The Tale of a Run Club Virgin

Our story begins a few years ago, when a displaced Midwesterner training for her first marathon suddenly found herself living in a strange new foreign land across the country. She had no friends, no treadmill, and was too terrified of the big 5-lane roads to drive around looking for paths to run. So she ran laps around the block her extended-stay hotel sat on, wafting in Carls Jr fries air on one side and dodging parking garage traffic on the other of her sidewalked route. It was boring, but she never got lost, really only almost got run over a few times, and dangit ya gotta get those miles in somehow!

But one beautifully clear day (haha who are we kidding that’s every day in socal) she was playing hooky from work and got the itch to explore. Stretch her wings further than the highrise-landscaped concrete square her running shoes had gotten used to.

She turned to Yelp, as any visitor of a new area does for help on where to eat, sleep, caffeinate, and uh, hopefully to workout? Maybe?

A few trails popped up in the results, but she feared getting lost, rattle snakes, and kidnappers (small town girl in the big city, remember) too much to tackle them alone. And then further down… wait, what’s this? A weekly running group hosted by the Nike store at the mall down the street? That seems pretty foolproof…

She showed to that first group run, intimidated by the swarm of people chatting away and feeling like an intruder on their private party. Just as she’d formulated an escape route a nice guy introduced himself and a few of the others, asked what she was training for, and the group headed out – shy marathon-training Midwesterner in tow.

The map she’d glanced at the store showed options for a 3, 4, and 6 mile loop, with the longest boasting an infamous climb everyone was chattering about – their failed attempts, first conquest, refusals to try again.

“I’m training for a MARATHON. I can run six miles and some silly hill…”

The group of a dozen or so thinned out as they stretched away from the store, and by the time the six-milers were alone (her and a handful of super fit dudes) the pace quickened and they headed up a slight incline.

They plateaued near a park and she smirked – “that was IT? the big bad hill that breaks everyone? HA!…” – and as soon as her ego ballooned they turned a corner and a wall of pavement stretched out, and up, in front of her.

“… oh fuck.”

the infamous Spyglass Hill Loop in Newport

She trudged up and up, slowly falling further off the pack, bending around a turn only to be faced with another steep climb. She had no idea when it would end, what was on the other side, or how the hell to get back to the store if she lost the group.

Thankfully the nice guy from earlier circled back to get her, they FINALLY peaked, and when she eventually caught her breath they chatted as they worked to latch back onto the pack. It was one of the hardest – and most rewarding – training runs she’d had to date.

* * * * * * * * *

I went to that group run every week during my early days as a California resident (what, you didn’t realize this was autobiographical?) and still run that 6-mile loop when I need a good ass-kicking workout. I credit that Nike run group for really introducing me to the CA running scene – you know, until I started stalking people online and begging them to be my friends.


after the PCRF half in ‘10 – my first CA race, a tune up for that full marathon I was training for, as recommended by a run group member

When I visited Novecento Sports a few months ago to check out their Oiselle selection, they mentioned wanting to make running a bigger part of their store’s aesthetic, which was predominantly yoga and lifestyle. I jumped at the project. The store was in a great location with easy parking and a gorgeous beach-front trail just across the street. I knew how much that Nike group helped get me out of my little bubble, and wanted to recreate that inviting, exciting, and helpful atmosphere for others.

Whether it’s exploring a new route, the accountability of people expecting you, or just an excuse to get together and gab with friends, it definitely adds a breath of fresh air into a workout routine.

And there’s my pitch for group running clubs – and if you happen to be OC local, the Novecento/Oiselle Tuesday run specifically. Come join us :)

OC Run Club (2)

OC Run Club 9-24

next OC Run Club – 9/24 at 6:00 pm, and every other Tues following

Sarah OUaL

11 thoughts on “The Tale of a Run Club Virgin

  1. Running clubs/groups are awesome. Terrifying in the beginning, but so helpful in meeting people, finding new trails and actually improving your running! I found one on accident when I moved from the midwest to a CO sans any friends but my non-running husband. I’ve been going for almost two years now…we don’t see each other much outside the group but its great to have the accountability and happy faces once a week!


  2. I run with one in DC where I end up running with out of town people who I fall in love with, perfect pace, perfect conversation, then they just pick up and leave me and go back to running in their own cities and I’m emotionally crushed. Until the next week when I find someone new again!


  3. Love this post. I’m so not a joiner, but got talked into leading the stroller running group for the local running store when they opened last year. I was terrified and so didn’t feel qualified to lead a group of others on a run. But, a year later the group has grown and is running strong and I have grown and am running stronger, because it spurred me to join one of the other group runs (stroller free) during the week and man they push my pace was out of the comfort zone, but I love it!!! Good for you helping others find their love of running!


  4. Great post. I run with Black Girls Run here in DC and it is DEFINITELY the main motivating factor getting me out of bed when my alarm goes off at zero dark thirty. Love my group runs!


  5. I ALMOST showed up on Tuesday. I’m from Vancouver, Canada, and was staying in Newport last week on vacay with my hubs. I didn’t bring my runners to give myself a week off of running, but when I saw you were doing this, I almost came in my good for walk, shitty for running shoes, but found out that it was actually farther than I thought from where we were staying (we were right on the peninsula)

    Anyways, good luck with the run club, and wish I’d known before we left and could’ve planned on joining you!



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