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.