After months of running by myself I've decided it was time to get some running buddies.

While I'm perfectly happy plodding at my own pace around my regular haunts I feel a pang of jealousy when I see pairs or groups of runners chatting away as they dash by.

A fellow kindy mum raves about the camaraderie and motivational lift she gets from the running group she's left behind in the UK.

I've also been following, from a distance, the exploits of the achingly cool Run Dem Crew founded by DJ and poet Charlie Dark to "run hard, run fast and run strong" around the streets of London.


As the days grow shorter and colder I know I'm going to need something a little bit extra to keep my running on track.

After snooping the listings on Running Calendar and checking out everything from the YMCA marathon club to weekly 5k dashes I've settled on the Neighbourhood Run Group.

It is local-ish, free, covers an achievable distance and seems to welcome beginners.
Neighbourhood Run Group founder Michael Morris says he formed the group after not finding quite what he was looking for in other running groups.

He says it's also a way of giving back to a sport that has given him so much.

Morris is relatively new to running, having started a little over two years ago as part of a "lifestyle shift", but now runs between 20 and 25 events a year (he's just returned from finishing the London Marathon in a very respectable 3 hours 18 minutes).
He says the group started as a way to add a social element to his running - like me, he had been doing all his running alone - and introduce other runners to his favourite routes around the Ponsonby to Pt Chevalier area.

A little under a year ago the Neighbourhood Run Group (NRG) was born. It now has a Facebook page, Twitter presence, and blog.

Morris says he set it up in a way that would be easy for a beginner runner, starting and finishing outside a pub, with a figure of eight route that allows people to stop at 5k or continue and do 10k. Runners are paired up with someone of similar ability and Morris runs back to check on those at the back.

"I treat it personally, because the distances aren't a huge challenge for me anymore, as just a way of chatting to people and talking about running and encouraging people to do different things."


Running around the streets of Ponsonby seems like a great idea when I'm sitting in front the home computer, but waiting outside a pub for some lithe, athletic types on a chilly, dark night has me wishing I was on the other side of the doors, in the warmth, nursing a beer.

I was soon joined by Morris and regular NRGer Martin Baylis (the run usually attracts between six and 12 runners) and with the intros done and dusted we were off.
Now, nothing improves your running performance like heading out with strangers down one of the most public streets in Auckland.

As I ran past Ponsonby Road's busy bars and restaurants with a couple of blokes I'd met five minutes earlier I was repeating the mantra: "head up, quick, quick, tum in, don't trip, don't trip, for God's sake don't trip over".

I don't know if it was the pace (certainly a lot faster than my usual trot) or the chat that covered everything from Sally Ridge's upcoming TV reality show to the book Born to Run but we were back at our starting point in next to no time.

As we gallop up the last hill to complete the 5k loop Baylis congratulated me on running a lot faster than when he started with the run group last year. I was puffing too hard to reply with anything more than a gasp.

I learnt the first lesson of running with others - if the pace isn't right, say something!
After regaining my breath I was buzzing out on the high of a group run. Within a couple of hours of finishing I had made it my goal to work up to the 10k distance.


This is the final Jog On blog so I've set a new date in my diary to keep me on track with running - a weekly commitment to run with others.

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* Christchurch hosts New Zealand's flattest and fastest marathon, Sunday June 3.