Running has been part of my life since the day I was born. I was brought into the world by an elite runner who was running and coaching while I was still in my mom’s belly and long after I was crawling and learning to walk. I have no memories of a time where running wasn’t present in my life in some way.
After more than 3 decades of running and caring about the sport, what stands out most to me is NOT the personal best races, the individual victories or even my first marathon. It’s the people I’ve met along the way. The running community is simply amazing. There is not a day that goes by I don’t feel grateful for all the incredible people and relationships running has brought into my life.
Many of my deepest relationships have been forged on Saturday morning group long runs.
There’s something inexplicable about running up to 3 hours with another human being(s). If you haven’t yet experienced a long marathon training run (or have vowed never to try it), this may be hard to understand. But if you’re a long-distance runner you know exactly what I mean.
The connections you build and bonds you create with other runners while …
… slogging through the snow or intense summer heat,
pushing your bodies beyond what you think is possible (or even enjoyable),
overcoming challenges, heart break and triumph together,
talking about everything and nothing,
moving toward the same goals,
doing some pretty unladylike things together (including, but not limited to: sweating, pooping, sharting, farting, chafing, snot rocketing, etc.)
and finding support and strength in one another …
… are the greatest gifts running has given me.
This year, I’ve been working to ensure my group long runs stay enjoyable and fun. After years of the weekend long run, sometimes we need to spice things up. Here are 7 ways I’ve been giving my group long runs a makeover that you might find helpful for how to make long runs more fun where you live.
1. Make it your social time.
My husband once commented that my closest friends and I never seem to do anything outside of running. Why don’t you guys go out to dinner more or get together for drinks? I explained to him that running is our social time. Yes, we may hang out before the sun rises on the weekend, but spending several hours together is our “me” time. It’s what we like to do together. We use it as an excuse to be social, bringing a change of clothes so we can hang out for brunch or coffee after runs. Consider planning activities after your group long runs. Establish a coffee shop or breakfast place you’ll go to after the run. Agree to host brunch at one of your homes after a long run. Integrate fun post-run activities so your group long runs give you something extra to look forward to.
2. Try a themed run.
One of the girls in our running group is getting married this fall. We’ve been talking about doing a bridal-themed run – she wears white running clothes and we all wear here bridesmaid colors on an upcoming run. Get creative. Holiday coming up? Encourage everyone to dress up in green running gear for St. Patrick’s Day, wear the colors of your favorite sports team during big game weekends, don red and green around Christmas. Get fun with it. It also makes for a great group picture after the run.
3. Make the miles mean more.
Organize several long runs throughout the year around a charity opportunity. Ask everyone to bring a canned good to an upcoming run or gently used running clothes/shoes to donate to a needy local high school. Or, rally around one of your team members who may be running an upcoming race for a charity by hosting a post-run brunch where everyone contributes a donation to help their efforts. Get creative and use one of your long runs as a way to give back.
4. Branch out.
If you’ve hit a long run rut, change things up. Pledge to visit different running stores or clubs throughout your city to join their organized long runs. This is a great way to meet new people and try new routes. Many running stores also give discounts after organized long runs, so it’s a win-win for you if you need some more GU or socks. It’s also a great way to get to know your local running community, running store managers, running club organizers, etc.
5. Create a group playlist.
Give your group some extra mojo by creating a group long run playlist. Everyone you run with can contribute their favorite songs, and you can post the final masterpiece on Spotify so everyone can access it.
6. Go on tour.
Rather than meeting in the same place (or select few places) each week for your long run, encourage different running buddies to host a run each week. Each person can create a running route/map near their house and take you on a tour of their favorite routes and neighborhoods. This is especially helpful if you live in a bigger city where neighborhoods are spread out. It’s a great way to explore different parts of your local town and change up your routes.
7. Create a closed Facebook group.
Communicate with your running group throughout the week by starting a closed Facebook group. It cuts down on emails and gives everyone a chance to connect to organize long runs and share ideas for future long runs. It’s a place where you can talk about all of the above ideas, from determining social spots after your runs and discussing themed runs to posting maps, playlists, articles and more. It’s also a great way to spread weekday motivation to keep everyone inspired throughout the week.
Where will your long run take you this week? What ideas do you have for how to make long runs more fun?