So you’ve completed a few races and you’ve started to think about getting faster. A BQ? A PR? You know how the story goes: to get somewhere you’ve never been, you have to do something you’ve never done.
You do speedwork on your own, you pick up the pace in your long runs, but your race times still aren’t where you think they should be. You know of a few faster running groups in town, but you question if you can keep up. That’s when you need to decide how badly you want it.
We’ve all been there! Running with faster runners (sometimes*) pays off with huge dividends. Besides the obvious benefits of running with a group, like making new run BFFs and making you accountable, running with a faster group can lead to huge performance gains and ultimately help you reach your race day goals.
1. You will learn best or better practices
You’ve been running for some time, but you know that there’s lots you don’t know about running. Your form, for example, could be improved, or maybe you’re wearing the same shoes for all your workouts. You can’t remember the last time (or if ever) you set foot on a track. Running with a serious group or team will expose you to techniques and tips that haven’t even crossed your mind as you’ve been meandering along in your comfort zone. By joining a group of faster runners, you will be exposed to things faster runners do and sooner or later you’ll be doing it too.
2. You’ll get the competitive juices flowing
While the majority of people prefer to run by themselves, running with a group will inevitably push you to go faster. As any high school or college runner will tell you, runners go faster in a group. This is a result of the inherent drive to hang onto your place within the group. This mentality can also lead to healthy competition and a constant desire to catch the next person, which is absent when you’re running alone. This will prepare you excellently for race day, in a way you cannot prepare yourself alone.
3. You’ll learn you’re capable of faster long runs
For those of you training for a faster half-marathon or marathon race time, you’re well aware of how critical your long runs are. While completing your long runs is important, strategically planning faster paced long runs is where the magic happens. For example, if your BQ is 3:35, you will need to run 26.2 miles at 8:12 per mile or better. While some people are able to pull it off with easier paced long runs throughout training, many of us benefit from having some long, faster paced workouts under our belts. Finding a faster group to run long runs with can help pass the time and lead to running your long runs faster than you ever thought possible.
4. You won’t quit, even when you’re really uncomfortable
Whether it’s one less mile repeat or a few less miles than you planned for your weekend long run, when you’re on your own, it’s way easier to quit. Over time these quits add up. When you run with a faster group, you will find yourself pushing yourself to the end of the workout, even when way outside of your comfort zone. The momentum from running with a faster group helps you complete the workout and holds you accountable to do the work. Imagine what would be possible if you stopped quitting, doing less than what you’re capable of!
5. You will realize you can run way faster than you thought you could
To become a faster runner, you have to practice running fast (sometimes*). This sounds obvious, but in reality it’s easier said than done. By running with a faster group you will overcome mental barriers that you encountered when you were running alone. When you start running with faster runners you will realize you can run way faster than you ever thought possible (I write from experience). Having these workouts in your tool kit on race day, you can recall them to remind yourself that you can and will overcome these mental barriers.
The importance of sometimes*
*All that said, you have to run slower most days! Running with faster runners is not something to do every day and usually only good for occasional hard days. If the group isn’t doing what you need to do, you have to know when to pump the brakes and do your own thing!
Do you run with a group? What tips do you have for runners looking to get faster?