I previously was a running loner, using the time to sort out my thoughts and offering nothing other than an occasional head nod or waist-high wave to passing runners. But when I talked about running, people would say,” Have you run with this group?” and “You should try that group.”
Well, I tried that group of runners. Wasn’t really into them. Tried East Nasty, and I like them. Like as in they have a semiweekly recurring appointment on my calendar. East Nasty is a community of Nashvillians who meet on the east side of the Cumberland River for Wednesday runs. It’s free, the people are welcoming and the runs are highly structured to pacify my type-A personality.
It may take a while to find the running club that’s right for your personality. Here’s why you should join others for a group run at least once:
1. For a Change of Scenery. Foolish consistency had me running the same loops every week. Joining a running group made me realize there’s a uncharted territory out there. I’ve stepped out of my neighborhood and into parts of the city where I’ve never even driven. Try to connect with the running group in advance to learn the route, and write directions on your arm or a small piece of paper so that you don’t get lost if left behind. Many running clubs use Map My Run or publish their routes online so you’ll know what to expect.
2. For Camaraderie. I’ll admit it was intimidating when I showed up for my first run with East Nasty and saw the sidewalk lined with a few hundred people; but, I knew I was in the right place when I heard a chorus of syncing GPS watches as we took out first steps. I’ve found a social circle where sweating is a nonissue, socks are a point of discussion, everyone’s pockets are full of fruity-flavored gels, body glide, $1 bills (no we are not headed to the strip club) and it’s perfectly acceptable to blow your nose in your shirt. My new friends understand run talk and get just as excited as I do about sharing stats. They share advice on how to get past the wall and handle injuries, product recommendations and where to get sports massages. And it’s not all run, run, run. Some people stick around for beer at a neighborhood bar and wieners from a hotdog stand.
3. For Motivation & Accountability. Even if you aren’t a chat and chew kind of runner, you’ll gain more buddies to connect with on Daily Mile, RunKeeper and Nike+. They will notice when you aren’t showing up for runs or logging miles online and guilt trip you back onto the pavement.
4. For Structured Training. Many running clubs are lead by volunteer coaches and running veterans who share training guides and even coordinate specific workouts, such as speed work, hill repeats and long runs. In addition to East Nasty’s 3 to 6-mile Wednesday run with pace groups, the running club offers Tabata workouts, summer 5K training for new runners and half marathon training. Over the weeks, I’ve noticed my time has improved as I push myself to keep up with the pack. And the hills have become easier.
5. To Stay In the Loop. Connecting with a running group will help you keep tabs on the latest running events and news as well as give you access to registration discounts for upcoming races.
Questions of the Week: What have you gained from running in a pack? Or why do you run alone?