I’ve been running for a little over 2 years now and have always considered myself a solo runner. Outside of official races I don’t run with anyone else. I’m not sure exactly why, I think it’s because I like to keep my own pace and don’t want to feel pressured beyond that. As a result I have never been the “group run” kind of guy. If it hasn’t been an organized race, you won’t see me out with other people.
Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand and see the benefits of group runs. Running with others helps motivate you, makes you a better runner and has a million other benefits. However I have always stayed away. I think for me I always get nervous. What if I’m the slowest? What if I can’t keep up with people I should be able to? What if I am left alone? All these thoughts race into my mind. So by nature I avoid the smaller more intimate runs and stick with races where I can blend in.
However as of this week that is no longer the case. It started this past Saturday when I went out for a group run with the Lansdale Area Running Club. They call themselves the LARC’s (like the bird, but the acronym for the club as well). The Thursday before the run they followed me on twitter so naturally I had to see what they were all about. I was instantly hooked when I saw they had a weekly run that met at one of the local craft breweries. As my twitter profile states “I run to support my love of Craft Beer” so I immediately knew I had to join them! I’ve always wanted to run with a group that incorporates craft beer somehow, but the major one in Philly is just too far away for me to commit to. However the LARC’s meet just 2 miles from my house so I had to take advantage.
I reached out to them to thank them for the follow and learned they had a Saturday morning run coming up. So I put all my thoughts about group runs aside and signed up. And what a fun time it was. It was my first official run post Chicago Marathon so I was happy to get out there, because I may not have that morning without them. And I learned that all my preconceived notions of group running were misguided. Not only did I have a great time in the group, I kept up with the 3 mile leader and ran my 2nd sub 30 5K of the year! It was a small group since it was early and cold out, but it was so much fun. Afterwards we shared a few stories and I learned more about their group. Needless to say I will be back. (Especially for those Thirsty Thursday runs).
My next experience in the group run world came just a few days later. There is a group in Philly known as Run 215. They are the largest group of runners the city of Philly has. The organizer of this group plans runs with other major Philly institutions (Philly Runner and November Project Philly) on a regular basis. This past Monday they ran their popular run series known as Night Shift Philly. This is a run that usually starts late at night and ends with a runners after party. They always seem like a lot of fun, but usually start late at night and far away from me so I tend to not go. However one of my friends was running this and she asked me to go. So I decided this time I would take the plunge.
I’m really happy I did. What Run 215 is doing for the Philly running community is a lot of fun. They are strengthening the bonds between Philly runners. This Night Shift run was a lot of fun because of how Halloween themed it was. The run ran through a graveyard at 10:00 at night and most the runners came dressed in costume. The folks at November Project even held some impromptu workouts at mile 1 and 2 of the run. Overall everyone had such a great time.
For me it was great because of what I went through. 3/4 of a mile into the run I felt a severe pull in my hamstring. It had been an injury I dealt with earlier in the year and it reared it’s ugly head again. (Thankfully it waited for after the marathon). Needless to say walking became difficult, so I didn’t know how I would finish the rest of the run. Luckily I did. I ran the rest of the way through (well more like a run/ hobble) and never lost the group. We finished the run at the 3.5 mile mark and I was able to run the whole distance on a pulled hamstring. And after the run the folks at Philly Runner had an amazing after party. Jon, who organizes Run 215, was DJ’ing and beer from Yards Brewery was served. Overall an amazing time.
My first two experiences in the group running world were great ones. The hesitation I had was based on if I was “ready” for a smaller running environment. I realize now that is ridiculous. In one group run I finished with one of my better 5K times. And in another I finished a 3.5 mile run with the bulk of the group on a very badly pulled hamstring. Regardless, even if I did finish dead last I know these groups would support me so it wouldn’t be a bad thing. I always knew my hesitation to stay away from these kinds of runs was ridiculous, but I did it anyways. I’m happy I got out there and now know that there is no reason for me to continue to shy away from these things. I can’t wait for the next one!