I Tried a Guided Run For the First Time, and I Never Want to Run Alone Again

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I won't even try to hide it: I was beyond skeptical when my friend told me I needed to try a guided run. The thought of having a little voice in my ear while I ran sounded distracting, unnecessary, and far too entry level for my advanced self. I didn't doubt the beginner benefits of having someone tell you what to do during a run. In fact, starting out, I religiously used a 5K app program that did just that. But I somehow convinced myself I was far too advanced for that. (I had run marathons, after all.) What's more, running is a solo sport. I didn't need anyone telling me what to do.

But after listening to my friend, who was relatively new to running, go on and on each and every time we spoke about how she was progressing with her guided running programs, I decided perhaps the concept wasn't so far-fetched. My friend was learning pace, how to breathe, and how to do tempo and interval runs — skills I took years to learn and frankly knew I still needed to perfect. So after a bit of a running drought when I was really in need of some motivation, I laced up my best running sneakers — the UA HOVR™ STRT Sportstyle Shoes ($100) — and selected the very first guided run in the running app we both use: a 20-minute slow run.

My run started out how it always begins, but within seconds, the coach's voice came over my headphones telling me chances are I was already running too fast. He went on to explain that many runners make the severe mistake of taking off too fast, pushing themselves too hard, and making runs hard when they should be fun. In fact, he reminded me that most runs should be fun — only a handful are meant to be "hard." And although I love running, I had never really experienced this. The sport had almost always been hard. Rarely did I give myself permission to just have fun.

As the coach's voice would pop in every few minutes over a rather pleasant morning mix (this is probably why Taylor Swift wrote Folklore, right?), I found the time flying by. I wasn't counting down the seconds or constantly checking my watch. And rather than figuring out what pace I was running at, I just ran so I was comfortable. Rather than having a specific route, I just ran to spots I wanted to see in the neighborhood. And when he posed the question, "Why are you running today?," I realized my answer was because I wanted to. Not my typical because I should or I had to.

At the end of the 20 minutes, I felt like I had just gone to therapy or walked away from an intense mindful meditation. I wasn't concerned in the slightest that I was a full minute slower than I normally would be. Instead, I finished the run perfectly content, at ease with the morning, and truly energized — not exhausted.

As I began my cooldown, the coach noted that with each run, we have the opportunity to share our love of running and inspire someone else to start their journey. He noted that where one run ends, another begins. And although to some that may sound cliche or too coach-y, to me, it came full circle. You see, my friend started running because she was inspired by my years of running. And I had just revived my love of running because I was inspired by her progress. At that moment, I looked down at my phone to see what tomorrow's guided run would be because I knew I wasn't about to run alone again.