While running is generally an individual activity, it’s considerably more fun when it’s not. When I saw an ad for a running club that was training for the Rock n Roll Marathon in 2007, I figured it’d be a good way to check the box on the marathon, make some new friends and maybe even meet some cute girls. Back then I didn’t realize that training for the marathon was such a big deal or so structured. If someone asked me about how to train for a marathon today, the first thing I’d tell them is to join a group.
I ran with the San Diego Striders (SDRI sponsored at the time) for my first foray into running. I fell in with a group of two guys and two girls who ran my pace. The only problem with the club was that I was the youngest one there and everyone else had family or functions to attend to immediately after the run. We never went out for happy hour or tacos after a run. Leave it to me to hang out with the grown ups, story of my life. At the post-race party Dr. Runco suggested I join Vavi, since I was a single guy and it was more of a social club. I recall running past the Vavi group on Coronado.. it was about 90 girls trailed by 10 guys. I joined! I’ve been running with the Vavi Running Club ever since. Not only have I made a ton of friends, but I was lucky enough to find a core of serious runners that keep it worthwhile every season.
Vavi is really a big social club. The marathon training group works to get you trained up for a marathon, but it’s geared towards the weekend warrior or first timer and not so focused on the serious runner. A few years ago I almost joined the San Diego Track Club but was rebuffed when I discovered they had filled up. It turned out to be a blessing. Instead I read a bunch of books on running and absorbed great advice from people much more knowledgable than myself. That’s when my current training group really converged and started to meet up for runs outside the club. There’s two people I train with regularly. Jess has been in Vavi longer than I have and I remember the first few seasons where she kicked my butt every Saturday. She’s one tough chick and it was a long time before I could keep up. She won the La Jolla Half Marathon last year and ran a 1:21 at Carlsbad. At the rate she’s improving, I think she’ll get an Olympic trials qualifier, but it won’t be until 2012. My other training partner, Matt, moved down here from Seattle a few years ago, fresh off a running career in college. He was ridiculously fast when he joined the group and if it weren’t for injuries, he’d be a lot faster than he is right now. He’s fresh off a 1:18 in Carlsbad, about 5 minutes shy of his PR. They keep me honest. They keep me coming out every Saturday.
Having a stable training group is immensely beneficial. When the run club adjourns for the season, we still meet up every Saturday and run 15-18 miles. We’re about to start up our Thursday track sessions again as well. I’m pretty good about pushing myself in workouts, but it feels like it’s less effort when someone else is suffering alongside. We just have to be careful that the competitive drive doesn’t wreck our workout. Last time Matt and I did 800s, we ran the first one in 2:20, a good 10-15 seconds faster than what we should’ve done. You don’t want your lungs burning on the first repeat. But that’s what competition does for you, it pushes you beyond your comfort zone into the place where glory lives.
I could probably run without the club. I could do all of my runs on my own out at Mission Bay. But why would I want to?