When I started running just over 3 years ago now, I was alone. I remember shuffling up and down the lake shore in Marquette, headphones firmly planted in my ears, head down, and huffing and puffing all by myself. I didn’t have anyone but myself to push me. And that’s not a bad thing – but there’s another way. A better way, in my humble opinion – and that is to run with others.
There wasn’t, so far as I knew a group available to beginners in Marquette. There may have been groups who met to run, but they were not made public knowledge, at least not to my limited circle. I had no friends interested in joining me, so I did what I had to do.
And then I moved back to lower Michigan, just six months after beginning my running journey. I had 2 5k races under my belt. I felt pretty awesome, and I really wanted to keep going.
I don’t even remember how I stumbled on it. I think I was browsing gazellesports.com (my awesome local running shop) one day, and happened to see or click on a link that led me to a page about 25k training. “I’ve run a 5k,” I thought to myself. “I can do more!” So I asked, for Christmas, to be signed up for Run Camp, a gift graciously granted to me by my parents.
I had no idea what I was in for. That first season was rough, mostly because I had never ever run in the winter before. I had no idea about shoes or gear or anything else. But I kept going. Why? Because I had a network now – a support group. There were team leaders who were so very encouraging that it was hard not to show up (even after one of them almost made me puke after running so hard up a hill on the first day).
It was also a way to meet people with a similar interest. Not only did the Team Leaders expect and hope for you to show up, but the others in the group depended on you as well. You notice when faces are missing – and when you don’t see someone for a run, you badger them a bit to see where they’ve been. We support each other, and thus we are strong.
Not only have I met some awesome people, but hearing their stories continues to inspire me. Runners really are some amazing and encouraging folks. Everyone has a different why, and different goals, and different reasons for being there – and yet we are all able to work together toward a common goal: getting to the end of that race. Certainly some have time goals, some have goals of completing a new distance, and some are in it for the social aspect – but in the end we are all there to do one thing, and that is to run.
In the grand scheme of things, I would not be where I am today if I had not found this group. I’d probably be lost. Sunk. I most likely would not have continued. It’s because of them that I am still running. It’s because of the encouragement I get from others, and the encouragement I’m able to give to others – A two way street, if you will.
So the top three reasons why you should create or join a running group:
1) Encouragement – Those around you working toward the same goals are there for you.
2) Accountability – We hold each other accountable for showing up and sticking to the workout
3) Different Levels, Different Experiences, Different Stories – You can learn a lot from those around you, especially those who have run a number of races. Mistakes can be avoided. But even those who are new to the sport have something to add, weather they know it or not. Knowledge is valuable.
There are a myriad of other reasons why running with a group rocks. But most of all I love the positive energy. It’s what pulls me out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to go get a long run done. I love the stories, I love the encouragement. If I am ever in doubt of what I can do, all I have to do is look around. These people show me what is possible every single time I go out with them.
If you ever want to join us here in West Michigan and see what we’re all about, you can find the information about the program online at http://gazellesports.com/wp/training-programs/
I love my Gazelles.