Reap the Rewards of Running Solo

April 18, 2020

The current, unprecedented situation with COVID-19 has severely impacted many aspects of our lives. Francesca Conte shares how to embrace solo running during difficult times.

Running is one of the few activities everyone is still allowed to do. I look at my friends and family in Italy, prohibited from exercising outside, and I don’t know how they do it. 

In the US, exercising safely is still considered essential. With gyms closed, many have taken to running as a new activity and new way to stay in shape. Even in my smaller town, I’ve noticed more people running outside. Normally alone, I’ve had to search for quieter spots. My regular routes are now overrun by joggers, often making it impossible to abide to social distancing and get in a run at the same time.

Although running is not a social outlet for me, it is for many, who rely on running groups for guidance and motivation. For these folks, the current conditions must be difficult. Here are a few ideas on where to go to be alone, and once you get there, how to be comfortable with nothing but your own thoughts.

Parks are often the first place many go to run, so avoid those. Look instead for gravel country roads which are safer than paved roads because there is less traffic. Anything 20-30 minutes outside of the urban center will be less crowded and certainly more scenic. Whenever possible, head to the trails or jeep roads. If this is all new to you, especially if you’re a woman, I suggest carrying pepper spray. You won’t be quite as familiar with the safer locations, and you need to take isolation into consideration when planning your run.

Forest roads or country lanes are perfect for escaping the crowds

Now that you’ve found your perfect, socially distant spot, how are you going to mentally deal with being alone with your thoughts for an hour or more?  I don’t recommend running in a new place alone blasting your favorite soundtrack in your headphones. You need to be aware of your surroundings, including traffic, animals and other people.

Your brain is the best entertainment of all. Once your master it, the meditative state is relaxing, refreshing and very educational. There is much inside of yourself waiting to be learned, if only you give it time and silence to be heard. 

Francesca looks forward to the day she can run in Italy again. Pictured in KÜHL tank

After you start your run, don’t think about the time; don’t think about anything, if you can. Focus on your surroundings, your breathing, and the rhythm of your legs. When you do this, thoughts will naturally and effortlessly surface. Once they do, they are better than a running partner, podcast or live class.

How many times, in your life, do you spend in silence, with nothing fighting for your attention?  People who love hiking know this already. There’s nothing but the sound of their boots and the wind in the trees. This might seem like the latest Scientology scam, or a ploy to buy the National Bestseller “How Silence Can Change Your Life” (if this is a real book, I apologize to the author).  However, we all know that creativity needs silence, or something, like classical music, capable of relaxing your brain into its meditative state. Painters, writers, musicians, athletes, can’t create while talking to someone, or while listening to the news, unless it’s white noise.

Consider running your canvas, and let your brain do the rest. You’ll remember events you had forgotten. Maybe you’ll generate the outline of that novel you have always wanted to write. Perhaps you’ll come to understand which worries are important and which ones are not. 

You’ll get to talk to the best running partner of all, yourself, while discovering places you’d never seen, keeping your lungs and heart as healthy as possible.

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