The social running thing.

I came upon this SB Nation article this morning, and it fueled in me some fire about a topic: social group running. To begin, though this is not really the point of this post, I must say that I wholeheartedly disagree with the author. I believe that no matter how many times a week you pound the pavement, how many 11-minute miles you log a week (or in my case, slower), or how many beers you chug after (last night, one Sam Adams Porch Rocker, sometimes many more, sometimes none). What matters to me is that you run, or attempt to. I don’t care if you run-walk, if you do burpees in between laps, if you bike too, if you walk with a 1/4 mile jog every two miles because you’re building up your confidence and ability. ALL of these things make you a runner!  So it does burn me a little bit to hear when people don’t think you’re a runner just because it is not the only thing you do in life, or that you’ve never been competitive, or if you’ll never run a 7 minute mile.

This article really led me to think more about the social running clubs that are out there now. I am not a part of a running club, partially because I am really bad at planning time on other peoples’ schedules (I like to do what I want, when I want, DAMNIT, because I am a 5 year old at heart), and partially because of a little bit of fear. Yup, fear.

I wholeheartedly believe that I am a runner in every sense of the word. But when I start conversations with people about running (people I’ve never run with, or that I don’t know well), I often find the need to validate myself by telling them that I’m a slow runner. Even the title of my blog calls me out on this little dip in confidence, this little piece of me that I need to call out.

I have always been one to set realistic (though optimistic) expectations. When I did online dating at Match for a few years, I always made my pictures not-quite-the-best ones I had. I always wanted my dates to think I looked better in person. I never wanted the “she looked better in her picture” reaction. I set the bar similarly for running: I always mention my lack of speed when I talk about my running. In my prime, I ran 10 minute miles. That was my prime. These days, I’m happy with 11’s but often run mid-12’s, especially on longer races. I am happy if there is someone in sight that looks like they might be in my age group around me in a race, because I don’t feel like quite as much of underachiever. Let me say, this doesn’t mean I care all that much that I’m slow. I get slightly angry with myself when I under perform based on what my expectations of myself were, no one else – but most days? I’m just happy I got out there. I never felt sad at 5k’s when all of my friends finished in front of me – it just meant that I had more people cheering for me at the end!

But my speed and lack of confidence in my speed have held me back from things like joining social run clubs (along with my inability to schedule my life around other people, what a jerk). I live in Central Jersey, so there are a few running clubs around me, like the Raritan Valley Roadrunners. There are options. I don’t necessarily care too much about joining clubs like this. Clubs that compete, that get you into competitive races, that help you improve. I’m more about having a good time than winning. I don’t have any friends that live close enough to me to run with on a regular basis (or that pace near what I pace, with that).

What I do wish I had near me is something like a November Project. I follow their social media and drool over all of the happy, huggy people working out before work in the morning. I’d be completely afraid to join if this was in my nearest city (humble New Brunswick, not even really a city, I think)… but might actually try it. I’d be afraid of being last, of getting lost on a run because I was at the end, of feeling like the chubbiest kid there. But the happiness I see in faces makes me wish I had one of these clubs near me so I could get social… but on my own terms, not to win things; to share a love of running, make friends, and laugh a lot.

I’d love to hear my reader experiences with running social. Have you ever tried running with a group? Do you prefer to run alone? Good, bad, ugly… bring it! 

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