I read a post in the week where the writer mentioned that they wished they could run with other people. I’m not sure why they can’t (I’m sure they have their reasons), but I agree that running with other people can make a world of difference.
It happens that today is exactly a year since Mr. Duff and I decided to join our local running club, Ealing Eagles. We’d been toying with the idea for a while, and the fact that we were both running the Ealing Half Marathon in late September and would then both be training for Spring marathons prompted us to finally take the plunge.
It was such a good decision, I can’t even tell you.
The difference being part of the club has made to my running and my everyday life has been amazing. Rather than going into gushing hyperbole about it however, I thought I would share the questions I had at the time about joining a running club. If you’ve been looking into joining a local club or running group and you’ve got apprehensions, maybe the answers to my questions will convince you to give it a go.
Will I be fast enough?
This was a major concern for me. I actually checked out that year’s club 10k results on the website before deciding I was in a position to join, having seen that there were enough runners over the hour mark to mean I would have company at the back. And as it turns out I could have started back running by joining the club Beginners Group had I thought about it sooner. The Eagles are very supportive of beginners and slower runners, with many of the non-speedsters running half marathons regularly and some running marathons. That doesn’t mean there are no fast people though – at this year’s London Marathon more than 50 Eagles ran times ranging from 2:42:24 to 6:14:21. We spent the day at Mile 23 and cheered every single one of them through.
Lots of clubs have separate groups for people starting out, or ask members to look after new people on club runs. If you’re not sure if your local club does or not, just ask them – they won’t mind!
Will there be
normal nice people? Will I like them?
Any group of people who participate in organised lycra bothering are never going to be entirely normal, but they will be nice. Runners are an astoundingly encouraging group of people and generally they will be looking for new people at their pace to run with. Like anything joining a club is what you make of it, but if you want to make friends it’s highly unlikely that you won’t find anyone you like. Runners are riddled with endorphins so we’re quite open, happy people.
Plus its always good to have access to like minded souls who you can talk to about gels, IT bands, or pre-race portaloo horror stories. Non-runners do not want to hear your bush squatting tales.
I wonder if joining a club means I’ll be more involved in the local community?
Again, this depends on what you put into it. This was a massive one for me, as we’d bought a house in the area earlier in the year which meant we were staying put, but we didn’t know anyone apart from each other. I wanted to put down some roots and start making west London feel properly like home.
A year after joining the club I’m on the committee, I’m a regular at parkrun, and I see people I know all over the place. Last week I was hailed by name by a passing cyclist pal. Today I ran into a parkrun buddy at the physio’s office. And that’s outside of the regular club runs, Sunday morning long runs with new running buddies, social events and races. There’s never a week where there’s not something club related going on and my diary has never been busier. The beauty of it is that you can be as involved or remote as you want to be – it’s up to you.
I’d like to get faster. I wonder if joining a club will help?
Yes. Yes it will. I have taken 4 and a half minutes off my 5k, 14 minutes off my 10k, and 19 minutes off my half marathon since joining the club. I’ve also raced a mile for the first time, and run a marathon. You’re surrounded by people who have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and running with other people makes you faster and more consistent.
If you want to improve, there are huge benefits to joining a club.
I could just go running on my own though. What would I do in a club that I can’t do on my own?
Before joining the club I was doing all my runs at the same effort, just different distances. Lots of people do this. Now I have a schedule which includes hill sessions, track, intervals, and runs at different training paces depending on the point of the session. Sure I have an amazing coach so this is largely worked out for me, but you can’t be in a running club without hearing all about the power of fartlek or why strides are a good idea.
I’ve also taken part in loads of different types of events which you wouldn’t find out about if you were running on your own – cross country, summer league races, the Green Belt Relay to name a few. Oh – and of course the Santa Run. Club running widens your running horizons.
What’s so special about being in a running club anyway?
I can only speak for myself and my club, but being part of the Eagles really means a lot to me. At the very least, having a group of people around who share your love of running rather than constantly telling you its bad for your knees is great. People who understand the frustration of bad race and the joy of a PB. People who would never ask why you can’t just ‘not run’ if you’re injured, and instead offer advice on how to manage the niggle.
If you find the right club, these people will encourage, cheer lead and support you to new highs and help you get through the lows, just by being fellow runners and all around fantastic people. Oh, and cake. There’s a lot of cake.
Every time I put on my club kit, I feel proud to be an Eagle and so glad I decided I wasn’t too crappy a runner to join a club.
Thanks for having me, Eagles. Really – thank you.