Hi pot, I’m kettle.
I know, I know. Finding a local running group was something that took me over a year to do after moving out of the city (in my defense, I do still have two great running groups that I belong to but the distance has made it really difficult to really be involved with anything). It was something that I talked about doing for a long time – but when Saturday mornings rolled around each week I found any number of excuses to postpone my involvement (confession: I get really intimidated in groups of new people, especially in situations where I don’t know anybody).
Finally, I made the decision that I just needed to take the plunge. I reminded myself of all of the other things I have been intimidated by that I have been really happy I ended up doing (knowing full well that the “first day,” so to speak, is always the hardest). I don’t mind running alone (and in many cases I really enjoy it). However, there is something to be said about belonging to a group that completely changes the dynamics of the sport.
These are the top five reasons I believe runners should join running clubs:
- Running Buddies. This one is self evident but it’s worth stating anyways. Joining a running club provides a built in network of local runners to train with. While running alone has its merits, running with others helps to break up the monotony and keeps burn out at bay. Because most running clubs have runners with a wide range of paces it is almost guaranteed that there will be somebody there with a similar background. I have also found that many of the people that I have met through running (who I probably never would have encountered in my day-to-day life otherwise) have also become really close friends off the trail.
- Diverse Resources. Running groups are often comprised of people of all ages and experience levels. You can read all of the training manuals in the world – but sometimes nothing can beat antidotes and real life experience. Olympic-qualifiers, Boston qualifiers, ultra runners, 50-staters, Ironman finishers, recreational runners and weekend warriors all join forces for group runs.
- Accountability. I don’t know about you, but I am far more likely to stick to my training plan if I know that someone else is counting on me. It’s really easy to hit the snooze button when it’s just you – it’s a whole different story having to explain to someone else why you weren’t able to get your butt in gear and out of bed.
- Water. Staying hydrated during the run is incredibly important. Unless you are committed to carrying a water bottle or hydration pack with you, you will have to be strategic about how to ensure that you are getting enough fluids. Many running groups will put water (and/or Gatorade) coolers out along the path that its runners are running on. This is a huge bonus on longer runs where even those who carry their own water may require a refill.
- Camaraderie and Teamwork. Are you lacking motivation? If so, a running club may offer the perfect solution. Many clubs operate using a “team” mentality. Some offer team singlets and have a racing circuit. Others will plan group outings to races (with both pre- and post- race festivities). Even if you are not racing at a team event, club members will often become your biggest fans (asking how your training is going and providing ongoing encouragement throughout training and on race day).
So how to find a running club? Road Runners Club of America is a great place to start and provides a comprehensive list of all RRCA sanctioned clubs in all 50 states. Your local running store may also host group runs (and if it doesn’t it will have great recommendations for groups in the area). Other social media sites such as Facebook or Meetup may also publicize group runs. As with anything, be sure to take proper precautions to research the group before meeting up with anyone that you have never met before and exercise due caution when attending runs.
Do you belong to a running club? If so, what do you think are the greatest benefits? What other suggestions do you have?