I spent my entire first year running solo. It was easiest to throw running clothes on when I got home from work and run near my neighborhood. There were many times, especially during the fall and winter, when I would be running at night and feel on edge. A young woman running alone at night just isn't the smartest scenario in the world.
When I moved to New York I continued to run solo. I never felt threatened running in Central Park at night because there were always tons of other runners around. Then the day after Halloween everyone disappeared. I would see maybe 5-10 runners throughout the park and I decided it wasn't safe or smart for me to continue running by myself. I took to google and started searching for a group of people to run with. The first thing I did was search "Best free running groups in NYC." I found a very long and very diverse list of running clubs.
I was really dragging my feet about joining. I was nervous about having to talk to people while I ran. I was insecure about my pace and was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up. I had never had to actually be held accountable for interval training or threshold runs. (I wasn't exactly sure what those words even meant! I would read that I was supposed to be doing them. I figured just running fast here and there was enough.) But it was either find people to run with or run on a treadmill and seeing as how I'd rather gouge my eyes with a fork than run on a treadmill, I joined a running club.
This is what you can expect when you decide to run with a running club or team:
Nervousness: How early do you get there? Where do you meet again? What if I am the only one who shows up?
Confusion: You aren't going to know what you are doing or what to expect. But that's alright, the beauty of a running club is that you have a coach or leader, in addition to tons of experienced runners, who are going to teach you all about running! Isn't that exciting?
Anxiousness: A lot of people are probably going to know each other. This is my least favorite part about a running club. I HATE walking into a conversation and just introducing myself. Despite the fact that I am not super shy, I can be really shy.
Confusion: I remember my first group run our coach explained the workout. He was like, "We are going to do x amount of meters at 5k pace and recover x amount of meters at 10k pace. Then repeat 8 times." I was like first of all how far is that and second of all what is 5k pace? I've never done a 5k, only a half marathon!?!?
Introductions: Often you get started by forming a circle and introducing yourself and saying your pace. Be honest about your pace, it's OK to be really fast, really slow, or in the middle. You are where you are. Own it!
Pairing Up: Don't feel awkward when everyone starts pairing up. Just walk right up to someone and ask them their pace. Trust me, everyone is welcoming and happy to run with new people.
Pairing Up With The Hot Runner: Every once in a blue moon you will be running with the attractive man or woman. This is both a blessing and a curse. Just play it cool.
Pacing Yourself: If you're a new runner or new to a training plan, take it easy. No one expects you to be a professional. If you are confused or need some advice, ask your group leader or coach. Save some gas for the end, make sure you don't tucker out in the beginning.
Don't be a show off: There is always going to be someone who just wants to run really, really, really fast. Or that person that has to let everyone know that they are training for their billionth ultra-marathon. Cool story bra! You're a badass. We get it. Hard work is impressive! Just don't be that person that makes a big deal that they are so much faster than everyone else. It's a team effort on a group run. Stay with and support your people.
You may meet a new best friend: One of the benefits of joining a club or team is that you meet new people. I can't tell you how many awesome friends I have made from running with different clubs or teams. It helped me really establish New York as my home and move out of my comfort zone. Talk to everyone because you never know just who may become a new best friend. Exchange numbers. Get coffee, a drink, or a meal after. Join the facebook group. It's all part of the fun.
Don't worry about finishing last: Most clubs and teams stay together but sometimes people trickle away before everyone finishes. Don't worry about finishing last. Everyone started somewhere, be proud that you showed up and did the work!
Whether you just moved to a new city and are looking for new friends or whether you are looking to become new or more experienced runner, running with a club or team has so many benefits. There are tons of different ways you can find a running club. You can search the Road Runners Club of America's national database. You can stop by your local specialty running store to see if they have one or if they have any recommendations. Check with stores like Lululemon or Nike running town. Search on the site running.meetup.com.
Last night I hosted a run with Lole New York and it reminded me why I love local running clubs. You get to meet all sorts of different people and it holds you accountable. It was a bit of a rainy day and normally I would phone in my run if it's raining. But because I was running with a group, I had to keep up. And I met some pretty awesome men and women. We were all at different levels and paces and seeing the newer runners and their excitement about maybe signing up for a half marathon was infectious. It reminded me how diverse the running community is. It doesn't matter if you're young old, athletic, or not athletic, it's never to late to start running. Lole hosts some pretty awesome meetups. From running to Yoga they offer a multitude of groups. And on our runs they give you a really nice yellow Lole hat that you get to keep. I had an absolute blast running with them and can't wait to do it again.
Until tomorrow friends, #RunSelfieRepeat.