"Running with a group is the way to keep it going," said Ron Wolf, board member and runner in Palo Alto Run Club (PARC), which has been organizing group runs and community events since 1986.
Motivation is one of the benefits that running groups, teams and clubs offer their members. Other benefits include the encouragement of a healthy and active lifestyle, a way to spend time in nature and a community with shared interests.
Wolf decided to join PARC 12 years ago mainly because of his interest in trail running, but he soon found he also enjoyed the "easygoing" nature of the running community.
"It's great (and) really nice to see the same people, and it's really health-oriented. I wouldn't do it all with, like, a strict coaching system," he said.
One of the many running groups in the greater Palo Alto area, PARC currently offers three runs during the week and weekend trips to the Bay Area's plentiful trails, according to Wolf. On Monday evenings, runners meet at Stanford University and run the Dish, a hilly 4-mile loop. Tuesday evenings include a track workout at Angell Field on the Stanford campus, which Wolf described as "more demanding" than other club runs.
The biggest group of runners gathers on Wednesday evenings at Lucie Stern Community Center on Middlefield Road around 6 p.m. From there, they follow different routes on Palo Alto streets every week, Wolf said.
"Sometimes there (are) 50 people, so everybody can find somebody to run with," he said. The Wednesday runs are occasionally followed by dinner at local restaurants, often with group discounts, he added.
The club also organizes Saturday morning runs, typically taking place on Sawyer Camp Trail in San Mateo County. Wolf and other members also plan trips to specific trails on the weekends, which sometimes require a longer drive. A self-identified "outdoorsy guy," Wolf said he enjoys the picturesque scenery of trail runs.
"I love being on the trails, and for me, it's the right combination of being able to be healthy and safe enough without doing anything too extreme but being out in nature a lot," he said. "I would just run on trails ... 24/7 if I could somehow manage it."
PARC is only one of the several local groups that make use of Bay Area trails. Another one, BayTrailrunners, organizes group trail circuits on a weekly basis. According to BayTrailrunners founder Robert Rhodes, running along a trail "is one of the greatest joys (he's) had in life."
Back in 2001, Rhodes ran long distances on his own, but without modern technological blessings such as GPS to help him find his way, it wasn't that easy, he said. That's how BayTrailrunners started.
Using his expertise in technology, Rhodes created a series of runs ranging from 3 to 30 miles and used software to map out the different routes with directions to get to each trail, photos and videos, posting all the information on a website. This database, which grew over the years, is still available on BayTrailrunners.com, Rhodes noted.
"There is not really a 'joining' involved in BayTrailrunners. I have a calendar on my website that I update and I'll put on where I'm running. If someone wants to join in, they can see it and just show up," he said, adding that he also sends out a newsletter for those who are interested in the runs.
Rhodes has organized weekly trail runs with groups ranging from a few runners to 20 or more. These circuits take place on various trails in the greater Bay Area, including Monte Bello and Skyline Ridge open spaces near Palo Alto.
In 2012, Rhodes decided to turn BayTrailrunners into a business and started hosting trail races and Trails in Motion Film Festival screenings in northern California.
"While there are a lot of different run clubs in the area, mine is not just about getting out and hosting group runs. ... I take it beyond," he said. "I've successfully hosted so far probably about six or seven races, all distances 10K and half-marathons, all of them on (a) trail."
Rhodes is planning to expand BayTrailrunners with more trail runs and races in the future. He believes that part of the idea of trail running includes a greater goal of maintaining the environment.
"The whole running community is all about preserving the land," Rhodes said. "I mean, that's where we run. We want to keep it free from development. We want these trails to stay open."
For those who are interested in participating in PARC or BayTrailrunners, the first and easiest thing they can do is to just show up at a group run, both Wolf and Rhodes said.
Wolf also recommended starting with "walk-running," which he described as one-minute jogs alternating with one-minute walks. Rhodes, on the other hand, advised having the right shoes and always carrying a water bottle throughout the runs.
"The runner's high ... the euphoric feeling that you get after running a certain distance ... I feel that," Rhodes said, "and the accomplishment, especially in a really hard run that you've gotten through.
"It's just really a great lifestyle."
Running clubs in the Midpeninsula
Here is a list of local running groups, clubs and teams that offer workouts and activities in the greater Palo Alto area.
Bay Trailrunners | baytrailrunners.com
Trail runs are open to all levels of runners, with Tenderfoot Trail Running Series for beginners and slower runners. Also, organized races and Trails in Motion film screenings.
Fleet Feet Menlo Park | fleetfeetmenlopark.com
Fleet Feet Sports offers weekly group runs with social events as well as half marathon and trail training groups with paid coaches. All inclusive of different levels and ages.
Girls on the Run Silicon Valley | gotrsv.org
A nonprofit offering noncompetitive running after-school programs lasting 10 weeks for girls in third to eighth grades. The programs aim to build self-esteem, healthy living habits and personal values. Open to all levels, mainly targeting beginners.
Midpeninsula Running Club | runmprc.com
A noncompetitive running club for all levels and ages, though members are primarily 40 and older. Twice a week runs open to anyone who shows up.
Mountain View Area Run Club | meetup.com/mountain-view-area-runclub
Currently offering four weekly runs primarily for beginner to intermediate runners.
Palo Alto Run Club | parunclub.com
A social and all-inclusive running club with three weekly runs and weekend trips.
Silicon Valley Hash House Harriers | svh3.com
Weekly workouts combined with social drinking events, known as "hashes," are open to all levels, from walkers to professional runners.
Strava Track Club | stravatrackclub.com
Post-collegiate elite development club competing in the Bay Area and beyond. Most members are regionally or nationally competitive.
West Valley Track Club | westvalleytc.com
A track team competing in various distances, from cross-country to half-marathon races. The team has two bases, one in the South Bay and one in San Francisco.