Much of my training in the past has been in solitude (if you exclude Justin Bieber who kept me 'company' on my 23 milers). Don't get me wrong, I relish time alone and its important to learn how to push yourself. Marathon runners seem to get the reputation of being introverted lunatics who insist to train alone. This isn't entirely accurate, but marathoners do seem to do a lot of their training on their own.
Are they missing out?
There's countless amounts of evidence of the benefits of training groups and partnerships. The Brownlee Brothers, the Melbourne Track Club, the Nike Oregon Project are just a few examples of very successful training collaborations.
When it comes down to business, is it worth jumping on the pain train and dragging each other round track reps? or will this create rivalries making every training session feel like a race?
So what makes a great training group?
- The Coach- behind a great training group is a dedicated coach who carefully guides his or her athletes to success. It's often this figure head who inspires belief in their athletes and gives equal attention to all in the group to help them achieve their goals.
- Camaraderie - We've all had that pre session dread. When you know you're going to be suffering in company, it's somehow more bearable through the means of a few words of encouragement or high fives at the end of the session.
- Championing success- Success is contagious and it can inspire a pandemic of great performances. Seeing your team mates do well is one of the best motivators to make you want to run faster.
- Sharing the workload - Running ultimately is an individual sport, but actually an element of teamwork can be utilised in both training and racing. Like in cycling, drafting can be a useful energy conservation tool. Sitting in a group and taking it in turns to lead each lap can be a solid pacing strategy, but ensuring that everyone does their share of the work.
- Competitive*- running alongside someone else makes you to push yourself and each other harder. However, training partnerships can become rivalries which can underpin group dynamics and ruin the training session. It's important to save the racing for race day. After all, no one remembers who won the last rep on the track.
* with caution
- Having fun - training in a group with a bit of banter is a hell of a lot more fun that bashing out 5 x 2k on your bill.
I'm fortunate enough to have joined the mighty Rob Squad coached by Rob Mckim at Reading AC. Rob is a great coach and his group of athletes vary from some of the best in Europe, the country and the county. The Rob Squad incorporates all of the above creating a environment where everyone believes in you and inspires each other to succeed. I'll be going into my marathon build up in the best shape I have ever been in with one of the best training groups in the country.
I can't wait for the miles, the long runs, the tempos and of course of the banter.
They push each other daily, but not in an unsafe way that will destroy either of their chances for success. The key to a good training partner, Jonny says, is one thing: trust.