Running Groups Rock!

Source: precisionfitpb.com

Source: precisionfitpb.com

They’re that bunch of people you sometimes catch a glimpse of as the run by followed by infectious laughter and animated chatter, and sometimes, the tell-tale sounds of a playlist. I used to sneer at the raucousness, all serious and solitary-like, Β wondering if they seriously got any anything done until I understood the camaraderie-boosting and encouraging spirit that embodies the running group.

Very early on my view of running had always been that of a get-out-there-get-the-job-done kinda sport with not much room for socializing on the course. I mean, who wants to be fighting to conserve energy one minute and wasting it in the next breath. My reasoning, though sensible, was flawed as it left no room for the ability to converse at varied paces as well as the need and right by some runners, to seek clarification, encouragement or even the opportunity to distract themselves from, what may be, a tough run. I felt it was do it, get over it..why prolong the suffering. My reward was delayed gratification via a race of some kindΒ where my pace, form and endurance told the story of my application. “Where’s the fun in that?” You may rightly ask. My response is absolutely no where. Thank God I grew and matured in my views; it opened up a world of knowledge and opportunity in my running life.

I have come to appreciate and even love the running group. I now understand the dynamics at work with the aim of fostering a community of like-minded people who share a common passion. I’m such a convert that when my schedule allows, I’m first up and looking to hook myself up to the closest one; talk about transformative thinking. Here’s why my views changed:

-Running groups are a good way to meet people and make friends. It provides the avenue for social interaction and has become the basis for many a meaningful and lasting connection.

-Such groups are a deep well of encouragement, knowledge and opportunity to the runner, providing information on issues from nutrition to injury prevention and every and anything that concerns running.

-A running group is your very own personal cheer squad. They not only provide you with the impetus for running and training, being right there with you on your journey, but come the all-important race day, they are there to cheer you along and celebrate with you.

-Groups provide a benchmark for your development and success with the varied paces they offer. The average runner starts out running at any given pace but with repeated effort and training gets better and better and can measure their progress.

-They have the in when it comes to first-hand information on registration, specials, giveaways and discounts on races and can often-times provide group deals on running apparel and incentives for runners.

-Joining a running group or club comes with the opportunity to advance your running game. You can gain points and bragging rights depending on the competitive nature of the club.

-Most groups are free and only require you to show up while running clubs often ask a nominal fee to cover operational costs which is nothing compared to an annual gym membership.

-Also, you get the chance to be passionate for a good cause. Groups participate in charity events like Cancer walks, runs and relays and you have the opportunity to take a stand and make a difference.

Here in New York City we boast an endless array of running groups from the fun meet-ups to the competitive clubs, there is a group for everyone. Whether you’re a twice-a-week runner for fun or you’re training for a marathon or 5k, whether you thinking about starting, just started or have been running forever you can find your place or pace among dozens of runners who feel you.

Some of the well-known running groups in major cities including here in NYC stem from the stores that sell sports and running wear: Nike, Lululemon, Paragon, Northface, the Running Company and Jack Rabbit while some popular running clubs in and around the city include: New York Road Runners -host of the New York City Marathon, Central Park Track Club, New York Flyers, Front Runners, Dashing Whippets, Brooklyn Ross Runners, Forest Park Runners, Van Cortland Track Club among many others. All paces are welcome.

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It is the quintessential uniqueness of New York that welcomes all runners of all abilities to come and share their love, their story, their experience, their encouragement with every and anyone lucky enough to call it home. If that isn’t enough reason to love them, then I don’t know what is.

 

The Other Side of Running the TCS NYC Marathon: Volunteering and Cheering

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Last Sunday was Marathon Sunday here in New York City. Over 50,800 runners braved the most windy and chilly day we’ve had in the longest time for the coveted title and medal for having run the largest and, some would argue, best marathon in the world: the New York City Marathon. As far back as last year, I had decided I wasn’t running this year; I felt I wanted to explore and expand my boundaries and focus my running outside of the city. I’ll be honest, on Sunday I was torn. Witnessing runners of all persuasions with varying abilities and over 50,000 reasons for running brought out my competitive spirit and I couldn’t help but wish that I had run. On the flip side, volunteering at the start quickly assuaged those running notions as I witnessed the anxiety and chilly determination of runners as they hunkered down in near-freezing temperatures to await the start from as early as 6am.

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

We did the best we could, chatting them up and seeking to encourage them as we too bore the brunt of the wind. Finally, it was time to usher runners on their way, as the canon boomed in the distance declaring the sending off of the first, second, then third and finally fourth wave of runners at 10:55am over the Verrazano bridge in Staten Island to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York.” Consider those runners as they progressed throughout the five boroughs, oftentimes to the company of a head wind especially upon crossing the five land-mark bridges of the race. Tenacity is the one word that comes to mind, it describes the mindset and spirit that pervaded runners as they struggled against the odds, having to adjust their strategy and even goals. Through their journey they were not alone; accompanied each mile by cheering spectators: an estimated 1 million in total, and hard-working volunteers encouraging and providing sustenance, many persevered despite the prevailing conditions and made their way through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and finally to Central Park and the finish line.

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There was never a doubt that after finishing my shift I was going to be a part of the most amazing cheer crowd the world over. 26.2 miles of spectators lined the streets of New York City, themselves braving the weather to make this race the phenomenal experience it is. It wouldn’t be the same without them and so more than anything, I wanted to be a part of that. I chose to stand close to the finish in Central Park and for four hours, cheered my encouragement and support, along with thousands of others, for runners I had never met but felt such an affinity with. Running, jogging, hopping, walking, crawling they came: an incessant wave from all over the world: young, old and everywhere in between they kept on coming; smiling, crying, in-pain, determined and victorious, to the utter delight of the crowds they came. From as early as 12pm runners were already in Central Park, Wilson Kipsang leading the pack as he cruised to the finish line in a time of 2:10:55 and picked up his first New York Marathon title, $100,000 and an additional $500,000 for going on to win the World Marathon Majors title with his win here in New York. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Kietany won first place in the women’s category with a time of 2:23:10. We clapped, hooted, whistled, rang bells, screamed and cheered for hours for thousands as they made their way home to the finish line, more than 3/4 of which were first time NYC marathon finishers and/ or first time marathoners at that.

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

I finally gave in to the chill and my voicelessness around 6:30pm while runners just kept on coming, no end in sight. In spite of the cold, I walked away with an incredibly inspiring feeling and felt much love, kudos and the deepest admiration for all runners this year. It does a girl’s running heart good to see so much love, support and dedication for her sport of choice. Thank you New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon and the city of New York including all spectators, volunteers and runners for putting on a phenomenal event. See you next year. I will be running!

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