A running group can provide many benefits: camaraderie, help with proper pacing, and a coach to evaluate your running form and provide advice.
A group can also hold you accountable when you're tired or dreading a workout because of the weather. If your training partners are waiting for you, then you're much more likely to attend the session and complete your workout.
But with all the benefits of a running group, I've seen many runners toss common sense aside when it comes to their workouts and training. Instead of what they're supposed to do, they're doing what everyone else is doing.
That pattern is bound to result in running injuries, poor training and disappointing race results.
Here's how to optimize your experience with a running group, and avoid the mistakes that could lead to overtraining or injury.
Step 1: Do What's Best For You
Groups have runners of all abilities: beginners, advanced runners and perhaps even some sub-elite runners. That's quite the range.
The best way to run with a group but still do your own training is to run the workout that's best for you. If the group is doing a 20-mile run and you're nowhere near that yet, then you shouldn't run that far.
The same principle is true for faster workouts, which are very common for running groups to do together. If you're training for a marathon, it doesn't make sense to run the group's workout, which could be designed for 5K or 10K distances.
If you're following a good training plan, or have a running coach, you can join the group for runs that are similar to what you're already doing.