Very soon after pulling on your running shoes for the first time, you’ll probably wonder: “Should I join a running club?”
In my opinion, there is only one answer and you might not be surprised to find it is a resounding YES!
I’ll go into detail later, however, in summary, a club will provide motivation, friendship, and expert knowledge.
We all know that trying to achieve something on your own can be a struggle. As soon as you have like-minded people around you, life becomes so much easier. This is no different when running
But if there are so many advantages, why do so many runners NOT get involved with a club?
Obviously, there are many people who like to go out running but never join a running club.
Sometimes this is down to the fact that they just like the solitude of running alone.
Most often though, you will find runners will have a distorted view of what a running club is.
This view of clubs and their members has the effect of scaring them off.
Some of the most common preconceptions for not joining include:
Not Good Enough
When most of us start running we are not particularly fast, and we can’t run that far.
At the same time, most new runners will perceive running club members as something akin to Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe.
No way do they think they are good enough to rub shoulders with these local track and road superstars.
The Reality: Of course, there are all sorts of clubs. Yes, some are aimed more at ‘serious’ runners, but most cater for runners of all abilities.
The only criteria for most clubs is that the members want to run.
The Wrong Shape
Some larger runners have the belief that ‘proper’ runners will laugh at anyone carrying a few extra pounds.
The Reality: Again, this belief that all members are going to be stick thin is just not true.
You will see all shapes and sizes in most running clubs.
What is also true, if you join a running club you will start losing some of those extra pounds!
Not Knowing Enough
When we start running, we usually have little or no idea about what we are doing.
We don’t know how far to run, what stretches to do, what food to eat, how to warm up…
…or any of the other technicalities of being a runner.
Yet people think you must know what you are doing to be accepted in a club.
The Reality: In the real world, the majority of new members will join a club with limited technical knowledge about running. It is by joining a club that you will most quickly gain the knowledge to improve as a runner.
These are, some of the main factors stopping a lot of runners (especially new runners) joining a local club.
There are going to be many more reasons, probably almost as many as there are runners who haven’t joined a club.
The rest of this article will make it crystal clear that joining a running club is a great idea for just about any runner.
It doesn’t matter what your ability, experience, or shape, is.
So in no particular order, here are some of the best reasons for joining a club:
The top reasons for finding a running club:
Spend Time With Like-Minded People
Let’s face it, the overriding reason people are going to join a running club is that they like running.
This, in turn, means that EVERYONE in the club is going to have at least one thing in common.
Also, I don’t know if this is just my imagination, but running clubs seem to be full of friendly people.
In this environment, it is almost impossible NOT to make new friends.
I remember when I first joined my running club, almost immediately I met people who I clicked with straight away. Some had been running for years, some had just started, some were hares, and some were tortoises, but all were really friendly.
Club runs are a really enjoyable mix of exercise and social interaction. An experience that makes you want to come back each week and continuing with your running.
You might even find that some of the friendships go beyond the club environment.
In terms of human interaction, you really can’t beat the friendly, inclusive nature of most running clubs.
If you have had a long day at work, or it’s cold and dark, solo running is a struggle.
It can sometimes be a challenge to pull your kit on and go out for a run.
No one is going to notice if you miss a run.
But of course, it is you that is going to feel the negative effects of not going.
When you join a running club, you get what I call the ‘push/pull’ motivation.
We WANT to go out for regular club runs due to the friendly social interaction.
This is what I would describe as the ‘pull’ motivation.
You are ‘pulled’ to want to go running because it is not just about the benefits of running anymore.
Now it is also about the pleasure you get from seeing your club buddies.
It is something you want to do.
Then there is the ‘push’ factor.
You know that if you don’t go to the club run, that you will be letting people down. Your fellow club members will be expecting to see you. Now it is not just about you, but it is also about what others think about you.
So now it is also about ‘pushing’ yourself to go for your run because people are relying on you.
Combine these two factors and you have some VERY strong motivation to go out for that run.
Suddenly, the psychology of being a club member means it is not so easy to skip your run.
Become a Better Runner
In reality, this covers a number of different advantages of joining a running club, but the ultimate result is that you will become a better runner.
Whether your running goal, being part of an organised group is going to help you get there.
Do you want to run more quickly?
Do you want to run further?
Do you want to run with a better technique?
Or, like most of us, do you want a combination of all these things?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, running club membership is definitely a good idea.
Some of the things that a club provides that will help you become a better runner include:
All official running clubs in the UK will have qualified coaches in their ranks.
These are people that understand the finer points of running and are there to improve the ability of the running enthusiasts they come into contact with.
From giving you the right warm-up routine to make sure you steer clear of injury, through to suggestions to improve your form.
No, we can’t all run a sub 4-minute mile (or anywhere close), but with the help of a coach, you can become the best, quickest runner that YOU can be.
The coaches within clubs I’ve met always have an infectious enthusiasm for what they do.
Variation In Your Training
When you are a lone runner, it is very easy to fall into a rut.
You do the same routes, the same exercise, the same drills, etc. The upshot of this is running becomes boring. And we all know that when something becomes boring, it is very easy to give it a miss.
Even if you push through the boredom factor, if you keep doing the same things, it is not going to be long before you plateau.
Your body gets accustomed to what you do, and so it adapts to cope. To get the best improvement, you need to be constantly mixing things up.
When you join a running club, variety is very much the spice of life.
All of a sudden it is not just one person (you) coming up with the training you do. Now you have coaches constantly coming up with new and interesting routes.
They will have a combination of focuses; one week you might be doing hill work, the next you might be doing short sprint efforts and so on.
Even if you don’t want to get involved with a club, trail running is a great alternative to you might want to consider adding some trail running to your efforts to introduce some variety.
Check out this post to help: Trail Running For Beginners
It is human nature that we all like a certain amount of competition.
Before I go on, I must stress I’m not talking about ‘win at all costs, hope the other person loses’ competition.
No what I’m talking about is the positive natural motivating competition that mates have.
A sort of competition that spurs you on to do just that little bit better, to run that little bit further, to run that little bit faster.
Recently our club had a friendly contest to see who could gain the most elevation in a run (as measured by Strava). By the end of the week, just about everyone had run up more hills than ever before.
The thing is, with the sort of competition you get in a club, everyone is really supportive and show appreciation for the gains made by other members.
Increased Specialist Knowledge
It is fair to say that when most new runners join a club they don’t know their Achilles heel from the elbow…
…and let’s face it, why should they be expected to?
Whenever we start doing something as a newbie, we tend to know very little and consequently aren’t very good at it. It is only with time and experience we start to learn the finer points of any undertaking…and with it get better.
When you are around other runners, the time to gain this knowledge is severely short cut due to your environment.
We tend to be quite nerdy when it comes to running, and therefore when you join a running club there is bound to be huge amounts of information and knowledge to be had.
Whether you need to know about nutrition, types of running shoe, or new routes to run, there is always people around you with knowledge they will happily share.
I have lost count of the times I picked up snippets of information from my club runs, which proved really useful for my running.
Either formal instruction from the coaches (see the previous point), or from another runner who just happened to have experienced.
Due to the sort of lives we all lead, most week-time running has to be done in the evening.
During the summer months this is usually OK, but come the autumn and winter months, when the nights start drawing in, it is more of an issue.
Even during the lighter evenings or during the day, if you are going for longer or trail runs, it is possible that you might be running ‘off the beaten track’. And although this doesn’t automatically put you in danger, it does increase the possibility of something happening.
Even without the dark, or isolation, you are not immune from tripping or being injured on a run.
I remember once when I was out on a run, and exactly at the furthest point on the route from my house, I felt my hamstring pull. Because no one was with me, and I didn’t have a phone, I had to hobble back the 3 miles or so to home.
The old expression goes, ‘there is safety in numbers’, and running with a club by definition means you are going to be running with others.
So joining a club will increase your safety when out running and therefore be a positive motivation to not miss a run when it is pitch black outside.
So there you go, there are my top 5 reasons for joining your local running club.
There are many more reasons to join, but hopefully, the reasons I’ve included here will have persuaded you it’s a good idea to search out and give a local running club a try.
Most clubs tend to have a free ‘taster’ period where you can go out with the club for several runs just to check them out.
Local clubs, including contact details, are listed on the UK Athletics website,