This is not a new idea. Yet it is one that is so crucial to articulate and understand in all our activities, including, of course, our running. But what does a community approach to running mean…and why do we all benefit from it?
A loose term to mean any opportunity where you don’t run alone. Finding a relationship with others that benefits your motivation, goals and desires for running will inform what kind of community approach will suit you, so here are some examples.
Highly structured and regular running clubs sit at one end of the spectrum. As well as the more traditional local athletics clubs, running together has been commercialised, (helpfully), by running groups sponsored by Nike, Lululemon and the like. This way of running allows it to be the glue in an otherwise potentially diverse social group, and often they make space for runners of all experiences.
At the other are innovative online ways of connecting, such as MapMyRun and interactive software relating to GPS watches and other running technology. These allow you to run remotely with others, though this is more focussed on progress than social life.
But these are structured, organised approaches. A more informal attitude could be suggesting to a friend to go for a run on a whim, or running over the hill outside your kitchen window with your dog at your heels. Equally, I know friends who have run marathons have been supported through a playlist we made them as a way to offer encouragement along the route.
Why community matters
As with any activity, there are a number of reasons not to go ahead and stubbornly pursue it alone.
Motivation is a big one: having someone by your side to push you on, offer advice and give perspective is huge. Part of this can even be giving you permission to not run so far or so hard, as they are able to see that, today, maybe a short jog and a long relax on the sofa is most beneficial.
And sometimes we are boosted by a commitment we made to run with someone, leading us out onto the road on a day we might not otherwise have gone. Whatever, having others to motivate us to go out or keep going is crucial in making running what you wish it to be.
Gradual progress is another. I find pacing very difficult when I’m on my own. To often I am tempted to run like the wind, only to tie myself up with cramp before I’ve hit the distance I wanted to. Running with others helps you monitor pace, cadence, breathing because there are frames of reference around you. Also, if you run regularly with the same people, you can all support and advise one another on how you are all progressing.
And advice is the final part of this. We are all wiser than we might think, and learning that we can offer this advice to others – and then learn from them – helps ground us in our running. It’s often said that we don’t know a subject truly until we’ve learned to teach it. Sharing our knowledge with our running partners, and receiving theirs in turn, helps create a communal pool of knowledge that benefits everyone.
How to build your community
Whichever group suits you, I would encourage us all to start to find ways to run with others. Different communities will suit us at different times, so don’t be disheartened if finding the right way takes a while to find. At least you’ll be running as you search!
And there is one thing we can all do to encourage the running community at large: smile at each other. One of my absolute pet-hates is running passed another runner, smiling, and receiving nothing but their glare in return. Folks, however fast, far or well we are running, a little smile and generosity offered to someone else who is out there with you goes a long way.
So next time you run, smile at all your running partners…it makes a difference.