Author’s Note: This is the second installment in our new “Couch to Marathon” instructional series designed to help newbie marathoners make the most of their first race (first one is here). From training to racing information, we’ll cover the fundamentals that all beginner runners should know. If you have any additional questions, please find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/marathonnation.
As a new runner, it’s easy to feel alone. Making big changes to your life by running means leaving your old, comfortable lifestyle behind. It means finding running routes and good times to run, both in your schedule and just to be safe. It might mean a gym membership and figuring out an intimidating treadmill display and the corresponding etiquette for training indoors. Whatever path you are on, it’s full of new challenges…but rest assured you are not alone.
Because every morning there are countless people in your town waking up to the early alarm to get in that morning workout in. More people than you thought possible are running at lunch, however short that might be, to keep their fitness up. And even more are stopping at the gym on the way home to get that last chance workout done.
My point is this…as a new runner, you are not alone. You have joined the ranks of hundreds of thousands of runners. It’s a fantastic, fun community, and your commitment to run is only the first step.
Once you start lacing up those shoes, it’s time for you to start doing some social outreach to make sure that your running phase becomes more than just what you do; it becomes a part of who you are.
Here are some tips on how you can connect with the broader running community to make your exercise more fun and more effective.
But I’m A Newbie… But I’m Too Slow… But I Don’t Know What I Am Doing…
Excuses abound; there are plenty of reasons why you might feel like you shouldn’t be reaching out to others. But let’s not forget that every runner was once a beginner–like you–and some on helped them out.
Almost every runner is happy to pay-it-forward, whether it’s sharing advice, routes or race recommendations. They might even join you for one of your runs.
Finding running friends is critical because as a new runner you are trying to focus on doing everything right yet you have almost zero information. You want to get the best possible shoes, train the right way, avoid all those bad injuries you hear about, lose that nagging weight and not look like a crazy person out there.
At the same time you are being bombarded with tons of information. Articles, Facebook posts, tweets, books, podcasts and much more, all full of information and are coming at you 24/7.
An experienced runner can do more than just run with you, they help guide you through all of this and find the best path for you. You can tap into their lessons learned and do a markedly better job of finding the right thing to do.
It’s a process of trial and error for everyone, but doing this with others will make the transition to becoming a runner–and a better runner–that much easier.
Real World Social Options
Whether you are old-school or you simply shun technology outside of your workday, odds are you’ll have a few different ways of connecting to your local running community.
Find A Training Partner — The simplest option is also the most daunting, but it’s the most effective. You don’t need someone for every single run, but you might find someone else who enjoys running hills with you, or tackling the long runs. Sometimes even one social session a week is enough to keep you motivated and on track. Start by sharing your running story with your friends and family, as well as local groups that your kids are part of (soccer teams, boy/girl scouts, etc). Even if they aren’t at the same level of fitness you’ll find a creative way to connect, even if it’s just for the warm up and cool down portions of your run.
Find A Local Running Group — Almost every specialty running store has some form of weekly running ritual, so be sure to start there. If you are really lucky, there will be a larger running club that has options for multiple speeds and ability levels. Again, ask at the local running store, do a quick search online or stop one of those friendly runners you see on the open road.
Hit The Local Race Scene — A little more indirect, this is still a very effective way to make some new friends. Find the local 5k race series in your area and commit to running a few consecutive events. If you aren’t the super outgoing type who makes friends instantly, running several races will help you identify a few familiar faces. You are only one post race bagel comment away from making a new connecting that could help you plug in to a more social running vibe.
Online Social Options
If you are as much of a geek as I am, you’ll enjoy being active online as well as off. If you are really introverted, then the online option might be your only means of making new friends. Here are a few ways to grow your social running circle online.
Track Your Running Online — These days there are plenty of online sites that will let you upload and track your running data. There are online training logs such as Training Peaks (www.trainingpeaks.com) that allow you to track every single thing related to working out, including your nutrition. There are newer sites that allow you to track your runs and compare your performance against others such as Strava (www.strava.com). If you purchase an online training plan, some of these sites offer training logs as an added bonus or for an additional fee.
Find Your Race on Facebook — Almost every major event is now online in the social space. Simply go to the top of your Facebook page and type in the race name. Most likely you’ll find both the official race page as well as one or more informal training groups. Be sure to “like” the race so that you’ll have access to post to the page’s timeline and connect with other runners. If you have found some training groups, then you can request to join and connect with them. The best part is these groups don’t even have to be in your area; you can still share information, training advice and get ready for the big day.
Search and Find Runners on Twitter — For the most diehard online folks, using Twitter (www.twitter.com) is another option. After creating an account, you can update your personal profile to have a running themed picture as well as a note about you being a runner. With your personal notes ready, you can then search twitter to find other runners. You can start with using search terms such as “#running” or “#marathon” for example (without the quotes), or perhaps the name of your next race. You can follow the people you find there and start building a relationship by sharing their comments, writing back and much more.
What’s Your Story?
If you are lucky enough to have your own running circle, please share with us in the comments below how you made the initial connection. Any tips or input are welcome, thanks!!