THE BLOG

Social Running: A Group for Runners

12/23/2013 10:18 am ET | Updated Feb 22, 2014

With three half marathons already signed up for, and a possible 10K in the spring, I needed a fun way to jumpstart my training after a few weeks of dormancy. The cold, snowy, miserable weather was draining me of motivation and depriving me of daylight. My friend invited me to join this running group she found on Meetup.com. In this group, you meet at the entrance of a different bar in Manhattan every week, run, and then meet up back at the bar for some celebratory after-run drinks. Good idea, right? Weekly social events, running and beer, I couldn't have offered a more thrilling incentive. In fact the first bar even had after-run Oreos. Boom, happiest girl alive! We were late to our first meet-up so we followed the chalk arrows left behind by the organizer of the group. It was a pretty run downtown, by the pier, but completely freezing. I tried to remedy that this week by wearing two running jackets, but it was warmer out and I overheated. That's life, a constant adjustment.

The group has been together for a year and a half so they know each other well and have a little clique situation going on. This is totally understandable, but at the same time makes my friend and I look like complete idiots when we awkwardly try to approach them. Running the four mile courses is doable, but I'm a bit slower now that I've been out of commission for a while, so I lag behind, and my marathon running counterpart gracefully accepts this for the time being. It's definitely fun running with other people who like the sport and then loitering in a bar, spandex and earmuff clad. Also, drinking after four miles is a cheap way to get drunk, which is what makes this group funny looking and fun. It's gotten a little bit easier to talk to the group, even though I'm one of the last ones to finish. The regulars are generally harder to initiate conversations with, they'll either look you over and shut you down or nod and make small talk while waiting for their friends to come back with another round.

As my friend and I were running, we made a game of starting random interesting conversations with each other every time we saw a runner, just in case they were a part of our group. The group is compiled with members of different running paces, so we don't run as a pack, but instead we break up into singles or doubles, and do our own thing. This made it hard to gage where everyone was in the course and because we don't know who is and isn't part of our group yet we didn't know when to start our interesting conversations game. It instead served the purpose of distracting me from the pain of trying to get back into my running form, which was good enough for me.

I think this might be tricky because running isn't exactly a team sport. You don't depend on anyone but yourself to make it to the end and win. It's a solo sport, what I call reflective, because while running you're releasing your stress reducing chemicals and processing your day and what's bothering you. The chemical release makes you calmer and satisfied and even if you didn't solve your problem completely at least you found a way to relax. I like the idea of a running group because you have others pushing you to move as fast and for as long as you can just by being there with you. Then you all relax together by meeting at the bar afterwards. It's not hard to figure that runners are less social, because the sport is very selfish, but selfish in a good way. It's about you and how you feel, and everyone needs a little of that in their lives, even if it's outside in the dead of winter.