Exploring the Running Clubs of Cambridge

I have never been a part of any running group. Not the small local club, not the somewhat larger New York Road Runners. So when I joined a running group based in Cambridge for a run this past Saturday, it was an entirely new experience. And a great one, at that.

After being in Cambridge for over a month and running nearly every day of my stay here, it finally occurred to me that I should check out running clubs nearby. After all, Boston is practically swarming with runners, and it is only natural that they on occasion get together for some of that running.

About a minute and a half into searching the interweb, I found a group that met three times a week about two minutes away from where I’m currently staying. After a short email exchange with the club I found myself with the group bright and early Saturday morning.

The group largely stayed together for the first mile, then broke up into pairs (mostly) who ran their own pace and distance around the Charles River. I’ll always maintain that running is a solo sport at its heart, but running with a partner can be extremely helpful. The fellow I ran with was right around my fitness level, so we were well matched.

The interesting thing about running in pairs is that crashing is rarely synchronous, which is actually a good thing. If one runner is struggling he can draw energy from the other and vice versa. When I’ve been on runs where my partner and I crash together, it is difficult, but even that can be psychologically helpful: sometimes it’s good to know that you’re not the only one having a hard time.

I’m an advocate of running partners, clearly, and a running club seems to operate on the same principle. Logic dictates I should therefore like running clubs, which thus far appears to be accurate. I suppose I’ll know better after this Saturday, when I run with them again.

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Where are Boston’s street signs??

Seriously, I mean what the hell. Did the city planners specifically try to make it difficult for non-Bostonians to navigate? It sure seems like it.

I’ve been in Boston now two weeks, and I must have run at least an extra 15 miles from getting lost. Most of them came from a run last Sunday which alone added six miles to the tally. I’ve come to rely on instinct during runs more than logic. Usually it works- knowledge of the phases of the moon led me home one evening- but more often than not, it just leads me more astray.

During last Sunday’s run I decided at a certain point to head back to the Charles River and get back home from there. Sounds simple, right? I wasn’t sure exactly where I was so I started looking for geographic signs that would lead me to the river (it curves, so it’s not enough to know which way is north).

I see some large buildings so I head there, figuring they may be near water. Once in the maze of buildings, I notice some Duck Tours in progress (if you don’t know what these are, you should visit Boston!). Remembering the old adage, “amphibious boats filled with tourists always lead to water,” I follow them for a while. Eventually, soaking with sweat and running low on water, I see the sparkling blue of the Charl–uh oh. It’s Boston Harbor, not the Charles River.

I had a long way yet to run, but I stayed by the water and eventually made it back. After an extra six miles, that is.

Besides for getting lost all too frequently, I have only the best to say of running in Boston. There’s the perfect mix of natural beauty, city activity and sights, and other runners to make running here awesome.

Chasing the Charles: Running in Cambridge, Ma

I’m in Cambridge for the summer, and naturally I am taking advantage of the incredible running environment here. Never before have I seen such a concentration of runners, hitting the streets all the time, no matter the weather. Runners of all abilities, the slow old ones (“old” meaning 50 in this extremely young neighborhood) and sprightly young college track runners.

One interesting thing I have noticed is the lack of the traditional running wave when running around Boston- maybe I’ve only run into grumpy runners or maybe people don’t do it here simply because it gets ridiculous by the 30th wave on a single run. But I love having other runners around me; it’s part of why I love racing. I draw energy from them, pace off them, pick them off, and all too often am passed by them. Running will always be a solo sport, but it’s nice to do it alone together once in a while.

I almost ran into disaster (pardon the pun) on my very first run in the Boston area. It was approaching 10 p.m., and I decided to go for a short run on the bike path along the Charles River. It wasn’t a great run from the start, but what really started it downhill was when I almost fell into the Charles River. Not so close, really, but I did slip off the path and badly twist my ankle. Thankfully I had less than a mile left to go and managed to hobble back safely, but it was an unpleasant start for my summer running.

After a short running hiatus due to the ankle injury, I resumed running by the river and in Boston. So far it’s been great, the miles fly by with so much to see and so many runners and bikers to watch. On a 10.5 mile run this past Sunday I hit the halfway mark and was confused, thinking I could not possibly have done more than three miles, let alone over five. But I had, I was simply so distracted by the sights that the time flew (though not really, unfortunately- it was a rather slow run).  I plan to continue to cheerfully chase the Charles all summer long (and hopefully think up some new alliterations).