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The benefits of joining a running club

Joining a running club like Montreal's YAMAJO Run Crew is a great way to improve as a runner (plus it's just fun)

Photo by: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

If you’re new to running and looking for motivation in training, joining a running club might be exactly what you need. Even if you’ve been running for years, running with a club is a good way to change things up and renew your love for the sport. When you join a run club, you become a part of a community of individuals who are striving toward their running goals. Canadian Running spoke with David Joseph, Under Armour runner and founder of the YAMAJO Run Crew in Montreal, to talk about run clubs and why they can be so helpful for runners of all levels. 

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

Group accountability 

“Running as a team, the number one thing is the support,” says Joseph. “You’re held more accountable if you’re in a group. If you don’t show up, nobody’s going to put pressure on you, but people will ask you, ‘Hey, are you OK? I noticed you didn’t show up to the run.’” Life can get busy, and when it does, it can be easy to skip workouts to make time for other things. If you have friends and running buddies who are expecting you at a run, you’re less likely to miss a workout. 

“You feel like you belong to something bigger than the sport itself,” Joseph says. “We say we’re a family.” He adds that one of his favourite parts of the club is its diversity, which he says mirrors that of Montreal, which is a very multicultural and multiethnic city.

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

The youngest member of the YAMAJO Run Crew is 15, and the oldest is 67, and Joseph says everyone is accepted, regardless of speed or ability. Even people who are more interested in the social aspect of the group rather than the running side are more than welcome, Joseph says. 

Joseph says some YAMAJO Crew members join the club without much of a love for running, but many of these runners discover a new passion for the sport after joining the club. He’s seen some of his runners go from being barely interested in running when they start to being in the best shape of their lives and running marathons around the world just a few years later. 

“It’s a great feeling to know you’ve had an impact on someone’s life in a positive way,” he says.

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

A pace for everyone 

Joseph says the YAMAJO Run Crew motto is “Absolutely no one gets left behind.” He knows people worry that they’ll slow the group down when they join, but his crew is accommodating of everyone, and each member is included in every run. 

The crew runs on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, and there are always multiple groups at each workout, so members can join a pack that suits their speed. Each group has a crew leader at the front keeping a reasonable pace and someone at the back to make sure that everyone stays together. 

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

“As a rule for pacing, we never turn a corner until the whole group has caught up,” Joseph says. “Regardless of what group you’re in, every few minutes or every kilometre there’ll be a pause just so that whoever’s in the back can catch up, catch their breath and then keep going.” If a member is having a rough day, or possibly they’re still working up to running for an entire workout, Joseph says they “always have somebody on standby who will do a run-walk” with that athlete. He also notes that working out in a group setting can take a runner’s performance to the next level.

“Once you’re in a team, you’ll eventually see that you’re naturally just getting faster,” he says. “If you have goals to get faster and meet certain qualifying times, a crew is where you’ll get help, because there’s usually someone faster than you and you’re going to attach yourself to that person and try to keep up with them.”

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

YAMAJO Run Crew training 

For races that will be attended by multiple YAMAJO athletes, Joseph and his team will develop specific training plans geared toward those events. “We did that for Scotia this year [the Scotiabank Montreal Half-Marathon], but obviously it got cancelled,” he says. “We had Project 21, so it was 21 weeks leading up to Scotia to run the 21.1K. We make it very affordable. It’s basically just a minimal fee to show that you’re ready to invest in yourself, then we try to build a program as great as we can for you.” The Project 21 team was led by run coach and YAMAJO Run Crew captain, Shadoe Huard.

The Project 21 team worked out together once a week, and Joseph says they were encouraged to participate in YAMAJO group runs as well, even if just for an easy run each week. Joseph says he and his team enjoyed this specialized build for their athletes, and once racing resumes after COVID-19, they’ll create more plans like Project 21, whether those are for 10K races, more half-marathons or full marathons. 

When it comes to regular training with the crew, Joseph says he and the YAMAJO trainers preach the importance of being a “complete” athlete. He says he and the crew love doing hill workouts, which are usually every other week. “Regardless of your speed or your level, everybody’s doing it together, so it’s fun,” says Joseph. “There are high fives as they pass each other, and that sense of community while building yourself to be a better athlete and a better runner.”

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

In addition, there is a YAMAJO performance team, which is a new creation for the crew. Joseph saw the need for a team with a focus on high performance for some athletes. 

“We want to be able to offer them that, as a source of inspiration and motivation for beginners and other runners who have aspirations of running World Marathon Majors,” he says. “It seemed like a natural evolution to have a performance aspect of the run crew. Joseph’s crew has partnered with Mile2Marathon, and now its high-performance athletes can receive individualized training plans from the Vancouver-based coaching service while still working as members of the YAMAJO team.

Photo Credit: Galit Gilor / YAMAJO Run Crew

Ultimately, no matter the level of runner you are, there’s a spot for you on a run club. Working as a group is valuable for beginners and elites alike. It will hold you accountable, you’ll likely miss fewer workouts and you’ll be able to form strong bonds with fellow runners and like minded people.