Seven Great Outdoor Running Clubs

Don’t let the heat sidetrack your running goals. Local running clubs are a great way to help you socialize and gear up for races—whether you’re an experienced runner, a beginner, or something in between

DC Road Runner’s member Ian Clements competes in the Marine Corps Marathon. Photograph by Brian Danza

With the mercury on the rise and the infamous DC humidity unrelenting, you may be second guessing your decision to commit to a half-marathon this fall. If the respite of an air-conditioned gym isn’t an option, or the thought of running two hours on a treadmill is enough to make you reconsider distance running altogether, local running clubs may be what you need to keep your training on track—literally.

The Washington area, once ranked number five on Runner’s World’s list of best running cities, is teeming with running clubs catering to newbies, elite runners, and everyone in between. Combining weekly group workouts, coach-led track training, and club-sponsored fun runs, clubs offer what runners need most in the heat of the summer: motivation. “The structure that it provides is really key. It keeps you going,” says Dave Wertz, a four-year member of Northern Virginia Running Club (NOVA). “Before I joined NOVA, I was a casual runner. I tried it on a whim, and it just kind of stuck.”

Like many club members, Wertz first participated in NOVA’s weekly track workouts and then quickly found a group that he could train with during the week. He found that he benefited not only from the accountability of training with a group, but also from the tips and tricks he learned from more experienced runners. “It was really challenging,” Wertz says. “But all the people that I met kept me coming back. You get lots of feedback: how to train more efficiently, how to treat injuries, where to run, who to go with. I was able to take running a lot more seriously.”But running clubs aren’t just for the serious runner. Brian Danza, president of DC Road Runners Club, says there’s a place for the novice runner, too. “When many of our ten-mile runners start out, they can’t even run one mile. They are surprised at what they can do so soon,” says Danza. “We do a really good job of taking care of people but also challenging them, saying ‘You can do this, you’re not going to walk, you can run this.’ ”

Whether you are considering a 5K, trying to trim minutes of your race time, or just looking to meet some new friendly folks, there’s a club for you nearby. See our roundup below to find the club that’s the right fit for you.DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

DC Road Runners
A chapter of the oldest and largest association of running clubs in the country, DC Road Runners has a history of success in DC. More than 100 runners come out for the Saturday morning runs, but smaller sub-groups form by pace and ability level. The club also sponsors 50 races a year.

Weekly runs: Monday and Tuesday evenings; distance runs on Saturday mornings.
Track workouts: Wednesday nights and Thursday mornings.
Race training: Seasonal 10K, 10-mile, half-marathon, and marathon programs.
Membership fees: Individuals $20 per year; families $25 per year; students $10 per year.

DC Running Club
Catering to beginners, this club is best for the new runner who wants to train for an event. Open to runners and walkers alike.

Weekly runs: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings.
Track workouts: None.
Race training: 5K and 10K training programs begin eight weeks before events.
Membership fees: Free.

Washington Running Club
Saturday morning runs start in Georgetown and end with post-workout coffee and treats at Dean and Deluca. Join on or after September 1 and your dues are good through the end of 2012.

Weekly runs: Sunday morning distance runs.
Track workouts: Tuesday evenings.
Race training: No formal program.
Membership fees: Individuals $20 per year; families $30 per year.

See Also:

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Arlington Road Runners Club
Fitness training programs are offered for new runners. You’ll by start running or walking for 30 minutes, eventually working up to two-hour distance runs.

Weekly runs: Saturday morning distance runs.
Track workouts: Once weekly, usually on Wednesday evenings (check calendar).
Race training: seasonal half-marathon, marathon, and fitness training programs
Membership fees: May-October session $80 new members, $60 returning; November-April session $30 new members, $20 returning

Northern Virginia Running Club
The bread-and-butter of the NOVA experience is a challenging weekly track workout with Coach Jerry Alexander.

Weekly runs: temp runs on Thursday evenings; distance runs on Saturday mornings
Track workouts: Tuesday evenings.
Race training: No formal programs.
Membership fees: Individuals $20 per year; families $30 per year; students $15 per year.


Montgomery County Road Runners Club
One of the most active clubs in the nation, MCRR offers training runs, special events, youth races, and social activities.

Weekly runs: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings; Saturday trail runs; Sunday bike path runs.
Track workouts: Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
Race training: Seasonal 5K walker, 5K runner, 8K, 10K, first-time marathoner, experienced marathoner programs.
Membership fees: Individuals $35 per year; families $50 per year.

Prince George's Running Club

A self-described “bunch of folks who run and walk around,” PGRC is a well-established club with a calendar full of events.

Weekly runs: Tuesday through Saturday morning runs; Thursday evenings; distance runs on Sundays.
Track workouts: Tuesday nights.
Race training:
Seasonal 5K, 8K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon training programs.
Membership fees:
$20 individuals; $25 families; $10 students.Subscribe to Washingtonian
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