How to be comfortable running in public: part 5

Run with others

You stand out a lot less when you’re part of a group.  There are running clubs almost everywhere.  You can search online for “running club ___,” filling in the name of your area.  Here you can find running clubs listed by stateA similar resource provided by the Road Runners Club of America seems more comprehensive.  You can also ask at a local running shoe store.  The staff will know of clubs.  Also, many stores serve as a meeting place for informal weekly runs.  People who live nearby just show up and run together at the appointed time.  Of course, you can also just call a friend.  Even running with one other person can help.

 

Don’t be intimidated by a running club that charges dues and has t-shirts and stuff.  You do not need to become an official member.  To start with, just show up and run with the group.  Each week, the club probably hosts one or two group runs, of varying levels of difficulty.  At first, go to the one that seems most beginner-friendly.  You will probably not be the slowest person, but even if you are, there is usually some kind person who will keep you company and make sure you don’t get lost.

One of the best things about joining a group (or running with a friend) is knowing that at least once a week, people are expecting you.  In the meantime, you’ll be more likely to run on your own, in spite of your self-consciousness, because you won’t want to get out of shape (or is that overcoming your self-consciousness because you’re more self-conscious about something else?  No matter; it works).  Another benefit is seeing a variety of running clothes, some of which may even look worse than your own.  You’ll also see that everyone’s form is different, that yours isn’t “wrong.”  Being part of a running group can make you feel like a “real” runner, which will make you confident even when you’re running alone.  And as the roads become more familiar to you, you’ll feel more comfortable, as if you were right at home.

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This is really the culmination of everything I’ve been saying (and it is the last thing I’ll say in this series).  But I fear I cannot say it well, and it’s going to get very cheesy.  I’m just going to press on though, assuming the cheese doesn’t bother anyone as much as it bothers me.

Look.  The feeling that’s on the other side, the non-self-conscious feeling, is so wonderful and so difficult to describe.  It can be yours if you keep running, even though you feel as if everyone were staring.  Eventually, the everyone-is-staring feeling will go away, and you’ll feel as if you owned those roads.  You won’t mind going running in ugly clothes because it’ll be better to you than not running at all.  You will feel competitive but not inferior.  You will feel like a “real” runner.  It really does happen, eventually.  But it doesn’t happen to those who stay home.

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