I was following an article on Twitter where people were commenting on whether Park Runs have led to a decline in Running Club members. While I don’t pretend to know whether the stats are true or false (probably false) it did make me think about my time in a Running Club.

Below is my experience.

I was looking to join a Running Club after I had been successful in the Virgin London Marathon ballot. I had deferred due to injury and felt needed a Running Club to help me prevent it happening again. There were a few running clubs within 15 minutes drive, one within the town I live in. I started to Google their websites.

I found that a lot of clubs are all about Intervals, Hill Sessions, and competing against other clubs. They seemed less interested in the type of people who were only there for fun and fitness. I found out that my local club had a Advanced Group, and a Improvers Group. My times and distances would put me in the middle of the Improvers group.

I agreed to attend some sessions and give it a go. While they said “Hello”, they were not particularly friendly or welcoming. On my first session, they went to the local woods which I had never been to and I commented that to the coach, I was slower than the others and was told to go a different route and subsequently got lost. My 5k run turned into 7 miles trying to find my way out. I was not impressed.

There is a marked division within the club. The more serious runners vs the beginners and improvers. In the 3 years I have been a member it’s never changed.

I went to a dozen or so sessions, I spoke to one or two “advanced” during that time. I was new to the running club and new to running (previously I ran a single pace in all runs), I couldn’t tell you what a 80% effort at the time. I found the whole process slightly humiliating. I wasn’t middle of the pack in the Improvers Group. I was last. Dead last. Every week.

Maybe could have done more to integrate but it’s tough when you are the new one … you really need someone to make you feel at ease. There was one guy that felt really bad after I was left in the woods and ran at the back every week with me.

I stopped going due to a change of circumstances, otherwise I would have stuck at it. I trained alone again. A year passed. I found out that the Running Club were organising a new beginner session, and I offered to help. All of a sudden I was the more experienced person, I really enjoyed it, trying to encourage people – but unfortunately most of the people stopped coming for one reason or another.

I have been lucky that I am able to run at work, there is a good group of people here across all paces and most of my runs are at work now. I have returned to the Run Club, the day I go they do Speed Drills, which has helped my speed overall. It’s coming up to renewal time and I am strongly contemplating whether I want to continue to be a member.