Professional American runners training in groups isn’t quite new anymore, not since the days of Mammoth Track Club with the Halls and Meb and Kastor’s etc. and probably before that, too. The proliferation of groups that we see right now is certainly a bit different in my mind though. Not only the number of them, but the recognition too, with recognized names, logos and singlets and training camps. Nike alone has three big groups, fielding multiple pros in different events and distances; the newly christened Bowerman Track Club, Nike Oregon Project, and Oregon Track Club Elite are all in Portland or Eugene. Brooks even has multiple groups bearing their name, the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project and the Brooks Beasts, in Michigan and Seattle respectively. The newly formed elite division of Boston Athletic Association brings an Adidas group right to the Boston area. Everyone’s favorite woman’s apparel company,Oiselle has put together a project called Little Wing in Bend, OR and there is even a group in CO now who are working with Mark Wetmore (CU Buffs head coach) and aren’t even with the same sponsors. Even sub-elites have pros to run with in Northern Arizona Elite out of Flagstaff and the list goes on and on. Most of these groups are based under coaches who are also full time and salaried under the same sponsors as their athletes, so it’s no great surprise to see this becoming a trend, as the convenience is hard to beat. For new professionals it almost seems, at least from a fans perspective, that there is an expectation of, “who’s group are they going to join?” The sponsor with a good training group really does have much more to offer an athlete coming from the normality of being on a college team. The difference being that you are not scored together and absolutely do want to beat your “teammates” when in a pro group together, of course. I think the benefits extend far beyond the coaching though, to friendship, encouragement and even competitiveness and it’s those many benefits that I want to talk about.
The point of this post is not to go over the progression of training groups among elites, but rather what us amateur runners can do to take advantage of the same principles that make these groups so attractive. I know there are plenty of runners who want nothing more than to run solo and enjoy the peace and quiet of training alone. Even competitive runners, often burned out from college careers or just fans of putting in the work how they want and when they want. But don’t quit reading just yet, I was once one of you and I have seen the light! For the many of us who want to work together to get faster, nothing is more attractive then a team of like minded individuals of similar abilities. I started running on my own and racing on my own and having never ran in high school or college I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude of it, even marathon training was no chore on most days. That is, until I realized how much easier and more fun it was when even one run a week was with others. I started out by simply attending a group run and found that there were people there of every ability and most of them were devoted athletes, too. I half expected a group of suburban moms and no one really training hard, but was shocked to find such variety that I had at least one person to run with every week, no matter my pace that night. Fast forward another year and after a few years of training completely solo, I’ve been blessed to find a great club to run for that has plenty of guys right around my fitness level. I don’t physically train with them too often, but the mental boost of seeing or running with them at races is immense! The club also hosts weekly track workouts, even indoors during the winter, which I look forward to taking more advantage of in the future. Apart from running for and with a club, I also attend the weekly run group still, and though some of them are training at similar paces, this group is purely fun and great morale support. Between the competition of racing with some really talented guys in the club and running once a week with folks who’ve now become great friends, I feel like my training has progressed in leaps and bounds. I encourage anyone who might be looking for something new in running to seek out a group to run with. If you’re just bored with the solo daily runs and not looking for some serious training, try out a local running group! Specialty shoe stores around the country often host them, or are at least a good resource to point you in the right direction. If joining a club sounds exciting to you, you can find a full list of registered clubs with USATF here: Club Search Link on USATF I highly recommend joining a club, even if you aren’t trying to get seriously fast, the benefits are enormous and running for something more than your own pride is an added boost in every race. It truly helps me when I start to tire, I want to represent the club well, finishing strong!
So there you have it, my ringing endorsement for club running and weekly group runs. If you’re in the greater Boston area, give me a shout, I would love to tell you why Greater Lowell Road Runners is the club to join. 😉 Also Marathon Sports hosts weekly group runs from their Boston, Wellesley, Brighton and now Cambridge stores on Wednesday nights at 6:30 PM and they aren’t the only ones!