The lone runners social experiment

So, I run alone. On my tod, singular, without others. It’s the way I do it. Many reasons. Confidence, embarrassment are two. But also time and being able to commit to particular times that work with others. Work and life and running are a finely balanced ensemble of things. Trying to coordinate this with other runners adds another layer of complexity I can’t work with currently.

But this isn’t a bad thing. I can focus on my targets, work without distraction, be alone with my thoughts. All those things are good reason to be on your own. I can put music or the radio on, I can run where I like and I can chose the pace and technique as I feel fit.

But many others prefer running in a group or with others. Many are social runners and that’s great too. Support in a group, conversation, friendship, strength in numbers and the ability to each be a coach and inspiration for each other. Equally this can be safer and give a sense of comfort. Especially in the winter months.

So, I took a recent opportunity to try a bit of an experiment. I teamed up with Runaway Adventures on a recent organised trail run near Goring-On-Thames.

Now, to be honest I’m not somebody that spends all their time on their own and with a family with 4 kids and working in a fast growing Biotechnology company I have to spend a lot of time with others. So the idea of spending time with others with a shared interest should be easy.

It wasn’t.

It’s a frustration that the simple idea was a worry, I nearly decided to cry off before the start and was worried it’ll be a painful experience where I have nothing in common, apart from running, with people. I also expected them to be all far better than me and put my efforts to shame.

In reality it simply wasn’t as bad as I expected and thought it might be. My worries didn’t disappear, but they were quickly overwhelmed by the realisation that other runners don’t bite and don’t have an overwhelming need to prove how much better they are than me. Don’t get me wrong there are some like that, and I’m sure they have their reasons, but it was a far more supportive and friendly environment than expected.

I don’t think it will change my routine running, and I’ll continue to be a lone figure around the houses and out on the trails. But, I have had my eyes opened more to the other side of running. The one that’s not just foot movement, fartlek, pace and distance. One that pairs the joy of running with the pleasure of other equally crazy people 😉.

I got more from the run than just some dirty shoes and a nice lunch. I got a realisation that there are more ways to enjoy the sport I’ve got to love over the past 14 months. That it can open doors into places and people that were beyond site before. It also gave me the opportunity to share with others and hopefully bring my own small slice of value to the event. Everyone on the run was a part of it. I don’t mean numerically, though of course that is true, I mean part of the experience. Everyone’s experience was enriched by the others around.

Overall the experience was fantastic and as a day out has opened my eyes. I’ll hopefully get to join Chris and the Runaway Adventures team again on other runs and I would strongly recommend you look them up if you like the idea of running some great trails within 1 hr of London with a great supportive team of fellow runners. You could do a lot worse with one of your Sundays!

My brief run review:

The organised run was around 18Km on a circular course starting and ending near Goring-On-Thames stations. A short stretch of road led us off onto the trails and we quickly found dirt tracks, footpaths and woodland. Admittedly finding some of the footpaths was tricky and there was a need for a bit of stick wielding at times.

The course was undulating (see elevation profile) and some of the hills pretty hard, though such fun challenging each other, and supporting the brave, to run them!

The pace was steady, much slower than I normally run, but that made the social component easy to take in. Lots of conversations and getting to know people was interspersed with some great scenery, and fields with the occasional threat of a pheasant attack!

The run was planned to end near a local pub where Chris had organised for us to have some food and a drink before turning back for home.

if you are interested the website for the Runaway Adventures team is

Some pictures from the day:

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