, the caressing of wind and sweet smells of spring blossoms that I’ve found it difficult to return home.
  8. You’ll Get High: No one in a million years will ever convince me you can get near the Runner’s High running with people as you can running alone. Never had Runner’s high? Try running alone. Run further and further – it will happen and, when it does, you’ll be hooked.

So there you have it – eight really terrific reasons to run by yourself. Do you have any that should be on the list?

Now get out there and enjoy your alone time!

About Mark Iocchelli

Also known as the "Running Blogfather", I'm a 40-something marathoner who has beaten stress fractures and terrible shin splints. Now I'm running double the mileage with no pain - and I'm getting faster. I love to talk about running form and Arthur Lydiard. I also enjoy taking photographs, have a beautiful (and very patient!) wife, and am the proud father of two crazy kids. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the site.

  1. Jon (was) in Michigan on May 15th at 5:57 am

    9. Pass gas at will and with enthusiasm.

    Sometimes you just gotta let it fly.

    Nice pic, by the way.

  2. Jeanne on May 15th at 8:21 am

    There are seasons and reasons. A case can be made for running alone or with others. And the good news is: you can actually do both! Although not necessarily at the same time.

  3. Dori on May 15th at 10:32 am

    Running alone allows you to compose your blog entry.

  4. Mark Iocchelli on May 15th at 11:08 am

    Jon: I can’t argue with #9. 😉
    Jeanne: Your logic is infallable.
    Dori: HA! How true!

  5. Dawn - Pink Chick on May 17th at 5:46 pm

    Yup #9 and composing your blog are right up there. I love running alone. I love my running buddies but when running alone I can work on what I need whether its a steady pace, hills or fartleks.

    I like the company at the beginning and after but on the run, the best company is me and my tunes.

    There’s a way to get the best of both worlds – run alone but run in an area well travelled by other runners. You get your “alone” time but you also get the occasional words of encouragement, smiles and some hellos.

  6. Soozan on May 20th at 9:02 am

    That’s an awesome road running picture!