That that don't kill me, can only make me stronger. I need you to hurry up now, cause I can't wait much longer. Kanye West, Stronger

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So you want to be a runner? Join the Club

Running alone is not fun, especially for non-runners. However, running with people IS fun.

This translates to all endurance sports, I will touch on triathlons and century rides too. It's like a great spinning or aerobics class, the energy of your classmates, along with the screaming, hyper-active instructor makes it easier to get through than most 45 minute solo workouts.

The one part of my running story that I left out in part 1 of "So you want to be a runner," was my moment of decision.

I went to watch my best friends--and a few other acquaintances--run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2006. After listening to his training stories and how marathon training had really changed his life, watching him cross that finish line was the moment I truly knew I wanted to do the same.

We couldn't have had more distinct running pasts, he had been a very fast high school runner, and I had muddled through a few 5K's.

Despite the fact that he and our other friends barely made it through the very tough, windy 26.2 miles, all swearing it was their last marathon, something inside me knew that I had to prove to myself that I could be part of this elite 1.5% of long distance runners that crossed the 26 mile threshold.

I knew I couldn't do it alone and I didn't have any running friends, so on my third Team in Training info meeting, I conjured up the courage to sign up. My cousin had done two marathons with TNT, and even as a self-declared "non-joiner," she couldn't say enough about the experience.

What makes running groups, like TNT so special--but I'll give you links to many others--, so much better than training on your own?

I touch on this in early posts, and while I could go on and on (as you know I like to do), I will try to keep this short, sweet, and speedy!

1.) You get unparalled coaching that makes running idiot proof, safe and 100% effective. 100% of NYC TNT runners that make it to the start line, cross the finish line. Everything from shoe clinics to nurtrition clinics to terrain training is covered. And let me tell you, there is NOTHING like having coaches on the course with you the day of the marathon. I literally felt like P.Diddy or Oprah. I will never forget the last 150 yards of my marathon. Coach Ramon was running by my side, ringing the cow bell widely, he whispered in my ear, do you know those guys over there? I looked to the side line and saw my team mates screamming like crazy for me. The entire 4 hours and 50 minutes up to that point were instantly worth it.

To reinforce this point, I was dancing around the night of my marathon. My DC friends could barely walk. Before I ran, my coach went over every foot of the course, telling us exactly what to do to have a great, strong run. The TNTer who came in 4th in the Nike SF run, said that training with a team was so much better than on his own. He couldn't compare the two!

2.) You meet GREAT people and lifelong friends--that you instantly have something in common with. I feel that the people I met at TNT were true kindred spirits and we hang out all the time. Plus, I can not imagine running 10 miles without chatting the minutes away with my girl friends. Now I can run on my own, but when I started I needed friends to push me through. Plus everyone is the same boat, so you help each other. We would actually plan not to talk during the week, so we had 18 miles of stories saved up for our long runs.

If it's boys your after, don't sign up for a women's marathon like me--lol. But people joke that Team in Training is actual Team in Dating. There are a lot of love stories. While my training was pretty much all women, the triathlon team had lots of cute boys!

3.) You are committed to a greater goal. While not all of the running clubs I will mention have a service component. Raising money for cancer turned out to be the best part of team in training for me. Having a focus, a mission, a goal that goes beyond yourself, your body, but spills over to the good of society, is a motivating and rewarding experience like no other. I am not an emotional person (at all!)and I am probably more uncomfortable asking for money than anyone in the world, but damn did hearing the mission moments at the beginning or practice bring out a new side of me. I would weep as cancer survivors would tell their triumphant stories or hear from family members who had lost their loved ones or run next to someone who had just had chemo but was chatting happily beside me. These moments, these stories touch you on so deep a level, you can't help but feel like you want to save the world one mile at a time!

Not only are you helping so many people, but it really gets you in touch with how fortunate you are! Your personal gratitude for life, health and happiness really shines through when you are helping those less fortunate. Even if you decide not to join a group, take a moment before you runs or rides to think about how lucky you are, I guarantee your workout will be better for it.

So where do you find these great groups?

Just about everywhere!

I just discover this amazing magazine called Metrosports. There are versions in many cities (scroll to bottom metrony home page) and they have amazing articles on all types of endurance and outdoor sports in urban settings. They had a particularly great article, "Running the Gamut" on the many free running clubs in NYC. I mentioned Urban Run and Run NYC in my Get Fit for Free post, but there are many more: Powered by Dim Sum (gotta love that title) and RunUrban through Urban Athletics are just a few of many.

Every YMCA probably has a running club of some kind.

For a more comprehensive list of sportsclubs in your area checkout

Road Runners Club of America
The Running Network
The Running Page
Biking Clubs of the USA
Triathlon Meetup

New York City Clubs:

If you are visiting a new city, you can take a running tour through City Running Tours
If you want to run a marathon on every continent check out the Seven Continents Club
Road Runners Club of America

If you like to run and drink check out Drinking Groups with the Running Problem

You see there is truly something for everyone.

If you want more guidance, but aren't necessarily ready for a full-fledged marathon, try one of the many athletic stores that have clinics and classes.

Jack Rabbit Sports has a great mix of running, tri, and yoga clinics. They even have this great indoor tri series where you race to see how far you can swim in 10 minutes, bike in 30 minutes and run in 20 minutes. Sounds like the perfect tri to me!

Also, Wellsphere has great information on training for half-marathons.
If none of these sound fun to you, branch out! Take advantage of the free kayaking offered around the city, a sunset ride from the Socrates Sculpture Garden along the skyline is a great, healthy way to spend an evening.

I hope you enjoyed this post. I am off tomorrow, but if you have post ideas, send them my way!


Betsy said...

i've been thinking about doing TNT for my fall marathon (which ever that will be-I'm going to do Marine Corps if I dont' get into NYC), but I'm nervous about not being able to fulfill the fundraising commitment. But, maybe I just don't know my full fundraising capabilities!!! Did you find it hard to reach your fundraising goal???

Also, glad you liked Yoga Effects! Which level did you go to? I like the yoga there because it feels like a real workout!

Melissa said...

Hi Betsy,

I won't say fundraising was easy. But you do have tons of supports, a fundraising coach, clinics, letter writing workshops. So if you are good at following plans, you shouldn't have too much problem. Basically follow their timeline and be a little creative. I was about $500 shy of my goal, but I was more than happy to put that money in myself, the program was worth so much more. I think the vast majority of people do complete their fundraising goals with out putting in their own money.

I didn't do any events, like jello wrestling fundraisers, which can bring in lots of money.

I took the express intermediate class at yoga effects. I am going to go again Thursday and Friday mornings! Thanks again for the recommendation.

barbra brusk said...

Melissa, i wrote you an email about Brazil. :)

linds said...

you are so right, running with people is a lot more fun. Most of my friends now though either go to the gym or play sports, they don't want to run miles outside- maybe I'll look for a club like TNT in my city. Great advice! I love your blog, as always :)

Anonymous said...

I love all these running resources! Thank you!

Brandie said...

Keep up the good work.