Running in Groups


The Sept. 16 New York Times Personal Best column discusses the benefits of group running.  Several top runners and coaches are quoted as saying performance improves among athletes who train in groups.  Advocates of group training say that athletes train harder with a group compared to training alone.  Tim Nokes explains in Nokes’ Lore of Running that group training is a key component Kenyan runners—the best distance runners in the world.  Kevin Hanson, coach of the Hanson-Brooks Distance Project notes that runners in dominant distance running nations train in groups.

There’s actually scant scientific evidence that group training provides any benefit over training alone. (There are simply too many variables for which to account to do a valid scientific study.)  The experience of athletes and coaches however, and the results at the finish line gives strong suggestion that group training pays off.

Be careful though.  Group training tends to be more intense.  Too much intensity may lead to injuries such as shin splints, knee pain, or Achilles tendon irritation.  Intense training must be balanced with appropriate rest and recovery.

The article has some interesting information but I’m also a little confused about certain parts.  Both Dathan Ritzenhein and Kara Goucher referred to injuries they had sustained prior to running with a group.  The article seems to imply that they resolved their injuries simply by training in a group.  How did that happen?  The article also mentions the need for recovery and the possibility of training too hard due to the competitive dynamics of group training.  So what’s at work here?  Group training can help.  It might also hinder, but the issue of the runners’ injuries is never explained.  I’d like to see exactly how Ritzenhein and Goucher overcame their injuries.  Did running in a group have anything to do with the process?

Anyhow, here’s a list of Denver area running groups: