By Josh Williams
MANHATTAN — There are many ways to train for the ING NYC Marathon 2010, but one of the most popular for New Yorkers is joining a running group.
Running groups offer not only training and support for beginner and experienced runners alike, they also give New Yorkers the chance to get to know some of their eight million neighbors.
"Running in a group is not like being in a race, it's the group effort that makes it more effortless," said Kate Pfeffer, 31, a Upper East Side resident who met her husband at group called the Central Park Track Club — New Balance.
"I would never be able to achieve what I do running on my own," said Stacy Horton, who runs with a group organized by Urban Athletics, a pair of Manhattan running stores. "I push myself much harder in a running group."
Running groups help beginners by developing a training regimen that can help prevent injuries and prepare them for the mental and physical challenges of the marathon. For more experienced runners, its all about pushing for a personal best.
"The primary benefit of group training is having someone to push the pace but as well hold you back," said Tony Ruiz, 49, head coach of the Central Park club's racing team.
"First timers should go out and enjoy the race and take in the atmosphere," he said of marathon rookies. "There is a lot of anxiety in a marathon and not knowing what to expect."
Groups are not hard to find. The New York Road Runners website lists more than 250 running clubs of all sizes and speeds.
Take the Central Park group. On a recent Thursday, they did a road workout consisting of two three-mile intervals, followed by a one mile cool down.
"There's always someone in our club ahead of you to shoot for and there is always someone behind you to help pull you along," said Dani Sturtz, 28, who lives on the Upper West Side.
Urban Athletics offers a variety of groups, including speed and form and marathon training, with an expert coach.
"Having a set of trained eyes on your form and technique makes you much more efficient, which ultimately makes running more enjoyable," said Urban Athletics coach Jim Saint-Amour.
And fast or slow, first-timer or veteran, experts say tackling the city's streets with a group and trained coaches also help runners stay injury-free.
"A good coach keeps you healthy, that’s why when people train alone, unless you are a really disciplined runner, it's easy to get injured," said Devon Martin, a track club coach. "If you can't get to the finish line, what's the point?"