I’m a runner today due to my good friend, Dayna. She’s one of those friends who knows what I need – usually more than I know myself. (We all need at least one of those friends, don’t we?) She emailed me and said, “I’m joining this running group – and I think you should do it too!” I’m so glad I said yes!

Last June, Dayna and I joined a Marathon/Half-Marathon Training Group through USA FIT. USA FIT is six-month program that teaches participants how to walk and run with the end goal of running either a marathon or a half-marathon. There are at over 50 USA Fit groups throughout the nation.

Getting into running can be intimidating. When we arrived at our first meeting (held at 6 am on Saturday, by the way), we were surprised to see over 60 people there. We both ran into friends and colleagues we knew from work or from other parts of our lives. Everyone we met was enthusiastic, encouraging and very positive. They’ve continued to be just as enthusiastic throughout the five months that we’ve been training together.

Through my experience with USAFitBCS (our local USAFit chapter), I’ve learned that there are tremendous benefits to running with a group. Here are my Top 10:

10. Motivation
You feel a sense of obligation to the group. You won’t want to miss the group’s workouts. And while you’re running, they’re going to keep you motivated to keep going. Our group cheers for each other when we see each other on the running course. High-fives with other runners are my favorite!

9. Accountability
They’re going to call you if you are not there! And, you’ll finish your runs because you know that your group expects it of you!

8. Coaching Advice
You’ll benefit tremendously from being around more experienced runners. They can help you diagnose simple problems and help you improve your technique.

7. Improved Performance
You are motivated to keep up with the group, and you’ll likely run faster.

6. Safety
There is safety in numbers. I know that I feel a lot better about running with my group through the dark at 6:00 am than I do when I’m on my own. If you fall behind, someone will come looking for you.

5. Learn About Your Local Running Scene
You’ll learn about local running events and new running routes from other runners. Plus, it makes running so much easier when someone else has mapped out your route, and (in our case), put out the water stations for you in advance!

4. Running Partners
You’ll meet new friends who run at a similar pace as you, and schedule more runs (for which you’ll be more motivated than if you were doing it on your own). Through my group, I’ve met my good friend, Karen, who often runs with me late on Wednesday nights, and my other friend, Kim, who I meet at 5:30 am to run our beloved hill repeats.

3. Post-run Socializing
After a run, it’s great to sit around with other runners and talk about running (how many more times can I use the word “run” in a sentence!?). On a recent run, we had discussion of the wildlife we saw, injuries that popped up and recommended solutions, and best locations for tailgating (this is a critical information exchange in our college town!).

2. Time Passes More Quickly
If you are on a long run, you’ll find that the conversation in a group keeps your run interesting and the time passes more quickly.

1. Dressing Like A Team
It’s incredibly fun to go to a race dressed in the same attire as your running group – whether this means the same shirts, or something more elaborate (I have a great fondness for running theme costumes).

Our training program ends after our Half-Marathon on December 9, 2012. I can honestly say that I’m going to miss waking up at 4:30 am every Saturday morning to meet up with these folks. We will definitely need to arrange some running groups to keep running together.

The good news is that the Spring Training program will start up in early February! Hey, USAFitBCS – consider me already signed up!

If you’re interested in learning more about joining the running program with USAFit, take a look at this promotional video they made. Once you watch this, you’ll want to be a runner. It’s inspirational and motivating. It’s everything I love about being a runner!