My Winding Running Journey Began in High School–
I’ve been running off and on for more than 4 decades. Over the years, my running routine has changed from solo runs, to buddy runs, to group runs! Now every weekend, I see all kinds of running groups at running stores, trail heads, local parks and on running paths. If you are out on Saturday mornings, you can’t miss seeing groups running together. Look for a tight knot of runners that bounds along as a pack, usually smiling or laughing even while they’re breaking a sweat. It makes sense, says an article in Women’s Running — spending time with friends is fun, and running can be too… so why wouldn’t you do both at the same time?
Some people are naturally attracted to joining running groups, but others shy away and avoid them. There are plenty of reasons people avoid running groups: the start time doesn’t work, the meeting place is inconvenient, the concern that nobody could possibly be as slow as you are, or you won’t know anyone, or you might get hurt trying to keep up just so you won’t be embarrassed. But reflecting back, there are far more benefits from running in a group than running alone.
Group vs. Solo Running
For all the turtle runners out there, take heart: no matter who you are, somebody else out there runs/walks/runs a mile at the same pace you do (or slower), and most groups have standing commitments to make sure every runner has at least one partner. I know because I was in one of those groups. Thankfully, I had lots of partners in my slower group. There were so many of us that our nickname was the “Thundering Herd”.
It’s thanks to that large “Thundering Herd” running group that I went from not believing to totally believing I could actually run a Half Marathon! I thought….’if all of these people can do it, then certainly I can too’. But what was so amazing is that I experienced deeper change running with the “Thundering Herd”. I went from not only believing I could run a Half Marathon to exceeding my goal and completing a Full Marathon!
Joining a training group changed my life and my belief in what I was capable of doing as I aged. Group running was one of the most empowering choices I made. Better late than never because now I continue to run and train for long distance running goals and empower others to do the same too! I’ll never go back to solo running.
The Benefits Running Together
Running (along with other forms of regular, steady aerobic exercise) is like a fountain of youth. Exercise is an essential component of staying fit as we age. When dealing with chronic health conditions, proper exercise helps keep them under control. Running releases stress, a major exacerbating trigger to most chronic diseases. Natural body chemicals called endorphins are released when running. They help relax the body, enhance a sense of well-being, and reduce or eliminate muscle aches and pain.
Running also helps clear ‘cobwebs’ in your in head, so you feel refreshed and energized. It can even be a cancer preventative and a remedy even for major depressive disorders, according to studies in The Journal of Nutrition and Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Movement is scientifically proven to be medicine for the body.
Motivating Accountability Partners
Despite the many health benefits of running, the hardest part of running is keeping up your motivation to stick with it! It’s especially challenging if you’re dealing with some form of a chronic health condition at the same time. It’s easy to give in, roll over and not get up to go on a run when you are training alone.
But when running in a group, it’s like having a whole team of accountability partners. It’s invaluable having other runners with you who know what you’re going through and can pick you up on the hard days. Running partners are a great inspiration when times get tough, especially when the weather is yucky. Then comes the joy of smooth, no-pain runs on beautiful clear sunny days with the same friends. The journey through “thick and thin” together is what gives group running a new level of meaning.
Running Groups and Training for Goals
Training for a goal, whether a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon or Marathon, is something that takes dedication and discipline. To get trained for long distance goals in a way that is empowering for your mind and your body, rather than breaking you down, takes steady effort. You don’t decide to do it once — you decide to do it over and over again, each week of training as you walk out the door to do your run.
I’ve found that when you run in a group you are stronger individually and stronger as a group. The benefits of group running actually increase over time as you train for a goal. Having friends on the same journey can motivate you in unique ways. You may find you have a friendly competition going with the granny of the group — “If she can do it, I can do it!”. Then you’ll find you’ve created a bond with another runner who matches your pace. You may push her on to a new personal best on a fast day. Her encouragement may keep your tired legs in motion on that long run after a long hard work week.
The most important motivator and benefit of being in a group is having fun together. Getting out the door and spending time with friends can lift your mood and improve your health. What better reason to get out there and run!
Start a Running Group for Health, Fun, and Empowerment!
I’m a follower and advocate of the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run method that I learned in the Raleigh Galloway Training Group. When I moved to Fort Worth, I felt lost without my “Thundering Herd” running group. I went back to solo running on the treadmill and felt more drudge than joy in my running. So, after a couple of years, I decided to start a Galloway Training Group in Fort Worth and got certified to be a Program Director. Now I am enjoying meeting, connecting and bonding with like-minded run-walk-runners and helping empower others to achieve and exceed their goals like I did using the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run training method.
Can’t find a running group nearby for group training? Think about starting your own. The benefits of joining a running group may even compound when you’re in a leadership role. You’ll find your desire to stay in a group for the long run is stronger if you’re helping others to achieve their goals with each new mile. Helping transform others is one of the most transforming things you can do for yourself. When your aerobic routine becomes more about bonding with the group and getting the most out of life than forcing your feet through another step, you’re getting far more than the physical benefits out of running. You’ve found the joy of running and are doing something worthwhile and meaningful. Run-walk-running in a group is a way of life for me.
Keep moving and live Well with Zest!
Written by Bev Hope