Kirsty encourages runners to overcome their inhibitions and to join a club
I want to issue a disclaimer right at the start of this article: this will be a totally one-sided piece about how great running clubs are. It won’t be discussion or a weighing up of the pros and cons of joining a club. They’re great. That’s all.
Many people are very wary about joining a club. You think you’re not a good enough runner, you imagine they’re going to be very cliquey, you think they run too far or too fast. All of these are valid worries but any running club worth its salt will have a way of accommodating most runners, from links with beginner groups, to improvers and main groups, which will probably have lots of different sub-groups of varying speeds. The basic minimum requirement varies from club to club but it’s usually a pretty accessible standard.
So here’s my first observation about brilliant things about running clubs: watching people move up from group to group, gain confidence, get faster, start to enter races, and feel more and more part of the club is one of the most amazing things about being in a running club. Last weekend several runners in my club ran their first ever 10k race. As our more experienced club runners finished they all walked back to the finishing straight to see our other runners finish and we cheered them all in. I can honestly say I got a lot more out of watching the look on their faces than I did from many of my own running achievements. It was an incredible thing to feel part of and it was great to see how proud those runners were and how much their confidence had grown. That race certainly propelled those runners on to the next level.
Photo: Kirsty's running club Didcot Runners
An obviously brilliant thing about running clubs is the fact that they allow you to run with runners who might be a little bit better than you. They also allow you to push yourself to a degree that you can’t push yourself on your own (unless you have freakish levels of self-control). This phenomenon is otherwise known as peer pressure. At our club I can often see pleading eyes saying ‘not another hill rep’, only for people to cheerfully trot back up that hill with an air of ‘bring it on’. This only happens because they don’t want to be the only one to sit down on the floor and start crying. Peer pressure is a wonderful thing for improving your fitness.
By far the most important aspect of running clubs for me and many others is the social aspect. In normal life I find myself boring people to within an inch of their lives about my marathon split times or my choice of socks. Not so in running club world. You can talk about your toenail issues, Vaseline regimen or energy gel ingestion schedule until the cows come home and people will find it interesting! There’s a lot to be said for having a common interest. At the end of the day I think most running clubs are a bunch of friends who just happen to like running.
I also really value the day out or even holiday potential of running clubs. I’m not sure whether I’ve ruined many holidays/days out with my husband by shoe horning a race in (with proceeding picky eating and early night and subsequent day of limping around) or if I’ve opened up wonderful weekend break opportunities by entering races (actually I do know, it’s definitely the former). I do know that when I go with other runners we all absolutely understand and respect each other’s quirks and needs, we share in each other’s successes and failures and I never feel guilty about ruining somebody else’s weekend because they are enjoying it as much as me.
I read some research a while ago about how long it takes to create a new pattern of behaviour (66 days apparently: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0908/09080401). This article says that to create a habit you need to repeat the behaviour in the same situation. If that’s true, then what better place to form a running habit than a running club? They will always be there at the same time, same place, each week, and you’ll be addicted before you know it.
One point worth noting is that running clubs can only be brilliant because an enormous amount of organisation goes into them and a lot of this falls on club secretaries. They deserve a massive amount of credit and my own running club, Didcot Runners, is currently thriving due to a fantastic club secretary. Our club is amazingly inclusive, it’s growing, and we’re punching above our weight. A lot of that is down to the person at the helm.
I know that joining a running club did a huge amount for my running, my self-confidence, my social life and just my life in general. I know this won’t be news to anybody who’s already in a running club, but if you’re not and are considering it, I say give it a go. At the very least you’ll get a new running top.
Photos: Didcot Runners earning some silverware and thoroughly enjoying themselves
I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. The thing I get the biggest kick out of is being involved in my running club, Didcot Runners, encouraging people to get into running through a group I have in Oxford, and coaching runners to improve.