I’m sure most of you know a Running Club or two, some of you may even been in one. How can a running club help you? Is it worth the cost? How do you choose the ‘right’ one? What does the ‘right’ one even mean? It is even necessary to join one? What do you get from joining? The questions could go on and on and I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some.
The main reason to join a running club is for the group runs, depending on your club leaders, club size and or location group runs can be once a week, every day or somewhere in between. The runs tend to vary from easy 3-6 mile group runs to speedwork and long runs. I’d say that one of the main reasons for joining a running club is for the group running, with that said you would not be required to attend every run, however some clubs do require a specific level of participation. If you hate running with others running clubs are probably not for you.
Choosing the ‘right’ club can be as simple as this is the only one around or as tough as I have 8 in my neighborhood to pick from. My immediate area (sub 10 minutes has two clubs) if I travel 15-20 minutes I have access to three more and if I want to travel 20-30 minutes I could be near 10+ running clubs. I have nearly 15 options so I’ll assume you have choices too. To narrow the pool of potential clubs try to get ahold of their group run schedule (a lot of them are posted online), do these times and locations fit with your schedule? does one clubs fit better than the other? Joining a running club will not be beneficial to you cannot make the runs. Some clubs concentrate more on training while others more on the social aspect of running, so the next thing to think about is if the club competitive and if are you seeking a competitive club? by competitive I mean must you run/race at a specific pace. Many clubs are not solely competitive and have members of all paces.
In larger areas (like NYC) clubs are not just for separate neighborhoods some are for specific races/ethic groups, college alumni, employers, age or sexual orientation. These groups are for both competitive and social purposes. Just about every club will let you meet with them, then run once or twice before committing. This is a good way to get a feel for the team environment and members. It may take trying out a few clubs to find the right one.
Another thing to consider is the cost, I’ve seen membership dues ranging from $0 annually all the way up to $60. Besides the ‘fit’ and the running schedule consider the other benefits. You can typically expect discounts (from 10 – 20%) from local running stores and services (chiropractor, sports doctors, etc) as well as discounts on race registrations if your club puts on or partners with race directors. Not all clubs are created equal, some will provide benefits or perks others will not. The ‘right’ club for you will be a club that has runs you can attend, benefits you want, people you like being around and can challenge you to improve.
I am not currently active with any club, as a slower runner I enjoy the social aspect of running, don’t care about winning races and have been trying to find a club with like-minded members. I will admit that I hesitate to join my local (as in runs sometimes start 2 block away ) running club of nearly 200 people because their logo (thus the gear) is clip art and horribly ugly . Of course this is slightly pathetic on my part, i realize that… but as a designer I cannot justify spending money on the membership and then gear only to be forced into wearing and representing something hideous. Is anyone with me? I think most running clubs have awful logos.
Running with a club can push you improve your fitness level and speed while providing a fun time with generally awesome runners. The only reasons I can think of not to join a club is if you don’t have one nearby or you despise running with others. Did I get anything totally wrong? Leave something out? What has your experience with running clubs been like? I’d love to hear.