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Originally published Friday, March 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM

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For fun (and motivation) run with the crowd

Seattle is teeming with running groups that provide motivation, accountability and social outlets for runners.

Special to The Seattle Times

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TO ME, RUNNING is a lonely way to stay fit. Music isn't enough to keep the boredom at bay.

Apparently, my approach to running is all wrong.

It is possible to make running as social as any fitness class. Seattle is teeming with running groups that provide motivation, accountability and social outlets for runners.

Maura Carroll moved to Seattle a year ago. She was having trouble figuring out good running routes on Capitol Hill, so she joined a group at running store Fleet Feet Sports. The weekly group was casual, runners ranged from people training for a race to those doing it for fitness. The group was different each time, she said, but she liked it.

But Carroll, 35, also wanted to do speed work and knew a running group would help her do it.

"I definitely wanted the motivation factor," she said. "I definitely would not do that on my own."

Someone at Fleet Feet recommended checking out running groups on www.meetup.com, where she found a group that did sprint work at Green Lake on Mondays.

She soon was a regular in a group that averaged about 20 people — it expanded to as many as 30 in the summer. The group was social, too, heading out for drinks once a month.

There was no fee and no official coaching, though an organizer created the workouts or decided where they were running, Carroll said. The group always started on time, warming up together before getting into the workout.

"Having a group component and having to be somewhere at a certain time for me is huge," she said.

She also was inspired by the people who showed up. Some had never run before, some people were trying to lose weight, while others were burned out on other sports. Some people were training for races.

"Everyone has their story of what brought them there," Carroll said.

If you are considering taking up running or are looking for a training group, running stores are a great place to start. They often host trainings for specific events, like the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

Fleet Feet Seattle (911 E. Pine St., www.fleetfeetseattle.com), Super Jock 'n Jill in Seattle (7210 E. Green Lake Dr. N., www.superjocknjill.com) and the Balanced Athlete in Renton (800 N. 10th Place, www.thebalancedathlete.com) all offer free weekly runs. Fleet Feet has a three-mile pub run followed by food and drinks for casual runners and also a weekly six-mile run. Jock 'n Jill has a similar Monday-night run that ranges from three to five miles, and the Balanced Athlete has weekday runs, plus Sunday runs ideal for those training for a half or full marathon.

Neighborhoods ranging from Belltown to Bellevue also have running groups for a convenient option. Search for "running" in your city on www.meetup.com. The running groups include those who prefer trail running.

If you're interested in pushing yourself in new ways, consider the Seattle Running Club. The club welcomes new runners, but is also known as the home to many ultra marathoners who train for events longer than the traditional 26.2-mile marathon. The club hosts weekly runs, including hill training, and also does Sunday trail runs at Cougar Mountain. See www.seattlerunningclub.org.

Nicole Tsong teaches yoga at studios around Seattle. Read her blog at papercraneyoga.com. Email: papercraneyoga@gmail.com. Benjamin Benschneider is a Pacific NW magazine staff photographer.

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