Why You Should Join a Running Club
I had already been a runner for 14 years when I joined the Fleet Feet running club in Tucson, Arizona, and it changed the way I thought about running.
I thought I knew a lot about running, but I had no idea what I had been missing. The Tuscon group expanded my running world in ways I didn’t expect, and they guided me through my first half marathon and full marathon.
But running clubs aren’t just for hardcore runners and medalists (though those running groups also exist). Running groups provide coaching, community and motivation to keep you on track—no matter how far or fast you go.
Here’s why you need a running club whether you’re training for your first race or your 500th:
Motivation and Accountability
You are far more likely to show up and stick to your commitment if you have a training plan, a coach and teammates. And it’s not just because you paid for the group or because of a goal race, but instead because you will come to enjoy the experience.
Maybe your favorite part will be the feeling of accomplishment that comes with running a little farther each week, or you won’t want to miss grabbing coffee with the other runners afterward. Whether your motivation comes from the sense of self-improvement or not wanting to disappoint your coach, having a group to run with will challenge and reward you in new ways.
Gain a New Community and Sense of Belonging
When I first moved to Tucson, my running club was just what I needed. I didn’t know a soul in the desert, aside from my partner. Looking for friends felt like an awkward form of dating that I didn’t know how to approach. But when I joined the running club, I suddenly had a social group. Runners, it turns out, are my people. When you’re with a group of people for hours on a regular basis with nothing to do but talk, sweat and keep running, you get to know them in a deep and meaningful way. Completing a challenge together only strengthens that bond.
Peer pressure. That is why I ran my first marathon. I was perfectly content with the half marathon distance before meeting my run crew. Why did I need to run farther than that? But my new friends had registered for the full marathon training group. “It will be more fun together,” they told me. I didn’t want to miss out on Saturday morning runs and group breakfast afterward. I was intimidated by the distance, but I figured that if they could do it, I could too. I somewhat begrudgingly signed up for the group and began to complete the longest runs of my life. Did I regret it? Of course not. I worked hard, completed the race, and felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I never would have signed up for the race or run that far without the running club.
Completing a speed workout with other people is more motivating than doing it alone. No matter how motivated you are to hit a certain pace, having another runner beside you will make you run faster than you would solo. Whether you are sweating it out together for intervals or completing a regular run, a group atmosphere provides the motivation to push yourself to better fitness and faster times.
Have More Fun
One of the wonderful things about running is that you can do it in a million different ways. There are endless combinations of places, surfaces, and distances that you can run. Sometimes I prefer to run alone. But when I have a 22-mile run to complete, it feels so much easier and much more fun to run it with friends, whether we’re talking the whole time or silently slogging together. With a running club, there are always other people to run with or to check in with before and after the workout. The coach picks the route and tells you where to go. For me, the logistics of route-finding is half the battle, so that is a huge relief. Not everyone will stay together, but the sense of community that comes from being out on the road or trail at once—being in it together—makes it more fun than doing it alone.
Even after running consistently for more than a decade, I had a lot to learn. But I didn't know how much I had to learn until I joined a group. Some of the things I learned about through my running club:
- New places to run. You’ll learn where to go for the best scenery, the most parking spots and the places with public restrooms. Your new running buddy can show you that hidden water fountain on your route you never knew existed.
- How to figure out a nutrition plan while training for a longer race. My coaches gave me advice about gels, chews, how much water to carry and general nutrition for runners. They also taught me to practice my plan on long runs so that I would be prepared and know what worked for me long before race day arrived.
- The best training gear. GPS watches that instantly record your distance and time, foam rollers to loosen tight muscles, technical running clothes that don't chafe, and a hydration system all revolutionized the way I run. I run smarter, more comfortably and with less pain.
- The value of getting a massage. The foam roller is awesome, but a professional massage therapist can’t be beat. Once you start running longer, aches and pains may start to pop up, so I was happy when my running club friends recommended the best local therapists who work with athletes.
- The best physical therapists in town. Same deal here. Massage therapists and physical therapists are incredible resources, and I had never bothered to see anyone aside from my sports trainer when I was in school. Having experts to treat issues and offer tips for maintaining health is an incredibly valuable resource.
- The best races to run in town. Cue more motivation! Once you join a running club, your buddies will likely get you excited to keep on racing. You’ll learn which races have the best atmosphere, the best swag and the best post-run party.
- The joy of challenging myself. It’s a little corny, but the truth is that it’s easy to get complacent and comfortable in life. Sometimes a good crew of running buddies is what you need to leave your comfort zone and pursue a good challenge. You can always accomplish more than you think. And when you do, your crew is there to help you celebrate.