What to ask when joining a new running group?

What to ask when joining a new running group...


The number of running groups is on the rise.  If you live in Melbourne, just take a look at the number of different groups going around the Tan track, Olympic park or Albert Park any evening.  Along the streets, in the parks, along the river and beyond there are runners joining groups of different types and abilities to explore their running with new friends and coaches.

I had myself been thinking about starting a running group, but have put the idea on the shelf for the moment.  However, the research that I did behind it was really interesting.  Chatting to friends and locals about the idea, hearing what they thought, what they feared and what they wanted to learn as a beginner runner was really insightful.

One of the main bits of feedback I got, was that we always seem to believe that we are going to be the worst or slowest person in the group.  In fact, not just the slowest, but WAAAAAAY behind all the rest.  One friend even said to me,

 “I've never joined a running group before.  I'm probably going to be way behind even the slowest person there”

That is a genuine fear that a lot of runners (not just beginners I might add…) have expressed to me.  It is also a fear that stops so many people from exploring running as a sport.  I have certainly experienced that feeling myself before joining a running group in the UK a few years ago, so I can definitely relate.

Joining a running group and exposing your running ability / inability to a bunch of people who you don’t know can be a scary experience, but one that most people ultimately find really worthwhile and rewarding.  No matter how experienced of a runner you are, a group with an inclusive and motivating coach can push you beyond what you thought was possible and can lead to new conversations, opportunities and friendships.

So……If you are unsure about whether a particular running group is right for you, what are some of the questions that you can ask yourself?

  • Are you enjoying it? (even if it is only secretly enjoying it…) YES/NO
  • Do you feel included, supported and encouraged in this group? YES/NO
  • Do you feel motivated by this group environment? YES/NO
  • Are you learning and improving in this group? YES/NO

These are basic but important questions.  If you are answering mostly YES to these questions, you are definitely on the right lines!  Keep in mind that it might take you attending a couple of sessions with a particular group before you can truthfully answer these questions.

The great thing is that there is so much variety these days, that there is something out there for everyone.  It is also easy to change groups and find the group that really is right for you at that particular moment.  Just take a look on Instagram or Facebook at some of the running crews/groups/gangs/teams/squads that exist worldwide.  I did this a while ago after my friend Leigh mentioned a run crew in London that she liked.  I was genuinely amazed how much variety is out there, catering for all different runners, joggers and walkers of all different abilities, interests, shapes and sizes.  It is exciting and inspiring to see all of these people connected via running, so don’t worry if you’ve never had a coach or never joined a running group before.  Even if you are thinking that you are probably going to be way behind even the slowest person, as runners, we are all in this together and aiming to help one-another improve.  

Chris White is a Level 2 Running Coach and the founder of GoRun Australia. Chris founded GoRun to help runners overcome their fears and get their running to where they really want it to be!