If ya really love running, being part of a running group can be enormously beneficial. (If you just kind-a like to run sometimes, you will more than likely find it annoying). I suffer at times from a bit of social anxiety. I don’t generally care for crowds or small talk and and I really savor running alone—but I equally love my running-group members, with whom I meet about twice a week.
The group isn’t always the same. We don’t always agree or get along. The faces change and people come and go; some people are always there. But everyone has this one thing in common — a passion for a sport that high school coaches use as punishment and in which our coworkers and spouses would only partake if “they were being chased”, they tell us. Here are some of the reasons I like group running.
6. Accountability. Alone running – any excuse to skip will do. Group running — if you miss, you’re going to get sh*t. Others are counting on you to show up. Valid excuses dwindle.
5. Support. Everyone has habits. Some are annoying and harmless, others such as drinking, taking drugs and running can be harmful if not practiced in moderation. Seriously. I’ve seen it and done it myself — we get that good feeling from running and try to do too much too enthusiastically and get hurt, and then we sit around moping and hating our more-sensible friends for their good health. By being part of a group, I got good advice about how to train smart. I didn’t always follow it and learned some hard lessons. But — like the recovering alcoholic attends meetings because fellow alcoholics are the only people who can understand and relate to their affliction — we need a support group, because, face it, some of us have a bit of a problem.
4. Opportunity to share the wisdom. “If you want to master something, teach it.” —Yogi Bhajan. A group like our White Rock Running Co-op enjoys a steady stream of new runners — it’s a ripe opportunity for giving back and mastering the sport though sharing experience and acquired knowledge.
3. Competition. I am no bible thumper, but I once read The Bible for the specific purpose of being able to argue intelligently with religious people. This Ecclesiastes character was my fave. This line of his always stuck with me: “I observed the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy.” So insightful. He was cynical, I think, but it is true that when we see others achieving great feats —especially when they are our own peers — we want to get some for ourselves! And as a result, we work harder to obtain it — even if it means saying, “Sure, I’ll run at the track with you at 5 a.m.” or “yes, I am up for an evening run, during which it is 105 degrees in the shade” or “I know I just lost my lunch on the sidewalk, but don’t worry ’bout me; I’m right behind you.”
2. Entertainment. On group runs, I’ve heard stories about dysfunctional families, cocktail party faux pas, encounters with celebrities, bad dining experiences, witnessing drug deals and more dirty jokes than I can count. I’ve heard ideas for documentaries and brainstormed new and strange ways to replace the planking craze. You just can’t get that type of entertainment from an ipod.
1. Enhanced victories. My friend Marlena recently moved to Southern California and she does not belong to a running group. She had a very successful half marathon race a couple weeks ago. Despite an unplanned race a week prior, she ran a personal best in the half — a 1:41 — by about three minutes. She called me immediately after the race. I gave her due accolades, but I am really the only person in her life who fully comprehends her accomplishment. Sure, her non-runner hubby and friends in California are rooting for her, but they wouldn’t really know the difference between a 1:40 and a 1:50, right? When I finished the White Rock Marathon in 2009, reaching my goal with room to spare, my buddy, Chris, who had been working with me for a year to reach said goal, greeted me at the finish line with open arms, happier for me, perhaps than I was for myself. When I finished the Boston marathon this year, a dozen people had congratulated me via text message or Facebook before I even got the medal around my neck. When I finish a local race, there is always a crowd of people I know around. If the race went well, I can go from friend to friend getting (and giving) all the kudos I desire. If it went south, there will no doubt be an empathetic ear nearby.