If you’re struggling for motivation, looking for others with which to share your passion, or searching for guidance on how to become a better runner, running clubs are a fantastic solution.
We’ve spoken to Tribe ambassador, parkrun veteran and Eastbourne Rovers club member Richard Davis to give you an insight into what running clubs offer and allay any apprehensions you may have about joining one.
A parkrunner going on four and a half years, Richard has completed over 200 parkruns and managed to knock a staggering 8 minutes off his 5k personal best - something he attributes to his membership of Eastbourne Rovers. Richard has also taken part in 18 marathons and a number of other events including Endure 24, a 24 hour relay through wooded trails in a team of 5, and Spitfire Scramble, a similar concept but with views of the city of London at night. His performance in all of these, he claims, was enhanced by training as part of a running club. With this in mind, we asked Richard to give us an insight into his experience with running clubs.
Why did you join a running club?
I had this idea I wanted to run Beachy Head Marathon, the hilly, quite brutal off-road marathon on my doorstep. My desire to train for the marathon, combined with the presence of Eastbourne Rovers at parkrun, who were recruiting for members eager to increase their fitness and potential, made joining the club a no-brainer.
I was quite nervous going to my first training session as I didn’t know anybody and I also didn’t know what to expect. However, I need not have worried! Everyone was so welcoming, and there were different groups for different abilities.
What would you say to people who are thinking about joining a running club?
Give it a go! Most offer free trial periods and are more than happy to accept new members. From the outside, run clubs can appear quite exclusive and ‘clubby’, but I can guarantee you that is not the case, particularly at Eastbourne Rovers. One thing that impresses me is you can post an idea for a run through the members Facebook group and within 10 minutes you have four or five willing to run with you.
What can you expect when you join a running club?
One of the less obvious perks of joining a running club is the social aspect. We will often travel to events together which often involves eating out together or hotel stays. Most of our runs also end with coffee and cake together. We also get together for a Christmas party and annual awards night where you struggle to recognise everyone without their running gear!
There are also a variety of different training sessions depending on your goals. The training sessions I take part in are twice weekly with the road running section. In the winter we pound the streets for anything up to 7 miles, but as soon as the clocks go forward we head to the hills. To keep the speed up, we do an interval session – normally on hills, and also a monthly track session. For the more competitive runners running clubs offer the chance to compete in competitions. Rovers enter the Sussex Grand Prix, a series of road races throughout the year and also take part in a cross country series.
It’s not all road running though, Eastbourne Rovers has an outstanding track & field section who won promotion to division 2 of the Southern Athletics League last year. There are dedicated sessions for track and field athletes for whatever their chosen discipline, from age 9 upwards.
Training sessions are taken by leaders in running and fitness or qualified coaches. Coaches are vital for the club. I would say most people can run, but not everyone knows how to run. Coaches can teach you technique, and introduce efficiencies to your running you may not even think about when running alone. I am currently following an 8 week programme from a coach that has a lot of emphasis on knee drive. Who knew?!
How has being a member of a running club helped your running?
Being a club member has certainly improved my performance in events. Just being committed to run twice weekly with the group helps. When you have to run alone, it can feel like hard work. When you go to run with a group, it always feels a little bit easier, plus you are less inclined to let people down by not showing. When you find yourself in a group of 4 or 5, all pushing each other along, it feels pretty good.
For you what is the greatest benefit of joining a running club?
The greatest benefit of the club has to be the friends I’ve made. As I’ve mentioned, I can arrange a group run in minutes and run with people I consider friends. It’s genuinely changed my life not just from a fitness perspective but socially too. I met the people I would go on to start an events company with. My final words would be to give a club a try. You won’t lose anything by giving it a go.