It can be hard to stay motivated when running solo. Cold winters, shin splints, boring playlists... sometimes getting up and out can be the hardest part. So what about joining a running club? Have you ever thought about it? What are the benefits, and are there any drawbacks?
Running alone can be dreadfully lonely, especially on the long winter nights when you find yourself plodding along for 10 miserable miles. But who said running has to be boring? If you join a running club, you'll be among like-minded people who may be training for a specific event or just out for a fun jog with their friends. You'll meet people from your town who you may never have met otherwise, so it's a great opportunity to make friends.
There's been countless times that I've set out for a run but ended up turning back after only a mile or two because it's too cold or I'm too tired or my legs hurt too much. But if you're running with a club, there is much more motivation to keep going. You can chat to your running buddies to keep your mind occupied and you can explore new routes, which will be covered in the next point.
When I run, I'm very guilty of always going the same way, which can get very boring after a while. I'm not very adventurous with my runs because I'm never too sure of where will be safe to run, or if the route will even have pavement the whole way along. I certainly never bother to drive out to a run location; I always start and finish at home. But by joining a running club you will be encouraged to try new routes that you would never have even dreamt of before. The best part is that the distance will already be tried and tested so all you will have to do is turn up and run! You may experience runs through woodlands or off-road for the first time which is a great added bonus.
Safety In Numbers
Running alone, especially in the evening, can feel a little unsafe. Running with a club means you will be a lot safer in all aspects as there will be so many people running alongside you. Traffic is also more likely to stop to let you cross the road if there is a large number of you, so your run will be less interrupted if you are running on busy streets or in a city.
Doors to other events
Before I joined a running club, I never even thought about running a race or joining the local Parkrun. By being a member of a club, you will end up being motivated to train for events such as 10ks and half marathons, which are always more enjoyable when you have comrades to cheer you on. Feeling part of a team is a fantastic feeling.
Choosing the right club
There may well be more than one running club in your town or city, so choosing the right one is fairly important as they are not all the same. In my town for example, we have one club which is free of charge to be a member of and it is very much a relaxed group of people who love to run for fun and eat cake afterwards! There is another club which is on the other end of the spectrum, who take running very seriously, so they motivate each other in a very different way. This club has an annual fee, however being an affiliated club means you get cheaper entry to races so after a while your fee should pay for itself. Run Together has a list of nationwide running clubs, or doing a simple Google search will provide you with local clubs around you.
If you don't feel ready to join a run club just yet, why not try Parkrun? This weekly event is a 5k run held in your local park (you can find your closest Parkrun here) It is a growing community, with hundreds of participants showing up each week at each location! It is completely free of charge and you can be of any ability, many people just walk the course. It's great for those trying to improve their running as it is chip timed so you get an official finish time every time you turn up and run. The atmosphere is incredibly supportive and it will allow you to meet like-minded people from your local area who are all there for the same reason - to get fit and enjoy the process!
So what are you waiting for! Let's get running!
If you're looking to run your first ever 5k, 10k, or half marathon, follow our top tips to beat the nerves and make the most of your day. You never know, it could be the start of something big!
1. Make sure you know all the race information in advance
Usually, race organisers will email you important race information before the big day. Make sure you check your emails regularly and keep an eye on your spam and junk folders.
If you don't receive any emails, keep an eye on the official race website so that you're sure you know all of the important race information before you arrive at the race.
2. Check the race route and elevation profile
There will be many different reasons why you might have chosen this particular race. Maybe it's close to home or you have friends taking part. It's important to bear in mind, however, that it's the route that could make or break your day, especially if you haven't trained for it.
If the course description says it is 'undulating', you should be prepared for a few hills! If you can, check the elevation profile of the course beforehand and make sure you know whether it is all on tarmac and roads or whether it goes off-road and onto trails. Is there a large downhill section that could help you get a PB if you push hard enough? You'll be gutted if you realise afterwards that you were seconds off! So long as you're prepared, you'll have a great time.
3. Arrive in plenty of time
There's nothing worse than arriving late and having to rush to the race start. If the race is done on closed roads, there is a chance the car parking may become compromised and you won't be able to park close to the start of the race. Check the race information beforehand and make sure you know where you can park, if you are travelling by car.
Give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet, warm up, and make your way to the race start. If you need to pick up your race number on the day, allow yourself even more time to do this. Starting the race without stress will make a huge difference to your performance and enjoyment of the experience.
4. Give yourself time to have a comfort break before the race starts
One thing that is for sure at a lot of races, the queues for the portable toilets are epic! It's understandable that you'll want one last comfort break before the race starts, but make sure you join the queue in plenty of time as the race organisers won't wait for you to start the race.
5. Take your own hydration and nutrition
Especially if you've been training with a specific sports drink brand or with particular gels, you should take them with you so that you know you'll have them. While some races do offer aid stations, it's not guaranteed that they'll have what you're used to and it's not guaranteed they'll have enough for everyone.
Avoid disappointment by taking your own water so that you know you'll be well hydrated throughout the race and won't go without if there isn't enough. It will also mean you aren't gasping for water between water stations and you won't be preoccupied the whole time wondering when the next station will be.
6. Don't forget to warm up
Nerves can get the better of you on race day and this can cause you to forget your usual pre-run ritual. Especially if you're in a rush or things aren't going as expected, you could easily forget to warm up, but this could mean disaster and you could get injured.
Take some time to relax and do what you usually do pre-race so that you're in the best condition to run well and finish with a smile on your face.
7. Listen carefully to the race brief
At all good races, there will be a race brief conducted by the Race Director before you set off. There will be important safety information as well as information about the course and aid stations so make sure you listen carefully to anything you need to know.
Being well prepared will hugely affect your enjoyment of the race, so listen carefully to the race brief and don't be afraid to ask any questions if you have them.
8. Stick to your pace
You'll inevitably end up running faster on race day due to adrenaline and chasing other runners, but make sure you don't burn yourself out. Your first ever race will be a crazy experience and you won't know what to expect.
It's natural that you'll end up running much faster than usual, and this will happen at most races, but so long as you don't over-exert yourself, you can use this to your advantage. Try to stick to your planned pace as much as possible, but don't be afraid to push a little harder and maybe even get a PB.
9. Take a change of clothes
Most people plan well for the race but then forget about what will happen afterwards. Even in winter, you will be sweaty and uncomfortable after the race and if you have a long way to drive to get home, you'll want a change of clothes.
It's also a good idea to take a friend or family member with you, not only for support during the race, but so they can help you afterwards. If you pushed hard, you'll be exhausted as well as hungry and thirsty, so your support crew can help you get food and water and can drive you home while you relax in the passenger seat and enjoy a job well done.
10. Enjoy yourself!
This is certainly the most important point. If you adhere to all of the points above, there is no reason why you can't have a very enjoyable race. Being part of an organised race is a fantastic experience and you could well become hooked after your first one. Make sure you remember to enjoy yourself as that is the whole point! If you have prepared well, there is no reason not to.