Getting a Little Help from Your (Running) Friends

If you think you’ll have a hard time staying motivated to run the miles required for a successful marathon — or if you find yourself getting bored while running — consider finding a training buddy or two, even if you only join them 1 or 2 days a week.

Sign up for a marathon training class
A marathon training class is a weekly or twice-weekly meeting, led by one or more experienced runners, who help you train for a specific marathon—usually one in your geographic area. A training class typically begins meeting 4-6 months before your target marathon, and begins with an assessment of your current fitness level and marathon goals, and creates a marathon training plan for you. Most classes meet for an hour or two to hear experts on equipment, nutrition, race strategy, stretching, injuries, etc. Prices range from $25 to $100 for the entire semester for 4 or 6 months.
Before or after the speaker(s), the class is likely to come out for a training run, and people are often grouped according to their training pace per mile (a 7-minute mile group, a 9-minute mile group, and so on).
In order to find a marathon training class, you first have to find a running store in your area. More specifically, find a store that sells shoes and clothing for running, and possibly for walking as well – not a general sports store that sells basketball, soccer equipment, soccer cleats, etc. If you have this type of running store in your area, the store will likely offer a marathon training class.

Flock with birds of the same feathers: running clubs
In many areas of the United States, Europe, and Africa – particularly in major cities – there are running clubs made up of runners who want to train others with them. Clubs vary greatly in the number of times a group meets per week, the intensity of training, the talent of the club members, and whether this is a coaching-only club or a club that races together as a team.

The benefits of running clubs are twofold:
You get people to practice with them. Motivationally speaking, having a group of people to train with, even for just one or two days a week, can really help you stay on track with your marathon training.
You can save money. If your club is moving to the races, splitting travel expenses among several people can save you money on gas and hotel expenses.
The main drawback with running clubs is that they often combine runners with diverse talents and experiences that you may end up training on your own anyway (decreasing the value of the club) or you may end up training more slowly than you could possibly be. Which only makes you a slower runner. In addition, club members may have a variety of goals, some of which may conflict. All members may want to run the same marathon you plan to run. On the other hand, it is very likely that no one at the club is planning to run this marathon and everyone else is focused on the 5K and 10K races. The final potential drawback of running clubs is that running enthusiasts who are looking for running companions, but may or may not have a great deal of knowledge about the sport, often start a running club. So although the founder of the club is often seen as a mentor, coach or leader, the founder of the club may know the squat about training for the marathon.
Be careful when you decide to join a running club. Before joining one, consider the following:
Ensure that other club members train at or near their target training speed. Don’t assume they are. Ask specific questions about training pace, distance traveled, and workouts to club members.
Find out if others at the club are training for the same marathon you are training for.
If the club is going to do some exercises – for example, repeat mileage – make sure they are the right ones for you.
Find out the fees for joining the club. If the club supplies you with racing uniforms or brings in speakers from time to time, you have to pay the club fee of course, but you don’t want to fund anyone’s salary unless you get expert training, with an emphasis on the word expert.
Make sure that if you win any kind of prize or prize money in a race, you don’t have to split that up with the club. If this beautiful day comes your way, the money should be yours to keep!
Beat the drums on your band
If you can’t find a running club in your area or if you can’t find the right one for you, you can always start your own running group with people from work, family, friends, neighbors, etc. Like a running club, make sure this group includes someone who trains at your own pace so that you don’t run too slow or if everyone trains faster than you they won’t leave you all training on your own.
Your group can be a formal – with a special racing name and uniform – or a low-level group that meets regularly and cheers each other on.

Hiring a coach or trainer
If you want one-on-one advice regarding your training, consider hiring a coach or coach. Doing so is expensive, but you get individual attention that you can’t get anywhere else.
To find out who might be qualified and willing to train you, ask first at your local running store. You want someone who has trained or run marathons and has been successful in one or the other. If this introduction yields nothing, consider asking a college coach to train you. While the marathon is not a college running event, the training is close enough to the 10,000-meter runners that a college coach might be able to help.
The mark of a good coach is that he always discusses and considers your background, experience, current fitness level, and goals before releasing a training plan. Stay away from anyone who asks you to pay for a non-individual training plan.