One of the best options for anyone to improve their running and social circle is to join a running club. But there are several options to consider when entering one, depending on your purposes.
Benefits of non-affiliated clubs
Firstly, there are two types of running clubs. On one side you have clubs that are affiliated with UK Athletics (actually, they are affiliated with the constituent country governing body, for example, England Athletics). On the other side, you have clubs that are run by sports shops or brands. These are non-affiliated.
Let’s talk about the non-affiliated clubs. You get the social component – both face to face and on social media where they are usually quite active. They organize regular (say, monthly?) events with presentations and also use the running club to promote products or services. Through sponsors is how myself and Andreea won our places at the 2016 London Marathon, but it cost us a brand new pair of Adidas Boost trainers each.
Some un-affiliated running clubs offer track sessions to their members, some of these might not be free, but you get the advantage of testing your legs on a track rather than tarmac. There are also running sessions for beginners, and you get some regular running sessions per week.
One example is the adidas26rs run club that we’re part of. It’s run by the London Marathon Shop and has Adidas as a sponsor. It’s free to join, the runs are free, and you get a free Adidas t-shirt after ten runs.
They also organize events, like the one Andreea took part in a couple of weeks ago – a trial run with Adidas shoes, food and networking. And let’s not forget the competition they had for London Marathon places – which we won. Check them out on their facebook group.
When you want recognition and the ability to get to the next level, you might consider joining an affiliated running club. I joined Edmonton RC a few months ago.
This time you will pay a joining fee and an annual membership fee (sometimes these two are merged) which can go from around £30 to under £100. The affiliated clubs are specific to running (ending in RC) or addressing other common multi-discipline sports (like Triathlon clubs) or athletics in general (ending in AC).
1. Discounts for certain races
Speaking of money, if you are affiliated most (or all), UK races offer discounts for athletes that are part of such a club. So after some races, you might be able to get back the money spent on the club membership from discounts.
2. More advanced training
Joining an affiliated running club will put you in contact with some more senior or more active runners. The larger the club, the more probable it is for them to have sessions that address beginners. But having no experience in running whatsoever, can be a bit overwhelming. The social component is more based on face to face interactions. There will probably be volunteering involved, so your commitment will be pushed to the next level.
Their training sessions are a bit more professional from the moment you join; they include advanced techniques sessions like hills repetitions, intervals or fartlek sessions. Some clubs offer professional coaching or biomechanics sessions once in a while. They will teach you how to run better, train better, how to improve your technique. Access to gyms or other facilities might also be included in the membership; it depends from club to club.
But you can also just run for fun, no strings attached, it’s really up to you. However, this does come with a membership price.
3. Places in races
Popular races, such as the London Marathon, offer places to running clubs according to the number of members, so bigger clubs have a higher number than smaller clubs. Usually, members will race against those places, and the best will win them. Again, the bigger the club, the more very good folks to compete with. Some clubs, such as Edmonton, will offer a part or all of those seats to the members that volunteer the most, rather than to their best athletes.
Affiliated clubs also participate and sometimes organize race leagues in regional divisions, they win points, promote in higher divisions (and access more sponsorship) or relegate in lower divisions. I believe this kind of championships can also be a motivator for a club member.
Most clubs have what’s called a handicap race series. Races are for members only, and because it’s age-graded everyone gets a fair chance to win it as long as they give their best. For me, it’s one of the main drives. You get recognition from the entire club, and it tells you exactly where you are compared to other colleagues. More about handicap races in a future blog post.
Are you part of a running club? Which one? What kind of runs do you do at the club?