When I first started running I had this impression of club runners that they were all super fast, competitive and generally all a bit too serious for me.
I'd never considered joining a running club, despite people recommending I do for over a year. It wasn't for me, I'd never get to training, I'd not be up to the standard, I wasn't a 'club runner'.
While I'm sure there are many clubs out there that tick all these stereotypes I wasn't keen on I've been extremely lucky to be part of a club that isn't like that.
When I first started running at Oldham parkrun there were a few club names on the results: Saddleworth, Royton Road Runners, East Cheshire Harriers, Oldham & Royton Harriers to name a few. There wasn't a large number of runners from any one club, non stood out to me. As time went by more and more people I knew were joining clubs. Most were joining Royton Road Runners. These were 'normal' runners, people like me who enjoyed running wanted to be at their best and set new PB's. If they could be club runners there was no reason I couldn't be too.
I joined Royton RoadRunners in June of 2013 and did my first race in club colours at the Oldham 10k the following month. My race experience changed immediately; suddenly I was being grabbed for team photos, cheered on by team mates out on the course even it was just a "come on Royton" as they didn't know my name it was a boost. Being a club runner made me feel like I was part of something, even if I was primarily running for myself.
|Oldham Milltown 10k - My first race for Royton Road Runners|
The great thing for me about Royton is there is no elitist feel to the club; no need to be recommended by an existing members or be quizzed about your PB's before being welcomed in. If you run and want to be part of a club, fill the application form in, pay your subs and away you go. Royton has runners of all standards: looking at the 2013 marathon list there were sixteen performances clocking sub 3:30 out of a total of fifty-nine marathons completed (27%) It's not about being the fastest in the region or the country it's about being the fastest you can be, or want to be. People doing 6+ hour marathons get just as much recognition (if not more!) as the speedy sub 3 guys.
Royton is a racing club, we have a club championship and you can tell when a local race is forms part of the it: Royton colours are all that can be seen in every direction. At the finish line there will be a constant stream of Royton tops crossing the line with runners who have finished cheering in their club mates.
|Royton Road Runners team photo Rochdale 10k 1 July 2014|
(Photo from Rochdale Harriers & AC Facebook page)
But there is not just the racing. Since I joined Royton the number of members has grown, more and more are making use of Oldham parkrun. The results list is now littered with Royton Road Runners, it's great to be able to run with club mates on a weekly basis without the need to get to a club session. It's not just for that free weekly 5k time trial people come down, but for the social side. Many a strange running conversation has been had over a post parkrun coffee. Weight of running shoes? Yup we've covered that one!
Has running with a club made me a faster or better runner? No probably not. I don't get down to many training sessions as I have other commitments in the evenings. However I feel part of something, there's always a little tingle to be had as the club colours are pulled on and massive boost when seeing a fellow R while racing. I've met and had the pleasure of racing with a number of amazing and inspiration people. The inspiration doesn't always come from the front of the pack: seeing friends determined to finish marathons, digging in and giving it all over those 26.2 miles or working their way back to fitness from long injury lay offs is great to see. Those who read my blog about my first marathon will remember a fellow Royton Road Runner who waited for me in the finish pen after I'd had to walk the last couple of miles to give me a big celebratory hug. That for me is what being part of a club is all about.
If you've read this and are not part of a running club but think it isn't for you I'd say go on get down to a local club and see what it's all about. The British Athletics site has a list of affiliated clubs. You could be missing out on a whole load of fun. I've not even mentioned the cross country races yet....