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Join a Club or Go It Alone?

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Yesterday I headed off on a dark, cold evening to go and run 10K round a bunch of monotonous 
dual carriageways which skirt the suburbs of North Manchester. Normally this run would have 
seemed deeply unappealing, but as it was, I couldn’t wait to go. Why? Because for the first time in
weeks I felt well enough to run with my running club.
It set me thinking about the value of running clubs and the very different experiences I’ve heard
from people involved in them or trying them out. For me personally, my attachment to my club is
surprising as I am not usually the most sociable of souls and I am generally happy running alone.
And no, I didn’t just join because the club colour is green, though it definitely is a bonus! However,
there is something about the companionship, mutual encouragement, openness and team ethos at
my club which is deeply appealing and has without a doubt helped me to grow as both an athlete
and a coach.
Club running at it’s best can help you progress as a runner through friendly competition, access to
great training and advice, support to participate in races and of course a good social side too. But
whilst a club can be a massive positive, ending up in the wrong club can be demoralising, lonely
and confidence-sapping. So if you’re thinking of joining a club, or evaluating whether your
existing club is right for you, here’s a few things to think about:
1. Make sure you know what’s out there. Whilst you may have seen plenty of people at parkrun
in a local club vest, you may not know about all the smaller clubs or groups in your area which
have less of a presence but may be perfect for you. I know for example of a group run entirely
for women which offers tonnes of support for beginners and slower runners, and a club for
people using running to help recover from addiction, to name just a couple of examples. Try to
research carefully so you have a full picture of what’s available;
2. Mix it up. Once you’ve found a club, try to involve yourself in a wide variety of training and
racing to start with. You may find a form of running that you didn’t know you would enjoy, and
your running may get a big boost from some new training stimuli;
3. Evaluate. Once you’ve been with a club for a little while, don’t forget to evaluate how it’s going.
Do you look forward to club runs? Has your club encouraged you to get involved in activities
and races? Has your running improved? If you find it’s not ticking the right boxes then don’t
let a sense of duty keep you there. Be aware though that England Athletics restrict the number
of affiliated club moves that you can make once you’ve become a full member, so this is a good
reason to keep your membership on a trial basis for as long as possible.
4. Don’t be afraid to go it alone. If you’ve been through all the above and decided club running
isn’t for you, or if you have no interest in trying it in the first place – that’s OK! Clubs aren’t for
everyone so if you’re happy doing what you’re doing then carry on!
Let us know how you’re getting on if you’re club hunting, or share your stories about being part of
a club (or not!) Happy running everyone.