Ever since I started, I've often run alone. Sporadically I'll meet up with friends to train for an upcoming event, but most of the time it's I go solo.
But recently I did something I never thought I'd do – I joined a running group.
And I love it.
Out of the comfort zone
I was sceptical at first, but a friend encouraged me to try.
I thought, 'what can I possibly get out of running with a group of people I don't know?' I was also intimidated and worried I wouldn't be good enough to run and train with a group.
My fears subsided when I turned up to my first running group session. Looking around the group (and sussing out the other runners) I fast realised there were runners of all abilities in the group. From people who'd recently taken up running, to athletes training for their next marathon – and everyone in between. Over several weeks I ate some humble pie and learned that running in a group was fun, challenging and that it had improved my running.
Here are my top four benefits from running in a group.
1. Expert coaching
Having someone else take the hard work out of planning a training session is an obvious benefit of running with a group. In addition to this, I've really valued the snippets of expert advice along the way. Running alone is a thankless task. There's no one there to remind you to stand tall or relax your arms and land softly. But in a running group you get regular advice and feedback from the coach on your running technique and performance. These tips and tricks have carried over into my solo runs.
Being a part of a running group has helped me stay committed to my training plan. The lure of the group motivates me to attend the weekly sessions. Even if I have to miss a session due to work or other commitments, knowing that the rest of the group are training motivates me to complete a make-up run or training session so that I don't fall behind.
3. Faster and stronger
The speed, tempo and interval led running sessions have made me a faster runner. Normally I run for distance and it is rare for me to incorporate sprints into my training program – even though I know I should. Since joining the group, I've come to look forward to the sessions where I really push my body through fast sets.
Chris White, head coach at Go Run Australia says that one of the most common phrases he hears from runners he coaches is, 'I would never have done that by myself.'
"That's part of the magic of a running group. Harnessing people's competitive and social side to help them to train that bit harder, further or faster than they thought possible," says White. "Everyone is physically capable of doing the session, but the group setting really helps with the mental side of running."
The people you meet at run group come from all walks of life and your love of running makes the initial meet and greets less awkward. I've met so many interesting and inspiring people through my run group as well as some handy health, fitness and business contacts.
Also, celebrating your training successes with others who understand the highs and lows of running is a great way to stay motivated.
White says that joining a running group and exposing your running ability or inability to a bunch of people who you don't know can be a scary experience, but one that most people ultimately find worthwhile and rewarding.
"No matter how experienced at running you are, a group with an inclusive and motivating coach can physically push you beyond what you thought was possible, and can lead to new conversations, opportunities and friendships," says White.
How to find your tribe
So what should runners look for in a run group?
White says, "The first job of the coach and of the group is to be welcoming and inclusive. Ultimately, if you want to spend time, energy and money on a running group, then you want to enjoy it, right?"
He says runners should be looking for four main things from their running group:
- Are you enjoying it?
- Do you feel included, supported and encouraged in the group?
- Do you feel motivated by the group environment?
- Are you learning and improving in the group?
If you are answering mostly 'yes' to these questions, you are definitely in the right running group.
Have you ever joined a running group? Share your experience in the comments section below.
The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.
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