So you are ready to take on a “runcation”, and you have your training plan in hand, but you still need that extra push of motivation! For some, running is a regimen best experienced in solitude. It is a stress reliever, and a moment to reflect and clear your head from the daily routine and weekly grind. But for others, running is best experienced cooperatively, in local running clubs, as a shared morale booster and a social event. This is why several of my tips in my 16 week half marathon training guide are geared towards determining if you are a solo or group runner, and then training respectively. It makes a difference! So, if you are that person that knows your motivation lies with others, then you are ready to find your running group “pack”. But how do you go about doing that? Where do you find an organized group of other runners and active travelers? Here are the top eight proven ways to find and participate in a local running club.
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Table of Contents
How to Find and Participate in Local Running Groups Near Me
This guide will cover the top 8 ways to find running groups near you, and then how to get engaged and actively participate in them!
- Facebook Groups
- Running Apparel Stores
- Local Parks and Recreation
- Local Gyms
- Network at a Local Race
#1: Facebook Groups
Social media is a dominating factor in any organized running group or local running clubs. A quick search on Facebook for “running club” and “running group” will pull up a list of both small and large running groups near you, for small towns and large cities alike.
An added bonus is that runners love collaborating with other runners, and a quick Facebook message to the group will likely be responded to quickly and enthusiastically by the owners. These groups are great for keeping members up to date on happenings and schedules.
Closely related to Facebook and social media is the facilitated meet up website Meetup.com. There are numerous running groups, local running clubs, and opportunities posted here, and again, it is a reliable way to find out what is going on near you, whether you live in a small town or big city. All it takes is a few minutes to set up an account, and then search away!
Much like the owners of Facebook groups, there is usually a point person of contact when joining a Meetup, and their contact information will be included in the group Meetup’s information. You can also schedule to have reminder emails sent you regarding get-togethers.
#3: Running Apparel Stores
Running stores and providers often host and facilitate organized running group runs at their venues or sponsored host venues. Not only will you meet a group of like minded people through these events, but you have the chance to interact with some very knowledgeable staff who work for these stores and help to organize the running group. I have participated in several store sponsored organized running events, and they are a fun way to socialize, network, and often, enjoy a post run social get together over food or drinks.
#4: Local Parks and Recreation
One of the most reliable ways I hear about organized running groups, local running clubs, and local events is through my local parks and recreation website and Facebook page. This is a great, under-rated resource, as almost every city has a Parks and Recreation branch, and a large majority now post their happenings on Facebook. Simply clicking “Interested” in a posted event on Facebook will keep you updated on information regarding that event. Reach out to your local Parks and Recreation, and take a look at their event calendar.
It is becoming more prevalent now for restaurants, bars, and breweries to help organize a running group or events, especially if they know they have prime real estate and clientele to do so. For example, while eating at a well known barbecue joint in Fort Worth recently, set along the banks of a popular running trail along the Trinity River in Fort Worth, I noticed flyers for an upcoming organized running event. It made sense, given this restaurant’s outdoor vibe, the demographic of customer that frequented the establishment, and the location of the restaurant adjacent to a running trail. This particular restaurant marketed a free beer upon completion of the group run. It was a win win for all involved, and a great option for looking into organized runs and group events.
Websites such as Road Runners Club of America allows you to search for local running clubs by state, and then view respective running clubs by cities. This method works particularly well if you live in a large city, as a majority of larger cities are represented. If you live in a smaller city, you may not find your town listed, or may have to commute to reach one of the listed running clubs.
#7: Local Gyms
This is another option for in person networking. If you already attend a gym, keep an eye out for anything to be posted in regards to running groups. Word of mouth among other gym members or knowledgeable staff may also open up some doors as well.
#8: Network at a Local Race
Sign up to do a local 5k, fun run, or related organized running event, and you will likely be provided with a multitude of leads at the event. Running clubs will advertise and likely pass out flyers with your registration packet. The venue may advertise future upcoming races and group events that are related to, sponsored, or organized through an affiliation with a running club.
Often the best, and most traditional way to network at a race is to ask other runners. Word of mouth is often the most reliable way to find out about running clubs and organized running events. Ask other runners how they train, who they train with, and what other organized events they take part in. Runners are a special breed who embrace camaraderie, and I guarantee you will be provided with a wealth of recommendations.
So You Found A Running Club Near You, Now What?
Once you have found your pack, there are a 5 major guidelines to keep in mind.
#1: Find Out Your Running Club Schedule and Expectations
First, most local, organized running groups have weekly scheduled runs on the same days, so get familiar with their calendar. Often, there will be different group distances offered. For example, Mondays might be the under five mile runners, and Thursday might be the long run group. Saturdays may be open to all, followed by a social get together for brunch at a local eatery. Know yourself, and pick your specific niche or distance intentionally.
If possible, talk to the group owner or other members ahead of time and find out what the expectations are as far as being a group member. Sometimes, certain running groups are comprised of members mostly training for a specific running event, such as a 5k, half marathon, or marathon. Ensure that your goals align with the groups expectations. This does not necessarily mean you won’t be welcomed as a 5k runner into a half marathon heavy running group, but there may be a running group better suited for you that can support you better in your running goals.
#2: Reach Out Ahead of Time
Secondly, do not be afraid to reach out before your first group run. Especially if you have located the group on social media, reach out ahead of time and introduce yourself to the group owner, or other members through posts or comments. If you are planning to join on your own, that first initial meetup can be a little daunting as a newcomer, and it helps to have laid the groundwork and gotten to know a few friendly faces before showing up for your initial introduction.
#3: Do Not Compare Yourself
Third, the temptation of group runs is to compare yourself to others. Don’t. There will always be someone faster than you. Measure your success by how far you have come, not by how you stack up to others. Runners are historically a supportive breed, and they will welcome you with open arms no matter your speed or experience level, as long as you pass on that support to others. Use others to motivate you and to keep you accountable in a positive light. Social runners feed off of each other, so know that your presence there is no doubt motivating somebody else as well.
#4: Be a Team Player in Your Running Club
Fourth, respect the expectations of the group. Be on time for the start of the run. If the group expectation is for members to attend a certain amount of monthly runs, do you absolute best to attend, because others are counting on you just as you count on them for encouragement and morale.
Attend a social event if they occur. Be sure to know what you need to bring, or what may be provided. Be an active member, and that means giving back as well as receiving.
#5: Soak It In and Pass It On
Lastly, take advantage of the wealth of free knowledge! Runners love to talk about their favorite shoes, destination races, their mistakes, their challenges, their failures, their injuries, and their successes. They love to recommend gear and equipment and clothing. They will tell you their motivating stories, and the motivating stories they have witnessed. It is all gold, so take advantage of it! And once you have passed from group rookie to group novice, do not forget to reach out the future newbies and make them feel welcome.
Benefits of Joining a Running Club
I have personally experienced the best that social running has to offer. There is nothing quite like having a former total stranger bond with you simply because they see that you are a fellow runner, and share their pride in your accomplishments with you. There is nothing quite like witnessing your fellow runners overcome their own challenges and sharing in their pride with them. Run with a veteran, an amputee, or a cancer survivor, and you will know instantly what I mean. Running together can bring out the very best!
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