The fresh air, the changing colors of fall and spring, a refreshing breeze or spray of rain when you are hot, or the warm sun peeking through the clouds when you are still warming up. These are some of my favorite parts of running outdoors. I started running in 2012 after a friend invited me to a 5k fun run. Being a cardio junkie I immediately fell in love with running and challenging myself to run a little farther, or a little faster each time. At first, running was a solitary hobby, a time to decompress and rest my mind. But when the long training runs for my first marathon became grueling, I decided to check out running groups for some support, motivation, and variety. It was exactly what I needed to renew my love of running. It has been almost 4 years since I started running with groups and here is why I keep loving my running groups:
1. It keeps me accountable
As much as I love running and I know I always feel incredible after, there are still days where is an internal struggle to lace up my shoes. Maybe it’s early, dark, raining, or cold. If I know people are expecting me I am much more likely to get up and get going.
2. It pushes me harder
On average I run faster with groups because I have to keep up! Plus, let’s be honest, all runs have a moment or two when you just aren’t feeling it. Having someone to push you through those moments is invaluable.
3. It’s safer
Running with a friend or a group is always safer. Especially when running in the dark, heat, or inclement weather.
4. It’s distracting/entertaining
Runs seem shorter when you are distracted by conversation. It also gets me out of my head so I don’t focus too much on how many miles I have left or random aches in my legs.
5. You will meet new people with new running ideas
I have met some great people through running groups. Meeting other people with similar running habits has helped introduce me to new races and groups that I didn’t know about before. I have also spoken to seasoned runners to gather information about training plans, running nutrition, and general knowledge about training and running recovery.
6. Two words…long runs…
For me, this is the main reason I started running with a group. Long runs are LONG. I became burnt out on listening to my running mixes, and tired of running the same route from my house and back. Having someone else around to pound the pavement helps it go by faster and keeps me entertained.
7. You will find new places to run
Running groups take you out of your comfort zone to try a new route. The long run group Pacers group in Arlington has a rotating start on weekends so you will see a variety of routes. Even groups that start at the same spot each week tend to try different routes on occasion. Get ready to explore!
8. The group outside the group
All the groups I have been to tend to have another “unofficial group” that meets before the running group or on another day. As you make friends in the group, sometimes people organize for smaller runs with runners that have a similar pace or training schedule. This has been helpful to me when I have a packed schedule and can’t get to the regular scheduled groups.
Since many running groups are organized by running stores it is common that these groups may have promoters from some of the running brands who may come to fun runs and let runners try their shoes or other merchandise samples. Some running stores also do injury screenings, prize giveaways, discounts, or group activities such as spaghetti dinners before races. Who doesn’t love a freebie?
10. Maybe meet someone special?!
A new great running friend or maybe something else? Who knows!
Keep your eye open for our next post, when we’ll share a roundup of all the local running groups in the Fairfax area.