The other night at track, a friend of mine was wearing a singlet with some writing on the front: “Run Alone”.
Or so I thought.
If you knew this guy, you’d understand why I wouldn’t give a second thought to him wearing a shirt that announced such a dryly humourous and hardcore imperative to act in solitude.
What it actually said was “Run Aloha” and was presumably from Hawaii. Since then I’ve had my once in every four years appointment with an optometrist.
But back when I thought I saw “Run Alone”, it made me think about the benefits and drawbacks of both solitary training and group workouts. On this particular night, the workout was:
1-2x 800m at 3000m race pace/400m at mile race pace
1x1600m at 5k race pace
1x800m at 3000m race pace/400m at mile race pace
At this time, I’m feeling in o-kay shape, not great, but slowly transitioning from recovery mode to building up some mileage and doing a bit of speed work. There are usually 3 or 4 groups that naturally form at the track, based on speed, and I usually squeak by to hang on to one of them, uncomfortably so, but don’t quite fit into the others. That night, I wanted to get in a full and solid workout, without seeing too much burn-out by the end (also, my foot has been feeling funny, not ha-ha funny, so I’m trying be mindful of that dinger). To meet this goal, I knew that I would be more successful starting the workout on my own. My goals were to hit the 800s at 3:00, the 400s at around 1:20-1:22, and the 1600m between 6:05 and 6:10. Even though I went out faster than I thought for the first 800m (2:52), I’m glad I didn’t stick to the usual group since some ran their first one in 2:45 and others were high-2:30s.
Sure, I could’ve tried to stay with them for the benefit of having the others to chase, and maybe I could’ve done one at 2:45, but I didn’t want to get dragged in and eff up the rest of my workout. I guess you could argue that had I gone out with the group, I could’ve stayed with them and shouldn’t put limitations on myself before I even start the workout, but the difference between a 3:00 800m and a 2:45 800m seems like a big one.
So, that night I ran mostly alone with the exception of one tardy Korean joining in and around a couple intervals. But I really wasn’t alone since I had the company and support of the other runners around me in various states of rest and grinding it out.
[More importantly, I’ve learned to keep in mind that awareness in fatigue is key and you’re never alone at the track even if you can’t hear or see the other runners (unless you are actually the only person there); a fundamental fear and constant shoulder-check could save you from being walloped in a split-second by an on-coming sprinter. Perhaps unlike the fear of being alone, this is a legitimate fear.]