It's a loosely organized group in which the friendships are almost as important as the competition.
The University City Road Runners, a local running group, meets weekly for coffee, friendship and, of course, running.
More than 100 members make up the group, roughly split between men and women ranging in age from 18 to 60. Members are all long-distance runners, although their skill levels vary.
"We have members that can run a marathon in under three hours; we have members that run a marathon in well over four hours," member Jack Shannon said. "We have members that participate in triathlons (and) members that are ultra-marathoners and will run 30, 50 or 100 miles."
Working on friendships
The group, started in 2004 by the Charlotte store Run For Your Life, meets 7 a.m. every Saturday in the parking lot in front of Caribou Coffee, 2706 Mallard Creek Church Road.
Since members sign up for their own races and develop their own training plans, there is no established run for the whole group; instead, Shannon said, "Everyone will go out together and then start splintering up based on pace and distance. Afterward, most of us hang around Caribou Coffee and work on our friendships."
Shannon, a member since 2007, said the bond that holds the group together is the love of running and the running lifestyle.
The actual running can be pretty grueling at times, he said, and "sharing the good and the bad training days with a group going through the same thing is a pretty powerful motivator.
"It helps you get up at dark-thirty to go for a run. It helps you grind out those last three miles when you really, really just want to be done. It also produces some great friendships," he said.
Sharing advice, insight
In addition to the motivation, Shannon said, the advice on training, race strategy and injury prevention shared between experienced runners is priceless.
Members have run in races nationwide, including half-marathons, marathons, triathlons and ultra-marathons. Race reports are available on the group's website, giving other runners firsthand insight and opinions on these events.
There are no requirements or fees for membership, but there is a paid member option. Paid membership costs $25 a year ($15 more for each additional family member) and includes $10 off any UCRR shirt and 15 percent off any purchase at the University location of Run For Your Life.
Interested runners can visit www.ucrun.com or the University City Road Runners Facebook page for information, or just show up at Caribou Coffee on Saturday mornings.