The Benefits of Joining a Running Group (Even If You Aren't Trying to Set a PR)
This global running trend isn't slowing down anytime soon.
If you live in a major city, chances are you've seen running groups pounding the pavement in your neighborhood, and you've likely noticed them more frequently in the past couple of years. That's because urban run crews and more casual running meetups are on the rise. Check out the nearly 60,000-post-strong Instagram hashtag #runningcrew for proof. From Portland's Stumprunners to NYC's Run Dem Crew, the number of groups that get together to run it out across the country is pretty incredible. What sets them apart? Well, they tend to be more community-focused and less pace-oriented than the traditional running group.
And it's not just in the U.S. London's Track Mafia meets weekly and focuses on speed work. Ghetto Run Crew meets regularly in Rio de Janeiro. Plus, a quick browse of Airbnb experiences in Paris, Berlin, and even Sydney crops up plentiful options for getting your run on with an established group in a new environment. With so many new ways to log miles with a like-minded crew, it's easier than ever to have a social running experience.
I decided to try one out in my current city: Amsterdam. As someone who hasn't run in a group setting since my high school field hockey days, I was pretty nervous about jumping into the deep end with a group of experienced runners. It's not that I can't run, just that I'm not exactly a fast runner. Some might say my pace is glacial. For real. Previous attempts at social running with friends, coworkers, and my fast-as-lightning boyfriend had mostly left me feeling like I was holding everyone else back from hitting a pace that was comfortable for them. (BTW, science says your running stride is perfect the way it is. Thx, science.)
Lucky for me, the group I selected to try out, House of Running, was doing an easy recovery run on the day I joined them. Even though I went into the experience with a reasonably open mind, I can't deny that I was mostly expecting it to be one of those workouts that quickly gets categorized as "not for me." Much to my surprise, I actually liked it. Here's why.
I forgot I was running.
The hardest part about running for me (and I suspect for many others) is battling the inner monologue that inevitably occurs after about five minutes after I start. I quickly go from "Hey, this isn't so bad," to "How many miles do I have left?" anytime I lace up and head out. The thing is, I discovered that when you're running with a group, especially with a coach or pacer, it's a lot easier to forget about that whole running thing your body is doing. I spent the entire 5 miles chatting with the other runners and the coach (something I wasn't aware I could do while running), instead of thinking about how much longer I had left. When I looked down at my Apple watch for the first time during the run, I was shocked to see that we'd already been on the road for 40 minutes. (Related: 26 Thoughts You Have While Running a Marathon)
I explored my city in new ways.
The group meets in Vondelpark, one of the best parks in Amsterdam for running. I'd been there before, but I hadn't truly explored all its nooks and crannies and winding dirt paths. Since I'm usually zooming through the area on my bike, I was able to see the park and the surrounding area in a whole new light. Next time I visit an unfamiliar locale, you can bet that I'm going to seek out a running group.
It boosted my confidence.
Running generally feels a lot harder to me than other forms of cardio. But seeing that I could get through an entire 5-mile run at the same pace as everyone else in the group really worked wonders for my faith in myself. This is an effect that I believe is truly unique to social running, and honestly, the confidence boost is my top reason for wanting to try it again.