I took part in a new-to-me summer running event last night. The Huntsville Track Club sponsors these cross country runs on Tuesday nights (they started last week) at our local cross country park. While trails, the course/path is quite wide and not technical (hard to run) at all. They start out with a 1-mile run that tons of kids join in on because it’s FREE. Then, they do a 3-mile run and last night there were 140 finishers to that. Finally? The do a 2-mile run which 100 people stuck around for. There were tons of kids just milling around, tons of socializing, and a real clock so that you can log your time all summer and try for improvements.
It was something completely different that I wasn’t planning on doing until a couple peeps from my regular running group decided to try it. And I’m so glad I did.
As much as I love running now, it still can get monotonous. Especially when I’m trying to do at least 30 miles a week. And that number will increase next week when I start my official 50-miler training. (Have I mentioned yet I signed up for a 50-mile race? Yeah. I did that.) So, finding new groups, new courses, new ways to get the miles in? Is SUCH A life saver.
But how do you find that? And how do you get over that awkwardness enough to try it out? Especially when you’re socially awkward like me. NEW THINGS ARE SCARY. Especially when you’re prone to insane rambling about boob sweat when you get nervous. And for the record…boob sweat is not the best, “Nice to meet you!” conversation topic, if you were wondering.
Well…for me the key is Facebook. (The key to finding new running groups…not the key to boob sweat. In case you got lost for a second.) Someone started a We Run Huntsville group on Facebook ages ago and they post weekly runs. Then, our Fleet Feet posts runs that they support as well. Through those two avenues I’ve met more people and joined more smaller running groups along the way on Facebook – my most loyal being the offshoot from my first 13.1 training group. I run with those guys for my long runs on the weekends as we’re all usually training for similar races.
But…the awkwardness. It’s so hard jumping in a joining a new group. Just showing up because you saw it posted on Facebook is sometimes trickier than the miles themselves. And I’ve had some not-ideal encounters. And not really bad, just with groups I probably wouldn’t bother joining again unless I was with more of my peeps. Sometimes the pace is too fast. I ran with a small group one night that kept me at about a 8:20 pace for 4 miles. When I ditched them they sped up so much that they’re average was 7 something. That’s how much I was slowing them down. YET – we were still going 8:20! THAT’S NOT SLOW.
So, you’ll have that. You’ll show up to some groups that are too fast. Some that are snarky and not welcoming to newcomers (that’s only happened to me once). Some that talk too much. Some that don’t talk enough. But listen…I’ve met some really great people on those runs I’ve found on Facebook. And those groups and those runs and those people? Make the too fast, too snarky, too elite groups totally worth the trouble.
But it’s hard. I was so nervous last night. It was like being invited to a party at a friend-of-a-friend’s house. Who will be there? Will they be nice? What kind of food will they have? Will they kick me out if I loudly proclaim that I wore the wrong underwear?
I know that nervousness is silly…But if you’re a new runner who is also a bit of an introvert, new running groups are tricky. I try to only run with new groups where, if they lose me or if I ditch them, I can find my way back okay. I knew last night would be safe because it’s a course that tons of people use. I knew that, even if I didn’t find anyone to talk to I’d be fine. But it was great! And I want to bring my whole family next time. And days like that, discoveries of fun running groups that will help me stay in the game? Make every other attempt worth it.
Find your local Fleet Feet on Facebook, for starters. Then maybe message them about other groups you could join. You never know what cool courses you’ll discover! I would have never run to our Saturn V rocket (pictured here) if it hadn’t been for a post from my old coach in a Facebook group. I would have never tried the cross-country park had it not been for this event last night. There are many places around town I wouldn’t have even tried to run in because they’re so unfamiliar to me, but now? I incorporate many of them into my rotation of courses.
Do it for the new routes. Do it for the new groups. Do it to keep the miles from starting to all blend together. Do it for the funny stories it will give you when you shock a group of guys because your anxiety-fueled chatter leads you to the talk of running while having your period. (I’m telling you…my nervous chatter ALWAYS INVOLVES UNCOMFORTABLE TOPICS.) I promise, you’ll find some things that will make it all worth it. LIKE RUNS TO ROCKETS!