Confessions Of Running-Group Enthusiasts

[Editor’s Note: This edition of the Trail Sisters column is written by Gina Lucrezi.]

Ever have one of those days where you just can’t get out the door? It may be a perfect day to run, but you don’t have it in you to take those first steps from your porch to the trail. Or how about when you are on the brink of a race and all you can do is think about is your training? Have you done enough? Have you done too much? Can I really do this race? I bet everyone can recall their own memories where they could have used that extra nudge of support.

One of the major reasons I moved to Boulder, Colorado was because of the resources (gyms, injury rehabilitation, and more) and the large amount of ultra athletes with whom I could train. I also moved to see if I would have any luck on finding a boyfriend as well… but I digress. I loved the mountains and surrounding area of Carbondale, Colorado, where I was living, but I was missing the social aspect of the sport, on which I personally thrive.

Lucky for me, I was welcomed into a great training group of strong ladies (aka bad-ass ultra chicks): Krissy Moehl, Darcy Piceu, Cassie Scallon, Kerri Bruxvoort, Ashley Arnold, and Tressa Breindel normally meet at 9 a.m. every Wednesday at a predetermined location.

I didn’t know these women very well and actually felt a bit star struck on the first few runs, but it didn’t take long until this Wednesday group felt more like a family.

I’m not sure if it is a female thing, or heck, maybe it is a runner thing, but something about our nature seems to welcome acceptance. I was aware of their results and other-worldly achievements, but not once did anyone ‘fluff their feathers’ to show rank. It was more the opposite. They presented interest and inquisition into my life and background. They cared, and actually wanted to hear more. I knew I was going to learn a ton from them, but it blew my mind when they actually took advice from me, too. From there, I just felt included, and as if I had always belonged.

So, what do you do when you consider someone family? You rely on them, you help them, you trust them, and you tell them everything. Can you imagine how many interesting topics seven women can cover in a matter of two or three hours on mountain trails?

The most obvious running-group benefit is on the physical side. Although some people may have no problem ‘getting after it’ every day, others (myself included) may struggle with finding motivation. I can remember texting Krissy to see if she was interested in doing a speed workout because I was dreading doing it solo. I was actually quite surprised when she wrote back, “Sure, what’s the workout?” No one ever wants to do workouts with me, so Krissy was now on speed dial for workouts.

I usually run longer with the group than I would on my own, so I come away feeling a bit tired! Ha, ha. But I also usually learn some tricks, whether it’s a new route, some training thoughts, or a great recipe idea. -Cassie Scallon

It is motivation to get out the door on a snowy, cold morning. I’ve learned a lot from these girls on how to dress and prepare for below-freezing temperatures. I’m guessing I may not have run if they weren’t there. -Krissy Moehl

People may assume the biggest perk of an all-female running group is the actual training, but I find that it is the conversation. Connecting on a mental and emotional level is way more powerful to one’s state of being, compared to keeping cadence.

Some days we brainstorm and I feel motivated and inspired afterward, especially in being around women runners and talking about the things we face in the sport. If I show up in bad spirits or am struggling in some way, usually it helps me to run with these friends, as it takes my mind off of other things that I may be struggling with in my life. -Darcy Piceu

Running plays as one part of our lives, which means there is lots of room for other roles. Mother, nurse, teacher, wife, scientist, hula-hoop dancer, whatever it may be, those positions have their own merits and stresses.

Ashley once told me all the fresh air helps with clarity, which is why it is easier for her to understand and speak more intelligently about issues or problems on the trail. At first I thought she was nuts, but turns out, it was much easier expressing my thoughts while running through the woods compared to sitting at Starbucks.

Since we meet regularly, we keep up to date on each others’ happenings, support one another, and we just always have lots to talk about! It’s also very supportive group, with conversations backed with advice and helpful ideas. -Cassie Scallon

And for the record, not all runs turn into therapy sessions. In fact, many great ideas, feelings, and motivations come from a bunch of raging endorphins (plans of world dominance included).

“Soul is full!” This was a recent Instagram post of mine. Sharing trail time with friends is grounding. We share in awesome views, hard work, and silliness–it keeps life light and in perspective. -Krissy Moehl

As you can imagine, when you share this much of your life on the trails, you also tend to continue off the trails. When birthdays come around, it is a no-brainer reason for us all to come together and celebrate. In between the birthday gatherings, you can expect Krissy to host a waffle party that doubles as a clothing swap, Darcy to hold a dinner party with nothing short of great food and conversation, and Cassie to host a potluck where we walk away with tons of new recipe ideas. Although we love training together, the meet-ups we have off the mountain are just as special.

I know there are many people who prefer to run solo. They may value that as their peace-and-quiet time, or just freedom to think and do whatever they want. There are also those who don’t live in an area with an abundance of runners, so group runs are far and few between. I challenge these people to give group running a shot. Whether it is a once-a-week thing, or it means you may have to create your own group. I say this because of the responses I gathered from my friends, who used to be solo-only runners.

Do you think group runs are a good resource for people in general?

Absolutely! It’s funny because in all the years I’ve been running, this is the first time I’ve had a group of women to run with consistently. I really love that we have all found one another. Historically I train alone, and now I really value and enjoy this time with friends on the trails. I think people benefit from having a group to meet with because it holds you accountable. -Darcy Piceu

Definitely! It is a great way to learn a new area and connect with people. Running strips away all of life’s filters and leaves us at our most pure–the best way to meet and get to know another. -Krissy Moehl

They’re great for emotional support and motivation to stick to one’s training. But they can be a bad influence when it comes to signing up for races–it’s easy to get overexcited and suddenly have a packed schedule. -Cassie Scallon

For me, this female running group has transformed into a tight-knit pack. Like a family of wolves, we roam the mountains, playing around, and making way too much noise. We stick together, look out for each other, and are ready to ‘attack’ if anything impedes our passion and existence with running (or within the sport). We trust in each other and, with that, share more pieces of our lives than just the part were we get our paws dirty.

This might make me sound like I’m relying on them to ‘survive,’ but doesn’t everyone rely on someone for support whether it be in running or another part of life? Three Dog Night got it right with “One Is the Loneliest Number.” I say celebrate life’s adventures by sharing the trip with friends and family. I do every Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Calling all running-group enthusiasts, it’s time to sound off about your own running group! Tell us who your group is composed of, the circumstances of your group runs, and the kinds of things you talk about and share while you’re running.

There are 9 comments

  1. northacrosseurope

    Although I have many local running friends, from whom I've learnt a great deal, and with whom I still share runs with from time to time, I fall for the most part into the solitary camp. Running is my quiet time, my nature time. I find it almost impossible to connect with the land when company distracts me.

    But… the wonderfully warm and human story above reminds me that not all my runs have to be that way… so thank you for writing it 'Trail Sisters', and for posting it 'I Run Far'!

    I used to run regularly with the Denver Trail Runners, DTR, a fine, friendly, mixed-ability group of trail runners who meet weekly year round on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, come rain, shine, sun, snow, darkness or daylight. I always enjoyed DTR runs, and thanks to this story will make sure I do again. :-)

    1. GinaLucrezi

      Woot woot! So glad you enjoyed the article and have decided to give the group a try once a week :) I actually used to train solo for quite some time. It was really nice when I wanted to just have "think time," and just sort any stresses in my life. I still enjoy solo runs now…but I usually will ditch those if I can run with friends. I tend to walk away from the run more motivated for the next run :) Thanks so much for your support!

  2. megankogut

    Hello from Seattle! You hit all the points I can think of as founder of High Heel Running Group, a free women's trail running group with a tongue-in-cheek name and 360+ members. I started the group in 2011 because I wanted to run trail with other women, but I had no idea it would grow so big. The only significant thing that I can add to your article is that everything you mention reliably scales up with the number of women in the network. At our Saturday morning flagship run, we see 1-3 new women every week through word of mouth, and they all get the nearly instant glue and glitter. This is especially great for those who've just moved here and for those who've just discovered trail running. There are so many great stories. Thanks very much for laying out the framework in your article so accurately. It's validating. I often feel like the group is so great I must be imagining it, but I can't make this sort of stuff up!

    1. GinaLucrezi

      That is awesome Megan! Major kudos to you for growing such a large and what sounds to be amazing pack of bad ass women :) You are right about word of mouth helping growth! It is amazing what a little positive backing can do! Again, great work on building a solid group!!! Thanks for your support and kind words!

  3. mtnhobo

    This is GOOD! The run "group" is not what it used to be, there's new pop-ups of more competitive running groups than ever before. Iron is definitely sharpening Iron. It's awesome to see that highly competitive athletes are willing to train at a high intensity together and share the family aspect at the same time in a smaller more intimate setting. It is critical we believe to the future of the sport to make race ready individuals, for FREE, by relying on the cumulative experience of the group.

    Cheers!
    Mountain Hobo

    1. GinaLucrezi

      Heck yeah mtnhobo!!! I'm totally agree about the FREE aspect of the sport! Running with friends doesn't cost a cent, but the return you get from building on that community and adrenaline rush is worth a lot! You can't put a value on great friendships…and I really do think that bonding over a run on the trails (or wherever) really allows you to connect. For me, I tend to open up like a book about my life when I'm out running. Not sure how or why…but it just happens. Allowing myself to be vulnerable may make it easier for everyone else around me to share their stories as well….and before you know it, you've build a strong trust and friendship. Thanks so much for your comment and support!

  4. dotkaye

    the first thing I do upon moving to a new town, is join the local running club.. quite agree the biggest benefit is the conversation and camaraderie. Long runs and speedwork also benefit, long runs because I get bored running slow without company, speedwork because it's good to have someone to chase. However all the local clubs now seem to have their weekend runs mid-morning like yours, 9am or so, and I'm deep in family times by then – swim team, scouts, church etc etc. So perforce all my running now is solo and early, but I'm looking forward to the college years ;-)

  5. kjz

    I miss my running peeps desperately… It seems I leave some gems almost every time I move–my current "season" in life precludes most group runs (except my awesome sister who has a non-trad schedule), so I dream of them, catch up via phone, and plan rondy's with them in beautiful places on lovely trails so at least a few time/year, we can enjoy the incredible spirit of those runs! Life-long friends, those folks.

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