So you just signed up for your first triathlon, half marathon, trail run, Spartan or mountain bike race and you’re not sure whether you should train by yourself or find some people to share your training with from time to time.
I have had training groups in the past and tried to look at every person’s situation and see what makes the most sense financially, socially, and within his/her day-to-day life. While I do believe endurance training groups can help the majority of people to stay motivated, push themselves more and meet new people. It’s finding the right endurance group for you that is the trick.
Take me, for example, when I was 12-15 years younger, it was hard to find a running group that I could fit into because I was pretty fast. I wasn’t a future Olympian, but I was a good local runner. Many groups I found had wonderful people in them, but they all ran at best 7-minute miles. Here I am a guy who could run 4:50-5:30 miles from distances from 5k to marathons, and did my training runs usually in the low to mid 6s…It was really defeating the purpose of joining a group. I never had anyone to run with in these groups, and I felt sort of like a “freak” because I was the “fast guy” who no one could ever run with – not fun.
With the internet really coming into it’s own over the last 5-10 years, finding people like you has become easier than ever before. Now, you can find endurance athletes of all levels on the internet and maybe even find someone in your neck of the woods who has the same ability as you.
You need to ask yourself what kind of group do you wish to be a part of:
1. Competitive groups – runners who have time goals, age group studs, hard core training people, and individuals probably racing weekly or at least monthly.
2. Social Running/Tri Groups – Yes, some of the individuals might be some pretty good runners, but the majority of the group are people who do get their training in, but like the social aspect just as much as the running aspect. Many times local running and triathlons shops have groups that meet at their locations for a workout a couple times per week.
3. Endurance training programs – You join these usually with a particular running goal or race in mind (many times its for longer races like half and full marathons) and usually has individuals with a wide range of abilities. These are more structured usually with training schedules attached to them.
4. Track Clubs – These can be low key are more intense, but obviously these are geared towards track events and not on so much road racing.
5. Charity Running Programs and Charity Triathlon Groups – Same as training programs, but you join knowing that you will be raising money for a specific charity and in return you will get training advice, coaches, race entry, and possible travel expenses all covered at no cost to you (as long as you raise the amount of funds required by the foundation or organization).
6. Online group/program – These are great for those people who simply love to run, cycle and swim and have a goal race in mind, but truly have a busy schedule due to work or family commitments, and can never meet up with people on a regular basis.
Whatever direction you choose for your training, I would highly recommend you don’t go about training for an event like a marathon (or half marathon) by yourself. Yes, it can be done, but unless you are very intrinsically motivated or you have run a marathon before, usually the do-it-yourself method will lead to injury or disappointment.
At the very least, consult a coach or trainer about a marathon/triathlon training program you downloaded from the internet and ask him his feelings on the training plan.
Enjoy your training…and train smart