6 Nov

Club Together

Running club members

I am on the verge of joining a new club for the third time in eight years. I suppose that makes me a bit like a Premier League footballer. But, that's where the comparison ends.

There have been no million pound contracts exchanged, no sports cars with naff personalised number plates, and no diamond encrusted WAGs hovering around training sessions.

Also, unlike the footballing millionaires, there has been no disloyalty in any of my moves. Work and famiIy have simply taken me to different corners of the country.

To be perfectly honest, joining an athletics club is not the first item on my list when settling into a new environment. I didn't become a runner through the club system. It was the big races like the London Marathon that drew me in and made me want to run, so I can happily go about my running without a club. But whenever my motivation is high and I want to be better; that is when I look to running clubs.

In my mind, there really is no more effective way to improve your abilities as a runner than by joining a club. The benefits are plentiful. By attending regular training nights, you meet with like-minded folk to share tips and advice. The sessions are almost guaranteed to be higher quality than any solo session you might do, simply because they are designed by coaches who are on-hand. In my experience, there are always runners of a similar standard to myself too.

The same is true for better runners than I and also for those a little slower too. I think it's worth emphasising that not all club runners are super-fast. I believe many ordinary runners are put off joining clubs by some misplaced perception that club runners will be all elite-level super-fit running machines. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst there are those who certainly do take running seriously, there are many more who are simply there for the straightforward enjoyment of it. No different to any fun runners.

Club training is also a good chance to talk about upcoming races. Often the major talking points are not the major mass participation events either but the hidden gems organised locally. I have taken part in many cracking little events that I would have otherwise not discovered were it not for the chatter at club night.

My faith in running clubs to bring out the best in me is not simply born out of feeling either, it's backed up with facts. I enjoyed a year with Haddington East Lothian Pacemakers one winter, including several cross country club races. The following spring I hacked four minutes off my 10k personal best on a hilly course. More recently, I had a stint with London club Dulwich Runners in 2011/12. The track sessions were - I believe - the key to me lopping a full five minutes from my previous half marathon best whilst in the club colours.

Now, in Devon, I am hoping that by joining another club I will be able to address some other PBs that have been bugging me. There are hundreds clubs in the UK. So, if you have a desire to improve, get in touch. You will be warmly welcomed.