I never thought I’d say this, but I really miss group runs. I’ve always been a bit of a loner when it came to running, preferring to zone out to music rather than gab with friends (seriously, who can talk and run for that long?). But as running became more than just a weekend hobby, my feelings changed. While training for my last marathon, I joined my first organized run group: a speed work team that met at 6 a.m. every Wednesday for two months. Now, at the time, early mornings and group runs were two of my least favorite things. But every Tuesday night I’d set my alarm and every Wednesday morning I’d show up. It didn’t take long for me to begin to actually look forward to these sessions. The workouts, the coaches, the East River sunrises I’d catch on my walks home. Even after the race, I found myself searching for the 2020 openings, hoping to find a new group to join. I just couldn’t get enough.
Fast-forward three months and we’re all about one burnt babka away from losing our minds. When the CDC instituted social distancing as a way to stay healthy and slow the spread of the virus, races and group training were some of the first events to be suspended, postponed or outright canceled (for good reason). There’s no doubt that staying active has helped me get through these uncertain times, but even so, my solo runs have never felt lonelier. On top of missing my group, my usual route is quieter than ever. Yes, this is a good thing (and, yes, I still wear a mask) but the neighborly waves and smiling strangers I’m used to encountering were gone. It was just me...and this started to get old fast.
If I wanted to keep running, I knew I had to get creative. Enter the Nike+ Run Club (NRC) app and its Audio Guided Runs. The NRC is one of Nike’s free exercise apps that lets you track your runs, log your stats and even shop for new gear. I stumbled upon the Audio Guided Runs a few years ago when I was between races and needed a little motivational guidance (I’m lost without a training plan). I queued up the four-mile option, connected it to my Spotify account and was instantly hooked.
These programs are the ideal combination of podcasts and music, only better because it feels like someone is right there cheering you on: "Somebody pressed start. Somebody put their shoes on. Somebody cleared all the hurdles to make it to the starting line. Somebody has found the time to do something great. And that somebody is running right now." Throughout the run, an athlete or run coach will be with you from start to finish providing motivational tips, tricks and stories to help keep you moving forward. They’ll remind you to check in with your body, pay attention to form and be present (while conveniently distracting you from the many miles you have ahead).