There are many benefits of joining a running club, however it is still something which I put off for a long time! I recently plucked up the courage to attend a club and you can read about my experience with two local clubs here.
Joining a club can seem daunting, especially for the beginner or novice runner. Surely running clubs are for the elite and speedier runners? Definitely not! Each club will have a number of different groups and should have something to offer each member, regardless of ability or pace.
Still not convinced? Well, there are a number of benefits to joining a club:
For me, an important part of joining a running club was to meet like-minded people. I love running, however my co-workers couldn’t think of anything worse! As such, they are most likely fed up of hearing about my runs! It’s nice to spend time with people who share your interests and perhaps even share some of the same ambitions.
Meet new people
Meeting new people is always exciting. You never quite know what to expect! Running clubs usually have a diverse spectrum of runners, from youngsters who compete for the club to the veteran 70+ categories who still enjoy running and being part of the club. Abilities will differ, however a good club will cater to all. It’s a great way to meet people who you may never have come across previously but are united by an enjoyment of running. Athletics clubs will also offer disciplines such as the long jump, hurdles, shot-put, and so on. There are also triathlon clubs which alternate training days for swimming, running and cycling.
A good running club will offer encouragement and value each runner. This encouragement can help during tough sessions, but also allows you to feel like a valued member of the group. At the end of each run with my running group everyone congratulates each other and then has a drink in the club room. Encouragement works wonders. Many a time have I been struggling in an event and a random stranger has cheered me on and that alone has given me a boost to keep my legs moving.
Meeting new people and making friends also opens doors to attend more social gatherings, such as for meals or days out together. Chris’s cousin invited a lot of the members of her running club to her wedding reception. It’s definitely a great way to boost your social engagement and spend time with people who share the same interests.
Without a doubt, joining a running club can help you to improve. Regardless of your pace or goals, a running club is a great way to improve your running. Even if you have no desire to enter events, joining a running club allows you to push yourself and also improve your running efficiency.
Working with coaches and experienced runners
Joining a club opens the door to working with run leaders, coaches and more experienced or faster runners. All of these people can help you to improve as a runner. There is a lot that can be learnt from each of them, whether it’s improving form, pace or endurance. There will always be someone who you can seek advice from, even for things such as fuelling for an event, training for an ultra or clothing recommendations. Some clubs may also have doctors or physiotherapists who can help treat and / or prevent injuries.
Structured training sessions
Usually a running club will have at least one structured training session which aims to improve efficiency or speed. These are typically in the form of hill repeats, intervals, sprints or track work. Structured sessions can be difficult for some people to incorporate on their own. Having these sessions planned out for you makes things a lot easier and will help you to improve.
Other runs are usually slower paced social runs, however they can be utilized in different ways. For example, your usual group may be heading out for an easy 6 miler, so you could run with them for a steady run to build endurance. Alternatively, you could opt to run with a slightly faster group and use it as a tempo run.
Running in a group enables you to push yourself harder than you may do on your solo runs. A group environment reduces the amount of perceived effort during a run. As such, you will be able to run a little faster or a little longer than if you were running alone. This makes tough sessions feel a bit easier and less daunting than attempting them solo.
Representing a club
Wearing a club vest and representing a club can act as a great incentive to push harder, especially when racing! What better way to try and get a personal best than knowing that you are representing your club. There is also added incentive if you are taking part in a team event or tournament.
Joining a running club opens up other opportunities. These will vary depending on the club structure and facilities that they have available.
Clubs which are situated in a stadium or large gym may offer use of a running track. Gym tracks are usually shared with gym members, however most clubs will have exclusive use of the track on club nights. Some clubs also offer other facilities such as the use of a gym or weights room, shower area, changing rooms, and even physiotherapists.
Depending on your ambitions, you may be able to join a cross country, road or relay team through your club. Some clubs are more serious than others, however there are usually a number of ways that you can take part in competitions or represent the club.
Many clubs host a yearly or seasonal Grand Prix. At the start of each year or season, a list of fixtures will be decided; these are local events which count towards the Grand Prix rankings. The idea is that your finishing time in these events is compared to the other runners in your club and you are then allocated points based on finishing positions. So if 20 people entered the event and you finished 1st you would get 20 points. The groups can be split into male and female competitors and then the winners are announced after the final fixture. It’s a good incentive to encourage club members to enter events and represent the club.
A lot of runners are put off by the thought of running alone on the evenings, especially during the dark winter period. I have personally encountered a few situations where I have felt uncomfortable running alone in the evening, despite sticking to main roads. Joining a running club allows you to train multiple times a week and guarantees you someone to run with. Even if you can’t attend the official training nights of your club there are usually plenty of other ways to meet up and run with fellow club members at different times. As the saying goes, safety in numbers.
If your running club offers UK Athletics membership then you will be entitled to discounts on certain products. Aftershokz bone conducting headphones are usually available at a discounted rate for UKA members. Other discounts can be found on the UKA website. In addition, most races also offer a discounted entry fee. This reduced fee is usually £2-5 cheaper per race.
Joining a running club offers numerous benefits for all of its members, not just the speedsters! Whether you are looking for a more social experience, to improve your running, or for more opportunities to compete or train, there is something to gain from joining a club. In addition, there are discounts for UKA members and also safety benefits of running with a group. Overall, it is important to understand what you are looking to gain from joining a club and then try out different clubs in order to choose the one that is best for you.