Recently my friend asked me if she should join a running club. Feeling a bit nervous at the thought of joining one, she wanted to know if I had any advice. My immediate answer was ‘yes – do it’ and here is why.
I’ve been a member of a running club for just over a year and, like most, I was a bit worried about joining up. Being a complete beginner when I joined, I had an image of a running club being full of athletic, lean, speed machines that would turn their their nose up at my poor-excuse for running. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
1. Don’t be put off by what you read.
The problem with really good runners, and anyone who is enthusiastic about their hobby, is that they quickly become absorbed in what they do. From an outsiders perspective it can be a little intimidating with the phrases, acronyms and times. “Threshold, pace, intervals, 6 minute miles…”
Don’t worry about this stuff, none of it is important when you first start out. What is important is that you are trying to make your first steps into running.
When you meet these people face-to-face, they are as normal as the rest of us, using real words you will understand. If you don’t understand, just asked. They will be thrilled to tell you.
2. I have to be super-fit and fast to join a club.
If you are super-fit and fast, i’m sure most clubs will be really happy to have you on-board and competing for them but it’s not a requirement to join. Most clubs have a range of sessions available from beginners through to old-timers looking to compete and there will be one available for you. From personal experience, I found it useful to be able to run for 30 – 40 minutes before attending a session. I was by no stretch of the imagination ‘super fit’.
3. I will be at the back, making everyone wait for me.
I agree that this isn’t the best feeling in the world BUT good club sessions will take this into account and will plan for a mixed level of ability within the group.
At my club they encourage ‘loop-backs’ which means that you never really feel like you are at the back all the time.
The lead runners will get to a certain distance ahead of the pack and then loop back to behind where you are, so you get a chance to be at the front. This works for everyone. The more experienced runners get a harder, longer session (with all the looping back) and you will find that you push yourself a little more than you normally would if you were on your own.
4. You’ll get a little guidance and structure.
When you start running, you tend to just go out and run for a bit. Once you become comfortable running for 30 minutes or an hour, it is probably best to give yourself a bit of a goal. Because a lot of clubs have experienced runners, they are a fantastic source of knowledge for structuring your training.
As there are popular times for certain races, a lot of clubs will put on sessions that will help their members to train for those events.
This will help you to formulate a plan for your goals and not just run for the hell of it.
5. Motivation and free personal training.
At times, it can be hard to get motivated and go running. It is dark, cold, wet or you are tired. Clubs are a great way to stop putting these barriers in place. Stick to a session you enjoy and start to mingle with others. You will find it harder to drop out if you have promised to meet someone the following week.
Whilst you are on your club session you will also be able to tap into the oodles of knowledge within the group. Helping you with posture, breathing, fuelling tips and even sports therapy suggestions. I have found that the club has helped me to believe in myself, push myself and reach some personal bests.
6. Finding a running partner.
It is quite likely that you will meet someone with similar pace and/or experience to you. As your group is likely to be mixed ability, you can use others to pace yourself or push yourself, depending on your mood.
Running clubs are great places, go and find a local one and give it a go. If you don’t have on near to you then see if you have a local Parkrun. These are a 5k course, usually in a local park, where you will be able to mix with a variety of runners. It is also worth checking out your local sports centre or running shop to see what clubs they have on offer.
If you are Winchester based, I certainly recommend looking at WADAC.