Written by Jennifer Skjellum (runner, triathlete and socializer)
In a time when social media has replaced much of our face to face communication, it’s refreshing to see social media tools being used to enable people in Birmingham, which is frequently ranked as one of the top (insert an unhealthy habit or condition here) cities, to become more active. Whether you are just looking to get in shape, train for your first marathon, get faster, or make some new running friends, Birmingham’s running community can help you achieve your goals.
Running groups are more than just groups of people who meet to run the same route, but are also social opportunities. While running with friends I have had some of the best conversations of my life and even laughed so hard it hurt from sharing stories in order to get through a tough marathon course. Knowing someone is waiting for you to meet them at 5:30 am makes turning the alarm off and going back to sleep much harder than if you are running alone. Group runs can provide motivation, accountability, and add a sense of fun, which will keep you running and in shape.
Now, thanks to social media, information about running groups is much more accessible. Most of the running groups in Birmingham have Facebook pages, websites, and even use Twitter to broadcast group running and racing opportunities.
Here is list of some of the running clubs and groups in the Birmingham area:
Birmingham Track Club
The Birmingham Track Club, or BTC, has been an official club since 1979 and provides fellowship for runners of all ages, sizes, and capabilities. With almost 700 members the club sponsors weekly runs and local races that appeal to all types of runners. For only $25/year for single and $35/year for family, membership includes access to monthly Saturday long runs with a group social afterward at the O’Henrys’ coffee next to Brookwood Mall, Thursday evening runs with a social afterward at one of the area establishments, like Avondale Brewery or Good People, as well as access to the other weekly runs led by BTC members.
BTC also sponsors several local races throughout the year. Current BTC president Jennifer Andress says "We are gearing up for a huge fall- the first ever BTC Triple Crown Half-Marathon Challenge, and the 35th running of the Vulcan Run 10km, which just this week was awarded the opportunity to be the RRCA Alabama State 10km Championship. We are thrilled at the number of runners in our area that we are reaching, and look forward to welcoming runners from across the state to run the Vulcan Run with us!" The Vulcan run is November 3rd.
For more information about the BTC, the local races, and a full schedule of all group runs http://www. birminghamtrackclub.com or like BTC on Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/ birminghamtrackclub
Here is a sampling of some of the BTC sponsored runs that are listed on the BTC website under group runs.
Black Girls Run
The local chapter of Black Girls Run is part of a large National Organization. There is no fee to join and they welcome new female members. There are a variety of runs held throughout the week including Tuesdays at 5:30 pm at Railroad Park and Saturday mornings on the Lakeshore Trail. For more information about group runs and visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/
groups/24983168837497% or look at the BTC website for more details.
BTC Saturday Long Run-Birmingham Track Club, also known as Merediths’ Marathoners
This groups meets at the Homewood Trak Shak at 5:30 am in the Summer and 6:00 am the rest of the year. Distances for Saturday morning runs range from 10 to 22 miles and runner paces range from 9:00 to 11:00 minute miles. Each week the route is published and members volunteer for designated water and Gatorade stops along the route. This is not a group for beginners but first timers are welcome and deviations from the route are common. Each year the group picks a fall marathon to train for and even travels to the race as a group. More information about this group can be found on the BTC website.
Helena Endurance Running Group
If you live in the Helena area, this may be the group for you. The HERG runners meet Saturday mornings at the La Reunion Coffee Cafe. Runs start at 5:00 am and 6:00 am with paces averaging between 8:30 to 13:30 minute miles. Wednesday nights they meet at Helena Middle School at 5:30. More information and contacts can be found on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/hergs.
MarathonRun is a local group led by runner Suman Silwal. He organizes group runs and trail runs in the Pelham, Helena, Homewood and Mountain Brook areas. Most of these runs are geared toward faster long distance runners. Check out the website at http://www.mruns.com/?cat=56 for more information. You can also follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook. com/marathonRuns and Twitter @ marathonRuns.
Sunday Lakeshore Trail Run
Sundays at 6:30 am runners training for the Mercedes Marathon through Team –in-Training, as well as other runners meet in the parking lot of National Bank of Commerce on 813 Shades Crest Parkway. Most runners start at 6:30 am and head through Brookwood Mall to the Lakeshore Trail. Distances and paces vary depending on the time of year but this is a very popular starting spot for Sunday runs and you are sure to find someone to run with. Coach Al or Coach Ken are usually there to lead the group. Al is a seasoned runner and coach whose blog Training with Al, http://trainingwithal.blogspot.com/, is a good resource for beginners. Follow him on Twitter @runningwithal47.
The Evening Runners
The evening Runners meet at 6 pm in the Homewood and Mountain Brook area. Distances during the week range from 3 to 5 miles and the average pace ranges between 9 to 15 minute miles. They are an open group and you can request to join their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ groups/257924670910573/ or search for evening Runners Group.
The Village Runners
The Village Runners meet at the Western Supermarket in Mountain Brook weekdays at 5:30 am. Distances range from 4-6 miles and paces range between 8:30 to 10:30 minute miles. This group promises not to leave a runner behind. For more information you can find them online at www.facebook.com/groups/ thevillagerunners
Birmingham is fortunate to have two local running stores that sell running shoes, apparel and equipment, as well as provide expert knowledge about running. In addition to being great supporters of the running community, both of these stores hold weekly runs.
The Trak Shak
Trak Shak in downtown Homewood hosts a Wednesday night run which starts
at 5:30. There is a 3 mile and a 5 mile route with water on the course
and Gatorade, water, and beer available at the finish. This is a very
popular weekly run usually attracting hundreds of runners. I know of at
least one couple who in getting married this fall having met after a
Trak Shak Wednesday night run. You can’t get more social than that. The
Trak Shak also sponsors several local races, including a 5K race called
the Retro Run. The Retro Run is July 21st. For up to date information
check out their website http://www.trakshak.com/index.
Fleet Feet Sports- Birmingham
php or Facebook page at https://www. facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Trak- Shak/170660716322741 or search for The Trak Shak.
Fleet Feet works hard to put the social in run socials. They sponsor a weekly evening run called Monday Runday at the Tin Roof Birmingham. The routes are 2, 4, and 6 miles long and they start at 5:30 pm and 6:00 pm. Runners are encouraged to stick around afterward to socialize and have a cold beverage and some food. On Saturdays, Fleet Feet leads a trail run group that currently meets at 7:00 am to run at Oak Mountain or Red Mountain Park. In addition to these group runs, Fleet Feet and Good People Brewery are sponsoring evening runs from Good People which benefit a local charity. So far The Land Water Trust and Magic City Harvest have benefitted. If you like to run, drink good beer, support a local charity, and hang out with friends, these events are for you. For up to date information check out their website http://www. fleetfeetbirmingham. com/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook. com/#!/pages/ Fleet-Feet-Sports-
Birmingham/132295629427 or search for Fleet Feet Sports Birmingham.
Another local apparel store, Alabama Outdoors, recently started sponsoring the Alabama Outdoors Trail Run at Red Mountain Park. Runners meet at the main entrance of Red Mountain Park Tuesdays at 5:45 pm and start running at 6:00 pm. Distances range from 4-6 miles and there are three pace groups ranging from 8:00 to 12 minute miles. BTC has partnered with Alabama Outdoors and plans to announce a Summer Trail Race Series. For more details check out the BTC website or http://alabamaoutdoors.com.
This may seem like a lot of running options, but there are even more running groups in Birmingham that I didn’t have room to list. Please join The Birmingham Track Club and support the impressive running movement we have going on in Birmingham.
With all the options for joining a running group, starting your training for a local race, or attending a group run social, there is absolutely no excuse for not getting out there to exercise, meet some new friends and even support a local cause.
If you are interesting in starting a running program to lose weight or have a specific goal like completing your first half marathon, there are several local running programs to help you achieve your goals.
Run University offers a variety of training programs for beginners, as well as for those who want to increase their speed or train for a half marathon. Run University is led by coach Danny Haralson and his Couch to 5K or (10K) program is very successful. He leads several programs throughout the year that last 7 weeks (5K) or 10 weeks (10K). The programs begin with short walks mixed in with short runs building up to a 5K, 10K or half marathon. This group is appropriate for beginners and open to all fitness levels. The program usually begins in the parking lot below the Mountain Brook YMCA and they go on to meet in various locations throughout Homewood and Mountain Brook as the distances increase. The program costs $49. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visitwww.rununiversity.com or find them on facebook http://www.facebook. com/rununiversity or twitter http:// twitter.com/rununiversity
Fleet Feet Sports Birmingham
Fleet Feet offers full and half marathon training groups. The group meets at various locations throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. each session lasts 10-12 weeks. Currently, Fleet Feet offers two programs per year targeting a spring and a fall race in Birmingham. A small fee beginning at $80 covers coaching and water stops. For more information find them on Facebook.