Monthly Archives: February 2018

Why Join a Running Club (My Top 10 Reasons!)

running people

The more I run, the more I realize that I know nothing about running. As a sport, it’s one of the simplest and purest that exists. It’s just you and your body (and a good pair of running shoes). And despite the marketing claims of companies, you really don’t need any specialized gear.

However, to be really good (or even just to improve), it can’t be a solitary endeavor. We all love that moment in Forrest Gump as he runs through Monument Valley in Arizona and stops to look out on the beautiful vastness that it is the American Southwest. But the loneliness of the long distance runner is really a myth.

I’ll admit to being a social creature. I like to get together with my girlfriends and I love going out on weekends (who doesn’t?). Chicago is such a great city and there are so many activities to enjoy (or sometimes over-enjoy!).

I’ve enjoyed running for a long time, but my running never really improved when I viewed it as a purely individual endeavor. My times (such as they are), stayed stagnant.

One Sunday I was talking with one of my girlfriends over brunch. We were on our second (or maybe our third) glass of champagne and she suggested that we run together and call ourselves the Boozy Babes. We laughed. It was funny. I didn’t take her seriously. Until she called me the next day to make a date for a short 3.5 mile training run. We did it. The Boozy Babes were born, but in the process, I learned something: I needed to be around other runners.

About six months later, my girlfriend Heather and her husband moved to Northwest Indiana (shudder to think about it) and we don’t get together much anymore. The Boozy Babes are no more. But I realized I still needed the support of other runners. For the first time in my life, I sought out a running club.

Joining a running club is a bit like dating. There’s the stage of mild interest (online research). There’s going to your first run (the blind date). There’s the period of realizing you really like it (the tease). And then the moment you realize you’re hooked (pure love). I’ll admit, I lead with my heart on this one.

synching time for run

But if you’re the kind of person who needs logical arguments, here are a few of my own:

Why Join A Running Club

Accountability. There. I said it. Chicago winters suck. I really don’t like getting out there in the cold and doing longer runs. Joining a running team keeps me on track. I can’t skip a long-run day if there are other people who are counting on me to be there.

Knowledge. I’ve been running a while, but still have a lot to learn. I’m always picking up new tips on gear, diet and nutrition, and even non-running workouts/exercises from fellow club members.

Motivation. I’m not talking about the kind of motivation to get out there and run. I’m talking about the motivation to keep going on the longer runs. When you hit mile 16 on your big training runs before the marathon. How do you push on? Having other runners out there with you who know your goals can be critical to staying on track.

Support. We’ve all done long runs and carried our own water and power gels. What if you didn’t have to do that? What if the running club had water stations and cool-down sponges for you? It’s possible. Running clubs provide great logistical support in training for big races.

Mentoring. Now that I’ve been running with a couple of different clubs for a few years, I’ve graduated. I still seek out motivation and knowledge from the more experienced runners, but I get to share my passion with other, newer runners. Recently a few young single ladies joined our group and the Boozey Babes has been re-formed!

Logistics. I love traveling to races as part of a group. Rolling up with our matching shirts and feeling like part of the group. It’s also really nice to have someone else take over the driving!

Cross Training. I hate cross training. I hate going to the gym for weights. Having someone else to keep me accountable and work with me has been incredibly valuable.

Referrals. Last year when I had my foot injury, I really didn’t know who to turn to. Rather than just turn to the list of doctors from my insurance company, I got a referral from a fellow member of the running club who knew a doctor specializing in helping runners recover.

Making Friends. In this era of social media isolation, meeting real people can be a challenge. The members of my running club have become fast friends – both on the track and trail, as well as in other aspects of our lives. I love them.

Fun. Finally, if you are still asking why join a running club, the answer is: it’s fun.

Best Races in Chicago

Chicago with green river

Chicago—hands down—has some of the craziest and best races that are ideal for runners and marathoners who do not take themselves too seriously. While international races are great, it’s fun to have such wonderful events closer to home. Whether you are looking for a change of pace or are not up to marathon speed but still want to enjoy a fun race, here are Chicago’s best races that you can participate in:

Cupid’s Undie Run
The cold is worth dealing with to participate in the crazy fun Cupid’s Undie Run. Not only do you get to run around and experience Chicago in next to nothing, you do so in support of a worthy cause—to raise funds for the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Hustle Up the Hancock
Every year, approximately 4,000 runners take part in this race to raise money and awareness for programs and research dedicated to lung disease. Runners have to contend with 94 flights of stairs but many do it with a smile and a spring in their step.

Shamrock Shuffle 8K
The Shamrock Shuffle is a unique course and a continued Chicago tradition that occurs every year during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The Shuffle is high energy and fun, and it’s surrounded by the St. Patrick’s Day spirit.

Ravenswood Run
Rather than settle for a traditional run in the street of Chicago, why not try something different with a neighborhood run through Ravenswood, which is one of the oldest and most famous neighborhoods in Chicago? At the end of the race, runners also get a pancake breakfast, which is a bonus.

Southwest Half Marathon
The Southwest Marathon is all inclusive as it encourages all runners to participate, from world famous runners to physically challenged athletes. People from all corners of the world attend this half marathon.

Chicago's bean

United Run for the Zoo
For lovers of animals, taking part in the United Run for the Zoo is a no-brainer. The marathon raises money so that the Lincoln Park Zoo can remain open and free to everyone all through the year.

Oktoberfest 5K
What could be better than a race that is topped up with German beer? The Octoberfest 5K is another famous themed race that encourages runners to show up in their finest Bavarian-themed consumes.

Santa Hustle Chicago 5k
Thousands of Santa enthusiasts and elf imposters dress up in their best Christmas gear to race through Chicago. The course is also characterized by candy, cookies, and music to get runners and spectators in the festive mood.

Chicago Monster Dash
This Halloween themed race is perfect for starting the holiday season on a fun but healthy note. At the end, wards are given for the best costume.

Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
This annual race features live rock bands that entertain runners at every mile along the course. The streets are typically lined with spectators and dancers cheering on runners.