By Chris McPeake, Longboat Road Runners
It was intimidating. That’s what I remember the most when I first thought about joining a running club. In a time before Facebook and Twitter, I scoured the internet looking for a group or club that I could join.
I had become tired of running all the time by myself and hoped to find people to run with once in a while. The problem was all of these running clubs seemed to be full of runners, really good runners. People who were fit, fast, and even ran races. I mean I ran but I was not really a runner there was no way I could join a running club. I had all but given up on the idea when I had a chance encounter with a group of runners from the Longboat Roadrunners. They sold me hard on coming out and joining them for a run. My whole I’m not a runner fell on deaf ears. “You run don’t you? That makes you a runner.”
Joining a running club was probably one of smarter things I have done. Early on I learned that inside the running club nobody cared how fast I was or how far I could run except for maybe me. It opened up a whole new world when it comes to running and provided a much needed support system as my running goals changed and grew. What you can get out of a club all depends on what you are looking for but the benefits can be endless.
One thing about runners is that we like to talk about running, just ask any non runner. The wealth of experience and knowledge you find in most clubs is immense and other runners love to share. With the growth of social media now finding a club or group that fits your running needs should be far easier and less intimidating than when I was first starting out. Want to train hard, run group tempos, speed work and improve your race times there are clubs for that. Want to get some decent coaching and training plans, no problem. Want to run easy and drink beer afterwards there is a club just for that as well. What you will end up discovering is that there are many runners that run with multiple groups depending on what they want to get out of their running.
One of the perhaps unexpected benefits that the appears to come out of a wide range of individual clubs is a much stronger and vibrant running community as a whole with the clubs really helping to keep social connections between many different runners in a sport that can sometimes be seen as solitary. Are people still intimidated at the idea of joining a club or group? I want to say no, but in my experiences coaching runners and clinics have lead me to believe that yes it is still intimidating for some, especially newer runners. Don’t let that stop you, find a group that is a good fit for you. You will be glad you did.