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“There are running clubs for every type of running and runner you can imagine” – By Lucy Cousins

[writer – Lucy E Cousins]

Considering joining a running club? Runner Simon Wolnizer believes they have been the key to his success.

For Sydneysider, Simon Wolnizer, running is something that’s a given in his life – in fact, he can’t go a day or two without lacing up his trainers.

An accomplished marathoner and pacer for world-class events, Simon Wolnizer is a fierce believer in the power of running clubs, both socially and technically, and attributes his success to the people he met over ten years ago now in his Sydney-based club.

We sat down with the accomplished strider to find out a little bit more about his love for running, what his proudest running moment has been and why he thinks we should all consider joining our local running club RIGHT NOW.

Simon! You’re a lover of running clubs (which we’ll get into later) but can you tell us what club you run with at the moment? 

“Yes, so Sydney Striders was the first club I joined back in 2013, but since then I have also joined The Delta Running Project.”

Running is different for everyone; can you tell us what running means to you? 

“Well, cross-country day was my favourite day of the year in primary school, with the athletics carnival a close second. But then in high school I stopped running and instead tried rugby, which I was terrible at! Then at uni, I went on a summer school program to New Hampshire (USA) and I signed up for a local seven-mile road race, which is about 11 kilometres.

I went for a not very long single training run in the day or two before the race and I felt great for the first mile (I was comfortably inside the top 10), then everything went horribly wrong, very quickly! I finished in 1:02:37 and distinctly remember walking long stretches and wondering when it would end…

Like many runners, I swore off running after that first event, but it has a way of pulling you back in. It kickstarted some significant weight loss for me and started me down what has become a lifestyle. I qualified as a personal trainer (mostly to justify going to a gym), but then I transitioned to running at lunchtime. Running quickly became not only my outlet from work, but a new way to channel my fitness efforts.

All that is a long way of saying… I get a little antsy if I haven’t gone for a run in a day or two and my idea of a holiday is a destination marathon!”

What has been your proudest moment in running?

“That is hard to pinpoint. I treasure my PBs, and I have been a pacer for countless races including three hours at Sydney Marathon, but probably my proudest running moment was coming 3rd at the Western Sydney Marathon. I doubt I’ll ever get on the podium again!”

Why did you first join a running club, and what was your first meet up like?

“I first heard about Sydney Striders when a couple of friends suggested we do one of the monthly 10km races the Sydney Striders host. I had no real expectations for the turn out, but a sea of green and white clad runners flooded the carpark at the bottom of the hill alongside the river. The race was in Lane Cove National Park and anyone who has ever run in there will know that it’s far from being flat!

However, I enjoyed it so much that straight after the race I signed up as a member. That was more than 10 years ago now. From there I was quickly befriended by several Striders and was invited to join them on all sorts of training runs. One thing kind of led to another and within a year I had signed up for my first marathon!”

What do you see as the benefits for joining a club? Pros and cons?

“The benefits are numerous! For me, even though it was the regular race that first drew me in, the idea of having a bunch of mates to go running with was a big drawcard (I really don’t like running on my own). Once you start running seriously, you quickly realise there are races everywhere, on all sorts of terrain and all types of distances, and, of course, you feel like you haven’t got the first clue about training, shoes, apparel, and the inevitable injuries from being overly enthusiastic.

This is the real benefit of a club full of experienced runners that cover the full range of fast to slow, road to trail, short sprints to ultras. There really are clubs for every type of running and runner you can imagine and with that, a wealth of running wisdom, advice and new running buddies.

I suppose with everything there a pros and cons, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Running clubs are typically volunteer-run organisations and that means the opportunity (and maybe expectation) to give back in some way, but honestly even volunteering in a club is probably one of the more rewarding things you will do.

Clubs also provide a bunch of opportunities you wouldn’t get on your own, such as relay or team-based events, club tents (and catering) at finish lines, or, better yet, club supporter zones in a race. Nearly every runner in Sydney will have heard, “Go Strider!”, more than once during a race as a runner clad in the Striders green and white goes by. In fact, I’ve heard it plenty of times when I’ve been just out and about for a casual jog.

Then I joined Delta Running Project as several of my running mates are members, but on top of that the group has training sessions at convenient times for me with a good group of runners around my pace to push me through workouts. That’s probably the most important thing to me at the moment as I try and work towards setting new PBs.”

What advice do you have for someone considering joining a run club?

“There is no prerequisite of fitness, speed or even experience to join a running club. I’d say probably the most important thing is to know your capabilities and pace yourself appropriately. It will help you enjoy your day out far more and ensure that you don’t put yourself on the front of the start line where you will get trampled or trip faster runners up.

Definitely find a group of like-minded people to run with (even if it’s not a formal club) as you will enjoy it more and will be far more likely to stick with it. If you have no friends who like running, join a club and you will soon have a bunch of them!”

To connect with your local running club, click here.

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