I've never trained with a group before. As with many things, I think I've come at this running thing backwards (though I don't run backwards cause I don't need to make it any harder on myself than it already is). I probably should have started with a training group, say like when I signed up for my first half marathon, or the full marathon. But the first time I trained for a half marathon, I ran with my sister, indoors, on a treadmill. We signed up for the Cowtown Half in Fort Worth, Texas in February. And at that time, running outdoors during the winter in Chicago seemed downright silly (if not dangerous and not possible) to me. So every Saturday we saddled up on a treadmill and ran our miles. Actually, it was kinda nice because my sister runs faster than I do and this way I could actually run with her - at least until she was done. Last year, when I started training for this half, I committed to doing at least my long runs outdoors. And I did. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and after having trained by myself for the marathon, I was used to being out on the path alone (though you're never really alone on the lakefront path in Chicago, but that's a post for another day).
I have found that I actually kind of like running alone. It let's me tune out. I listen to music (sometimes) and just let my feet fall one in front of the other. The problem I find is that I don't push myself as much as I could if I were running with other people. Sure, there are days when I'm feeling great and I get home, look at my pace and am amazed. But I need people around for the days that when I get home and look at my pace I say "oh well, I guess that's as good as I could do today." While that's true sometimes, it's probably not as true as often as I let it be.
So joining a group not only promised to help keep me on schedule and on pace, but also was a way to push myself just a little bit. The fastest time I've run 13 miles is somewhere around a 10:30 pace. That was while I was training for the marathon and wasn't pushing myself, just trying to get the miles done. I signed up for the 10 mile pace group (knowing I could always drop back to the 10:30s if I want, and ignoring Mr. H telling me I should be with the 9:30s). But I like 10 minute miles. It's my default pace. I know I can go faster, but it's just so comfortable at 10 (which is probably why I should be running faster). And if I run a 10 minute, half marathon in the Chicago winter, well, I will be pretty darn proud of myself.
And that's my plan, run 10 min miles for this half in January. And then in February, we're headed to Fort Worth where I plan to obliterate my first half marathon time and run a pace somewhere less than 10 min miles. The promise of a warm run in February is keeping me going these frigid Saturday mornings. That and the dozen or so other people in my group and the very cheery CARA group leaders.