Written by Barefoot Dawsy
Running can be a solitary pursuit, which is one of its great appeals, but at the same time it can be a suprisingly social sport. I’m a programmer and blogger, so it will probably come as no surprise that I tend to lean towards the solo running side of training, and for a long time resisted the idea of joining a running club.
There are actually a lot of benefits to joinging a club that will make you a better runner, help you connect with the running community, get the inside track on new gear and promotions, and even learn a few tricks along the way.
1. New Routes
It’s very easy to find yourself in a running rut, taking the same few routes day in and day out. You may end up sticing to one distance that you’re comfortable with and not varying too much from it. Most running groups have a set of stock routes that they use as well, but they tend to get swapped around, changed up, increased or decreased in length, sped up, and all manner of things to keep them interesting.
By keeping the routes fresh, it keeps your body guessing, which will make you a more robust runner and give you an opportunity to experiment with distances and speeds that you otherwise may never have considered.
Of course one of the main reason to join a running group is the social aspect. I personally felt a sense of relief, when I did my first group run, to find other people to talk to who were also interested in running. There are actually dozens of topics to chat about, from gear to races, to training tips, etc that converssation flows pretty easily if you make just a little effort.
You don’t have to go out there with the intention of forging life-long friendships, but you may be surprised at how nice it is to find a group of like-mided people to hang out with a couple times per week.
Competing against yourself and pushing your personal limits is great, and is one of the most exhilerating aspects of running, but in a lot of ways this is only half of the equation. Sometimes it’s nice to see how you fare against others.
Running in a group can give you a sense of where you sit within a sample of other runners. You may find that you’re a middle of the pack runner, but that with a little extra effort you can catch those front-runners. Likewise you may find that you’re faster than you thought, which is never a bad thing.
4. Enforced Schedule
We all go through periods of action and inaction. Sometimes things just fall into place and running 3, 4 or more times a week is a piece of cake. At other times in our lives, it can seem impossible to get out of bed for a run. Weeks go by with only a small amount, if any, training, and before you know it, you’re not running at all.
Having a weekly meet-up to attend can be the key to keeping on track and staying on top of your training. Even if you only go to the group runs, it’s a lot better than doing nothing and may tide you over until the next round of motivation kicks in.
One person can only track down so much information in a given time frame. By associating with a group of people you get to hear different opinions and vicariously try out alternative training methods. You may find that elusive form adjustment that you were missing, or that training technique to get you through your first half marathon.
A lot of running group runners are older and have been running for years. They have a wealth of knowledge gleaned from hundreds or thousands of miles covered, and more often than not, they’ll be happy to share what they know.
For a lot of people, the idea of running around in a group can seem like somehting that would never appeal to them. Sometimes though, it’s worth just trying something like this out and making a go of it. You may be surprised at how much you get out of it!