A question I asked myself when starting out was why join a running club? What benefits can it bring me that I can’t already get by training on my own? As it turns out, the benefits have far outweighed the cost so far…
Firstly, let’s discuss the cost. Yearly membership of my local running club costs around £30/year and this includes around £14 that is sent on to English Athletics to secure your EA Athletes registration number. Track training sessions cost a further £2.10 on an as and when used basis and various entry to club championships or cross country events carry a further charge if you choose to take part.
As an affiliated club runner you can save £2 off the cost of most race entry fees over the year, so there’s quite a saving to be had already if you were planning on entering lots of races as a non-club runner. You also get various discount offers from English Athletics as well as several discounts negotiated by the running club, such as 10% off Sportsshoes.com and various discounts for using local businesses.
On to the running benefits…
Running clubs provide a wide variety of training opportunities targeting a wide spectrum of abilities. My club in particular has a ‘senior’ group, ‘beginners’ group and a ‘junior’ group. Each group has a number of qualified coaches providing once or twice weekly sessions, all offering their time free of charge. These sessions could be intervals, parlauf , fartlek, tempo or indian file relays held at our club track, hill training on local streets or time trials at the park. Everything is organised on a monthly basis and details are posted on our Facebook group and club website.
As well as the main organised training sessions, individual group runs are posted regularly on Facebook and it’s up to you if it’s at a time or place, distance or pace that suits. Likewise, if you are ever going for a run and fancy some company, there are always people willing to meet up. It’s a great way of getting to know new people too!
Specific training groups are also arranged during Autumn and Winter for our Cross Country athletes and during Spring months the focus is on Track and Field and the start of the 10K season. We have a male and female team captain for each discipline and they are always happy to help.
Certain club members only really specialise in one area such as Track and Field, Trail/Fell, Road Races, Cross Country or Ultra Marathons but everyone is encouraged to have a go at something outside their comfort zone. Most members do compete in a mixture of events throughout the season.
The social aspect to a running club is equally important to the training on offer. I’ve made some good friends through joining a running club and enjoy the daily banter posted on our Facebook group. Going to a race knowing you’ll be meeting up with a group of like minded people all wearing the same club colours really adds something to an event. There’s a friendly but competitive edge to running races as a club athlete that helps push you on to the next level and the post race drinks are taken just as seriously!
We host our yearly
drinking awards night late in the year and it’s the one time where road runners, cross country, trail, juniors, beginners and seniors all come together to celebrate their achievements.
Our club has grown massively over the last couple of years, both in terms of numbers and the spread of abilities. No matter what the speed or distance covered by a newer member, they can be guaranteed encouragement and a welcoming party to see them finish. I was always happy to run solo but I can really recommend running clubs to boost your social life.
This is usually the number 1 concern of someone considering a Running Club. You absolutely don’t have to be fast, let’s get that straight. The aim is to get faster, stronger and fitter and this is what a running club provides. The platform, facilities and expertise to do just that. You will get out of a running club what you put in. I find the more you contribute, the more you benefit, both physically and socially.
I used to have the perception that running clubs were for the elite and you were selected rather than make the choice to join one. This couldn’t be more incorrect. We have members that have represented England at various age grades and others that have achieved their aim of completing a certain race distance. All of the benefits I’ve listed above contributed to me reducing my 10K PB from 47:53 in 2015 to 41:14 in 2016!
Parkrun in 16 minutes or 50 minutes… It doesn’t make a difference, just do it!