Throughout the book, the author repeatedly focuses on the fact that the Tarahumara wear nothing but sandals, and that they still win races without modern running shoe technology. What he fails to highlight is the cohesive structure of the Tarahumara running packs when they race and train. In every race they run, they run together as long as possible. So, they are effectively being each other's pacer for nearly the entire race. They also push one another to go faster, and pull the more sluggish ones along.
I can't even begin to describe how much group running has effected my training this year except to say that I am already close to being in better shape than I was before Leadville last year. Most of this is due to having a training partner and motivator for a roommate, and a plethora of runner's who match or exceed my fitness to run with.
If you are skeptical about the benefits of having a training partner, simply look at all of the great athletes in the world. Nearly all of them live and train with a running community. In a group you are able to strengthen your weakest elements while strengthening someone else at the same time. As my friend Dallas says, "Iron sharpens iron."
There is also a social side to running in groups that makes it easier to get out the door. It is so much less troublesome to go for that 20 mile run in the snow when you know someone will be there to join in the misery. For example, last Saturday I was on my usual long run with team CRUD. I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep and was still recovering from a 50k the week before, and some kind of food poisoning that left me couch-ridden for 2 days. Needless to say, I was not in a great state of fitness. After a 7 mile climb to the Palmer trialhead, I was gassed and ready to quit. Just then, a pack of CRUDders passed me. After seeing what condition I was in, two of them grabbed my water bottles and carried them, and one simply talked me out of my bad mood for the remaining ten miles. By the end of the run I felt great.
I would suggest that anyone who is training for a race in the near future find a training buddy. It really helps!
By the way, if anyone would like to check out the interview I did for Endurance Planet, just go to the website below. Endurance Planet is a website dedicated to covering sports such as ultra-marathoning, ironman triathlons, and various other races that fall inside the endurance sport demographic.