Sunday, January 2, 2011

Choosing a Running Group

Thousands of people across the tri-state area are making a huge commitment this week.  The goal:  To run a marathon.  While nothing compares to the exhilaration and sheer joy of crossing that finish line after four months of training, this part of the process is mostly filled with nervousness, confusion, and perhaps a little dread.

When asked at today's marathon training info session at Bob Roncker's Running Spot how many people are running their first marathon or half marathon this Spring, at least half of the more than 80 attendees raised their hands.  Many of them looked just as frightened as I probably did when embarking upon this same journey two Januaries ago. It's hard to hide the "What have I gotten myself into?" look in one's eyes.

As distance running grows in popularity, more and more options for training are available. While some runners decide to train on their own by downloading one of the many training programs available online(Higdon's and Galloway's programs are two popular ones), most people have far better success by joining a group.  A few of the benefits to joining a group are:
1. Safety.  I know it helps my parents sleep at night knowing their only daughter has at least a few other people alongside me during my long runs in case the worst would happen, as well as coaches who know what time I left and what time I'm expected back.
2. Advice. Not only do many running groups have experienced coaches to help you along, the group probably also has a ton of veteran marathoner know-it-alls like myself who can answer any question you might have about running, nutrition, what to expect on race day, etc. 
3. Camaraderie.  One of my favorite things about running in a group is the moral support I get from my fellow runners.  I can't tell you how many times someone has pushed me along, or I've pushed someone else along during a tough run.

In choosing a group to train with, there are several factors to keep in mind.  For my first marathon in 2009, I chose my group entirely based on proximity.  I joined a group organized by a running store called Meters & Miles (which was since bought by The Running Spot) which was located about 5 minutes from my home.  While it was convenient, my first group run was so discouraging.  I was so much slower than everyone else that I felt like I wasn't getting anything out of "group" training, since the rest of the group was essentially leaving me in the dust. (Kind of wipes out Benefits #1 and #3 above, huh?)  Luckily, Meters & Miles had a second group at another location in Northern Kentucky.  Much to my relief, this is where all the slower runners were hanging out and I felt much more in my element amongst this group.  The rest of my training season went great, and I attribute a lot of my success to deciding to switch groups.

After Meters & Miles was bought, I had a few options for my 2010 training.  Several of the runners that I had befriended during my 2009 training had formed their own groups and asked me to join.  My chief concern with these smaller groups was lack of organization.  Since I had one marathon under my belt already, I had a much better idea of what I needed from the group training experience:  1.) Several other group members who run at around my pace, 2.) Designated routes and a set weekly schedule and 3.) Water/gatorade/gu stops.  I joined the Running Spot group, and with it being the biggest and most organized group in town, it more than adequately met my needs and I'm looking forward to running with them again this year as well.

For more information on The Running Spot's marathon training program, call Joe at 513-686-0094 or email  him at                                         

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