Running alone is the toughest. You get to the point where you have to keep pushing yourself.”

Walter Payton

Studies have found that competition allows you to go faster and that we intuitively understand that the presence of competitors and crowds allows us to push harder.
Finding the motivation to run alone is challenging because there is no one by your side in the hurt box with you. 

You’re standing somewhere in a crowd of about 600 participants, there’s a consistent buzzing sound of excitement, everyone’s keeping warm by jumping up and down and stretching on the spot. The crowds are cheering, the nerves have kicked in, your heart is already racing. Sensory overload. You feel ready, and finally, you’re off…with the other 600 competitors.


You’ve arranged to meet with 6 mates from your local running club this afternoon to smash a 15km (as you’ve all entered the same half marathon in 2 weeks’ time) and then grab some dinner after at the local favorite spot. 

Now, compare that to…

You’ve just gotten home from work or it’s a Saturday morning and you’re heading out for 15km, you’ve put your running shoes on, locked the house, closed the garage, waved goodbye to the dog’s and you’re off…alone.

Some people like to run alone and leave everyone behind and just be in their own thoughts… but a lot of people would agree that the running alone scenario sounds like the absolute worst compared to the first two. 

But what does that mean?

Why Is Running Alone So Hard?

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, affective feelings and how they may alter performance in either a solo time trial effort or an effort run with others is looked at.

Conducted by researchers in São Paolo, 14 runners completed a pair of 10km efforts, one alone on a track, and the other (a week later) competing against the other participants of the study. 

Group results: 39:32 group effort vs 40:28 solo effort.

From the results, we can surmise that running alone is hard for some runners because they don’t feel as motivated as they might feel if they were running in a group or even with just one other person. Some people are internally motivated (internal drive) and some are externally motivated (other people, competition, races, etc).

Why We Love Running With People:

  • Running with other people makes you feel accountable, so you are less likely to skip out on training sessions.  
  • Running with a group is a great way to learn tips on technique or pacing which helps you become a better runner.
  • Running groups usually have a great social side which is very important during training. You will make friends with people who have a lot in common with you. 
  • Running in a group provides peace of mind when it comes to safety and injuries. 

Some runners thrive on the sense of freedom of running alone, but many struggle to maintain motivation. So that begs the question…

How To Stay Motivated While Running On Your Own

Solo runs can seem monotonous. 

It’s important to remember that a run is only as boring or as fun as you make it. It’s up to you whether you want to mentally zone out or to take it all in.

Solo runs often make us think… Why are we even doing this? 

The fact that you’re out running means that you are improving your mood. That’s already something to motivate you… So enjoy the scenery, and list the reasons why you began running in the first place… the physical health benefits, the mental health benefits, and just the fact that no matter how hard the run was that day, you always feel good, and have a smile on your face. 

Just because you’re running alone doesn’t mean you need to stop following goals. 

Set some personal goals: running a certain amount of hours each week, or training on certain routes each day.  Having a short terms goals are what will keep you motivated for longer periods of time.

For a lot of people, their favorite part of running is the social aspect…

Just because you’re running alone doesn’t mean the social side of running has to go away, there are loads of apps out there that allow you to share your progress, connect with other runners and enter virtual challenges. 

The Coach Parry community is an incredible example of how people all around the world can communicate, help and learn from each other by sharing their success stories and progress via messages and images.  It’s like a virtual ‘locker room’.

10 Tips to Enjoy Solo Running

  1. Positive Self-Talk
  2. Focus On Pace & Effort
  3. Set Small Goals
  4. Tell Someone Where & When You’re Going
  5. Listen To Something Uplifting or Unplug
  6. Follow a Training Program
  7. Share Your Progress Online
  8. Get Competitive
  9. Endorphin Energy
  10. Feel The Sunshine On Your Face

Positive Self-Talk

You may find that you benefit hugely from encouraging conversations when running with friends… Well, why not try encouraging and uplifting yourself?

Setting a mantra or telling yourself how strong you are for example, is only going to make you feel positive about what you are doing and about your efforts.

Some athletes even write a word or their mantra on their arm so when they look down they are reminded of it.

Focus On Pace & Effort

By running alone you provide yourself with the opportunity to really focus on your pace and effort, try tuning in with your body and listen to how it is feeling when you adjust your runs in certain ways. 

Set Small Goals

If you set short-term goals that are regularly attainable, you’ll be far more likely to stay motivated over time. 

Short-term goals minimize procrastination, allowing you to focus on one thing at a time.

Tell Someone Where & When You’re Going

A lot of solo runners worry about running safety. When you run in a group you automatically feel safer. You know that if you fall and injure yourself, someone will help you, if you feel uncomfortable running past a certain area or if you just feel unsafe… It’s always comforting knowing there is more than one of you. 

You can feel a very similar level of comfort running alone too. Before you head out for a run tell a friend or family member where you are going to run and how far you plan to run. That way they can check in with you and you can let them know when you have returned safely. 

A good idea is to also use things like the Apple ‘find my phone feature’. You could do this with your group of friends to check on each other.

Listen To Something Uplifting or Unplug

If your days are filled with work, kids, chores, or absolutely anything that makes you want to escape for a short while… Then now is the perfect moment. 

This is your moment of solitude, listen to whatever you want in your headphones, whether it be a podcast or your favorite playlist. Or simply spend this time unplugged and organizing those chaotic files in your mind. 

Follow a Training Program

By following a training program you are able to challenge your body consistently in the correct ways to meet your goals.  By sticking to the program you will witness your body adapting & changing to improve your fitness. 

Coach Parry offers a variety of custom training programs for experienced to novice runners as well as one-on-one coach calls and feedback to help you achieve your running goals. Check it out.

Share Your Progress Online

Just because you can’t actually get together with your friends for whatever reason, whether it be distance or unavailability. It doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate your accomplishments or question your struggles with them.

Share it all online via social media and community forums, that way you’ll feel motivated, you may make new friends and you may receive helpful advice and praise for your accomplishments. – Which is never a bad thing. 

Just don’t let the pressure from Social Media force you to do more when you should be listening to your body and recovering!

Get Competitive

People who compete against themselves are more successful than those who compete against others because they understand that winning is more than just a competition.

Beat yourself, whether it’s day to day or week to week. There is no better satisfaction than looking back and seeing your own improvement. 

Endorphin Energy

One way to ensure that you continue to feel motivated to run solo is to really embrace that “runners high” feeling at the end of each run. You deserve to enjoy that feeling of pure positivity and euphoria. 

Feel The Sunshine On Your Face

Last but not least… and yes, I know this sounds like some sort of Alanis Morrisette song,  but running is actually an amazing way to get the sunlight needed to boost serotonin levels. 

This helps to put you in a good mood while reducing depression and anxiety.

This may sound weird… but there have been studies that show if you smile while running, your perceived effort is less… So it may look crazy to other people but smiling while running on your own may help :).

This brings us to our next point…

The Benefits Of Running Alone

  • Develops your mental strength.
  • Provides alone time.
  • Helps develop internal pacing.
  • Boosts your confidence.
  • It will prepare you for racing alone.
  • You’re less likely to push yourself through an injury.
  • You’ll become more disciplined.

Running alone is hard for a lot of people – there’s no sugar-coating it.

Have a look at this video where Lindsey Parry shares some great advice on how to stay motivated to train when you have no one to run with.


Shona is the former Head of Sport Science at the High-Performance Centre, University of Pretoria. She returned from Madrid, Spain, in 2013 where she completed her MBA in Sport Management with Universidad Europea de Madrid (Real Madrid FC). Shona’s current work and interest lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) conditioning and sport science working with elite ultra-endurance athletes such as Caroline Wostmann (2015 Comrades & 2Oceans winner). Aside from football strength & conditioning, Shona’s other passion and expertise lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) as well as Women in Sport. She has competed in 4 Half IronMan distance events and three 2Oceans Ultramarathons herself. She has also worked with other elite female athletes such as London 2012 bronze medallist in canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley.

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