What is it about running with the pack that makes your runs faster?

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A new running season is upon us, and for those of us in central Oklahoma that means getting ready for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, half-marathon, or in my case 5K.

I’ve run three half-marathons, but I’ve decided to focus on 5Ks in 2023 so that my body could handle running more often. One of the side effects I noticed last year training for a half was that I was wearing my body out with 6-, 7-, and 8-mile training runs leading up to the event. In the end, I only ran the Redbud Classic 10K, and while I was pleased with my time and effort, I was exhausted for a month.

One thing I should note is that I’m 52, 5’9″, and about 230. It’s not ideal, but I love running that much.

What’s so great about running?

I can’t speak for anybody but myself. However, what I love most about running is that whether it’s a new fastest speed you’re trying to achieve or a longer run than your last long run, you’re only competing against yourself. What you do with the sport is fully under your control save for injuries.

Also, I love the outdoors, the scenery, hearing outdoor sounds, and traffic, or maybe my favorite running playlist.

And I love the solitude.

However, I discovered a couple of weekends ago how powerful the pack can be when it comes to your 5K time. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Elite runners have been pack running for ages. There could be many reasons why pack running is helpful:

  • Encouragement from others in the pack
  • Drafting (yes, like in NASCAR)
  • Body mimicking

It was the latter of those three that benefitted me on Jan. 7 for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon training run. Pics below:

How did pack running benefit me?

In my case, “pack running” was more like me latching on to two or three runners moving at a pace I could handle. My focus would be on them, their gait, their rhythm, etc. Sometimes I’d pass them so that I could find somebody else to “mimic.”

More often than not, they passed me.

In the end, my 5K time was a season-best 41:02, easily 4-5:00 better than my solo 5K runs.

My goal in 2023 is to focus on 5Ks so that I can run more events, and I plan to test my theory.

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