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Ageless tips for joining a new running club

No matter whether it’s your middle school cross-country team, a local club, or a competitive master’s group, there is an amazing sense of community fostered in running groups. Anyone who has ever been a part of a group, no matter how competitive, knows how fun it is to wear your club’s gear and feel like you are part of something. But before enjoying these benefits, you have to actually join the group and that process can be stressful. Here are some tips for a smooth transition to joining a new running club.

Le Coureur Running Club, Sherbrooke. Photo Courtesy of Le Coureur. Don’t show off

This rule is essential not only if you’re joining a new club, but also if someone new to the group has showed up for their first time. I can speak from experience on this one. When joining a new track club in high school, the first group run I attended was a long run. This group of girls went off like rockets, running a pace that was much faster than I had expected. Doubt set in for me. I didn’t want to be left behind on my very first day.

The coach caught up to us at about 5K and said to the lead girls “What the heck are you doing? Slow it down ladies, this is your long run.” He proceeded to run at the front of the pack, not letting anyone get ahead of his pace.

Once we all slowed down we started chatting. I had a few great friendships come out of that club, but it certainly didn’t seem like it was going to go that way for the first 20 minutes.

Lo and behold, the same thing happened when I went away to university. The first few group runs were at a breakneck pace, stressful for the unsure rookies until an older member finally whispered to us, “we don’t usually run this fast, don’t worry about it.”

Roger Bannister, Christopher ChatawayGage conversation

Particularly if you’re not familiar with any of the people in the group, try to get a feel for how much they chat when they run. Many runners will tell you that even when they run with friends, they often enjoy some peaceful silence together. Don’t be afraid of lulls in conversation, but certainly make an effort to join in if people are chatty.

Show interest

The best part about joining a running club is that you go into it knowing that you share a common love with all the people there. Talking about running is a great place to start if you find yourself in a situation where you’re feeling a bit uncertain. Ask other members about races that they’ve done, places that they like to run, or how they got into the sport. Guaranteed you’ll be swapping stories in no time.

Parkdale RoadrunnersKeep yourself comfortable

When you find yourself in a new group many of us try to do whatever possible to fit in. This is fine, to a certain extent. If you know that you like a certain dynamic warm-up before a track workout, don’t sacrifice it just because other people are doing something different. Think of it as an opportunity to see why they do certain things, as well as offer why you favour particular moves.

Keeping yourself comfortable also comes into play when choosing the group you want to join. Think about your perspective on running before you choose a group to try. What do you want out of the experience? Are you looking for new friendships, or a faster PB? How often do you want to meet with the group? Do you plan on competing as a team member?

All of these questions will help you to pick the right group. In recent years, a divide has sprouted between traditional track clubs, usually filled with seasoned runners looking for a training program and workout buddies, and run ‘crews,’ which tend to emphasize the social aspect of running as an opportunity to meet new people.