When I initially started running, one of the hardest parts was feeling like I was going it alone. Running when I could fit it in got things done, but not having much interaction with others made it hard for me to stay accountable and dedicated.
I then started running sporadically with a running group from Fleet Feet. It started as one Sunday morning long-run a month with the group, and I got a chance to get out and explore the different parts of Pittsburgh. It was a lot of fun to get a change of scenery, have longer maps laid out as goals for my running development, and getting to meet up with other dedicated people.
Sporadically turned into consistently, and running with that group carried my through my first marathon in November 2013. While I enjoyed it along with the hard work, the long runs with the group started eating significantly into my days; sometimes I wouldn’t return until after noon. The group took off for the winter (training targeting the 2014 Pittsburgh Marathon was available, for a fee, and I was unable to target that event, so I did not join the group), and when spring rolled back around, I joined once or twice, but ended up doing most of my long runs on my own.
For me, it was a bit freeing. I was able to go out earlier and reclaim much of my day. I had already gotten the exploration bug, so I started creating my own training routes and maps. I was already fully dedicated, and no longer needed the accountability that the group had provided.
One might think that I missed the camaraderie, but I didn’t much. In fact, I actually joined up with the group for the first run of the new season today, and while I enjoyed the course, I found myself asking why I hadn’t just gone out on my own, as I probably would have been wrapping things up by the time the group started. That’s not meant to be a criticism of the group, as it is a great running group, but a fact of me being a very functional and not highly social personality. While I enjoy meeting other like-minded runners and networking with them, by-and-large I am more interested in tackling my runs and getting them completed.
Overall, every runner and every person has different needs, and even more so in different stages of their development. The group was critical to developing my love of running, but I’ve come to a different place a few years later. I still stay connected with the group online, and it’s nice to know that the group is there should I need that extra motivation. However, at this time, I’m doing fine without the group, and that’s OK too!