Real World Social Options
Whether you are old-school or you simply shun technology outside of your work day, odds are you'll have a few different ways of connecting to your local running community.
Find A Training Partner
The simplest option is the most daunting, but it's also the most effective. You don't need someone for every single run, but you might find a buddy who enjoys running hills with you, or tackling the long runs. Sometimes even one social session a week is enough to keep you motivated and on track.
Start by sharing your running story with your friends and family, as well as local groups that your kids are part of (soccer teams, boy/girl scouts, etc). Even if they aren't at the same level of fitness, you'll find a creative way to connect, even if it's just for the warm-up and cooldown portions of your run.
Find A Local Running Group
Almost every specialty running store has some form of weekly running ritual, so be sure to start there. If you are really lucky, there will be a larger running club that has options for multiple speeds and ability levels. Again, ask at the local running store, do a quick search online, or stop one of those friendly runners you see on the open road.
Hit The Local Race Scene
A little more indirect, but this is still a very effective way to make some new friends. Find the local 5K race series in your area, and commit to running a few consecutive events. If you aren't the super outgoing type who makes friends instantly, running several races will help you identify a few familiar faces. You are only one post-race bagel comment away from making a new connection that could help you plug the local running community.
Online Social Options
If you are as much of a geek as I am, you'll enjoy being active online as well as off. If you are really introverted, then the online option might be your only means of making new friends. Here are a few ways to grow your social running circle online.
Track Your Running Online
These days there are plenty of online sites that will let you upload and track your running data. There are online training logs, such as Training Peaks, that allow you to track every single thing related to working out, including your nutrition. There are newer sites that allow you to track your runs and compare your performance against others such as Strava. If you purchase an online training plan, some of these sites offer training logs as an added bonus or for an additional fee.
Find Your Race on Facebook
Almost every major event is now online in the social space. Simply go to the top of your Facebook page and type in the race name. Most likely you'll find both the official race page as well as one or more informal training groups. Be sure to "like" the race so that you'll have access to post to the page's timeline and connect with other runners. If you have found some training groups, then you can request to join and connect with them. The best part is these groups don't even have to be in your area; you can still share information, training advice, and get ready for the big day.
Find Runners on Twitter
For the most diehard online folks, using Twitter is another option. After creating an account, you can update your personal profile to have a running-themed picture as well as a note about you being a runner. With your personal notes ready, you can then search Twitter to find other runners. You can start with using search terms such as "#running" or "#marathon" for example (without the quotes), or perhaps the name of your next race. You can follow the people you find there, and start building a relationship by sharing their comments, writing back and much more.
What's Your Story?
If you are lucky enough to have your own running circle, please share with us in the comments below how you made the initial connection. Any tips or input are welcome, thanks!race.