Why I Prefer Solo Running

AJW's TaproomAs long I can remember, I’ve preferred running by myself. Sure, like most, I enjoy a group run now and again but I must admit, and even confess, there have been times in the past when I’ve made up excuses about why I can’t join a group run. The truth is, I just like running better by myself.

I’ve thought quite a bit (often on long, solo runs) about why I prefer running alone to running with others and I’ve basically identified three reasons:

First, as difficult as it might be for some to believe who only know my public self, I am an introvert. Defined by Dr. Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, “Introverts are people who get their energy from being alone…. They need time alone to recharge their brains. Once recharged, they can go out in the world and connect beautifully with people.” I am that guy! Just about every morning after I get back from my morning run, I greet my family happily and enthusiastically. On non-running days, this is most certainly not the case. The energy I acquire from my morning outings typically lasts me most, if not all, of the day.

Second, running solo allows me to tap more directly into my senses. Certainly, this can happen with a group, as well, but in my experience I find it easier to be mindful of the sensory experience of running when I am by myself. In the spring, this is particularly true as I love the daily combination of hearing the chirping and singing of the birds, blending with the visual stimulation of the budding trees, and combined with the smell of thawing soil. There is a richness to the sensory experience I gain while running that, for whatever reason, is less obvious in other times in my life.

Finally, running alone gives me license to be self-absorbed. When I am running on my own I don’t need to expend energy worrying about anyone else nor do I need to concern myself with others’ problems. On a long, solo run, it’s just me and my hopes and dreams, triumphs and tragedies, and wants and desires. I am, in those moments of solitude, beholden to nobody but myself. While that may sound selfish to some, I believe that having that hour a day that is only mine allows me to share with others more successfully during the remaining 23.

I urge anyone who tends to eschew running alone to lean into solo running. While there will always be a time and place for the group run, going it alone can be profoundly enlightening, energizing, and illuminating. Done consistently, I believe this daily independent ritual will not only make us individually stronger, but can also provide the tools to make us a more closely bound community, as well.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing Company. Known for their iconic Finest Kind IPA, Smuttynose has just started producing and canning an outstanding American Pale Ale, New Hampshire Pale Ale. Weighing in at 5.3 ABV and 30 IBUs, this is a classic session beer. And yet its diverse hop combination and crispy finish make it quite a bit more complex than your run-of-the-mill APA. Well worth a trip to the brewery the next time you’re in New England!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What do you think about running solo?
  • How is running different when you are alone versus with someone else when running?

There are 22 comments

  1. Bas

    I wholeheartedly agree. Running time is me time. With a busy job and a family with two young boys, I crave and need those moments of solitude on the road.

    This probably has a lot to do with my introversion as well, as you said.

  2. Steve Pero

    When running (training) in a group, everyone in that group is running one of the group’s correct pace for that day. When running solo, you will always be running that right pace.
    Writing from NH, I like your choice of beer!

  3. Del Dunworth

    Couldn’t agree more with the above. For all of the same reasons!

    Have ran/trained with others for endurance events and had a bad experience as their problems then become your problems!

    Nice piece AJW.

  4. AT

    Thought about all this on my run this AM, woke up a few ticks after 5, and got 1 hour in on the dot. The past few weeks have been a bit surreal in many ways, and as you cited, the chirping of the birds, and the sky slowly illuminating all before the house wakes up is it’s own kind of special. The post run coffee and oatmeal seems to never fail.

  5. Andy M

    Although it’s very social in the community sense, trail and ultra running is inherently a solitary activity. I can schmooze up a social run with the best of ’em, but 99+ % of my thousands of runs over the decades have been solitary, which I really do prefer. Often with tunes, but not always.

    And if you’re training for a hundo, especially without a pacer, all those long, lonely training miles in the solo pleasure/pain cave sure pay dividends!

  6. Melissa

    I prefer getting my social connection *after* runs. I don’t fully know why, because I’m typically very extroverted (or at least I thought I was), but I absolutely don’t enjoy running with other people. I wish that people here in Marin would get the memo too, since there are still groups of people running (albeit a few feet apart, making it impossible for anyone to pass without getting close). Sigh.

  7. Pam Reed

    I totally agree. Running alone is so relaxing to me. I get stressed out when meeting people to be in time. When running alone there is none of that.
    Besides when you in an event I am usually alone. The funniest thing is I have done so many ultras and Marathons and I end up alone early in the race must be how I make it. All
    If these huge groups are together and there I am alone, at my slow steady pace.

  8. Natasha Sankovitch

    Thank you, AJ, for your well-articulated thoughts about why you like to run alone. I share your preference for solo running. The only time I like to run with others is in a race. Otherwise, when I run, no matter the distance, I am never bored, never lacking in things to occupy my mind and heart, whether those things come from inside or from outside my self. And my preference does not mean that I don’t really appreciate the community of ultra runners, because I do. Even as I run by myself, I feel very much supported by other ultra runners – those I know personally and those I only know through social media, including Irunfar. So I am grateful to all the runners out there and so grateful that I can run at all.

  9. Rob T

    Love this article; thanks! I have been running solo for nearly 99% of my runs over the past 42 years….I always come back more content and in a better place than when I started. And i second the recommendation of the book ‘Quiet’; it’s spot on for us introverts!

    1. andy mc breen

      Agree Andy, I just ran My own solo 50k today on the Black Canyon Trail in Arizona. It gave Me an opportunity to process and thank God for all the blessings He has given My Wife and I during this challenging time that all of Us are presently experiencing.

    1. AT

      It’s been awesome seeing all the responses. Had me thinking, in all my years running, I can count on both hands the amount of times I’ve met groups out for runs. If I do meet anybody for a run, it’s usually 1-2 other people max. I love the freedom in picking my route, intensity and how long I can get out there.

  10. Evan Kimber

    Great piece AJW! As a classic introvert myself, I need alone time to quiet my brain from external demands and stimulate my imagination. When I was a kid I would retreat for this exact reason, and return feeling more fresh and ready to take on daily challenges. Running as an adult serves the same exact retreat I needed as a kid, for the same benefit and outcome.

    I also don’t feel it’s truly possible to fully take in the splendor of the environment when you’re in a group. To me, the primary attention has to be devoted to the group, whereas solo the primary attention is you and your surroundings.

  11. Janet Hausken

    I also enjoy running solo. I am extremely introverted, and I don’t like the pressure that I feel to match pace with a group. Oddly, even when racing, I like to be alone. Recently, with so many out on the trails and streets, I have a difficult time finding the enjoyment and energy that I usually experience running in solitude.

  12. Andrew Brodsky

    This is a pretty apropos time for this post — we all have to run solo now whether we like to or not!

    I suppose it’s leftover baggage from being an introverted nerd in high school, but I still sometimes feel insecure if I can’t find someone to do a long run with. Then I have to remember that lining up running partners, especially for long runs, is tricky and requires overlapping availability and training routines.

    But more importantly, I have to remember that I often actually prefer to run alone. Oddly, I never feel lonely when I’m alone outside.

  13. Richard Senelly

    Nice! Like many others, I arrived here alone (my separate placented twin brother was born 15 minutes later) and I will likely leave alone. As for running, I started by taking predawn walks along San Francisco’s 2-mile long Sunset Parkway. No one joined me. I found that in order to get to Golden Gate Park and back before I had to head to work, I needed to walk fast… even jog. Fast forward a few years to a new home in Honolulu where I “ran” into a guy who stopped me during one of my 3-times-a-week predawn jogs around Diamond Head. He invited me to run with him and his Mid-Pacific Roadrunners buddies once a week, which I did, though at my pace left me pretty much alone. As I ran along, I gazed up at my Koolau mountain backdrop and I decided to hike up, which I did, and found the trails slower (and way more challenging) than I expected… requiring me to jog back from the summit so I’d get home before dark. Thus, unbeknownst to me, I entered the seductive realm of solitary trail running. The sirens of running have been my companions ever since, with forays into group runs to participate in a bunch of organized “events”, help start the HURT organization, etc. Running alone is my meditative balm, a key part of my health trajectory, a necessary element of my parenting journey (including coaching a legendary High school XC / T&F team with my son as a star athlete), etc. Alone has been good!

  14. MQ

    Spot on. Running solo has always been my go to way of getting out there on the trails, giving me time to recharge my brain and batteries, process the day/week, and soaking up the beautiful nature we run through. And all that whilst setting my own pace and intensity.

  15. Nick

    I feel the same way. It’s amazing how much of a positive influence it has. Like you after a couple of hours of running alone I feel so much more productive and have more patience the rest of the day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  16. Rok Bratina

    I totally agree with what I read. Running solo in the early morning when everyone is still sleeping and you are in the mountains alone, that’s the most beautiful moment of the day. It give me so much energy and positiveness. However, I personally think that running solo afternoon,is not the same at all!

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