Photo by Maaike Bolhuis ©

Running Solo

I'll be honest, I generally prefer running on my own. Shoes on, out the door and I'm running the workout at my own pace. No one to distract me or slow me down, and I can lose myself mentally and focus instead on the pure physicality. However, as a long distance runner, when I'm logging high weekly mileage during the peak of my training, those runs can sometimes feel pretty long and lonely.

It helps me to set a goal, kind of like an assignment I need to complete. So without fail, I set out for my solo runs with a plan, like this one:

Solo training session

  • Run 60 minutes at an easy pace, especially if you've had a hard workout the day before
  • Run 6 miles with 20 second strides near maximum effort at every mile split
  • Key workout with intervals or hills

Heading out for a training run with a defined set of goals can help maintain your focus on the task at hand, and minimize the chance of cutting your session short.

Running with a group

I joined a running club that meets every Tuesday morning at a local track to run a workout we get the day before. We're all at different levels and run at different paces, and we push each other because of it. We're all runners trying to improve ourselves while helping others with a bit of friendly competition. There's no reward if you finish first and nothing but cheers and high 5s for finishing last.

Again, working with a defined set of goals gives you a clear mandate for the training session. Here are a few samples of the workouts we run as a group:

Group track workout #1

  • Warm up: 800m of easy running
  • ABC drills (see below)
  • 5x1km with a descending pace every km (marathon pace, half marathon pace, 10k pace, 5k pace, "empty the gas tank" pace with 200m recovery between every set.
  • Cooldown: 800m of easy running
Group track workout #2

  • Warm up: 800m of easy running
  • ABC drills (see below)
  • 400m at 5k pace, then 400m recovery
  • 2000m at 10k pace, then 400m recovery
  • Repeat twice
  • Cooldown: 800m of easy running

 Group track workout #3

  • Warm up: 800m of easy running
  • ABC drills (see below)
  • 3x10 minute tempo pace (2 mins recovery between)
  • Cooldown: 800m of easy running

ABC drills

A. Two sets of:

B. Two sets of:
  • 20 (10 per leg) exaggerated slow running stride
  • 100m fast running
  • 100m easy running

 C. Two sets of:

  • 20 (10 per leg) butt kicks
  • 100m fast running
  • 100m easy running

Running with a Coach

Photo by Gary Blakeley ©

Occasionally, I meet up with my coach for a run. Whether he's pushing me with a specific workout or keeping it casual, it's always enjoyable. Distracted by conversation, the miles go by quickly and it feels effortless. Sometimes we talk about running strategies and training, but not always. Once in a while, I take the role of coach, slowing my pace to run with friends or family, which is its own kind of reward – helping other runners burn through miles and reach their own goals.

There's no one way or best way to run long distances for training. You can find inspiration, motivation and reward in a group, that's for sure, but for me, nothing beats that long and lonely road.