I run almost exclusively alone. Aside from training runs with my wife or my brother, I don't run with friends. It just never occurs to me, and not many of my friends share my love of suffering, so end up out there mostly by myself.
It's not that I run to get away from people per se, but as any good introvert will tell you, we get our energy from being alone. I think better alone. I reason through problems better alone. And while there is no substitute for a good training partner to push you, carry you and bring out more than you thought you had inside, for me there is no substitute for these therapeutic hours by myself.
This morning, I met two friends down in Woodside to join their weekly run. One is out there for 5-6 hours, the other acting as the "first shift" to join her for the first couple hours before she picks up the second shift. Non-runners may find it weird, but chatting on the trails is surprisingly easy. Labored breathing mid-story is totally accepted, and we patiently wait as a 5-minute story stretches into 10 during a climb. There's plenty of time.
These two have been running this 10-mile loop for more than a decade, every weekend. The consistency is remarkable, as is the depth of their friendship. Which now extends far beyond running.
And that ultimately is the beauty of this sport. Specifically, running for a very long time. It is both solitary and communal, intensely individual yet collective. Because two hours on the trail is about as good way to start as Sunday as there is, whether lost in your own mind or sharing the triumphs of your friends.