For newbie runners and elite veterans, it helps to have running mates.
“Running with a group is actually beneficial at all levels,” said Arnold Utterback, president of Sacramento’s Buffalo Chips Running Club. “It keeps you motivated, keeps you interested. You get all the benefits of running, but you will get fit faster.”
Joining a running club or signing up for group training can help push anyone closer to their goals.
“Even at the elite level, you tend to see the top runners running from groups,” said Charlie Brenneman, head coach for Sacramento Running Association’s training programs. “It helps push them. For beginners, it’s even more so. It takes a while to have the confidence and the endurance to keep running and not feel awful. Groups can get you through those early stages, so you keep running.”
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Sacramento-area runners and wannabes have a wealth of training groups from which to choose. Some groups target specific races, such as the California International Marathon.
Others raise money for charities, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training or Runnin’ for Rhett. All offer the camaraderie that helps put on the miles.
“I try to tell the group I coach that I know what they’re going through,” Brenneman said. “Some runners don’t know where to start. It’s like at the gym: I don’t know what I’m doing with weights – and that’s not good. I’m not confident, and I don’t get much out of a workout. It’s the same with running. You need that expertise.”
In a group, there are other runners as well as support staff to help on several levels.
“There are many benefits of a group training environment,” Brenneman said. “A group keeps you accountable to your goal and motivates you to show up. It provides inspiration to improve your effort in training, thus breaking mental and physical barriers.”
That’s important when training toward a goal such as the California International Marathon, which is run by Sacramento Running Association.
Coaches such as Brenneman can offer their expertise and spot potential issues before they become bad habits – or worse, injuries.
“If there is a coach guiding the group, as is with most, you will get specialized and structured training to follow,” he said. “This helps immensely with injury prevention and hitting targeted goals.”
Joining a club or running group also can have side benefits. Most groups try to make running fun. Exercise is not the only part of their social activity.
For example, the Buffalo Chips – Sacramento’s oldest and largest running club – tout their many post-run or post-race activities. According to its website: “We run to eat! It’s easier to say ‘yes’ to running than ‘no’ to food! Many of the Herd gather after training runs to graze at nearby watering holes.”
“We try to have fun,” Utterback said of the Buffalo Chips, which has about 450 members. “A lot of people get different things out of it. I get a lot of calls from people who are new to town or just starting to run. The group is a way to meet new friends. It makes people feel good about themselves. We get a lot of new runners or people coming back to the sport. The group gives them a lot of support.”
Most groups focus on specific goals or help runners reach their own goals.
“You need a goal,” Brenneman said. “It’s another way to keep you motivated. Choosing a specific race distance also helps you focus your training. When people just train to train, that’s when they get hurt.”
“Goals get people out,” Utterback said. “Half-marathons are the most popular distance now, and there are tons of half-marathon groups around here.”
There are also groups tailored to specific demographics, especially women.
“Middle-aged women are now the biggest growth group of runners,” Utterback said. “In particular, women, age 40 to 45, who have never done anything athletic before. Their kids are grown. They have the time to train, and they’ve always wanted to run a marathon or other race. By training with a group, it will stick. They’ll stay runners.”
Each running group or club has its own perks. The Sacramento Running Association recently partnered with Fleet Feet Sacramento for its official CIM training program, Brenneman said. “We’ve been able to expand the program from 50 to 200 runners. People are loving it,” he said. “There have been merchandise discounts (and) educational seminars provided.”
The group also provided a private bus to the start, where participants could hang out before the race in a warming tent.
For December’s CIM and other events, the Buffalo Chips roll out for members their “party bus,” complete with music and refreshments. They also pull out the party bus for five races they organize.
“It’s exclusively for us,” Utterback said. “The bus doesn’t just drop you off at the start; it sticks around, so people can come in and out as they get ready for the marathon. We also have a tent at the finish line, serving hot soup.”
For beginners, big groups may be better than small ones, Utterback advised. “The best thing is to have the most people, so you have someone to run your pace. It really makes a big difference. The slowest guy in the group can feel left out; you need someone to run with you. In the Buffalo Chips, nobody is left behind or left out. That’s what we strive toward.”
Want to get started?
The Sacramento area is rich with running groups and club programs. Here’s a sample, courtesy the Sacramento Running Association:
- Sacramento Running Association: This nonprofit group organizes the annual California International Marathon as well as a variety of training programs to inspire and support Sacramento’s running community. www.runsra.org
- 9run6: This group meets for twice weekly runs and workouts at the State Capitol. http://9run6.com/
- Buffalo Chips Running Club: This large group offers programs and training for all kinds of running and distances from track and field events to ultra-marathons. www.buffalochips.com/
- Fleet Feet: This local chain supplies everything runners need including training programs and expertise. Sacramento store hosts Tuesday night Fun Runs. www.fleetfeetsacramento.com or check fleetfeetsports.com for other sites
- Folsom Trail Runners Club: This foothill group specializes in trail running on dirt while connecting with nature. www.meetup.com/FolsomTrailRunners
- Gold Country Run & Sport: As part of the running community, this store hosts Wednesday night Fun Runs and offers training programs. www.goldcountryrunandsport.com
- Golden Valley Harriers: This Davis club offers training programs for all ages. www.goldenvalleyharriers.org
- Grass Valley TRKAC: This Grass Valley specialty store (“trkac” means runner in Croatian) offers 5K and half-marathon training programs. www.trkac.com
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training: In exchange for training, runners help raise money to fight blood cancers. www.teamintraining.org/sac/
- Moms in Motion: This program specifically targets older newbie female runners, walkers and cyclists. www.momsinmotion.com
- Moms Run This Town: This free club supports female runners and walkers with programs in West Sacramento, Rocklin, Roseville and Sacramento. www.facebook.com/groups/Sacramentocamomsrunthistown
- NorCal Runagades: A group for “runners who don’t need a group.” Events planned around running and food. www.facebook.com/groups/396983536983851
- River City Rebels Running Club: This diverse group trains three times a week while dedicated to “training hard, racing often and always having a good time.” http://rivercityrebelsrunning.com
- Runnin’ for Rhett: This nonprofit trains adults to run half marathons while supporting fitness programs for children. www.runninforrhett.org
- Running Babes of Sacramento: This women’s group mixes running with rigorous workouts. www.facebook.com/groups/1533776616904461
- SacFit: This group concentrates on making walking and running fun via a variety of training programs. http://sacfit.com