Sure, the peacefulness of a nice, long run on your own can be wonderful, but group running has its benefits, too. Running with others can energize your usual routine, boost your competitive spirit, making you go faster or farther, and even help you form life-long friendships. If you’re not sure of how the rules change in a group run, we have the low-down on how to switch from a path of solitude to a group routine.
Where to Look
There are a TON of running clubs out there, so you have the ability to narrow down your options according to size, time of meetings and even charities (some groups raise money while bringing runners together for a cause). If you’re not sure where to get started, check out Running in the USA, which breaks down groups by states.
Set the Pace
Before choosing a group of runners to join, check to see if their pace is synched up with yours. Ask your new partners about their usual paces and distances before making a commitment. If they’re a bit quicker or slower, it’s okay. Just make sure the distance they’re covering is close to your own. You don’t want to end up way ahead of the pack or, even worse, left in its dust.
Don’t Get too Far Ahead
While it’s okay to sometimes run faster or slower than the rest of your group—you won’t all be perfectly harmonized the entire time—don’t ruin everyone’s workout by forcing them to try to keep up with you. Being one step ahead will only aggravate your running partners, and by constantly trying to be the leader, you’ll end up isolating yourself from the rest of the group.
Take Turns Leading
Once you get comfortable running in a group setting, it’s fine to occasionally take the lead, especially on fast-paced tempo runs or sprint intervals. Your best bet is to rotate group members for the front position every half-mile or every few laps. That way, no one will get too worn out, and you’ll be able to catch your breath between bursts. Whenever you’re in the lead in a single-file situation—crowded sidewalk, country road or track—it’s your role to alert your fellow runners of any upcoming obstacles like holes or oncoming traffic.
Yes, this is a workout, and yes, you want to improve your distance and speed, but running in a group session is also a great opportunity to socialize and make new friends. And since you all have a common interest, you're already equipped with a great conversation starter. If you're lucky, you might even learn a thing or two about running.