Small or Large, Running Groups Help You Take Charge

By , Elizabeth Lowry, Staff Writer
In one week, we'll be writing our race recap. I can't believe I’m even typing those words. The past four months of training for the Flying Pig have honestly been one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I have had two children. Despite being injured, I recovered—only to reinjure the same leg again. I've spent the last two months limping through my workouts and training runs, making trips to my doctor, doing physical therapy, stretching, taking ibuprofen and battling sleep issues due to long-run anxiety dreams.

Even though my physical journey has largely been a solo one, I couldn't have gotten through any of this on my own. I wasn't able to join a running group or even do many of my runs with another person due to scheduling conflicts. But my people have still been there. My SparkPeople friends have been awesome and encouraging. When I signed up for this race, I knew I that I would never make it across the finish line without at least knowing a few others going through the same ups and downs of training. We report our run results to one another, discuss future runs, gearfuel and music. My family has been understanding and supportive of the training time commitments and are very accommodating (though, I think they're ready for it to be over, too).

While I missed out on joining running club, what I do hear time and again is that they have a tremendous ability to create an empowering community, no matter your level or interests. In Cincinnati alone, there are running clubs for women, vegetarians, student groups and specific religions. There is a group for everyone in every neck of the woods, plus online running groups if your neck of the woods happens to run really deep.

For every group I've come across, they've all felt running communities have several things in common:

1. They are motivating.

Ashley Marshall, runner and nutrition consultant at Natty Run - Cincinnati, Ohio

"'Community' can mean a couple of training partners or a large running group. Either way, it provides accountability, support and encouragement, not to mention entertainment when you are on a very long run [and] you need distraction! In a crazy-busy world that so often tells us 'we can't'--the running community is a place where we consistently hear 'you can.'"

Martise Moore, running coach and founder of GreenRunner - Los Angeles, California
"I feed off of the energy and sheer determination of other runners. They lift and inspire me to do more, give more and achieve more with my running gift. That’s why I’m on a mission to inspire and help people, all over the world, experience life-changing growth and achievement through running."
2. They create strong bonds.

John Matthews, marathoner - New York, New York

"Runners build something almost intangible while running in groups. The reason the bond is so strong is that there is a silent communication that exists between runners. One will push the others a little harder, then when that individual runs out of fuel, the others pick him/her up and lead them. This sense of being a leader or in charge, then later being led and pushed creates a bond." 

Heather Blackmon, running coach - Denver, Colorado

"Running creates a community because we connect through the desire to improve ourselves. We choose to run to improve our fitness, confidence, endurance and to clear our heads. We push through snowy winters, rainy afternoons, cold mornings--knowing that we'll get to run on the beach, through the mountains and to faster race results in the future. That sense of shared understanding binds us together!"
3. They love to run and reward.

Joel Feinberg, owner, Universal Sole - Chicago, Illinois

"We take pride in getting everyone together, running, drinking some good beer (or wine) and eating great food! We strive to bring people together for free fun runs with a strong social aspect. We also really love beer and [there is] no better place than Chicago where we can enjoy running and drinking craft beer from more than 10 to 15 breweries all within a few miles of the store!"


"Once, I ran with a Meetup run club where I knew absolutely no one. After the run, we all started walking to this apartment building. It turned out that one of the members had made dinner for all of us. It was so awesome! That's the running community!"
4. They like to give back.

Kyle Kranz, running coach - Rapid City, South Dakota

"Aside from simply meeting new types of people I would likely never hang out with otherwise, I also get new experiences. For example, I've been able to help build trails out in the Black Hills National Forest. They don't just magically appear--there is planning and manual labor that goes into them, and I've helped create that. The money from club races that I pay to run, volunteer at or help promote go toward local student athlete scholarships, student athletic programs and to further promote running in the area."

Heidi Boynton, co-founder of Mini Mermaid Running Club and a Toyota Everyday Hero - Santa Cruz, California

"My running community opened the door for me to start Mini Mermaid Running Club, [when] we as a tribe saw a problem. Schools with a majority of students living at or below the poverty line did not have access to the cool running programs in existence. We solved the problem with all of our resources as a running community to make it happen. That intent as a community, to help girls everywhere run, was built [in] our years together and our shared passion for running and moving our bodies. Now, six years later, 7,000 girls have discovered the finish line [and this] is just the beginning."

Katy Sherratt, Back on My Feet CEO - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"We, quite literally, with the generous support of 100,000s of donors, supporters and volunteers across the country, transform lives one mile at a time. We currently recruit members (individuals experiencing homelessness) at shelters and residential facilities who begin in the program with a commitment to run three days a week in the early morning with volunteers. With 90 percent attendance at the morning runs, our members earn the opportunity to move to our second phase of the program, ‘Next Steps,’ which provides educational support, job training programs, employment partnership referrals and housing resources."

SparkPeople Training Updates:


The end is near! I just finished my last long run of the training program, which means there is only one week to go and, I won't lie, I am ready to be done. I have been running on a tightly scheduled regiment for the past four months and I feel as though I am dealing more and more with mental fatigue.

Physically, I am doing so much better than I had hoped thanks to the taxing regiment of scheduled runs--I like to think that is a good thing because it means it is working. I have been running with a training group run by Fleet Feet Cincinnati. I would recommend using a training group to anyone running marathons. At first, I joined just to have someone do the planning for me, which includes the routes, the water stops and the scheduling. That part has been great, but the group has provided so much more and I have found the support from those in the group to be invaluable. We hold one another up while we suffer, stumble and grow. I am not sure I could have done this without them. Only one week to go--a week of dialing back my distance runs in order to rest up, reset my brain and get ready for race day.

With less than one week until the Flying Pig half marathon, I'm feeling pretty good. The mysterious pains that have been coming and going in my knee and foot have been absent for the past few runs, so hopefully they'll stay quiet until I'm safely recovering on the comfort of my couch after the race. I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll meet my two goals: To finish the race in an upright position and to beat my 2015 time of just under two hours.
Admittedly, I haven't done as many long runs as I should have completed. My longest has been in the nine-mile range, so I'm counting on adrenaline, my personal cheering squad (three very loud daughters) and hopefully some strength gained from cross-training to push me through the last four.
In the past few months of training, I have learned a few new lessons, including walking instead of running through any aches and pains; to replace shoes when needed, and break them in before race day; that the next time around, I'd like to train with a group for more motivation; that every bad run has taught me some sort of lesson; and that I can run unplugged—and enjoy it (learned by accident after forgetting my watch and earbuds on one run).
Here's to the home stretch! I am looking forward to sending my report from the finish line.

The race is coming up soon and I think I am ready for it. My training is still going pretty well. Two weeks ago, I ran 12 miles--my longest run with the Fleet Feet training program I joined with Mike. I felt pretty good during that run, but was definitely sore the first few days after. I really enjoy running, but am also ready to get back to shorter distances and less time commitments. Finding the time for the really long runs can be a challenge.

The running group has been a huge help, and I'm so glad I joined--running with others helps to keep me motivated and on pace. I am pretty sure I would have skipped a run here and there if I had not joined a group. However, since Fleet Feet provided us with a running schedule, I have only missed one or two runs since January. I would definitely recommend a group to anyone looking to train for a longer race and to experience a sense of camaraderie.

Join us every other Tuesday as we update you on our Flying Pig half marathon training, and help you get prepared for a big race. Follow along on our journey on Instagram using the hashtag #runsparkrun.