Running alone can be a great way to clear your mind and reconnect with nature. However, you may find out that running clubs can have some major benefits both socially and with your overall race performance.
My wife Lori and I first began running together in 2011, but it was not until 2013 that we both discovered the joy that comes from running in a group. At the time, I was working as a traveling nurse in the Appalachian Mountains of Boone North Carolina. As a travel nurse, you are constantly on the move and often change cities every 3-6 months. This makes it difficult to connect with people and make friends. Luckily we discovered that runners are some of the friendliest people that you will ever meet. Despite the fact that runners come from all sorts of different backgrounds, you quickly find out that you all can find common ground. After a few runs with the group you begin to feel like part of a family.
The Boone Running Club was the first group that introduced us to that feeling of a second family. The group introduced my wife and I to some great places to run which we would not have found so easily on our own. It was not long before we caught race fever. We quickly signed up for every local 5k or hill climb race that we could find and loved it. They also introduced us to ZAP Fitness which is a local group of elite runners sponsored by Reebok. They have adult running camps throughout the summer designed to help runners of all abilities to improve their running. The great people of ZAP Fitness volunteered their time every Wednesday to share tips and training strategies which helped lay the foundation to help both Lori and I to eventually qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon together.
Since then we connected with other running groups in Wyoming, Hawaii, and Southern California. No matter where we have traveled, there always seems to be friendly runners that are more than willing to accept us as part of the group. The Big Island Running Company introduced us to a local running legend, DJ Blinn, who had ran nearly 100 marathons and several ultra marathons and is still going strong. DJ is one of those runners who is instantly your friend and seems to know everyone in town. He is just one of many inspiring runners who have helped me realize some of my running/endurance sports dreams.
RunMDR (Marina Del Rey) was the first group that we connected with after moving to LA. RunMDR taught us about the importance of cross training and recovery to help prevent injury and improve performance. This club also introduced us to many of the local trails in the LA area and inspired my wife and I to run our first 50k!
We now live in Oxnard, CA and have found two great running clubs in the area. Inside Track meets on Tuesdays for track and Saturdays for their long runs. Mile 26 Sports meets on Wednesdays for track and Sundays for their long runs. This works great for my schedule as a nurse, because I work long hours and every week I work different days of the week. The people in both clubs are great and super friendly. In fact, Mile 26 Sports is also part of the Rincon Tri Club in Ventura and that group has been a huge help in our training for our first full Ironman race at Santa Rosa on July 29th.
Running clubs are a great resource for discovering new trails or races in your area and are a great way to meet people. Plus running with a friend can help you find a way to push harder and run further than you likely would on your own. If you are not part of a running club, I suggest you give it a try. Plus most of them will let you join them for a few runs for free before deciding if that group is right for you. Happy Running!
(Out for a trail run with our friends from runMDR)