When running with the crowd is a good thing

This blog is in participation with Runner’s Lounge Take It and Run Thursday:

Before I get started, yes, I have been running, I just haven’t had time to post.  More on that later…

OK…  When I started running again last year with the goal of losing weight and eventually completing a marathon, I started out on my own.  I didn’t WANT to run with people.  I was kind of embarrassed at my own poor level of fitness and didn’t want people to hear me wheezing with the effort, so I ran alone.

At first I consoled myself by convincing me that I loved the solitude and self dependence that running alone provided.  All of which is true.  As my blog buddy the Laminator refers to it, “Dissociative running” (great term!) gives me time to mentally chew on stuff and as I started running again I found that I was solving the world’s problems (ok… maybe just my own carpentry problems…) at the same time.  Another initial argument I had against group running was that all the babbling would cut into my mental chewing.

As time went along, I got stronger, a bit faster… and kinda lonely… (yeah… yeah… I know… AWWWW…).  I started to wonder what it would be like to run with a group again.  I remembered from my past (WAY… past) experiences with running that there were some definite benefits to group running as well.  If you ever want to run a race, you WILL run with a group.  Doing so beforehand teaches you all kinds of things like pace, positioning, tactics, etc. so it is definitely worth it for that.

But being new to the area, I had no idea what if any groups were out there.  A quick search at my best friend Google revealed 4 local groups.  All with intimidating names to a Noob like me…  The Columbia TRACK Club…  Columbia MULTISPORT Club (4 time amateur triathlon national club champions!)… Mid Missouri ROADRUNNERS (now defunct)… THE LONG RUN LUNATICS… *sigh*

TRACK???  I think I ‘m allergic to track…

MULTISPORT???!!!  I can’t swim… and I don’t even OWN a road bike…

ROADRUNNERS??? That sounds… umm… fast…

THE LONG RUN LUNATICS???  Oh good god…

Nothing like a little intimidation before you ever even get there…

A conversation with the good people at my favorite running store convinced me that the times I was running were actually fine and would not have me eating dust as I thought I would, but would actually plant me firmly in the middle of the pack where I would be comfortable and sure to meet new running buddies left and right.  Being a noob… I wasn’t sure if she was being honest or sadistic, but I decided to do the old “trust but verify” thing, so I sucked it up and woke up at 4:45 in the FRICKIN AM, slapped on my running stuff in the dark and headed out the door…

Best damn decision I ever made.

Don’t get me wrong, I went “kicking and screaming”… I didn’t want to go.  I had heard that this particular group was very dedicated and full of what I call “skinnies”.  Very fast and in shape runners who are in desperate need of an extra Skittle or two in their diets…  I had also heard stories of over 100 runners showing up for this EARLY morning run, which in itself says something.  Despite all this I went anyway.

As I pulled in to the parking lot, I expected to be the only one there.  To my surprise, the place was already half full of very skinny, in shape people… Not only were they in shape, they were morning people… Nice, encouraging, friendly, positive.  I had heard of such people but had never seen one before 6 in the frickin AM.  Now I was faced with a herd of them.  Their leader wrote my name down on a list (used to track attendance for a reward system involving beads.  It’s actually kinda fun!) and even introduced me to the 125 runners that showed up.  All of whom applauded my existence.  Uncomfortable… but again… kinda neat.

Their leader announced the run route, discussed a couple of upcoming races and then we were off.  My adrenaline was pumping so much I nearly shot off into the distance ahead of everyone but I forced myself to stay mid pack as they warmed up.  Once the obligatory warmup mile was over, the pack really stretched out but to my surprise… I didn’t get dropped.  There were people to run with the whole way.  We talked, laughed, shared goals and training tips and pulled each other through the last mile.

…amazing…

I was so wrong in my impressions of group runs.  I mean… yes… unless you are the first runner in the group, you will eat dust.  But that is minor compared to what you get out of it.

My group runs have made me a much better racer.  Learning to run in tight spaces, practice pacing (I have a really bad habit of going out WAY to fast), work on setup for corners and water stations.

My group runs have made me a better runner.  Besides making me push myself both in speed AND mileage, they have given me more reason to run, improved my discipline and dedication and deepened my passion for running.

My group runs have shown me a whole other side to running that is now my favorite part.  Other runners.  I have made new friends, found out that I am more unique and at the same time more average than I thought and that what I thought were problems only I suffer from are actually common (both physical and mental).

Because of all of this I have expanded my group running.  I run more races, look for group runs, volunteer at races I don’t run in, and have even taken the extreme step of running one night a week on the track and have discovered that 1.) I’m not allergic to it, and 2.) It has made me a stronger runner.

At the end of it all, I can’t say enough about the positives of running with a group.  Don’t get me wrong, because of the times that I run I am in a “no man’s land” sometimes where I am not quite fast enough to run with the “skinnies” but I’m too fast for the rest of the group (this usually happens at about an 8 minute mile), so I end up running alone.  But the group is there at the start and finish, always encouraging, positive and happy.  I can’t stress enough how much this means to me as a runner and a person…  It’s why I still run.

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4 Responses to When running with the crowd is a good thing

  1. Betsy says:

    I think you should bring a pack of Skittles to your next meeting.

  2. Wow…what a great post. You’re making me embarrassed about my “dissociative running” After reading your awesome story, I need to find my own running group and work on a new “associative running” post.

  3. allenkenya says:

    Really nice post. Sounds a lot like my experience with the YMCA 10K training group and a Christmas lights run that I’ve done the last couple of years. While I like and need the solitary running most of the time, I also like a group or friend fix regularly.

  4. […] presents When running with the crowd is a good thing posted at DaBigLeap. Are you a lone runner or do you love the social aspects of running with a […]

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