I love to run with other people. Particularly for long runs, or easy runs where you can just run along and chat. I even like it for faster runs. Sometimes I think I can't run a certain distance at a certain speed, but a quick running partner suddenly makes it possible. There are all kinds of benefits to running with others.
But sometimes, it's even more important that you run by yourself.
Saturday I had my first long run in what felt like a long time. Really, it was just a couple weeks, because I had been sick, but somehow, a week off of training makes me feel like it's been ages.
It was a hard run.
The weather was yucky, but the pathway conditions were perfectly fine, so nowhere near bad enough to do 2 hours, 15 minutes indoors. No ice. Almost no snow. And, it was cold, but not horribly so. There was an ice fog though, and as I ran, it felt like constant little prickles on my face. It also snowed and sleeted while I ran, plus there was a wind that made it feel much colder then the actual temperature.
The first hour or so wasn't too hard. I was running in an easy aerobic zone and it was nice to just run. It was also nice to discover I still had endurance, despite the recent plague. (Logically, I always know that I do, but for some reason, I always feel totally out of shape after any sickness.)
After that, it started to get challenging. I can't even say exactly what made it hard. Just a combination of everything: I was uncomfortable, it was cold, the ice fog was yucky, my legs were tired, etc.
I wanted to quit.
And this, is why it's important to run alone sometimes. Because sometimes, that's what a race feels like.
When I run with friends, I almost never want to quit. The rare times that I do, the thought it easily and quickly squashed.
Running alone though, that voice persists. Nobody will know if you cut your run short. Just a little bit. Just run for 2 hours, not 2:15... You're tired, your legs are tired. You're getting over being sick, after all, you still have the sniffles...
As I squashed one thought, another would quietly surface in my mind. Until I hit the 2 hour mark. Once I passed that point, it was like my mind gave up the fight. I was past the compromise point it had been fighting for, and I was still going.
There are reasons to shorten workouts. I've had to cut some short due to my kids. Concerning niggles or pain are quite legitimate reasons to cut things short, as it's more important to avoid injury then finish a workout. I didn't have any reasons on Saturday. I had excuses. So, I kept going.
Those last 15 minutes weren't all that important for me physically. Logically, cutting 15 minutes off of one run would have had minimal effect on my overall fitness. But, they mattered mentally. They mattered a lot. Because if I had stopped, I would have trained my mind to quit early. And, every time you let yourself quit, it feels a bit easier to do it again.
This is one of the reasons I will always do some of my runs alone. Because when race day comes, and I feel alone on a course full of people, I'll have experience in telling that little voice to shut up when the going gets tough.