If in doubt, join a running club

One of the main things that has kept me a runner over the past few years is being a member of my local running club. I heard about the Striders when I was going along to a gym-lead running group in Rochford, the gym stopped running it but one of the runners recommended I try out one that meets twice a week along the seafront.

For a small annual fee to secure your membership and benefit from discounted entry into races, I joined the Leigh-on-Sea Striders club. What struck me about this club was the community spirit that I hadn’t really experienced in running by myself, other than at a 5km race for life I ran back at uni. As much as I enjoy my solo runs, there’s a lot to be said for running with a group.

Safety

In the dark winter months particularly, after a long commute back from London I feel much safer being part of a group of 50 or so other runners running the same route, with leaders to make sure everyone is accounted for.

Moral support

This can mean the difference between cutting a run short if you’re ‘not feeling it’ and proving to yourself that you can do it. I have lost count of the number of times when I have acknowledged that I would have stopped for a cheeky walk had I not been running with other people at the same pace as me.

You’re forced out of your comfort zone

Case in point: this week the Wednesday session was based on running sprinting on the sand, and doing squat thrusts (eugh!). This is a method of training I would have happily steered clear of if I wasn’t part of a club. If you’re on your own it’s much easier to stick to what you know and what you think is within your limits. When you’re part of a club you soon realise those limits were just… pathetic.

Knowledge base

There are people who lead each group session, plus many other members who are extremely experienced runners. They’ve done every method of training you can think of, run countless races of varying distances (from a 5 mile cross country up to ultra-marathons across a desert), they know about stretching, nutrition, running technique. You can guarantee that combined they’ve had every injury going and they’re more than happy to offer tips and advice to those who are seeking it. Beats Google any day.

It’s fun

The people in the club don’t take themselves too seriously, and try to inject an element of fun into the training (from cheering passing runners as we’re stretching in the cool down to donning fairy lights on the last session before Christmas). The fact that our club has been dubbed “the drinking club with a running problem” sums up the atmosphere of the group!

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