Running with the Pack

November 19, 2009

Training partners are one of the the most valuable assets you can have.  They keep you motivated, give you a sense of accountability, and keep you company on your training runs, speed workouts, and at races.  After college, I missed having a team to train with, so I joined the Washington Running Club.  I decided to run my first marathon, however, after 8 years of focusing on distances from the 800 m to the 5k, a marathon seemed daunting.  Yet, anytime I trained with the group, the miles passed by so quickly, as the time became not only serious training time, but also social time.  I enjoyed working with the club so much, that I became the president and have met not only amazing training partners, but also consider them my best friends.

Here are some tips for training with a group:

1.    Hello, my name is…  The great thing about joining a run group, is that you already have something in common with everyone - you like to run.  People join run groups to meet new people to train with, so when you arrive at a new run club, say hi to everyone. Let the run club leader know that you are new and they can steer you towards people who run your pace.

2.    Buds out.  Keeping the headphones off makes it easier to interact with others and enjoy the company.  That isn’t to say you have to leave your ipod at home.  I bring mine to long group runs, in case I end up running a different pace than everyone else that day, or I decide to tack on some mileage at the end.

3.    There’s no “I" in team.  Runners are competitive by nature, but group practices are times to work together.  Encourage each other, take turns watching for split times, and don’t worry about who is faster on that particular day.  Racing (i.e. running too hard) during practice will tire you out and leave you unmotivated for your actual race.  Save your race face for the big events.

4.    Different strokes for different folks.  
  Run clubs each have their strengths.  Contact various clubs to find out if it is an appropriate club for your particular pace and goals, if it is a small group or large group, what types of workout options they offer, and if the club has any social events.  Run club presidents are often volunteers who are in their positions because they are passionate about what they do.  They are more than happy to chat with you via phone or e-mail while you are deciding which groups to try out.

5.    Keep on truckin’.  It’s normal to take a few runs to get settled and find your pace group, but eventually you will figure out who has similar training goals and habits.  It took me awhile to find the training partners in my run club who run similar paces and distances, but the fun part during this period, is that you get to meet a bunch of new people.  

6.    If anything, you can talk about running. 
No one cares if you are the slowest or the fastest, experienced or a newbie to running.  If you like to run, you are automatically part of the group.

7.    And now for the recap…Join the group for post-run bagels or coffee.  Most run clubs have some sort of social outing, like post-workout brunch after training runs.  It’s a great time to solidify friendships and interact with others that you may not have run with.  The more friends you make in the group, the more likely you will keep going back, which will help keep you on track to make your running goals.

8.    Run for the cause.  Connecting with programs like Team in Training are also great ways to get involved with a running group. Not only will you be improving your running, your running will be benefiting an important cause.  These programs are also goal-oriented so you’ll be working with a coach and training towards a specific race.


Elyse devotes her time to her two passions:  running and spreading the love of running to athletes of all levels.   She is the President of the Washington Running Club, the Head Coach of the North Face Endurance Challenge, a coach for Weight Watchers and leads the run club at lululemon Athletica.  And for the tween set, Elyse coaches  for Girls on the Run.