It’s a little over 18 months since I joined the Mornington Chasers, a running club based in Kentish Town in North London. Whilst I’ve never regretted the decision, it’s taken time for all the reasons that joining a club is such a great idea for running enthusiasts to become apparent, so I thought I’d share some of them.
1. Other runners are nice
I’d like to be able to replace “runners” with “people” in that title, but I think that might be verging on naive. However, my experience of other runners is that they’re a generally good-natured, friendly and decent bunch; either that, or there are just so many similarities between us that it doesn’t really matter what anybody else thinks they’re like. Maybe it’s the shared commitment to something that regularly involves wheezing up hills in the pouring rain, but regardless of why runners tend to get on well with each other, there’s a lot to be said for joining a club that’s full of them.
2. Advice you can trust
There are a lot of articles on the internet (and in print) promising to revolutionise your running. I’m sure a lot of them have merit, and experience certainly helps distill the sources down to those that can generally be trusted. Nevertheless, having professionals on hand who know what they’re talking about and can provide both specific advice and a broader training regime that’s tried and tested is beneficial to body and mind, and discourages the tendency to flit from running fad to running fad without really committing to a specific plan.
3. More races, more results to celebrate and more encouragement
Not only does joining a club enable you to participate in some fantastic races that would otherwise pass you by, you get to run them as part of a team. Joining a pocket of your club’s colours on the start line of a major race is a great way to calm the nerves and guarantee you’re setting off with runners of equivalent ability and aspiration, and there’s certain to be a hatful of good results to celebrate at the finish. Not only that, but the amount of encouragement you get from spectators you’ve never even seen before is phenomenal; I imagine most of these people are the friends or family of club-mates, but it’s possible that some of them just like green and orange…
4. Anything that’s really hard isn’t quite so hard when other people are doing it with you
On to the real motivation for this post. I’ve recently made a personal commitment not to miss a Thursday session with the club, or otherwise to run the same session at a different time if I have something else on. These typically involve intervals of different lengths, sometimes at Parliament Hill track, sometimes up and down Primrose Hill, but always to the point of exhaustion. A long weekend back in West Yorkshire left me squeezing in a hill session on my own late last Thursday afternoon in an attempt to adhere to this commitment, and the beautiful sunset did very little to help me through it alone.
However difficult blocks of 3mins, 2mins and 1min with 60 secs recovery up and down Primrose Hill are at the best of times, I can guarantee that they’re a lot more difficult without a set of footsteps in front and another behind, a group of gasping companions with whom to attempt stilted conversation during brief stints of recovery, and a bunch of comrades to dejectedly call time and start the next set when everbody’s watch has undeniably recorded the passage of a minute. If you want to improve, I’m reliably informed that it’s sessions like this that make the difference, and on the evidence of one week there’s no way I’d be able to maintain the same intensity without the club-mates I’m used to chasing round the track.
Find a local club - it’s cheap, accessible, and there’s one (or more) in every town
Whilst I can’t speak for every club, those which have stringent entry requirements are in a very small minority, and many are happy to welcome runners of all abilities. The cost is likely to be very affordable, particularly in comparison to gym membership, and there will almost certainly be one or more in your broad locale. So, you’ve got a search bar top of the page, now use it!