When I first started running, it was a completely solitary endeavor, and I was perfectly fine with that. As I started to add more mileage, some of my runner friends suggested that I sign up to run a race; but by that point I was so comfortable running solo, the thought of breaking from routine and running with a bunch of other people had no appeal at all. I did enter a race anyway (that was my first half), and the rest is history.
At some point during that conversation about entering a race, it was suggested that I join the local running club (Molalla Running Club) sometime for a group run. That sounded even more preposterous! First of all, I'm a slow runner. Second, I run by myself with earbuds in, blasting music; how am I supposed be social while doing that? Lastly, I'm an introvert; and that just sounds scary.
So, I avoided the group run idea for a while, but I had begun to see the appeal of doing races, so I ran two more half marathons and a 10K.
In October of last year, I heard about a trail race (Molalla River Trail Race) that MRC was putting on, and I really wanted to go volunteer in some way, but had plans that Saturday. The next event was a Thanksgiving morning "Turkey Trot", an untimed fun run through the Molalla area, and also a benefit for a program that provides lunches for local families. It was basically a really big group run, and it was for a good cause; and it was fun.
Did I really just say that? Yes. It was fun.
I still wasn't convinced the group run was my thing, but I wanted to give it a few more tries; so in early spring of this year, I joined the running club when I could. Faces soon began to look familiar, and many of my fears began to fade away. The group even inspired me to tackle a race that I had always considered my nemesis, the Goat Mountain Gallop; as part of the "Run Molalla Series".
A little over a month ago, my 14-y.o. son, Noah, had a chance to join us for a group run. The gang decided to do a fairly hilly 7.4 mile route, and the longest Noah had ever gone was 6.2 miles (a week or two before that). The group set off like normal, forming several pace groups, with Noah and I at the back. I tried to lead us at a decent pace, but Noah was really dragging, because he thought he needed to save energy for the longer run. About 3 miles in, the front group doubled back and picked us up, making sure to engage Noah in conversation. Gradually they were able to pull him ahead faster and faster, until I informed him we'd reached the halfway point -- he thought we were still on the first mile! From there on he ran near the front of the pack, and really had fun with the group on the way back.
As a father, it's hard to express in words how much I truly appreciated the support and encouragement offered to my son that day.
Now here we are in October, and I would definitely consider myself to be a part of the Molalla Running Club, and the club a part of me. I can't make it every week, but I try to be there whenever possible. After looking at the mission statement of MRC, I realized why it seems to be working so well for me; it fits right in with why I started this weblog in the first place.
"We strive to build a healthier community through inspiring people to walk or run, developing tourism in our town through hosting races, and provide an environment for people to form healthy relationships."
Yes, I want to be a part of that, and it's happening right here in my own community. Sure, if you think about it on a basic level, it's just running. But it can be so much more than that.
Running with a consistent group can be motivating and inspiring, and the new friendships that come out of it can be pretty cool, too. This year I'm not just helping mark trails for the Molalla River Trail Race, but I'm also running the 10K. Running the route two days in a row may seem a little crazy, but I know I've got a great support group right there to push me along.
So, have you considered joining a running club? It doesn't hurt to give it a try...