Running club: five reasons why joining one will benefit your running

Joining a running group can help combat loneliness and improve your physical and mental health.

Joining a running club has many benefits, from making lifelong friends to building your fitness – and the good news is that there are plenty to choose from. A quick search on the Run Together website will lead you to running groups in your local area.

However, it can be a good idea to have a think about what you want to gain from joining a club. Have a look at the website of each group in your area to see what they offer. There are free running groups and some that charge membership fees, or if it includes training on a track, you might be asked to contribute to the cost of hiring it on the day.

If you’re part of a running club, you’ll often find that you will get a discount on races (you’ll need the club’s UK Athletics number when you sign up for events). Many running groups hold social events where you don’t have to wear your running shoes – unless you want to. But there are many other benefits to joining a run club, too.

Group of people smiling after a run outside.Credit: Shutterstock/Rawpixel.com

Why should I join a running club? Five reasons:

1. It will give you structure and improve your health

When you learn how to start running you’ll mainly be focused on building up how long you can run for. However, once you’ve got the hang of it and you’re not following a programme – couch to 5k, for example – it can be all too easy to let life get in the way and for your running to fall to the bottom of your to-do list.

But if you join a run club, you’ll know that at least once a week you’ll have some dedicated time to reap the benefits of cardio exercise – including improving your heart health and mental wellbeing.

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2. A running club can help you combat loneliness

Loneliness and mental health have been in the news recently as the effects of loneliness have been described as being ‘as bad for health as smoking’. But joining a running club can help encourage you to get outside and meet new people – something that can be a challenge as we get older.

Elaine Larkins, club chair for Peterborough and Nene Valley Athletics Club, says: “You get to meet all sorts of like-minded people. Our club really works on the team aspect of everything. We’re all members of a team and everybody is welcome to take part – I can’t stress that enough. Everybody who joins becomes a key player in our team. It matters not if you’re a beginner, or an Olympian.”

3. A running club will help you gain knowledge

Run leaders or coaches in the UK will usually have qualified through a course run by England Athletics. They’ll also almost always be experienced runners themselves who’ll have a wealth of knowledge.

Saga Exceptional running editor, Paul Larkins, says: “The expertise provided by clubs is amazing. I started my own club career back in the 1970s and was introduced to one of Britain’s best ever sprinters who happily coached me and my mate the whole time we were members.

“Imagine if you had to pay for such insight. It’s not an unusual story; a friend of mine who ran a two-hour, 14 minute marathon back in the 1970s is still coaching and helping runners of every age and every ability get the best from themselves.”

4. You’ll feel safer with other runners

When it’s dark or if you’re cautious about running on your own, joining a running club can make you feel safer. As we get older it can be daunting to go outside – especially at night. But being with other runners is also the perfect opportunity to explore new places, without the fear of getting lost on your own.

I started my running journey on my own in winter, which was terrifying at times. But when I was with other people, I found that I could relax and enjoy the benefits of running.

5. You won’t regret it when you find the right run club

Stepping out of your comfort zone and joining a run club can feel unnerving at any age. When I first joined one, I felt scared that they would all be faster than me and I’d slow everyone down. And while I was right about one part – I was the slowest – I was also shown that I’d never be left behind. When we got back to the starting point, everyone was still waiting for me to say “Well done”.

However, I didn’t join that running club, because I realised that my aim was not to run as fast as I could, but to just meet other runners. I’ve since joined another club and much prefer running along the seafront, having a chat about the newest Netflix series.

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How to join a running club

A good way to find a club is to search online for running groups in your local area. If possible, get the details of a couple of groups as some are more competitive than others. For example, if running fast is not your aim, it’s a good idea to make that clear before you sign up – I learnt that the hard way.

If you can’t find any online but you have a running shop in your local area, then pop in or give them a call. They will be familiar with any local running clubs, and some shops even have their own groups. Most running clubs will let you go for a trial session, so test a couple out to find one that suits your needs.

How to set up a running club

If you’re unable to find a running club near you, or there’s not one that suits your needs, you could always set up your own.

England Athletics have courses where you can gain a Leadership in Running Fitness qualification. The course covers risk assessments, warmups, cooldowns and how to lead mixed ability running group sessions.

Once qualified, you’ll be licensed and insured so that you can start your own running club – then you can bring the joy of running (or Jeffing) to everyone in your local area.

‘Clubs are for everyone and are certainly not elitist’ – George’s story

Running coach George Edwards tells Saga Exceptional: “There are several misconceptions about running clubs, the most common being that they are only for high-quality serious athletes and therefore elitist and not suitable for older people. In reality that could not be further from the truth. Clubs are for everybody and are certainly not elitist.”

He says that one of the attractions of clubs is that they are for all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities of both sexes, and all are made equally welcome. “The same applies to almost all forms of competition, the only exceptions being major events which require qualification standards. We can’t all sign up for the Olympics.”

Things have changed over the years and very much for the better, says Edwards: “There was a time when anybody seen out running or jogging was regarded as mildly eccentric. The average race over perhaps five miles, had an entry of maybe 50 or 60, the competitors mostly under 40 and very fit.

“These days that figure could be 2,000, and it is not uncommon to see people in their seventies, even eighties on the start line (think London Marathon). OK, the minute the gun goes, the fit youngsters disappear into the distance, but who cares? You will always find somebody going at your pace, however slow.

“You run together, usually start a conversation, and more often than not have a cup of tea together afterwards.”

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Rebecca Frew

Written by Rebecca Frew she/her

Updated:

Becky Frew has written various articles for newspapers and magazines focusing on fitness, is a qualified run leader, and a certified sleep talker trainer who loves to help advise people how they can nod off easier. When she is not writing or reading about fitness, she is at hot pod yoga, bounce class, training for an ultra-marathon or booking anything with a medal and free food at the end.

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