Now more than ever, many runners are running solo – whether they like it or not. And while some runners thrive on the sense of freedom and solace of running alone, many others struggle to maintain motivation without a running partner or group.
Whether you’re experimenting with solo running because you enjoy the solitude, or because you’re unable to meet your regular running group, it is certainly possible to stay motivated and safe when running alone.
What is a solo run?
When you run solo, you’re running alone – without any partner, dog or group. Many new runners wonder whether it’s better to run alone or with someone, but the answer varies depending on the person.
For many runners, running alone offers some much needed solitude and time to unwind before or after a stressful day. The addition of another person, regardless of how much we may like them, adds a sense of obligation to their run that reduces its tranquility.
Regardless of your personal thoughts about running alone, there are many benefits that all runners can experience by incorporating at least a few solo runs during their training.
The Benefits of Running Alone
While it might not sound as appealing to those who are more social, solo running still has the power to transform our minds and bodies. Running alone can not only help strengthen our bodies, but can help enhance our perseverance and determination as well.
Check out just a few of the benefits of running alone.
Develops your mental strength
Solo running forces us to rely on our inner strength to continue in moments of struggle. Without a cheering squad and external support, our mental strength grows as we power through those moments of aches, pains and desperation.
Provides alone time
Many runners enjoy the social aspect of the sport – we thrive on developing lifelong friendships and celebrating with a core group of people.
While the social aspect of running certainly plays a role in creating the wholesome, welcoming community that originally drew us all in, it also takes away some of the most valuable benefits we could be getting from our time on the run.
Running solo provides you with alone time each day. Time away from the kids, work, and every other responsibility. This time of solitude provides a rare moment in the day where we can de-stress, unwind, relax, and think without interruption.
Enhances your commitment
When you’re running alone, there’s no one out there to tell you to keep going but yourself. If you miss that Tuesday run, no one else will notice.
Spending the majority of your training running solo means that you’ll need to be truly committed to your goals. With no one else holding you accountable, you have to rely on your own determination to get you to the finish line. Each solo run we complete strengthens our perseverance.
Related: 14 Meaningful Goal Ideas for Runners
Allows for personalized training at all times
Running with a group is all fun and dandy when you’re just wanting to stay fit, but if you’re following a personalized training plan, it can be tough to complete those specific workouts with others in tow.
Solo running provides us with daily opportunities to complete our training exactly as planned. We don’t have to adjust our pace or distance to accommodate anyone else, therefore setting ourselves up for maximum success and health throughout training.
Helps develop internal pacing
Many runners find themselves a little frightened when they arrive at a race and discover that there are no pacers or pace groups. They know that their pace will likely slow once the initial excitement of the starting line passes, and question their ability to maintain their goal pace until the end.
Running alone provides an awesome opportunity to develop your internal sense of pace. Without someone running next to you, you’ll be forced to listen to your body and rely on ‘feel’ to continue at the appropriate pace.
After just a few weeks of solo running, you’ll likely have a much better feel for your easy pace, tempo pace, interval pace, etc., and be able to get away from checking your watch every few steps.
Boosts your confidence
Solo running is hard – there’s no sugar coating it. Sticking with it when no one would know if you didn’t is even harder.
However, like just about everything in life, after each solo run, running alone will start to feel easier. You’ll be proud each time you get out there without someone else forcing you to. Every time you accomplish a goal you’ll know that it is truly because of the work you, and you alone, put in during training.
Finding motivation to run alone
Although most runners know that there are benefits to running alone, getting out the door day after day for solo runs is usually easier said than done.
After that initial excitement of trying something new begins to fade, finding the motivation to continue to run alone becomes much more challenging.
Figuring out how to run alone when you’d rather be running with others requires a bit of trial and error. However, there are a few tactics you can use to hold yourself accountable during those first few solo runs.
Follow a training plan and/or use a coach
Set yourself up for success by creating a training plan to follow. Whether you have a coach design it or create one yourself, you’ll benefit from pre-planned workouts.
Skipping a run is much easier when there isn’t one already planned in your calendar.
Following a training plan takes some of the decision making out of each day. You’ll wake up knowing exactly how far you need to run and at what pace.
Create something to look forward to
If a great deal of your enjoyment with running usually comes from getting together with other people, try to find different things you can look forward to now that you are running alone.
Plan a route that is especially beautiful or exciting, incorporate some of your favorite pre or post run fuel sources, or save your favorite podcasts to listen to on the run.
Check in with someone
If you can’t get together in-person with your running buddies, you can still use them for accountability. Share your training with someone else so they can check in with you to make sure you are staying consistent.
Letting even just one extra person see training plan will help you stay accountable, even when you’re running alone.
Running alone doesn’t have to be lonely. Aside from learning to enjoy the solitude, there are so many other ways that runners can incorporate and enjoy solo running during training.
If you find yourself with more time to run alone this season, use these 8 tips to stay safe and enjoy your time – even when running solo.
8 Tips to Enjoy Solo Running Safely
Practice positive self-talk
Since you won’t be having conversations with a friend, use this time to engage in positive conversations with yourself. Try to avoid thoughts like “this is hard”, “I can’t wait until this is over” or “there’s no way I’ll be able to run X miles”.
Rather, find a mantra or practice thinking encouraging thoughts on each solo run. Tell yourself how strong you are or how much fun you’re having – even if you’re not. Before you know it, you will actually start to believe it.
Related: 35 Running Mantras for Motivation and Strength
Tell someone where you’re going
One of the best ways to stay safe when running alone is to make sure someone else knows exactly where, how far, and when you are going for your run. This person can check in with you before and after your run to make sure you’ve returned – just in case an emergency were to arise.
Focus on pace and effort
Solo running provides the perfect opportunity to really focus on pace and effort. Spend your time listening to your body and adjusting as you go.
Settle into a comfortable pace for those easy runs and do your best to stay consistent. Practice pushing yourself during speed workouts and really focus on learning exactly how these faster paces feel.
Listen to something uplifting or unplug
Running alone provides a brief moment of solitude in an otherwise busy and chaotic day. Make this time as positive as possible by listening to your favorite playlist, an encouraging podcast, or simply spending time unplugged.
Working your way through a training plan to accomplish a major goal at the end is a wonderful strategy. However, that goal can often feel far off when you’re just getting started.
Especially when running alone, it’s important to set micro goals along the way.
Set a goal to hit your interval paces this week, increase your overall mileage, stretch after each run, or anything else you can think of. These micro goals will help you stay motivated when you’re training alone.
Related: 10 Steps to Achieve Any Running Goal
Most of us lose momentum at some point during training. However, recovering from this temporary lull is key to not letting it drag you down.
Try your best to maintain consistency during this season of solo running. If you’re really not feeling it, shorten your run to allow your body to recover. Focus on always getting out the door, no matter how slow or how short you may be running.
Share with social media or friends
Just because you can’t actually get together with your friends doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate your accomplishments. Share your training success (and struggles) with friends via a phone call, text, email, picture or social media post.
Checking in every once and a while will give others a chance to support you and help maintain that sense of community, even when running alone.
Stay visible and bring ID
Solo running does require a few more safety precautions than running with a buddy. One of the best ways to stay safe when running alone is to make sure you dress to be seen and always bring an ID. This way, if an emergency were to arise, a passerby would be able to identify you and call for the help that is needed.
Regardless of how you feel about running alone, remember that it creates a perfect window of opportunity for growth.
There is no doubt that some of your greatest successes can come from a season of solo running. Be intentional about every run you complete on your own, and you might just surprise yourself with the results.