If you've ever tried running alone you, know it can be difficult to get the motivation to go out and exercise. It's easy to come up with an excuse not to go -- maybe the temperature outside isn't right or the food you ate last night is disagreeing with you. Running is typically viewed as a solitary sport, but there are large groups of fitness-minded people out there.
Running clubs are exactly what they sound like: organizations for people interested in running. Each club has different rules and activities, but they're all bound together by the idea that a community is stronger than an individual. These groups can help build motivation, create support networks and provide a healthy social outlet for both new runners and veterans of the sport.
The popularity of running clubs has increased in recent years due to the ease of setting up a Web site or blog to attract new members. And with e-mail newsletters and race reminders, it is simpler and cheaper to keep in touch with fellow runners than it was in the past. Local organizations have also been bolstered by the Road Runners Club of America, a nationwide nonprofit network of running clubs helping to promote and advertise running activities and news in different states [source: Road Runners Club of America].
Clubs have a variety of focuses. Some concentrate more on training, others more on the social aspect of running -- some even focus on philanthropy, throwing benefits and hosting galas year-round. The particular group's mission statement (which is usually posted on the club's Web site) can help when you're choosing which club to join.
It's all about finding the right fit for you. Once you join, you'll be ready to participate in running club activities -- a few of which we'll look at on the next page.
Running Club Activities
If you're looking to lose weight and socialize, there's a running club for that -- if you're focused on improving your race times in a competitive training environment, there's a club for that, too. Running clubs, as we've mentioned, each have their own specialties and niches. From group training for large marathons to costumed monthly runs through town, it all depends on what you're after.
The most common activities you'll find at running clubs are race related. That means you'll be doing group training and group races, as well as organizing and sponsoring events. You may do a combination of all of those things. It's not all about racing, though; running clubs are also known to throw parties, do trail cleanup and even participate in fund-raising. For instance, the Melbourne Fire Brigade Charity Running Club is an organization that coordinates several large races and charity events year-round [source: The Great Anzac Run]. The Irish Snug Runners traditionally end a big run with spaghetti, beer and mixed drinks called Irish car bombs (a three-quarter pint of Guinness, a half shot of Irish cream and a half shot of Irish whiskey) [source: Irish Snug Runners]. Clearly there's a running club for all types of people with a wide range of interests.
Depending on the size of club you join and whether it's national or local, you may receive some financial benefits including discounts at local stores, group entry price reductions to races and, in some cases, uniforms. Local clubs will offer more personality, but national ones will have more leverage when it comes to getting price cuts on new sneakers or national race entry fees. If your club is a part of the Road Runners Club of America, you'll also get insurance coverage when you're exercising with the club, provided you've paid your dues [source: Road Runners Club of America].
Discounts on products aren't the only benefits you'll get from joining a running club; in the next section, we'll take a look at other advantages and disadvantages of joining up.
Benefits of Running Clubs
The biggest benefit of joining a club is the fact you'll be training with others. You'll be held accountable for your exercise regimen by a group of fellow runners. A team atmosphere has been shown to push runners to a new level of performance [source: Hanc]. You'll also be expanding your social circle to meet new friends.
It's also safer to run in a group than by yourself. If you're in a dangerous neighborhood, being part of a pack is more secure. Even in low-crime areas, you'll be seen by traffic much easier if you're running with a contingent of athletes.
When you run with your group you'll also be privy to new information about running techniques, as well as new routes around town. This is especially helpful to newcomers who might not be certain if they're training properly or wearing the right shoes. You might even carpool to out-of-state races your group has been training for.
There can be downsides to running clubs, too. As stressed earlier, the most important facet in succeeding in a running club is finding one that works for you [source: Hanc]. This means it meshes with your personality and your schedule, as well as your running goals. If you aren't able to find a club that does this, you may have a lackluster or frustrating experience. A highly competitive club may not work for an individual who simply wants to burn a few calories while chatting about his day. Likewise, an aspiring star may find she's not being pushed to new levels of performance if she's primarily jogging at an easy pace.
If you live in a small town, you're going to have fewer options, but it's still best to find a club that at least comes close to your expectations. You may also have to pay dues to the club, either yearly or quarterly. Your payment usually goes to keeping the club up and running, donating to specific causes or hosting parties and races.
One of the largest drawbacks of running clubs is that they're intimidating to new runners -- the people who can benefit from the club the most. If none of the local clubs fit your style, you can form your own. Continue on to the next page to find out how.
Forming a Running Club
There are many reasons to form your own running club. Perhaps your local running club meets at times and locations that aren't convenient for you or, as previously mentioned, the club may have goals that are completely different than yours. But before you go it alone, consider the possibility of partnering with the established organization in your area to create a separate off-shoot of runners. Think of it as a new department within a larger company -- a department that functions independently, yet still receives guidance and support from the existing operation.
If you do decide to start your own club, simply recruit some friends or colleagues and build an informal group. You can create a Web site or use social media tools like Meetups to communicate with members. If you find that your club has grown to include more than a couple dozen runners, there are liability issues you'll need to be aware of. One of the objectives of the Road Runners Club of America is to assist people who want to form running groups. It can provide general liability insurance and expertise as your club expands [source: Road Runners Club of America].
Recruiting new members can be achieved by placing flyers in local running stores, posting physical or online invitations at your workplace, or by reaching out to local athletic leaders like track and cross-country coaches at nearby colleges. Churches or philanthropic groups may also have members who share your love of running. Contact their organizers about ways you can partner.
For lots more information about running and exercise, continue on to the next page.
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