Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | May 11, 2011

In Which the Lone Wolf Decides a Pack Might Be a Good Idea

I like to think of myself as a Lone Wolf when it comes to running or riding. Of course, that’s not because I’m aloof or a rebel, but mostly because I’m too disorganized and lazy to train with anyone else. I’m starting to wonder, however, if I should change my ways.

The problem is, I don’t like other people. I don’t mind the people themselves (usually), but I struggle against the constraints that come with them. Constraints like having to meet at a certain time, go a certain distance, at a certain pace. I like to indulge my inner free spirit and run (or bike) wild. Actually, that sounds much more exotic than the truth, which is that I don’t like having to stick to a schedule.

The biggest obstacle to running or riding with a group is that other people usually want to go early in the morning, before the drumbeat of daily activities starts sounding. And I do not, under any circumstances, like getting up early. Most groups like to go at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning. Usually the crack of dawn on Saturday finds me in bed, tangled in a morass of covers with a pillow over my head. And when I’ve attempted to ride with friends later in the day, competing activities always seem to push our plans later and later until they are abandoned altogether. Running or riding with other people is, quite simply, too complicated for me. I have one friend with whom I sometimes do last-minute runs (as in, I text her as I go by her house to see if she wants to go), but anything more formal than that is beyond what I can handle.

However, I’m starting to realize that this group thing has its appeal. At bike camp, I discovered I like riding with a group more than I thought. Once we settled in and I felt comfortable with the people around me, I realized I was sustaining a much better pace than I would on my own, and not just because of the benefits of drafting. Having other riders around kept me more focused. Usually I start to zone out a little, slack off on my pace, and spend more time checking out the scenery than working on my cadence. Riding with the group, I discovered, is more like a workout and less like a sightseeing tour. Maybe it’s worth putting up with some schedule constraints in order to become a better, faster, more focused rider.

Recently, I had an experience that suggests running with a group might offer the similar benefits. Last weekend I had a mini family reunion of sorts and I was able to run with my brother and my niece, who recently did her first marathon. I hadn’t seen either of them in who-knows-how-long, so I thought it would be a nice way to catch up with them and get a little exercise at the same time. Just a little fun run. Or so I thought.

We met up for our run and first of all, I was surprised that we started running right away. No warm up. No chatting. We just hit our strides. And then, whoa! Those strides were fast. “Good lord, they’re a bunch of jackrabbits,” I thought. “I can’t possibly keep this up! This is ridiculous. This is insane. This is impossible. I have to tell them to slow down. Well, huh, I seem to be hanging on ok, even though it’s a full minute-per-mile faster than I’m used to. I’ll just hang on as long as I can.” So along we went. And guess what? I was still able to participate in the conversation, and not just with breathless grunts. Yes, I was going faster than my feet normally plod, but I realized I was actually running, not just jogging. Hmm, maybe this was a good thing.

Would I have kept the pace up on my own? Not in a million years. I’d go right back to checking out the real estate, looking at flowers, and being distracted by animals (squirrel!). But running faster was a good thing. A thing I should continue doing. And so I’ve realized that I need to join a running group. Now I just need to find one that doesn’t meet so darn early on Saturday mornings, because although the pack has it’s appeal, the Lone Wolf still likes to sleep late.

Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev /


  1. Love it! That’s me re: running and riding. Used to bike with a group but now I’ve gotten way too lazy to get out of bed that early. Perhaps I should start again. See how inspiring you are!

    • I wish we lived closer to each other so we could go together!

  2. OH NO!!!!! You can’t join a group……..then you won’t do last minute runs with me….what if I promise to just start running and not chat and not make you stop before you’re ready? I’ll even do the dorky ham stretches that make people almost crash when they drive by…..I promise I’ll clean up my running act but don’t abandon me…. you can’t….

    • Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll always be a “text as I go by” kind of gal! No worries, Miss Maggie.

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