When I started running in my 20s, I mostly ran solo and never trained consistently. There was always one excuse or another: it’s too hot, it’s too cold, I’m too tired, I have work to do, I have no time, etc. . . . When I got back into running in 2017, after six months of running on my own and surviving a 10k race, I mustered the courage to join the North York RunNinjas, a running group that met close to my home. I was nervous at first because I didn’t know if I would be able to keep up with their pace. The first time I ran with them, they did a 15-km point-to-point run. At about 12 km, I was lost. I couldn’t imagine running another 3 km so I gave up and called my husband to pick me up. Despite this humbling first experience, I continued to join the runs. Soon, I started to look forward to running with the group. Looking back, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, right up there with marrying the right husband and getting laser eye surgery! Running with this group has turned this solo sport into something more social for me. I might be biased but I think I have the best run crew in the world. Everyone is super friendly, encouraging, and supportive. I’ve met so many great running buddies from this group. They are now my running family. Special shout out to my #solemate @belovedrunner. Magic happens when we run together. This group meets up rain or shine, snow or hail, and we run outside. The only time a run was cancelled was after a major snow storm hit Toronto and schools were cancelled for the first time in eight years. We even run on holidays! When you know that there’s a group of people who will show up no matter what the conditions are, there’s so much more motivation to show up and be #badass together. I no longer dread Saturday long runs. It’s something I look forward to because I can run-chat with my friends. Not only does run-chatting help the kilometres go by faster, it also helps to control your pace. If you can’t talk in full sentences during a long run, you are going too fast. Also, our leader/coach, Jim Willett, is the best. He always comes up with fun route ideas. We have done bagel runs, chocolate runs, scenic runs, destination runs, etc. It’s so much fun to explore parts of the city that I would have never visited or noticed before like the Rainbow Tunnel, the Buddist Temple, and all the murals around the city. Sometimes, it’s just running to a street with a cool name like when we ran to Resolution Cresent for the last run of the year and shared our 2019 running goals. My personal favourite was when we made #StravaArt for our first run of 2019. Once in a while, we also run for brunch. On our Wednesday training runs, we do a variety of intervals, hills, and speedwork. It’s a different workout every time, which keeps it interesting. It’s also more effective when you switch up your workouts. Not to mention that most of us would never do hills or intervals on our own but when Jim tells us to do it, we do it. Somehow, suffering through these workouts as a group lessens the pain and having people who run at a faster pace helps me to go faster. Running races is also a lot of fun when you are part of a running group. There are either people running with you or cheering for you. Many of us ran the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last year. Those who didn’t run came out to cheer. At the 40-km mark, all the high fives from our cheer squad gave me that extra boost of energy to push to the end. The best part is post-race when we can celebrate together! Joining a run crew has definitely been a game changer for me. If you aren’t already part of a run crew, I hope you will be able to find one and try it out. If you don’t have one in your area, find a couple of other runners and start one. If you are ever in our area, the North York RunNinjas heads out from the North York MEC store on Wednesdays at 6 pm and Saturdays at 8:30 am. Follow us on IG @RunNinjas and on Strava and feel free to join us IRL. All are welcome!