Many people run because it is something you can do alone, and without spending too much money. To some, the thought of joining a running club is scary, pointless and expensive. “Why should I change my schedule to fit training sessions or the paces of other runners?” they ask. “What is the point of paying to do something in a group that I can do alone for free?”
Well, I am here to tell you that joining a running club has changed my life, and I think you should give it some serious consideration.
I became a member of the purple posse known as Kirkstall Harriers in January 2013. I had been running for about six months but I was getting a bit bored with doing every single session on my own. I had done a few races and seeing all those other runners with club mates by their side made me jealous. I usually had some friends out to support me along the course but there was no one on the start or finish line I could share the immediate emotion with. So I did a quick search of the internet and found my nearest club, went along for a session and thought they were great. Now, one year on, I’m a proud wearer of our purple vest and can’t imagine I would have continued to enjoy running quite so much if I was still doing it alone.
In one way or another, or several, everyone improves when they join a running club. Even if you’re not fussed about getting quicker, or are of an age where you can’t help but get slower, you will improve in some way. You might find that you can chat more easily as you run, or can go a little bit longer than you used to.
You will find motivation at a running club without doubt. It’s much easier to go out for a run on a cold, dark winter night when you know you won’t suffer alone. And when there will be a post-run pint in the clubhouse afterwards. Cheering and cajoling your team mates into running a bit faster, a bit further, or just running at all, is all part of the fun.
I have met so many inspiring people through running club. Take Jim, who has run 100 marathons. Or Louise, a blind Paralympian who took on an incredibly tough trail run with her guide. And I am delighted to say that other people have even been known to say that I have inspired them.
Many clubs have coaches or leaders, not to mention people with many years of running experience, who can teach you a thing or two. You’ll pick up all sorts of tips, from advice on shorts that don’t chafe to where to get a great sports massage.
There are many local leagues that are only open to club members and, best of all, they are cheap! You can enter a race for a few quid and often get a hot drink and a cake, butty or pie thrown in at the end. These races are great fun and make excellent use of your local landscape. As a member of an England Athletics affiliated club you also get discount on certified races (in practice this means most races).
Being part of a team makes running even more satisfying. It’s hard not to be proud of yourself when you line up in your club colours. Many clubs also take part in things like relays too, which are a huge shot of camaraderie and friendship. Not to mention a grand day out.
You will find out things about yourself, where you live, and other people that you could never have imagined. For example, since joining Kirkstall Harriers I have discovered that I can get out of bed before 9am on a Saturday morning and that it is perfectly possible to run off a hangover! I have also found out just how vast and varied the running world can be – there are endless types of race and race distance it seems!
Last, but by no means least, being part of a running club means you have friends. A lot of them. And new ones are made almost every week. The laughs we have on club outings simply cannot be described (well, they can, but many are X-rated) and we have fun not only when training or racing, but at curry nights, down the pub, playing board games …
Running clubs are not only for the elites – they really are for everyone. Many clubs have different pace groups at each session and, in my experience, everyone is a valued member. You don’t have to go to every single session and do every single club race just because you are a member – you can still work around your personal training schedule and other life commitments. What are you waiting for?