I don’t mind running on my own on most days. I enjoy company if it works, but it’s usually easiest for me to address my own schedule and get out when I can for as long as I need to. But one thing I need people around me for is for hard workout days. Once a week I run intervals, and I am so grateful for my group who show up with me and run just as hard back and forth along our marked route. Many of us have different paces, but knowing we’re all there, doing our best and cheering each other on is enough to keep me motivated and pushing my hardest.
We have a range of paces within our group because we’re all coming from varying backgrounds, ages and running experience, and we’re often training for different races – from 5K’s to marathons. I love it when I see people of the same pace range who find each other and are able to work together on these interval days. Although having people running hard all around you is helpful, having one or two people running your exact pace is even better (at least personally). You can take turns sharing the lead and mental focus in different parts of the workout, and you’re more likely to get that little bit more out of yourself if you’re right with someone else doing the same. So I always find it an added bonus when I have someone to do workouts with who is running my pace. I use them shamelessly in order to get the most out of myself.
The thing I’ve started to notice however, is that people can become fit enough to reach my level of pacing, but they only stay there a short while before they sail right on by. As a woman in my 40’s who has been training fairly consistently for many years, I’m not expecting to make any huge gains or leaps in my times. I’m now training hard to continue to run as fast as I ever have. I will inevitably be soon starting the gradual slowing down of my times. There have been some men training with me who have started a bit behind me in fitness and ability, and gradually caught up as they became consistent with their training – I’ve enjoyed working well with them for a period of time. But then, they start to inch ahead. It starts almost imperceptibly at first. Maybe they’re just feeling strong one day, and I’m having a tough one. But that pattern becomes a little more consistent workout to workout. This morning, my training buddy was 3-4 seconds ahead of me in each of our 800m repeats (we did 8 of them with 60 seconds rest) until I couldn’t match his recovery times and we weren’t running together at all. I had a good workout though – I ran about as solidly as I could expect myself to. He is just stronger now. It makes sense – a man working at his top level should be faster than a woman doing the same. Younger women in my group will pass me soon too. I am totally fine with this – in fact I’m really excited for them and want them to achieve their best. I also like having people to look ahead to in workouts. It’s just funny watching and experiencing the conveyor belt of runners as they catch up to and then pass me.
I will always enjoy training with people, whether they’re faster or slower than me. When we’re all out there together we bring out the best in each other. And I won’t stop encouraging people to try to get fast enough to run with me – even if it is only for a short period of time before I’m seeing nothing but their tail ends.