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 “It’s easier to find a spouse than a running partner,” jokes Jon Cornick, a board member of the Pikes Peak Road Runners. “Really, if you want to find a running partner that is of a similar ability with similar goals, it is going to be very difficult outside of a running club.”

Lucky for those of us in the Pikes Peak region, running clubs abound. The clubs all have distinct philosophies, approaches and favorite running events they host or attend, but all the clubs have one common goal: having a really good time.

There are many people who think running in -13 degree weather is anything but a good time. However, if it sounds like fun to you, check out the Incline Club’s website at http://www.inclineclub.com/home.htm. The Incline Club is a self-proclaimed “group of nuts” who meet most Sundays of the year for long runs on and around Pikes Peak. Any running enthusiast is invited to deviate from the horizontal by joining this group. Simply check out their training schedule and locations on their web site and show up. The Incline Club season starts the last Sunday in November (No, “November” is not a typo. That’s why they call themselves “nuts”.), and continues through August. If you decide to show up for a Sunday run, come prepared. The weather is unpredictable and occasionally dangerous on Pikes Peak. You’ll need appropriate attire, as well as plenty of water and nutritious munchies. The club also recommends that you bring extra water and snacks to consume immediately after the run. Hydration and calories are important for after-run recovery.

If you’re looking for a running club experience not requiring recovery, check out the Pikes Peak Road Runners web site at http://www.pprrun.org/. The group has nearly 700 members from throughout the Pikes Peak region. Membership in the club offers a number of benefits, including discounted race registrations, advice on training and events via an award-winning monthly newsletter and camaraderie. There are opportunities for kids to get involved in the club, too, which makes running with this group a nice, healthy family activity.

The Pikes Peak Road Runner’s Winter Series consists of four races. The races in the series are of progressively longer distances. According to board member Cornick, the series is a good one for all ability levels. “There’s a short Winter Series and a long Winter Series,” explains Cornick. “The races are held at the same time, so depending on your ability, you may go out and run a 5K and finish, while the guy next to you turns around and runs an additional 5K.”

Of course, there are some people who would rather drink in a brew than drink in a run of any length. Join Jack Quinn’s Running Club, and you can do both. Every Tuesday at 6:00 p.m., the club meets at the Tejon Street pub to run a 5K. After the run, they meet back at Jack Quinn’s to eat and drink. The restaurant offers the runners free food and a beer discount. Hundreds of people are participating in the weekly run. The club’s web site offers a lot of information and some interesting photographs, too. www.jackquinnsrunners.com

Speaking of interesting, Team Crud is another Colorado Springs-area running club that exudes fun, fellowship and a couple quirks. The membership requirements? None, except the willingness to accept a purple pineapple as your club symbol. Team Crud is an informal group of friends who run long distances throughout the Pikes Peak/Front Range region. Some of the members actively participate in local races and others don’t. For more information, visit the Team Crud web site at http://www.teamcrud.com.

Other running clubs also exist in the Pikes Peak region, many with very unique agendas and memberships. Some of the clubs also have subgroups---groups for children or women, for example. Other clubs offer opportunities to engage in community service projects and fundraisers. Running stores are great sources of information about local clubs and their offerings. The staff at Runner’s Roost, for example, can point customers in the direction of a running club to suit particular goals, as well as any equipment needed to make participation in a group more pleasurable.

Not that running with a club needs to be made more pleasurable. According to a recent animal study, rats who run in groups receive more neurological benefits than rats who run alone. Rats who exercised in a social environment not only received the anticipated physical benefits of running, they also stimulated the growth of new brain neurons. Rats who exercised in isolation, on the other hand, produced fewer new brain neurons and also showed higher levels of stress hormones.

Of course there are some people who receive the most stress relief by running alone and giving themselves some “me” time. The rat study seems to indicate, though, that socialized running has many benefits.

Besides the potential socialization benefits, running clubs offer several others. One benefit frequently cited by runners is the barometer group membership provides for gauging personal performance. For example, imagine you are regularly training with and racing Guy X. Historically, you’ve outperformed him, but now he’s beating you. That regular competition informs and motivates you to kick up your training a notch. 

Another frequently mentioned benefit is the extra measure of safety that running in a group provides. Many Pikes Peak-area running trails present unique physical and weather challenges. It would not be prudent to run alone on an isolated trail in winter. Running in a group, however, makes that situation less risky. Getting caught with a sprained ankle in a foot of snow is difficult to handle alone, but with a couple trusted running partners around, the situation’s almost bearable. And it’s easy to find partners when you join a club.

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