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The Benefits of Joining A Running Group

a group of runners celebrate a race

I’ve been running for a little over two years now, and whilst the majority of this time I've been running alone (aside from the local Parkrun) I’ve since joined a couple of running groups in my local area and have found a supportive network of fellow runners who have welcomed me with open arms.

Of course, I was nervous when I first went to Up & Running in Harrogate on a Monday night (Social Run Group) back in January, but thankfully I didn’t have to be nervous for long!

They were all so welcoming to me and it was actually though this group that I found out about another running club - Town Runners.

These two clubs are very well connected and help each out with activities, supporting one another and SRG allowing Town Runners to use their shop as a meeting point in the winter, which is a great help when it's freezing cold outside!

So I now run on a Monday and Tuesday night with my respective groups, with each of them bringing something different to my mental, social and physical health.

I've found a wonderful community of runners who have made this once lonely, socially anxious girl feel a part of something that is about more than the running we do.

a group of runners take a photo together

They say that runners are some of the nicest people you could ever meet and I have to agree!

Both groups accepted me without question or a need to prove myself - and they didn't question why I wanted to join.

At the beginning of things I didn’t even think I’d make friends, I just thought, perhaps naively, that I’d find a group of runners to meet up with twice a week, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Finding Friends

The more I ran with my two groups, the more I got to know everyone - and the more I found myself wanting to run with them each week.

They actually got me back into Parkruns, as I had stopped going to them as regularly since the beginning of the year.

Even though I was used to running alone during my Parkruns, usually sticking at the back with my headphones on, by joining the two running groups, I found people to run alongside which helped me to improve my times!

As well as the twice-weekly runs, there were sometimes other longer runs happening at the weekends too, which I joined whenever I wasn’t working.

Sarah holds a medal after running a race

Again, to be accepted into groups like this without having to prove myself is, sadly, something new to me.

Especially considering I found I’m one of the slowest runners in both groups!

But this is something I’m currently working on and I can even surprise myself when I push to keep up!

It’s great to have people to pace myself with and push myself against. It’s all good fun though and it's more to do with the fact that I want to prove to myself that I can do it.

There always seems to be something going on in and around the running groups too, which definitely helps me feel more accepted.

This is something I have to work on, but being part of such friendly groups definitely helps.

The Benefits of Running With Others

There are plenty of benefits of running with other people as opposed to running alone, although that too has its own benefits.

For me, the biggest benefit of joining a running group has been how my social and mental health has improved.

four runners pose for a photo

I find myself looking forward to my Monday and Tuesday evenings. It doesn’t matter how you’re feeling on any particular day as there will always be someone who’ll look after you and ensure you’re not left behind.

Although this has happened on a couple of occasions with my Monday night group, I soon caught up with the rest when they were having a break at the end of a road or at the top of a hill!

“Being set in an introverted or extroverted running pattern can limit your experiences and prevent you from growing as a runner” - Michelle P. Maidenberg Ph.d, M.P.H

Social Facilitation and Motivation

When you run with others you tend to give more effort, you get caught up in the pace and you might not recognise how fast you’re going.

Pairing up can encourage you to branch out, you learn more about how other people train and what they’re doing, and it can inspire you to do something different.

It can open up your mind to trying new distances, races or types of workouts.

I like switching between solo runs and running with a group, as there are benefits to both.

For example, teaming up with a faster runner for speed runs may have far-reaching benefits for the individual runner, whereas a social runner could split off from their particular relaxed group to do a quality workout designed for their own needs.

There are three types of rewards that motivate – extrinsic and intrinsic factors, as well as family connections.

All of these elements provide a huge boost to your mental and physical health when you get running - and running with others can provide all three types of motivation.

Extrinsic factors – external factors like weight loss or completing a race

Intrinsic factors – may come from the escape from stressors or enjoying time spent outdoors

The third factor comes into play when your running group/community feels like family.

a group of runners pose for a photo after a race

There were a couple of runners in my group who were training for a marathon together.

To see them complete the Leeds Rob Burrows Marathon together was truly something beautiful to witness – to see the group come together like that and help each other over the finish line is what the running community is all about.

Accountability and Support

Running groups provide accountability and support. Other runners understand when you’re having a bad day and will encourage you not to give up.

Plus there’s less chance of you skipping out on a run when your group is waiting for you!

Kohler's effect is the idea that nobody wants to be the weak link in a group.

When surrounded by others, everyone is more likely to push through feelings of wanting to quit.

Whether it’s running a few extra miles or going faster, running with friends is likely to bring the motivation you need to push harder and get a better workout than you would have alone.

a group of runners take a selfie in a park

Researchers at Kansas University found that when you work out with someone you perceive as better or fitter than you, you’ll naturally increase the time and intensity of your exercise by 200%!

A 2018 study by Glasgow Caledonia University also shows that of 8,000 runners using the ParkRun and Strava apps, an overwhelming 89% report that running regularly has made them happier.

They also report running improves their mental health and body image.

I’d also add here that running in a group that supports you no matter what (and pushes you when you don't think you can run any further) helps you believe in yourself.

Within my running groups, I know of at least a few runners who credit the groups, and the social support they bring, with helping them through tough times - and being there when they needed them most.

I too can attest to this myself. I’ve found that I’m capable of more than I believe and that my groups will always be there for me whenever I need them!

two runners wave at the camera wearing hen party sashes

Running alone sometimes means you don’t push yourself as much as you feel you’re able to – when I’m running with people, I find I can push myself further.

Perhaps not every time, but it’s good to know I can when I want or need to!

So you can see that running with people in a group has far-reaching benefits - and it's about more than just having someone to pace yourself against!

I now realise how lonely I was previously, now that I’ve been running with these two groups for almost six months.

The more runs I've joined and the more social interaction I've had with them, the happier I have become.

Before joining both of these running groups, I thought I was doing okay as far as my mental + social health were concerned, but it's only now that I realise how empty and drained they both were.

Both Town Runners and Social Run Group have given me something I didn't know I was looking for, but ended up needing more than I even realised.

Sense of Purpose

The concept of “ikigai” is a Japanese concept that doesn’t translate easily to English but loosely means “the thing that makes life worth living”.

It describes the challenging pursuit of worthy goals – something that can lend you a sense of purpose.

To non-runners, calling running your “life purpose” may seem self-indulgent. But when it becomes a daily practice that improves community, health, motivation, ambition and self-esteem, perhaps the idea isn’t so off-base.

running the Great North Run with other runners

When it can seem like the whole world is against you and there aren’t the usual motivators that previously held you accountable - or that inspired you to continue your daily routine or habits - it can be really tough to find the energy or desire to continue with something that once made you happy.

We all know how good exercise is for not only our bodies but also our minds.

Personally, for me, I find that by going for a run I can shake off any stressors of the day.

I forget about everything for the duration of my run – mainly because I’m too busy thinking about my breathing to actually think!

But what I’m saying here is that running is (or can be) about more than just the physical.

A group of runners pose in front of the "Run for All" sign after a race

I’ve mentioned in a previous post how loneliness can be as bad for you as smoking a 20-pack of cigarettes!

So with this in mind, it’s definitely worth looking into running groups near you if you find you’re lacking purpose, motivation or even the desire to run and find you need a little extra push along the way.

What Running Groups Mean To Me

For me, my two run groups bring me a sense of community, a desire to run, the motivation to push myself and, above all, a group of people who I can call my friends.

Without judgement or a need to prove myself, they’ve accepted me and shown me more compassion, love and care than I genuinely thought was possible in a community of, essentially, strangers.

They've encouraged me to take joy and pride in my running again, too!

a group of runners pose in a park wearing hen party sashes and glasses

I really love these two groups and enjoy running with them. As there is some crossover between the two I get to hang out with some people twice a week (or more if we do extra runs on a weekend).

I’m so thankful that I pushed through my initial anxiety and nervousness to go to that first Monday night Social Run Group, as it led me to ultimately find two amazing groups of friends who cheer me on every week and during races.

runners take a selfie on a bridge

I know it can be scary, but I promise you the benefits of joining a running group far outweigh those first nerves!

Have you joined a running group? Do you like running solo? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Love, Sarah


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A 30 something woman navigating life, sharing posts focussing on mental health, midsize fashion, self-care routines and life as a vegan.

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