In fact, we place very high value in the relationships we develop through running and other groups
by Lizette Militar, RRCA Long Distance Running Coach
“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.” ~ Richard O’Brian
In a NY Times article Teaching Is Their Other Marathon, Helen Lanthier proclaims that this quote sums it up. She describes how her running colleagues, teachers in a public elementary school in Vermont, benefit each member both in and out of the running shoes.
There is a large amount of research and evidence that speaks to these benefits. And, running in a group provides a sense of community, camaraderie, accountability, and encouragement. Lanthier found that these benefits carried over into their workplace. Teachers socialized more, and their social connections extended beyond running and into their personal and family lives. This is the invaluable, unexpected benefit for Lanthier.
This strong and extended sense of community and support isn’t limited to running groups that are formed among work colleagues, however. For example, among the many benefits that are offered by Go WOW Team , a women-only run and walk fitness club based in the San Francisco Bay Area, many members value and express deep appreciation for the strong community that’s been built within the club, thanks to the vision, inspiration and support of Go Wow Team’s founder, Stephanie Atwood.
And what better way for a woman runner or walker to find community, friendship, encouragement, and support when you are just starting with fitness running or walking, trying to reach a goal, or rediscovering who you are, than by joining a women-only group such as Go Wow Team?
Women start to run or walk for a variety of reasons—weight loss, staying or getting fit, or wanting a new challenge, yet they often remain committed because of the significant relationships they develop during their running experience.
According to Running USA, in 2014, women accounted for more than 10 million finishers nationwide, or 57% of all race event finishers, with the biggest gap between women and men found in the half marathon– women comprised a whopping 61% among all finishers.
Besides the benefits of a group that we’ve already seen, there is a different quality in the dynamics, encouragement, and support that can only be found in women’s groups, including women’s running groups.
In an interview for the article TEDGlobal newsmakers: May El-Khalil on the meaning of marathons , May El-Khalil, who started the Beirut Marathon in 2003 and the Beirut 10K Women’s Challenge 10 years later, describes this difference when bringing women runners together for the Beirut 10K Women’s Challenge:
“The feel of an all-women’s race is different! The female energy is exuberant, beautiful, joyful. Cooperation among women is more prevalent than competition, and this was obvious in this race. The ladies came together for their causes and for charities, to help others and to improve their own living conditions. Having a race exclusive to women is never organized with the intent of marginalizing men, but to give women a space to inspire and encourage each other to reach goals.”
El-Khalil’s sentiments echo my feelings about women’s running groups. With the Go Wow Team, I experience the same benefits that Lanthier speaks about– the friendships that extend beyond running in a welcoming, supportive and inspiring community. But there’s more…
“Wowies” find joy in connecting, bonding, and growing together.
They support, nurture, and encourage each other in new challenges. They generously share their ideas and dreams, and they trust each other with their fears and insecurities. They celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and they rally together in times of need. For me, the unexpected blessing of Go Wow Team has been the life-affirming, soul-nourishing relationships, cultivated while running and walking together.
Lizette Militar participated in fun runs for years, accumulating more than a drawer’s worth of Bay to Breaker and Run to the Far Side t-shirts. At the age of 49, finally ready to challenge herself and run faster, she sought out a running club and stumbled onto Go Wow Team. Since then she’s transformed into a stronger, faster runner, competed in 5Ks, half and full marathons, and has recently been RRCA certified as a running coach.
Photo by wavebreakmedia / depositphotos.com