Running clubs’ popularity rooted in motivation and community

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 4:55pm

Congratulations, outdoor runners. It’s fall, and you’ve survived another summer of battling the elements: humidity, allergies, sunburns and 100-plus temperatures.

Autumn brings more than just cooler temperatures — it’s prime time for charitable runs and walks, so you can burn calories while you raise funds for causes you care about. Participating in a charitable race is a great way to achieve a personal fitness goal and engage a community of like-minded individuals.

If you’re not a runner but are interested in partaking in an upcoming race, it’s easy to create a realistic training schedule to reach your goal, whether it’s a 5K run or a half-marathon. (Always consult your physician before you start any new exercise program, and be sure to address any concerns, such as old injuries or any changes in your medical history.)

Nashville has many social groups that provide training opportunities for runners of all levels. “The greatest benefits of running groups are community and focused training,” explains Mark Miller, a calculus teacher, cross-country/track coach and founder of East Nasty Running Club. “Running can tend to be a very isolating activity, and while many folks love running, it can be very lonely. A group like East Nasty offers both running and community.” 

Beginning runners can especially benefit from the resources that a running group offers. “For a new runner, sometimes it’s intimidating to get started with a running program, and it’s almost always hard to continue running regularly by yourself,” Miller says.”

Experienced runners can benefit from the group atmosphere, too. “On a typical Wednesday night we have about 200 people running at many different paces and levels,” Miller says. “There are groups running six-minute miles all the way to groups running 14-plus minute miles, with everything in between. So both experienced runners and newer runners will be able to find training partners and a pace group that fits their ability.”

A running group can also provide accountability for adhering to an exercise routine. East Nasty holds a group run every Wednesday, so if you start slacking and stop showing up, you’ve got a crowd of people to motivate you to come back. East Nasty rotates through 12 different runs, including infamous route “The Nasty,” which is the most difficult of the paths. Runners who complete the route, including the steep “Mount Nasty” hill, are rewarded with an East Nasty bumper sticker. “Every runner needs to try this run at least once!” Miller enthuses.

And bad weather is not an acceptable excuse for a dedicated running group.

“We have not missed a Wednesday night since June 2008, which is pretty amazing,” Miller says. “We run in rain, snow, or heat and have had to run in all of these conditions so far, but there are always runners that show up, and it’s always interesting to see who does!”

In addition to providing a community for exercising, a running group provides a community for socializing — and rewarding yourself for all of those calories you burned. “Every Wednesday night many — if not most — of the East Nasty runners head down to 3 Crow Bar [for] 2-for-1 beers,” Miller says. Once a month, Nashville Running Company has a pint night for the East Nasties. During the half-marathon and marathon training, we have various runners host Sunday brunches after the long runs every other week.”

So, get off that couch, lace up those sneakers and choose from these upcoming runs. Getting started is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.