I took up running a little less than 11 months ago. But it wasn't until after I joined a running group, in January, that I really developed the passion for running that I have today.
You start hanging around with a lot of other runners, it changes you. You begin to feed off their energy and enthusiasm, so you begin to spend progressively more time out there pounding the pavement with your new friends -- the miles just fly by faster that way. And you begin to set loftier goals, like training for (gasp!) triathlons and (GASP!) marathons.
Eventually, you also begin doing things other than running with them. Such as grabbing a beer. Or two beers. Or, in the case of the Charlotte Runners Meetup Group, many, many, many beers.
I haven't been out with these fun-loving folks before, but after getting tipped off about the group by member Jaclyn Shell (who's currently training for the Chicago Marathon), I hooked up with co-organizer Audra Hausser to get the lowdown.
Q. So what is this thing, and how does it work?
Audra Hausser: The Charlotte Runners Meetup Group is a diverse running group that is as serious about running as it is about having fun. We have 20 organizers that keep it fresh and fun for our almost 800 members.
Q. Complete this sentence: The ideal Charlotte Runners Meetup Group member is … ?
Hausser: Someone who is open-minded and easy-going. Being creative is a plus! We have members who are trying to improve their race times, increase their distance or who just don't want to run alone.
Q. So skill levels, they vary?
Absolutely! We have fast runners, runners who are still in the walk/run stage and every pace in between. We have members who've been running for years and been in many running clubs. We have members who joined to get back into running after a long hiatus or injury. We have runners who are new to the area. We have runners who are new to running. If you’re new to the sport, don’t be shy about coming out -- we love sharing our passion for running with new runners. There's no need to "work up" to running with a group, just come out and run!
Q. When/where/how often do you have group runs?
We have scheduled runs every day except Sunday. We have morning runs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We have evening runs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. We run in Uptown, Dilworth, Plaza Midwood, McMullen Creek Greenway and the White Water Center trails, as well as the Renaissance Park trails. Details for all runs are posted on the Calendar on the web site. We also have a Message Board where members can post to find runners to run at alternative times and locations.
Q. What do you guys do more of, running or partying??
Too tough to call, though most of our partying is preceded by a run or some sort of exercise. Tuesday evenings, Thursday evenings and Saturdays mornings are the most social of our runs. Tuesday evening's run is a trail run and the group usually goes to a close bar for dinner and drinks after the run. Thursday nights tend to go on pretty late as we pack the Common Market on Commonwealth and enjoy post run refreshments. A smaller group may later move over to Thomas Street Tavern or Penguin. On at least two occasions, a small group, known as the Common Market Midnight Runners (C.M.M.R), ran the regular Thursday night run, then after hanging out at the Common Market until midnight went back out and ran the 4-mile course again. Saturday mornings the group recovers after the run with coffee from Starbucks.
Q. Tell me about some of the "themed runs" you guys do on Thursdays…
Our themed runs generally involve running in costume. This is where we call on you to be creative and open minded! Our last themed run was a tribute to Michael Jackson where we asked runners to come dressed as the King of Pop or anyone related to him or his music. There are prizes for the best costumes which encourages participation and creativity. We also had a theme run to support a member who was diagnosed with cancer (he's cancer-free now). That run involved running with a ball as a show of support for his fight.
Q. And you do crazy stuff around certain holidays, too?
Though we've had many themed runs, our biggest have been our Halloween run, Valentine’s Day run, St. Patty’s Day Beer Mile and Cinco de Mayo run. The Halloween runs have yielded the best costumes of course. We had a girl who ran as a geisha in full makeup and a guy who came as Michael Phelps who ran in a Speedo and swim cap. For the Valentine’s Day run we tied members together in pairs at their wrists and had them race a 4-mile course. It was a great way to meet new people and run with someone who you wouldn’t normally pace with. For our St. Patty's Day Beer Mile, participants had to drink a full 12-ounce beer every quarter of a mile until they'd drank four beers and run one mile. We allowed participants to substitute root beer so that all could participate. Our themed runs draw the most people and almost everyone participates.
Q. OK! So how can someone join?
Check out our site on Meetup.com (click here) and sign up. It’s free and fun! New members can contact me through the site with any questions.
Oh, I also asked Jaclyn Shell to sum up her feelings about the group. Here's what she had to say: "Everybody is really cool, and I have made some really fun friends. It was a great way to meet people with similar interests. If you want a super-serious group for running, this is not the place. We are more laid-back -- but still push ourselves to do better."