for those who love the outdoors

18 March, 2024


Running clubs are not just for the pros

Joining a running club isn't just for those hoping for an athletics career - there are a host of clubs out there that cater to a range of ages and abilities. See one writers review of their experience and the benefits that it has given them.


In the past, if someone had asked me to imagine what a running club looks like my mind would immediately have pictured a group of teens in matching shorts and vests running around an athletics track. I certainly would not have thought that it would be something that would cater to someone of my age and athletic capabilities.

However, back in December 2021, as I reached the end of my latest C25K programme and lazing around in the post-Xmas slump full of chocolate and baileys I spotted an ad on social media for a local club called Pound Hill Pounders that offered a range of paced groups and was suitable for all abilities, including running their own couch to 5K sessions. I reached out to the club leader and asked if I could go along and arranged to attend my first session on 4th January 2022.

I think I changed my mind about 25 times during the day but eventually took a deep breath and headed off to the meet spot arriving to an enormous group of people shivering in the cold all chatting and swapping post-Xmas run chat with others. After the warm up we were sorted into groups and the first session for everyone was a shopping list game where we identified clues and ran to local landmarks to take pictures of them once we had worked out where they were. The people in my group were welcoming and friendly and the breaks for photos was ideal for me as a new runner to get used to pacing myself with the rest of the group as I had only run solo previously.

I returned for the next session and the following week and then the one after that – each session varying on run route or meet point to keep it interesting. Initially as I ran with the rest of the group I marvelled at how they were able to run along and chat to one another. ‘I envy your ability to do that’ I can remember saying – well panting - to one girl as we ran.

Slowly my ability started to come. 5K became easier, I joined Parkrun and started to become aware of PB’s and the idea of a sub-30 5K became my aim. I pushed my training and started to join the club’s technical sessions as well as their classic runs. I continued pushing my speed and finally achieved a sub 29 5K at parkrun thanks to some supportive pacing from one of our club leaders at which point my focus shifted to further increasing my distance.

I had reached around 7K in my training when I was asked if I’d like to take the place of someone who had dropped out of the London Winter Run 10K. Deciding that I’d just walk the end of it if it was too much I went along and managed to run my first 10K, greatly helped by my club leader who spent the entire race with me refusing to let me stop. Elated, I entered more 10K’s, then 10 miles and most recently completed my first half marathon. I also made sure I went back in 2023 and did the Winter Run 10K again – this time under my own name.

The support, advice and most importantly friendship that I have received from the club have been second to none. As well as making a host of new friends it has also allowed me to reconnect with old ones who I have managed to invest with the running bug and who have also joined the club and run many races alongside me. While out on a training run recently in the pouring rain a dog walking lady walked towards us and commented ‘look at you all out in the rain and running along chatting and laughing your heads off as you go’ which pretty much sums up most of our runs together. 

As well as running there are also, of course, endless social occasions – summer parties, Xmas parties, beer runs, wine runs, curry nights, quiz nights – the list goes on and on. There may be one or two or a hundred WhatsApp groups to support the flurry of information. It’s safe to say that if you’re not out running, then you’re either socialising with your running buddies, planning your next run or talking about running with them.

So in joining a running club I did not find the teenagers in vests and shorts - well there may be the odd one and there may also be some vests and shorts but in addition I found a community of people varying in age from 16-60 of all different shapes, sizes and abilities and entered a lifestyle change that opened the door to weekends and evenings filled with friendship, bonding, shared experiences, challenges overcome and triumphs achieved together.

Lisa Oleary

O A IG 16

Lisa O’Leary is a 48-year-old wife and mother of two teenagers. Reaching her early 40’s her teenage children were quick to let her know that they already knew everything so she discovered she had time to offset her sedentary desk job and become a little more active. Since then she has learned to snowboard and horse ride, hiked up Mt. Snowdon, completed multiple 5K, 10K and 10 mile races, several mud runs, one half marathon and trained to be a UK Athletics Running Coach teaching beginner runners. Her mindset is that if you’re going to have a mid-life crisis then you may as well do it properly.

More articles from Lisa Oleary

Related Articles

Most recent articles by Lisa Oleary

Most recent articles in RUNNING