What should I expect from my new running club?
July 18, 2013 8:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to my first running club meeting tonight. I'm inexplicably nervous. What should I expect?

I'm a regular runner and training for a 10k, but none of my friends run so I thought I'd take the chance to expand my social circle. I'm friendly and not scared of talking to new folks, but I don't have any sort of schema for 'brand new sporting event' and would like to know what I'm getting myself into! I've got no idea what to expect.

Will everyone know each other? Is it ok to run in headphones? Do we all run together or is the point just that we start and end at the same place? What if I can't keep up?

What was it like joining your running club, Metafilter?!
posted by citands to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you are a man then expect to be checked out and hit on. I know many women who join those clubs only to meet fit men. :) There will be people there who know each other well and there will be newbies like you. Talk to a newbie first but do try to talk to at least one regular. You will feel better if you get pulled into the main group. If it is a newer club then talk to everyone and form the main group yourself. Most people are a little anxious with these things and will welcome you making the first move.

Some people run together, some alone, some walk really fast. Most drink beer afterwards (I'm in Louisiana, all the running clubs that I am familiar with do this). It is okay to run in headphones so long as their isn't a traffic issue. Keep your volume down so you can hear another runner trying to pass you. If you can't keep up, you won't be alone. If you begin to lag, fall in with others who are lagging. Bond over it. Challenge one another. And don't drink too much beer.
posted by myselfasme at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2013

Will everyone know each other?

Mostly, yeah. It's a club; that's what clubs are for.

Is it ok to run in headphones?

Take them with you if they help you run (I personally get bored as fuck-all if I can't listen to something while I'm running). If you get looks, shrug and say, "They help." If someone actually comes up to you and says, "We don't do that here," then take them off and give it a whirl.

Do we all run together or is the point just that we start and end at the same place?

Probably the latter. Depends on the group.

What if I can't keep up?

Go as far and as fast as you feel comfortable. Take a little encouragement, but if you're genuinely concerned for your health or safety, ease it back.

If it's a good club, they'll welcome you with open arms and socialize with you and encourage you without killing you. If it's not a good club and they don't do those things, then you'll be better off without them anyway.
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 AM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's a good club, they'll make introductions, ask about how much you run and how fast, and probably try to get you together with people who run at about the same pace.

Headphones have been fine in most of the clubs I've been in, but people are generally friendly enough that you'd be taking them out or lowering the volume quite frequently as you run. To me, that's kind of the point of joining a running club...so you have someone to run with!
posted by xingcat at 8:38 AM on July 18, 2013

At my club, at the beginning, we go around in a circle, doing introductions and mentioning how many miles we're going to run and at what pace. If your group does this keep track of who would be running at about the same pace as you, and just try to stick with them.

Will everyone know each other?

Some of the people will probably know each other, some of the people probably won't.

Is it ok to run in headphones?
I guess it's OK? It's not really something that's done, the point is kind of to run and chat with other people. I usually bring my iPod with me in case I end up running alone, but I keep it in my pocket and don't put my headphones in unless I am alone.

Do we all run together or is the point just that we start and end at the same place? What if I can't keep up?

My group starts together and separates based on pace-- the faster runners will run ahead of the slower runners. Depending what your pace is it's possible you might end up running on your own. Every group handles that sort of thing differently; some make sure that no one is on their own, in others, it's no one else's problem if you can't keep up. Make sure that other people know your level of familiarity with the route you're running, and keep track of the turns you make, so you can head back to the start point if you need to.

Running groups are usually thrilled to have new members, so try not to be nervous! They are most likely more than happy to have you. I joined a running club about 2 years ago and it's been a tremendously positive force for my running. Good luck!
posted by matcha action at 9:22 AM on July 18, 2013

I'm in a dorky neighborhood running club. I think they vary a lot but in mine it's like this

- People show up early and usually say hi and new members are often introduced. We're all neighbors more or less so there's a lot of "Oh which house do you live in? Why did you move here? Good to meet you" stuff happening
- Usually they go over the "rules" we have a few measures runs - a mile, two miles and a 5k. The leader person explains where the markers are because it's an out-and-back sort of thing and we all gather and start at the same time.
- At our club there is a person who times more or less and everyone starts at the same time and then people split off usually. Some people run together, some don't. Some wear headphones, some don't. It's a really non-competitive group but some people are trying to beat their best times. Other people run with strollers or dogs and we have some kids who run the shorter lengths and a few who ride bikes.

There is a small Google group and people's times are emailed around afterwards and there's some informal talk about other races coming up. Sometimes people hang out together afterwards, a lot of times they don't. There is basically no "checking out" of people at my club really, though it's a good way to get to know people.
posted by jessamyn at 9:24 AM on July 18, 2013

I ran half a dozen times with a local club that has a weekly 5K on Thursday nights. Although the club has "official" members, pretty much anyone off the street, or from another running club, was welcome to join or just show up for the run. The Thursday runs started and ended in front of a local veteran's hall where the club borrowed a room. People would show up early to stretch and chat, and there was a box of recycled bib numbers. Take a number, pin it on your shirt, then write your name and number on the list of weekly runners that was circulating. An organizer also went around collecting $5 from anyone who wanted to share pizza afterward.

The race started at 7:10 pm sharp, and followed the same course every week. Everyone started together but then spread out and moved at their own pace, so it helped to remain in sight of at least a few people until I learned where the turns were. At the finish line, a timekeeper would spot your bib number and write down your finishing time so you could keep track of your results from week to week. The timekeeper stayed outside until everyone who wrote their name and bib number on the list had arrived.

Afterward, people stayed to share take-out pizza and bought their own cheap beers from the veteran's hall pub in the basement. I was shy and didn't talk to many people (who did mostly all seem to know each other) so I eventually stopped going, but I did get some good advice about running shoes from one of the long-time members.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 10:01 AM on July 18, 2013

I belong to two running clubs.

Some people know one another, some don't. I was new this year and didn't know anybody. Some people have been with the same club for years.

I wear my headphones. Sometimes, I will take one bud out, so I can listen to others or chat if I'm running with people.

The thing about running clubs is that's it's okay to run alone somewhere in the pack. It depends on your pace. My pace is somewhere in the middle of the fastest and slowest members, so I often find myself running alone. Several people may end up running by themselves but enjoy the accountability, and socializing before and after the run.
posted by Fairchild at 10:12 AM on July 18, 2013

I've done quite a few of these and have always found the other runners to quite friendly and welcoming. If the club is big enough, you should be able to find someone who runs at a similar pace to you. If there is no formal introduction, you will find that established groups sort themselves into pace groups very soon after the start. It is pretty natural to introduce yourself to someone you are running next to and you have a lot of obvious built-in conversational topics around running. You probably want to try to push it a little bit for the first mile or so -- for whatever reason every group I've ever run with starts out too fast and settles down into a slower pace later. This threw me off for a while, because I like to start out much slower than my usual pace and I ended up passing a ton of people later in the run until I adjusted. I make it my goal to run with and talk to one new person each week and pretty soon you will be a regular and have your own clique. I'm slightly bummed by myselfasme's comment because no one has ever hit on me, but perhaps the fact that I always talk about my wife has been a limiting factor in that. That's what I'm going to tell myself in any event.
posted by Lame_username at 12:38 PM on July 18, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this really really helped! I'm glad I asked the question.

For anyone else using this as research: I had a great time! We were doing speedwork rather than a flat run so today wasn't very representative, but: ranking was based on your average time to complete a 5k, so good job I knew that. There was a real mix of abilities (I mean, everyone being more able than me, but I expected that) but having one major thing - really liking running - in common makes it pretty easy to start conversations with people.

I didn't wear my headphones (though one guy did during the sprints and that seemed to be OK); and we were working to a goal so no one got left behind. Everyone seemed to know a bit about each other and some folks obviously trained together outside of the club - but they were really open about it and not cliquey at all, and it was fine to be all 'Oh! I'm new! Can you help me understand what's going on?'

On the downside, no one drank beer afterwards, no one asked me if I wanted pizza, and no one told me I was hot. So, YMMV on those things.
posted by citands at 1:31 PM on July 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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