Running is a solitary sport. In fact, many runners come to the sport as a way to carve out a small amount of meditative alone time in a stressful world. For introverts, running is an ideal way to throw in the earbuds and distance yourself from the nonstop chit-chat of the world around us.
Others run alone because they worry that they can't find a comfortable pace to share with friends and family. It's uncomfortable for one of you to run faster or slower than you might otherwise run alone.
Whatever your excuse has been for not joining a running club, it might be time to reconsider. There are advantages to joining a club that may lead to big gains in your running program.
1. Push Yourself to Do the Thing You Hate
Maybe you hate running in the heat or your weekly mileage is designed to prevent hills. Whatever the thing may be, joining a running club will eventually push you to do that thing. If you've signed up for a hilly race and know that you can't push yourself to run up any incline, running with your club will give you the motivation you need to tackle the hills. There's an intrinsic value to having others in your group to follow into the gates of hell, or up a hill, which is really the same thing. If you're lucky enough to find a club with great coaches and leaders, you might even pick up a few expert tips to make the incline work seem easier.
2. Someone to Chase
In every running club there are faster runners and slower runners. Having a teammate that is slightly faster than you gives you someone to chase; you can't mimic that competitive nature on your own. Find someone who is 30 seconds or so faster than your comfortable pace and see if you can get closer with each group run. You'll likely find out that you can both push each other to a new PR come race day.
3. The Weather
Your running club will likely meet for a run even if the weather is less than ideal. If you're inclined to skip a run because it's anything other than clear blue skies and a little on the chilly end of the thermometer, you need a running club. You probably had to make some financial investment to join your club, or at the very least, you know that there are people waiting at the start line for you to arrive. When it's hot and humid or pouring down rain, you'll feel an element of guilt if you skip out on your team. You don't get that feeling on your own very often.
4. Support and Conversation
If you truly hate talking while you run, a club can't make you talk. You might find, though, that light conversation about, say, a mutual love of the local farmers market makes you stop staring at your GPS watch just long enough to breeze through a mile you didn't think you were going to make it through. You don't have to talk about running or share your playlist with a teammate running alongside you. In fact, if you're a little more introverted than your compatriots, you might just find yourself listening. Once that runner's high kicks in, you might find that you're less introverted than you are during the course of the workday, and you'll start to look forward to chats with your new friends.
5. They Get It!
If you're the only runner in your family or social group, you've likely found yourself staring back at blank faces when you talk about a black toenail or runner's trots. Members of a running club, though, just get it. Wondering why you can't eat peanut butter before a run without feeling like you're going to crap your pants? Ask away! They may not know the answer either, but someone in the group might just fire back with a "me too!" that makes you feel more human than the blank faces of disgust you've experienced in the past. What to wear on a long run in the Winter? How hot is too hot? Have you ever felt unsafe during a race? This group will get it and may even have the answer to your strangest running questions.