‘If you want to run fast, go alone…
If you want to run far, go with others” African Proverb.
Join a running club to stay motivated and improve your fitness.
One of the many joys of getting involved in running is the chance to share your passion with other people. Running clubs are a popular destination for beginners and the more experienced runner alike, who want friendship, advice and company. So here’s a 5-point guide to why you might like to seek out a local running club and how it might help you.
The loneliness of the long distance runner
Different things inspire different people to begin their love affair with running. But what most would agree on, is how hard it can be at the start. Long, lonely runs in parks, forests, cities, or by the ocean, can be tough for the mind and soul if you’re doing it by yourself. It’s hard to stay motivated and it’s also difficult to improve your distances and times on your own. Reading a mountain of information about running is easy, but there’s nothing like being told by someone who knows, to make you sit up and take notice. Even better if they’re telling you how to do something when they’re running right next to you!
Talking to someone who has run 10 marathons is better than the forensic study of 100 training plans. It’s only when you hear the reality, the painful lessons learnt, the highs and lows, that you come to understand what you need to do. Running clubs are full of people just like you, or people that you want to be in 3 years’ time. While a lot of non-runners glaze over at the very mention of mile/kilometre splits and orthotics, fellow running club members won’t. They will love to share tips, advice, horror stories, PBs, race day experiences and injury advice. So make the most of the camaraderie and friendship of like-minded folk and learn from it.
There is no better teacher than experience and having a target to aim for. Sometimes that target can be a person we admire and against whom we can regularly compete. Running clubs provide that environment. It’s also good to gauge your progress in a group, to see where you sit in the pecking order. Not only does it give you a target to aim for, but sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised to find out how quick you actually are, because you’re the person at the front of the group.
The knowledge that a group of fellow runners is meeting at the same place every week and waiting for you, can be a mighty powerful motivation. Let’s face it, when the weather is brutal, the snow is falling or it’s howling a gale, not everyone wants to hit the road. But if you’re motivated by a feeling of obligation and feel like you don’t want to keep anyone waiting, then a club can work for you. At the same time it is still possible to function as an individual! You aren’t compelled to go every week and if you feel under the weather or just don’t feel like it, that’s okay too.
We are all familiar with the phrase safety in numbers, but it was never truer than in the context of a group of runners hitting a mountain trail at night. If you want to go running in the Australian Outback, or Yosemite National Park, then friends from a running club who know what they’re doing and can show you the ropes, can be invaluable. Night running is safer and more fun with two or more people and you will find that the world will become your sporting oyster if you join a club and find people at the same running level as you.
Just because you’re joining a running club, it doesn’t mean you’re planning an assault on the next Olympics. Clubs cater for all levels, so you needn’t worry about winning or even coming second. You will be able to find people of varying abilities in your local club who will encourage you to try different events and different things. Many clubs like to enter teams for events, so you can train and run with the same people right up to marathon level. You may prefer to compete or run a race alone, but you will have plenty of people around you in training to help you along the road when those long runs get tough. If you do compete with others you have your own readymade cheerleading team by your side, to applaud every move. And remember that other runners will be able to provide information about different training routes.
Anything that keeps you mentally fresh during training is a bonus and having friends that can take you somewhere new for a training session is a joy.