Fitting in running around your work and family life can be tricky. And it often means you end up training alone. But with a little creative thinking, you can enjoy the benefits of being part of a team – even if you don't see each other that often.
Here Johnny Cullen reveals his eight top tips for finding your perfect group. . .
My training squad is called the Oregano Project. Birmingham-based, we share a passion for big miles and even bigger Italian food. Hayley and Dan are marathon specialists, Mark's a middle distance maestro, and I'm a cross country man at heart.
Each of us works full time, and we know well the ups and downs of training and racing in all weathers. Which brings me on to my first tip for you.
1) Get your groove on
Start by finding people with similar goals to you, and who have roughly the same time and energy to put into running. That way you can pull together. Once you find a group you're comfortable with, you'll soon be making genuine progress.
2) Learn to pick ‘n' mix
Being in a group doesn't mean you have to do every run together. Our members have different coaches, and meet up as and when suits us best – work and home life depending. Listen and learn from your team mates, and pick out the runs that suit you.
3) Keep it social
Wherever we are in the world, we chat away on Twitter and Instagram. Many squads have their own WhatsApp groups too, where you can geek out on splits and sessions. And, far more importantly, swap the best places to meet for coffee and cake.
4) Harness your energy
Woken up feeling fantastic? Your energy can be a huge help to your pals. Struggling to tackle the stairs? A Tweet or a text from your group members can be just the ticket. Knowing your friends are out in the wind and the rain will soon stiffen your resolve.
5) Take an all-round approach
Often in groups you get a spread of strengths, weaknesses, and enthusiasms. Some of you may be mad for running in the mud, for example. Others could be crazy for racing on the concrete. By taking an all-round training approach, you can really bring each other on.
6) Split the workload
As the Kenyans will tell you, team work can make even the toughest sessions easier. On the track and in long runs, taking turns at the front will get the best out of everybody. Be careful not to get too competitive though. The smartest groups never race in training.
7) Laughter is the secret sauce
Although we're serious about running, we try not to take ourselves too seriously. A good sense of humour is an athlete's secret weapon. We love getting together for a pizza and a laugh. Dan, Mark and I sample the occasional real ale too (although that's another story!).
8) Pick exciting city events to do together
Now, training in a group is fun. But as runners it's the exciting city events that you live for. The Great Birmingham Run, for example, is perfect for the Oregano Project. It's a magical mix of speed and endurance. And what's a running group without a little friendly rivalry?
See you on the startline!
To enter the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run click here
Anyone who took part in the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k in May will automatically receive a £10 discount off their entry to the half marathon, when using the same log in details.
[Image: Oregano Project L to R: Hayley Carruthers, Dan Robinson, Johnny Cullen, Mark Ince]