A few weeks ago I read an article in the “New York Times” about the benefits of running with a group. The gist of the article or what I took from it was that running with a group will help you train harder and therefore perform better. The article made me reflect on my running club experiences and how they have shaped my relationship with running.
When I first started running about two years ago, I was training to run in my city’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K. A friend from church had talked about participating and after some thought, I figured why not. It benefits a great cause and I’ve always wanted to give running a try. The six to eight weeks of training for the race and the high I felt when I crossed the finish line had me hooked. A runner was born. After several months of running on my own, an acquaintance (who later became a good running friend) encouraged me to check out her running club. At first I was a little intimidated about going. I wasn’t a hard core runner. At that time I was probably running about six to eight miles a week, a very slow six to eight miles. But I decided to give it a shot and brought a friend along for support.
We arrived at the park bright and early at 7:30 a.m. that Saturday and found a bunch of people in running gear stretching and joking around. The club’s coach had us introduce ourselves and then the workout began. We probably ran for about 20 minutes with the coach guiding us around the park. We watched the fast guys whiz by us and were relieved when we stopped. People were stretching and getting water and we thought to ourselves. We did it. Little did we know we weren’t done yet. That was just the warm up. As we ran and sometimes walked during the actual workout, we kept asking each other, “How much longer are we going to run?” When we stopped again 20 minutes later, we knew it had to be over but no, we still had to cool down. That was another 10 to 15 minutes of running. I remember feeling like I just got my butt kicked. I was exhausted and took a long nap when I got home. But that experience had me hooked. I continued to come out to get my butt kicked during weekend, weekday, and speed workouts. The people I met were extremely encouraging, yelling “good job” as they ran past me each week.
One of my running highs during my time with the club was completing my first 10K, Wharf to Wharf in Santa Cruz. I was scared and didn’t think I could do it. My friends encouraged me to compete in the race and it turned out to be a positive experience. I ran the entire race and was overjoyed when I crossed the finish line. I was really, really hooked. That first year with the club, I went on to run a 2 mile race and another 5K while I watched my new friends run marathons and half marathons. I figured with their encouragement and the training with the coach, I could do it too. Now I have two half marathons under my belt and I’m training for my third. I run faster, longer and stronger and I’m in the best shape of my life.
A month ago I relocated to another region of the country. I didn’t want to lose what I started with my first club so I sought out a new running club. Running with this new club has been different. There are no coached workouts, just group runs. And there’s no telling who will show up to the group runs. Most of the time, I am the only female, which has taken some getting used to. Also I average a nine to 10 minute mile pace and sometimes I feel like I’m slowing the rest of the guys down. But they have all been very friendly and introduced me to places to run in my new city. Plus since they’re faster than me, over time I’ll get faster because I’ll have keep up with them.
Living in a different region of the country also means I have to find new people to run with. With my old club when I couldn’t make a coached workout I had friends to train with. Now when there’s not a group run, I run on my own, exploring new areas or on the treadmill. I find when run by myself, I run slower and I have to push myself more. But I’m sure that will change as I meet more people.
Even with my varied club experiences, I wouldn’t give up running with a group for anything. It’s made me the runner I am today and I wouldn’t trade the friends I’ve made for anything in the world.
Do you run with a group? What’s your experience been?