You’ve probably heard it before: running with others is a great way to socialize, freshen up your routine, and explore new territory that you might not discover by yourself. And when you’re running with others, you might venture farther, or run faster, that you do when you’re on your own.
But if you’re a confirmed solo runner, joining a group run - or even a just one other person for the first time can be downright terrifying. Here are some tips to make joining up a little easier.
Shop around. Some groups are more social and welcome runners of all abilities and levels of experience. Other groups are more competitive and oriented around speed. Most groups have some sort of online presence. So contact the group leader before you join and find out the typical distance, pace, and format of the workouts. If that group isn’t the right fit for you, he or she can refer you to another group that might offer a better fit.
Introduce yourself. If you don’t naturally feel outgoing, this can be painful. But it’s important to introduce yourself just as you would at any other gathering where you are new. Chances are that a regular who spots an unfamiliar face will reach out to welcome you.
Get to know the route. Before you join, find out about the route the group regularly takes. Then drive or run it ahead of time so that you don’t get lost.
Prioritize your pacing. It’s important to find a person or group of people who run at a compatible pace. Even if you don’t share the same running goals, you just should be able and willing to comfortably run the same pace for your workouts. If you’re running faster than you feel ready for, you’ll get hurt. And if you’re slowing down uncomfortably to run with the other person or the group, it will be difficult to sustain the relationship.
Check your schedule. If you have to jury-rig your group run into your schedule at a time that’s not really convenient, the workout is ultimately going to cause more stress than it relieves, and it isn’t likely to last long. So make sure you can make the workouts happen at the most convenient time for you.
Keep the effort honest. A little friendly competition is okay. But remember, ultimately you want to improve your own fitness and become a better runner. If you get so focused on getting faster than another person, or catching up with a group, so much that you stop listening to your body and progressing at a pace that works for you, you risk injury. Run with others who will be able to genuinely help you celebrate your success, and commiserate with you about setbacks, and genuinely want you to succeed. If you sense the vibe getting too competitive, it might be time to take a break.