Nearly any time of day, if you’re driving around Ahwatukee, you’ll easily come across at least a handful of people on the roads running — this is one reason why I love living in this community.
And while I would agree that one of the reasons people enjoy running is for the solitude they can get from it; I also believe that running with a group of people from time-to-time is a wonderful communal experience, which can help you make new personal connections within Ahwatukee, the running community at large and inspire you to maybe run a distance or race that you didn’t think, at first, was at all possible for you.
The question of course is where do you find a running group if none of your friends are runners? Also, what would be the best type of running group for you?
Well, lucky for all of you I’ve been around the block, the trails and the track a few thousand times or so, and thus have a pretty good handle on where to point you in terms of where to find the right fit for your particular running preferences and types of groups that are out there.
Start a group with your friends
Maybe you want to start running, but don’t wish to go it alone. Call up some friends and see if you can recruit any of them for a weekly run with you. To keep everyone’s focus, choose a goal race — any distance — but I would recommend a 5K for newbies. This way you all have a common purpose. For a 5K, I would recommend giving yourself at least 6-8 weeks of training, if you’re new to running or cardio exercise. You may even wish to start out as a walk group first and then progress to a run group.
Get on Facebook or Google and search
By simply typing keywords into your browser or Facebook search bar like “running groups Arizona,” “running club Phoenix,” “marathon training group Ahwatukee,” etc., you will come up with results for groups in the area that may be a good fit for you. Also, if you have any friends on Facebook who you know are into running or triathlons, see what running groups, if any, they are connected to and join that group as well and you’ll start getting notifications about when and where that particular group is meeting to run.
Ask your local running store about groups
In the Ahwatukee, Tempe, and Phoenix areas there are a number of running stores that actually have free weekly runs from their retail locations. Usually these runs are in the evening during the weekday, or in the mornings on the weekends. They are open to the public and are great for meeting new people who enjoy running as well.
Now that I’ve elaborated on how to find a running group, let me explain the different types of running groups there are:
• Recreational running groups. Usually you’ll have a group of people who run anywhere between 3 to 8 miles. Some of the people may be training for a particular race, but most are just running for fitness and social reasons.
• Marathon/half marathon running groups. These can range from free training groups put together by race organizers of a particular marathon coming up in a few months, to fundraising groups who are running a marathon to raise money for charity, to groups who are paying a coach to get them ready for particular marathon like P.F. Chang’s, New York, Chicago, etc.
• Triathlon groups. These groups may meet once or twice a week to run, but they are usually getting ready for a range of triathlon race distances, so they are also meeting for swims and rides as well.
• Trail running groups. These groups adore the outdoors and do all their runs in the trails. The runs can be a few miles to higher mileage treks.
• Ultra marathon groups. These groups are almost a hybrid of the marathon group and trail running group. Ultra marathons are races over a marathon distance (so, usually 50 km to over 100 mile races). These groups put in some long miles on both road and trail, but I would say primarily trail.
• Track and field groups. These groups are for people who enjoy running/racing on the track. There are a number of track and field clubs in the area who provide track and field group training for all ages of runners.
With all of these various running groups, you can find groups which are free of charge and ones that require fees. Usually, the ones with a fee are ones where you are planning to race and where you are also receiving training/coaching and gear for your being part of the group or team.
So, if you can, give a group or two a try and you may find that your running landscape may widen for the better.
• David Allison has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 2005. He has a personal marathon best of 2:27 and was a Division I athlete at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the owner of Marathon Coaching Consultants and also the co-founder of Phoenix Flyers Track Club, both in Ahwatukee. Please send comments and questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.