Group runs. It’s no secret that I love them. I help to lead two during the week, attend others on a very regular basis, and they are one of the biggest things I get questions about on my blog and even from local friends. I realized that even though group runs are so normal to me, not everyone is as familiar with them. In fact, deciding to attend a group run can actually be really intimidating and uncomfortable for those that feel like they don’t know what they’re doing. I remember the first time I went to one– I was SO nervous and made my mom come with me just in case it was too scary. Obviously it all worked out okay in the end, but since I went through it myself I completely understand where those people are coming from. Because of that, I wanted to write a post all about group runs, the etiquette involved, unspoken rules, and what to expect.
What to Expect
Generally, you should be able to get a feel for what kind of run it is from how it is advertised. Is it an intense training session where people aren’t inclined to wait for stragglers, or is it more laid back and focused on fun? If you’re looking for something more casual, phrases to look out for might be “no runner left behind,” or “all paces welcome.” If you can’t decide what the general atmosphere will be like, don’t be afraid to ask the leader. It’s better to clarify than to show up and be disappointed.
One of the most frequent questions I hear about group runs is regarding pace. For the most part, people tend to worry that they will be too slow or won’t be able to keep up. We all run at difference paces, some faster, some slower– and that’s totally okay! But it is important to make sure your pace will mesh well with the rest of the group. Most group runs will advertise what kind of paces they welcome. When looking for a run, make sure you stick to a group that includes your pace range to ensure that you won’t feel slowed down or have to run too fast to keep up. We have one run on our local newsletter that recommends a 7:30 – 9:00 minute per mile pace, another that is geared towards those running 12 minute miles and longer, and we have several others that welcome all pace ranges. Most groups will have a variety of paces, and if you are nervous about being able to keep up, just ask! I have had many people inquire about the paces for my group runs and as a leader have always been honest with them on what to expect.
Knowing the Course
Sometimes attending a group run can mean running in an area that you are unfamiliar with. If directions aren’t your thing, find out the route ahead of time and make yourself a small print out with directions or a map. If you have a fancy GPS watch or phone app, you might even be able to load the course onto one of those things. The bottom line: be prepared. I personally like to type out turn by turn directions into a small, palm sized piece of paper. That way I can reference it quickly just in case I don’t have someone in my line of sight to follow. It can be very stressful for a group leader to lose runners, so be sure to make an effort to be at least a little familiar with where you’re going. If you come to an intersection and aren’t sure which way to turn, wait for the person behind you before proceeding, that way they can point you in the right direction.
There are many general guidelines for group running that basically boil down to common sense. Some of these are just personal preference on my part, but I do think they apply to many people and situations.
Be punctual. Don’t show up a few minutes late and then gripe later about how the group left without you. Be aware of other runners around you. If someone wants to pass, allow them to do so. Ensure that you and your group aren’t taking up the entire pathway so that other runners or cyclists cannot pass. Leave only footprints– NEVER ever throw your trash on the ground. Keep your dogs leashed, especially if they aren’t trained well. Be courteous to the leader of the group run and understand that they are just trying to get their workout in too. It can be very stressful to lead a run, and especially so when people show up and have unrealistic expectations. Take responsibility for yourself. Be flexible, if you make the decision to run with a group, understand that this means you might have to make some concessions. And most importantly– be nice. 🙂
Finding a Group
And THIS is the most frequent question I get from you guys– how in the world do I find people to run with? This will be different for every person depending on the area that you live in. I can, however, provide some general guidelines. Make contact with (and join!!) your local track club. Track clubs are an excellent resource for all of your running needs and are always a hub of great information, including info on group runs and training groups. If you don’t have a track club in your immediate area, try the next town over. Another excellent resource for information about your running community is your local running store. Many running specialty stores even host group runs themselves, which is a great way to meet other runners and get integrated into your community. Lastly, make friends. Introduce yourself to people at races and that runner you always see in your neighborhood. Don’t be afraid to ask other runners on a running date. Can’t find a group that suits your needs? START ONE! 🙂 (Maybe that should be my next informative post…)
Running in a group can be a very fun and rewarding experience, especially when you find the group that is perfect for you and your needs. All of my best running stories and favorite times are times I was with friends, and I am often amazed at the fact that most of my closest friends are people I met on the road or the trail… It’s hard not to bond with the people that are next to you during those tough training moments, and often having a friend by your side helps you to push harder than you ever thought you could.
I hope this post has given you some good information on group running, and most of all I hope it inspired you to find a group. 🙂