Me, Myself, and I

As a new(ish) runner, I have come to appreciate many things about running including the well-recognized benefits of increased energy, stamina, weight loss and cardiovascular health. Many of us run for reasons beyond these well-known benefits, pursing simply our passion for the sport, our love of races, and our competitive nature. Although running is often done in the presence of others, for all but the elite, it is fundamentally ourselves against whom we compete. As I began this journey, I explored a few running groups and loved that they helped me to push myself  farther and faster. But, ultimately I found the greatest benefit for me, was that running provided a time  of solitude.

Running alone can be a meditative experience.

Running alone can be a meditative experience.

Those who know me casually might be very surprised to learn that I am an introvert. Sure, I  love being around my friends and family, and have actually had several careers where success demanded a high level of direct interaction with others. I have enjoyed these positions, and in some ways, I live for these aspects of my job because they allow me to step outside of myself  eight or so hours a day and push myself beyond my natural inclinations. And the truth is, I am really, really good at interacting with others. It’s one of my best qualities.  But like running itself, a consequence of pushing myself beyond my social limits, includes a very real need to recharge daily.

I love to be alone. It is where I gain my energy and find my ‘center’. As a classic INFP* personality running allows me all of the wonderful benefits discussed earlier but more importantly running allows me the time to be alone and recharge, a prerequisite for me to be a happy, healthy, functioning, human being.  Besides being a meditative experience, running alone can provide an opportunity to train in ways not available in groups. You can focus on breathing, form, and pace, for example.

Running solo can also help you focus on a specific goal pace. If you always run with a group, you may be holding yourself back. The opposite can also be true. Running with a group that is too fast, or pushes you to run more miles than you may be ready for may put you at risk for developing an injury or burning out.

I encourage those of you who stick to groups to give running solo a try. When running alone, make sure you stay safe. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you can’t bear the thought of taking a cell phone with you (which I recommend, as you never know if you will encounter someone on your route who might need your help), tell a friend or family member which route you plan on taking and what time they can expect you to return.
  • Wear a watch! You don’t have to time yourself, just check once in a while to make sure you don’t lose track of time.
  • Make sure to carry some sort of identification. A company called Road I.D. makes awesome customizable bands that have plenty of room for your name, and an emergency contact or two. These bands can also double as a medical alert bracelet. I went so far as to include my blood type. If you take certain medications or have serious medical conditions, it might be a good idea to include them on your band.
  • When running in low light conditions, make sure to wear reflective gear. One of my favorite items is this minimalistic reflective vest. You can find one at running specialty stores. If a vest isn’t your thing, an armband or a light that clips on is a great choice, too. The awesome thing about a reflective vest or clip-on light is that you can wear them over any of your items in your running wardrobe without the need to purchase new gear.

There are times where running with a partner or group is preferable, especially for getting out on the trail on days when I’d rather hit the snooze button than slog through the liquid sunshine Oregon is known for. I also love running with a group or a partner because it pushes me to go farther and faster. However, there are many things I love about running solo that provides a challenge I can only get by tackling the trail by myself.

*If you are interested in finding out what your personality type is, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory is very insightful.

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