There is not an all-purpose running plan out there as everyone has individual preferences.

Some like to run in the morning; others enjoy the evening. Some prefer the trails while others stick to the roads. But when it comes to running alone or in a group, there are distinct advantages to each.

The major advantage to running alone is the freedom to train at any time - before work, after work or during a lunch break. This is ideal for those with irregular schedule.

Other benefits include:

- Flexibility. Not having to meet at a specific location means runners can go wherever they prefer.

- Customized pace. Runners must listen to their bodies. Sometimes a person feels great and wants to go faster. Other times, a runner's body requires a break and needs to slow down. Group running does not allow for this individual pace change without affecting others.

- Peace and quiet. This is a big reason some prefer running by themselves. I am one who truly enjoys being alone in the woods with only my thoughts. It's an opportunity to clear the mind and have some time for self-reflection. I like getting away from work and technology, and becoming one with nature.

The major advantage of the group run is camaraderie - talking with friends about nothing in particular or delving into deep conversations while jogging. This is ideal for those who become bored easily.

Other benefits include:

- Peer pressure. If a person doesn't feel like running on a particular day, a partner on the trail might provide a little extra incentive.

- Motivation. During hard workouts or long runs, a partner can provide quite a push. Running intervals or tempo runs with someone typically results in running harder and faster than when running alone.

- Time flies. Maybe the biggest advantage of group running is how quickly the run seems to go.

There are a few disadvantages to running with others. One is that additional time can be required to drive to and from the meeting spots. Another is that people often don't consider overtraining. If a runner consistently logs too many miles with the gang, then the effect can be cumulative fatigue or injuries. Both of these could lead to poor performance in races.


Manning is a former member of the U.S. Mountain Running Team and a math teacher at Fountain Valley School. Read his columns on the first Thursday of each month in Out There.