Several months after I started running I joined a Running Group. The group I joined is not a club, we have no fee's, no coach, its just a group of people the get together regularly to go for a run.
There are a lot of advantages to joining a running group. Not least that you get to meet like minded people that dont think your a bit weird for wanting to go for a run when its just started raining. A good running group will provide support and encouragement. There is a good oportunity to learn from experienced runners. They will also have an idea about local events and races that might be suitable for you if you want to enter one.
There are lots of tangible benifits to joining a group, but there are also some less tangible ones as well. Once youve got a set time to run at you are much more likely to actually make that run. Even more so with a group because there is that subtle pressure to turn up for the run, sometimes that is enough to actually get you out the door.
Then during the runs a group can help you maintain a steady pace, even as you start to tire. Runs completted in a group allways seem to go by faster for me as well. Having someone to chat to can take your mind off the miles as they tick by. Its also a lot safer to have someone else around, as they say there is safty in numbers. For the guys this is primarily in case you injure yourself, but plenty of female runners find it more comfortable to have at least one companion.
But its not all good running in a group, just like in most things there are positives and there are negatives. One of the biggest is to do with pace, if your lucky then the group pace will be spot on your own personal target pace, but more likely than not it will be either to fast or too slow... either way it means your likely to either be running at a 'no mans land' pace. And wont be getting the full effect from that training run, the alternative is if the group run hits one of your other training paces then you can see that run as a run at that pace...For instance the group i run withs average pace is at my recovery run pace, so my group runs are recovery / very easy runs that i do on my rest days.
Another downside can be that the route or the distance may not actually suit your current goal. not so bad if its on the short side, but if too long it could lead to overtraining or injury. Primarily for us guys a group can create a competitive environment that were easily sucked into, we can end up competting amoungst ourselves, which leads to racing in your training.
Training in a group can however also rob you of the opportunity to develope the mental toughness required to run hard on your own, or to keep on going when the legs start to hurt, or your getting fatigued in a longer run. During a race its likely youll have to overcome those on your own and a group doesnt provide you with the opportunity to learn that.
So should you join a group, for me the answer is clear, if there is one available then absolutely, but you should also still do some of your running on your own... get the best of both worlds.