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.
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.