On this post-5K rest day (from exercise, but not from work and other duties), I've been pondering the concept of running communities, and what "running community" means to different people. I've suprised myself in my own journey from a preference to running alone to a yearning to be part of a running community.
I've found that running community in a few ways over the past few years. First, I started a blog about my new exercise and running efforts a few years ago, and have enjoyed becoming part of the blogging community, especially when the subjects are running and weight loss. I've learned a lot from and been inspired by others in the blogosphere, and have been amazed at how fellow bloggers reach out to encourage and inform each other. Like in many arenas, bloggers come and go, but several of my favorites are still around, and it's fun discovering new running blogs out there. I'm intrigued by blogs that have a lot of visitors and comments, and how individual bloggers foster that. I think it's a combination of blog post content, commenting on other blogs, and some self-promotion, all factor into a well-visited blog.
Another running community I've stumbled into is the running podcast community. I've listened to a number of running podcast over the past few years, and have commented on occasion when an episode has been especially helpful. Now, I find myself getting ready to co-host my fourth episode of The Runners Roundtable tomorrow night! I've thought about producing a podcast of my own, but find that co-hosting every once in a while is a lot of fun.
Facebook and Twitter have also contributed to making the running community a Web2.0 affair. I must admit that I've Facebook/Twitter friends with a number of runners across the country and world whom I've never met, but it's fun to offer and receive encouragement and advice with them, nonetheless.
There is definitely a local running community in my area, and taking part in it has been interesting, for sure! In the first few races I participated in, I was pretty oblicious to it, but as I entered more races, I began to see familiar faces. I also noticed that it got easier to strike up conversations with other runners, whether before or after the race, and sometimes even out on the road. Not everyone's a chatterer, but some folks are, and now, rarely a race goes by that I don't see someone I know.
Part of what's helped with that is that I've joined the Raleigh Galloway group for two years in a row, and have met a lot of area runners that way. In fact, the social aspect is what I've enjoyed the most! On most Saturdays during the training season, people meet afterward for breakfast, and that's a great time to share advice and encouragement about a wide range of things, including area marathons and halfs. I'm also a member of one of the local running clubs, the North Carolina Roadrunners Club, and have just started attending quarterly meetings in the last six months or so. That's been a good way to get to know some other runners too. I've also volunteered at a couple of races, and have gotten a lot out of cheering other runners and walkers on. I've come away inspired each time I've volunteered. Sometimes I think it's easier to race than to volunteer!
One thing that's been bugging me lately, though, is the lack of a running community for us slow, back-of-the-pack, want-to-improve runners and run/walkers. It's often (though not always) lonely at the back of races, where water stops are often out of supplies or closed down altogether, and/or I'm asked to get off the road and finish on the sidewalk. I have hired a running coach to help with the speed and all, and progress is slow but steady there. But I'm wondering if there are other slower runners out there like me, who don't know I'm out there plugging along and wishing I could encourage others to join me! I actually tried to start a little running group of my own during the winter and early spring months, but I found that to be a bit challenging. It's a numbers game, I think, since a lot of us runners lead busy lives, by nature. Have you noticed that? Many runners seem to have a lot going in, like it's in our nature. I do wonder, though, how I could find and bring out the local runners who aren't getting out there because they think, "I'm too slow!" I've been thinking about this more and more, as the new Raleigh Galloway season gets close, and I'm running my own run/walk intervals based on distance (my running coach's plan) instead of by time (Jeff Galloway's plan). I'm not sure that I'll really fit into a group this year, so I may take that $99 and spend it on something else. Still, I'm eager for that Saturday morning community of runners--I think that's part of what draws me to road races. As I focus now on longer distances in hopes of doing a fall half marathon, I think about how group runs are pretty motivating. They get me out of bed really early, and keep me going in the heat and weariness of long summer miles. What to do?
What are YOUR thoughts on running communities?