Looking to exercise while having fun? Choosing running is as exciting as any sport. The misconception that running is a solitary sport is true if you prefer it to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Running all by yourself can certainly clear your mind and add fitness—and are excellent worthy gains—but, the spirit of sport, the personal growth, and the motivation other group members provide can be even more beneficial.
The feeling of being a part of a team (or a running group in this case), has been proven to be beneficial to humankind. A group can offer you new friendships, new experiences, and the motivation necessary to perform your best. Friends provide a spirit of positive energy. Having friends tell you 'Good job!' after a run no matter how good or bad you think you did is an electrifying feeling that helps with feelings of self-esteem and brings enjoyment. That is why children are encouraged to participate in sports because it contributes to their social and emotional needs, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Adult group members experience the same camaraderie and a sense of belonging, just like in youth teams.
If you show up to train with a group, (Meetup and YMCA are great places to find running groups), and find the group to be too fast for you, don’t get discouraged. It’s only a matter of time until you become one of them and then you will have the opportunity to welcome newcomers and say ‘Good job,’ too.
Victor Tello, a multi-sport athlete and leader of a trail running group in San Diego County's Pulse Endurance Sports, does not turn anybody away. Even though there are seasoned athletes in the group of 274 (and counting...), the mantra “All Are Welcome,” holds true to hopeful group members. Victor has inspired runners to run longer distances than they ever imagined possible. Members of the group maintain communication and updates on training schedules through their page on Facebook. Members post pictures that motivate and inspire. Currently they are training for Catalina Island Annual Avalon 50 Mile Run in January.
Once you become a regular with a group, you will find that it is as close to school-age teams as it gets. The fun and joy that you can experience in your training and trips to races (if you’re interested) will give you the satisfaction that you are growing as an athlete and as an individual. Anticipating the group runs and executing the mileage, while creating lasting memories, with a network of like-minded individuals who are friendly, welcoming, and just like you, can certainly beat running all by yourself.