Join a Club
Running clubs are rarely elite, rather they accept and support runners of all speeds. Don't think that you're not fast enough. Don't think you're too old. If you're not sure about provision in your area, search using the links at the foot of this page and ask in a local sports shop or leisure centre. If you are lucky, you'll have a choice of running clubs and a decision to make. Go along to their training sessions and see which works best for you. It'll be a personal preference, but you might consider the following.
- Is the club affiliated with UK Athletics? Affiliated clubs have met certain standards re coaching, insurance and protection. They also provide sole/ easier access to certain events e.g. places in the London Marathon or cross-country leagues.
- Does the club have "leaders" or "coaches"? Athletics clubs should have key personnel with qualifications in running leadership or coaching. The latter is a higher level qualification than the former. Leaders are trained to safely take groups of adults for pre-agreed training runs, whereas coaches have sufficient expertise to design training programmes. As specific training programmes are readily available online, individual athletes can progress very well without the support of a "coach". Access to inspirational peers would perhaps be more important. Such motivators might be fellow club members rather than designated leaders or coaches.
- Does the club offer diversity or does it specialise in a particular running discipline? Some are strictly road running clubs, some focus on long distances, some will have you on a track. To assess this aspect, go to the training sessions and talk to as many people as possible. You usually find pockets of people with different interests and that these people meet for "extra" event-specific training.
- Do you want to run as a family? Whilst some run to escape family responsibilities for a wee while, a family that runs together really seems to have a lot of fun together. However, children's developing bodies need an appropriately qualified coach even more than adults do. Also clubs catering for children must enact child protection procedures. The end result is that many clubs cannot afford the extra volunteer training needed to offer child membership.
Running clubs tend to have one regular weekly meet that is considered the "main" session. The coach/leader will plan activities appropriate to the aims and capabilities of those present. Over the course of a season the sessions would build progressively. Expect a mix of tempo and intervals sandwiched between a decent warm-up and cool down. Coaches are imaginative in how they address the huge range of speed and endurance amongst their club, but ultimately it is up to you to ensure that you find your appropriate pace for each session. You'll soon gauge who are suitable partners for you to join with and pull one another along. Whilst these sessions will be tough, there is enormous satisfaction in completing them and you'll forge some great friendships along the way.
Affiliated Clubs by Region