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Feeling Intimidated or unsure about joining a running group? Here’s a FAQ with why you don’t need to

Any new endeavor as a human being, regardless of age, is likely to produce some fear and apprehension. Being the new kid on the block in any group can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to with the Pacemakers running group. Each year, we consistently have a wide range of age, talent and fitness spanning easy runs of 6 minutes per mile to 12 minutes per mile.  At any workout, we have athletes between ages 9 and 70. Since height, weight, athletic ability, age or gender have no bearing on becoming a runner, it’s an excellent option for someone searching for an all-inclusive sport and team.

What if I finish last?
It's never about that. Here at the Pacemakers, no priority is given to competing or order of finish during workouts or easy runs. We don’t take note of who’s first, second, thirteenth, etc… or how far ahead or behind someone is.  Speed and place don’t matter and are paid no regard. Every team member has his/her own paces to pursue, to improve as a runner, and those have been earned based on races, workouts and dedication.  It’s all about a self-paced, goal-based progression starting with what you’re currently capable of doing, and eventually working your way into better pacing, form and breathing. P

I’m not very fast - will I be an outcast in this group?
Actually, no, quite the opposite. The Pacemakers is an eclectic group of all ages, fitness and talent levels. Those who start at the “back of the pack,” per se, actually stand to improve the most of anyone there, and often get more attention from coach and teammates celebrating their frequent and big gains.

I’m too old and too slow to keep up with anyone - will I be alone?
You never know until you come out.  Age and speed have no bearing on this at all. While the first couple of months may be a progression, often times you’ll have someone of equal fitness/ability with whom to run. Other times, you’ll start with the team, do some of your training at your own pace, and then regroup with the team afterward for conversation, sharing stories and getting to know everyone.

What if I’m obsessed with comparing myself to others?
If this is your obsession, I’m sorry to say you will likely encounter many an unsuccessful endeavor in life, or completely drop out of many activities(or never join something in the first place). Your parents did quite the job on you. If you can get past that, life, and this group are way easier.

What if I’m still afraid and intimidated?
The Pacemakers team is a family-style group, with all levels of ability and ages encouraging each other and celebrating accomplishments together. You have nothing to fear.

How long before I will see improvement
As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.  Simply learning about running, form and efficiency, racing strategies, pitfalls to avoid can elicit massive improvement immediately, from a simple confidence boost due to knowledge of the sport.  Combine that with the work you put in, and there’s no way to stay stagnant. 

I want to knock off a bunch of time on my races and I have 3 months to do it. Is that possible?
Yes and no. The team training is based on a gradual progression designed to keep runners injury-free. Too much running (too far), too soon, or too fast can lead to a guaranteed injury, often tendinitis or worse - stress reactions and stress fractures.  To help athletes avoid this, we usually allot 6-12 months to train for a race.  The marathon distance often requires a slightly longer period, if you want to get the best results and have a good experience instead of a disastrous one, a respectable performance instead of a throwaway one.  If you come into the group with enough experience and fitness, you can often enter race distances up to the Half marathon and be ready to go, straight out of the box.  If you are starting from scratch, it is recommended you build up your bone density slowly and pay respect to the event you’re training for with consistent, appropriate training and mileage for the months leading up to your race.

I’m fat or overweight and I’m self-conscious about being around what I would consider to be “skinny people.” Is that a valid concern with this team?
No, not with this team. It isn’t uncommon in our general society to encounter, however, especially when you’re at a weight that doesn’t “make you appear to be the stereotypical runner.” Adult running groups tend to be the exception.

The best that can be said is, stick with it, let the group embrace who you are, and don’t give up because you’re not anywhere near anyone else during practice. Both the faster and the slower runners have to deal with some solo runs along the way.  You can only gauge your improvement compared to what you’ve been doing, and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else.

What you may not know is that the adult running community in general is very accepting and respectful to all body types. No one is out to tease, berate or discourage anyone from being their own version of “”runner.”  The same can’t be said for a high school or college boys team, but this teamis like most groups of adult runners, where improvement, commitment, and pursuing goals are celebrated. No one pays any heed to a runner’s stature unless that runner insists on bringing attention to it him/herself.

As a coach, I quickly correct and dismiss self-deprecating (making fun of oneself) comments, as they are a cancer to progress being made and will quickly pervade and overwhelm one’s focus and overall attitude. They tend to halt all progress and easily pave the way for the person to quit because of self-invented paranoia where they succumb to some preconceived stereotype of a runner they could never see themself becoming.

I want a drill sergeant for a coach, someone to kick my ass and yell at me - are you THAT type of coach?
No, that is not the approach taken with this team.  Instead, progress is based on the individual’s goals and accountability to one’s training.  I do not yell at my athletes because there is no reason to. You run for YOU, not for coach, not to impress someone, not because you’re being forced to. In other words, your primary motivation for running has to be your own self-improvement and goals, not to impress a coach or teammates.

Your secondary motivation, however, can be whatever you want it to be.

I'm intimidated about joining a running group- should i be?