Clubbing it in the summer.
You need to get some help.
Posted Monday, 12 July, 2004
Is your family not supportive of your running? Do the people at work think you’re nuts? Are your long runs long and lonely?
Who do you share your successes, your failures, your aches and pains with? Have you got no one to talk to except the dog? Is there no one to challenge you? Is there no one to shame you out of bed for that morning run?
You need to get some help! Lucky for you help is at hand. There are plenty of other poor restless souls like you in the world. There are even some close by if you know where to look.
Like all serious social disorders, an inexplicable passion for running has its support groups. They are a loosely knit cabal of codependents and enablers euphemistically referred to as “Running Clubs”.
Do you know the real difference between ‘doing something stupid’ and ‘a sport’? When you can get ten others to do it with you, and get someone else to watch, it’s a sport.
You can see the difference between, “Hey, I’m going to go run around in the woods for 25 minutes, possibly falling down, probably hurting myself, and definitely throwing up,” and “The athletes gave their all today at the Bramble Bush Trail Run.”
Why would I join a club? When it comes to running and competing, I’m a loner. The biggest thing that I get out of my runs is the chance to be alone with myself, in my head and sort things out. I’m not anti-social, I’m introspective. Running brings me clarity.
Even so, there are plenty of times when I need the energy of others to pull and push me along. No man (or woman) is an island. I love being in a running club and having running friends. In the process I’ve made some great friends that I would never have otherwise met.
Everyone joins a club for a different reason. In the club everyone contributes something and everyone takes something away. In the process the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
Over the summer we’ve had some fun with running in our club. More importantly, we’ve got some folks involved who otherwise would have stayed home.
You need to mix it up with some traditional events and some quirky ideas. You have to mix it up to get every one involved. Let me tell you about four events we have. Maybe you can use as inspiration in your club to get some folks involved.
The first event we had wasn’t really a separate event as much as it was a variation of a scheduled event. We have weekly club runs on Sunday mornings. In the summertime attendance tends to fall off, due to vacations and warm weather apathy.
We created a variant of the club run called the Hawaiian shirt run. Simply put, for this particular Sunday morning run we were required to wear Hawaiian shirts. By this simple device, we got a couple people we hadn’t seen for awhile to come out with us. It appealed to their sense of humor.
Picture a group of people festooned with pineapple and flamingo prints trotting through the center of a small New England town at 8:30 AM on Sunday morning. We had people yelling at us from passing cars. We turned heads. We got some good photos and had some fun.
If your club is going to attempt the Hawaiian shirt run, make sure you have 40% extra shirts to give people when they get there, because (unbelievably) not everyone has a Hawaiian shirt. Also, some people are afraid to wear them in public, and will ‘forget’ to bring them. Be willing to take some cat calls and good natured abuse from the locals.
The second neat thing that we did this summer was to have a “dog run”. Again, it is something a little different, and we got some people out with their ‘best friends’. Dogs have social needs too. It kills two birds with one stone; you get to exercise the dog and get a run in.
The plot for the dog run is to meet somewhere dog friendly on a chosen morning and go for a run with your four legged running buddies. Preferably you should find a place where you can let them off the leash without anyone getting mad, lost or hurt. Some place with water for the hunting dogs to wallow in is a plus.
The dogs loved it. They ran hard and played with each other while we two legged runners got an easy trail run in. My Buddy slept well that day. It was something different that added some interest, activity and pulse in the club. This is one we will definitely do more often.
The third event we have been doing for years. It is a local ‘race series’. This is a scheduled race that runs every Thursday night during the summer.
They have age groups and keep a running (cumulative) point count for the whole season. In this way attendance is rewarded and the same crew of people shows up every week.
This is good for the club because it gives a few competitive members who would otherwise be sitting around something to do every week. It gives us something to announce each week and that keeps the chatter level up, ensuring communication channels stay open.
The other great thing about this race series is that someone else organizes it. Someone else does all the work and we get to use it to socialize and compete. It provides another anchor for the club without too much effort (besides running the race).
The final event we had was a convergence on a local 5k for the Fourth of July. This was a little, local race held on the morning of the Fourth.
The agenda here is to get as many club members as you can to run the same race. If everything works out is can create quite a sense of ‘being part of something’.
We ended up fielding 25 runners out of a field of a couple hundred. Many of us wore club singlets, so we looked like an invading army. Three of our ladies got some hardware! I think it gave everyone pride of participation to be a member when so many people showed up for the same event.
In a big race, we might have been lost in the crowd, but here we were an invading force and made a small statement. It was cool, and it took very little coordination; just a little communication.
When I think of running I think of all the lonely miles I’ve plodded through in the cold and rain, the endless rounds on the track and the stoic, solitary marathons. Now, I also think of the partnership, the comradery, the common goals and the fun.
What good is it to be in the arena, with the blood, sweat and toil, if you can’t share it with someone at the end of the day?
My advice to you is to get some help. Go find a club of like-minded individuals to share your escapades with. Your efforts will come back to you tenfold.
If you’re already engaged in a club; mix it up a little. Like any relationship, you need to keep it interesting. Do something different and fun to keep it fresh.
Either way, you’ll be surprised how much you reap from this social sowing.