Group Running and training
Who doesn’t like a good group social run? That’s right. No-one. Group runs are a fantastic way to turn your weekend run into something a bit more pleasurable, especially if the runs are longer and you need to get some miles in. The runs are typically slower than normal runs of the same distance as you stop more frequently, make loop backs and generally regroup for chit-chat and banter. In some cases, like this weekend, you schedule bacon sarnie pit-stops along the way to add another dimension to the experience. You can also be more creative, planning different routes that others may appreciate, that ordinarily you wouldn’t bring yourself to do. The flip-side also works when joining a group run organized by someone else in that you could end up following a route you don’t know, or visiting places that you don’t really know. Because the average social run tends to be slower, you can also factor in a few extra miles which is good if you are wanting to extend your long run, and the extra time all counts as time on your feet.
So all in all there’s not much to dislike about group social runs. They can help you get through long winter marathon training miles and you get to meet some great people.
But is there possibly a catch? Is it really all good news? Well consider that most training plans don’t normally contain a section called “social run” and there’s a good reason. Because the runs tend to have a slower overall moving pace and combine that with the regular banter breaks and the overall training benefit is reduced, even if you enjoy it.
So the thing to bear in mind with social runs is that on one hand they can help extend your long runs and add time on your feet, they don’t really do much more than this for race preparation. This is all academic of course if you are not training for a race, but what is a great way to plan for your races is to schedule in to your plan some strategically placed group runs at key points in the training plan. For example at the end of some hard training weeks, rather than trying to run long miles at your normal pace, a social run can be a great way to ensure that you keep the pace down whilst still getting in the miles. This will take some stress off your body and help with overall conditioning. In general there are guidelines for extending weekly mileage, extending the length of the long run and doing intensive workouts during the same week – in other words – don’t do it. However the group run adds another lower-risk way of still hitting the miles and taking a bit of pressure off.
A training plan that comprises of nothing but social runs will ultimately not help you achieve your goals. Some of the long runs need to be at a certain pace and you need the conditioning from the tempo runs and finally also you will ultimately need to get used to the breathing and overcome the discomfort associated with your race-pace, else on the day you will not be prepared.
Group runs are great, but if you are serious about training for a race, you should perhaps consider using them sparingly, at strategic points in your training plan and get maximum enjoyment from them as a key part of your plan. That said, what a great way to spend a weekend morning or evening! So why not plan one yourself or join one of the many LFR group runs that take place throughout the year. You wont be disappointed.