Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Running Clubs: The Benefits

I have been a part of a running club since I was nine. My parents enrolled me into my local athletics club for social purposes and to keep active. I remember clearly heading over to the playing fields every Thursday evening and Mum paying 50p. We did drills, mini gladiator obstacles and learnt to throw javelin with sponge spears. It was great! In the six years I represented the club I recieved brilliant training and I got to take part in many competitions which lead to a ranking of 7th in the UK for U15 girls 100m.

Today I am part of a London based running club which offers excellent facilities, group runs and coached training sessions. All for a small annual fee.

So why is joining a running club so beneficial? Well that's easy:

1. Group running = great running
(out for a 12 mile run with fellow club members stopping at all the London sights)
(my best friend and running pal dragging me round parkrun to a PB of 21.58)

There's nothing better than running with a group. I mean, yes of course there are days you want to go at it solo, pound the streets and clear your head but in general, having company can really improve your run. Not only is it safe (especially during the dark nights in winter) but bringing in a social aspect helps to shift focus from the run. You naturally loosen up, run lighter and a lot of the time faster, especially if you are in a group pushing the pace! During my injury, I really missed my club runs. I wanted to see my friends and head out on long summer runs on Hampstead Heath. I love how we all get together to pursue the same hobby, which is rewarded with tea and biscuits afterwards.

2. Club Leagues 
(the first time I experienced cross country at Parliament Hill, London. Oh the pain...good fun though!)

When you are a part of a club, the chances for racing regularly open up through leagues. These vary per region and offer set agendas for both winter and summer months. October through to February is generally cross country season and these races offer the ultimate workout and strength building. Normally a short distance of around 5-8K, they come with hills, mud and woodland trails and are great fun when running as part of a team. During the Summer, track session comes into play for lots of clubs but also leagues for 10Ks in local parks. Each club/region vary but there will always be opportunity to represent your club with your entry supported by your membership fee or if not, drastically reduced. 

3. Community Feel

People join running clubs for many reasons. A big part for me was making friends as I was new to London at the time I joined. Meeting people with the same interests is a great way to build your running 'social circle'. Having people around you to support your training and encourage you to try out new distances/terrains is fantastic motivation! Some of my good friends I have gained since living in London are through my running club and we all keep up-to-date with one anthers training and progress. I also thoroughly enjoy long Sunday morning runs followed by a coffee and catch up after. 

4. Top Training

Running clubs come with great training facilities. With many based at local athletic tracks and offering special coached sessions, you can be sure you are getting the best advice and training. I love my weekly sessions with our club coach who works with us all on improving speed, endurance, strength and running style. He personally gets to know everyone so well, remembering peoples individual targets and what they are working on.  Having this support in your training really is so beneficial. You can never have another advice and guidance!

5. Team Work All The Way!
(Mizuno Endure24 2014)

If you really want to get involved in club events, why not encourage team races? I think it's great when people actively form teams for running events (Welsh Castles Relays, Adidas Thunder Run, Mizuno Endure24 etc...). This year, I got involved in my first ever team race at Endure24 and it was fabulous! Best 24 hours I have spent and being in the same boat with friends makes the experience all the better. I pushed myself and ran the longest I have ever run and despite the thunderstorms and mud up to my knees, I smiled for every minute. I would highly recommend getting involved in these sorts of opportunities for anyone looking to seek a place with a running club. 

Lots of running clubs welcome people along for taster sessions. Always check out their websites beforehand to see what days are best to go and even drop a committee member an email as most clubs consist of only friendly faces who are willing to help out.

So are you looking for extra motivation and guidance for a big race? What are you waiting for!? Get down to your local club and boost all aspects of your running experience. 

Lipstick Runner.

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