|Finishing an early morning run - red face clashing nicely with my orange t-shirt|
- good for my running,
- good for my social life, and
- not at all intimidating.
One of the major factors that put me off club running, was the commitment: I work full time, I work antisocial shift patterns, and I have plenty of other things I need to fit into my life. Was joining a running club trying to fit too much in? Would they expect me to be on committees and doing races every other weekend? Again, Graham and other running friends assured me not.
The running club closest to where we live is Eton Manor Athletics Club - a 101 year old club, with a permanent clubhouse in a large, picturesque park, just a ten minute walk away from our house. It has the added benefit of not being the same club that Graham belongs to - he is so much faster and fitter than me, and I didn't want to join somewhere where I might always be known as 'Graham's slower wife'! When I looked at Eton Manor AC's training schedule, I saw that they train on three evenings during the week, as well as organise weekend group runs - so even with my unpredictable shifts, I should surely be able to manage to go along once a week?
And still I dithered. I've been running for just over a year now, and yet I still feel like a bit of an imposter most of the time. Am I a real runner? Well, a real runner is just someone who runs regularly, so of course I am. I also worried that a running club would be be made up of super-fast young people, full of disdain for my 28 minute 5k time. This of course, was ridiculous. I know from going to parkrun every weekend, that running is actually an incredibly inclusive sport - where elite runners cheer on the beginners, beginners can run alongside people who've been running for decades, and everyone, aged from 7 to 87, is impressed with everyone else's time and effort.
Last night I decided to put aside my uncharacteristic nervousness and give club running a go. I went along to Eton Manor AC, for their weekly interval training session. Right from the minute I turned up, everybody was so very welcoming and friendly. They asked me about my running experiences, were impressed that I go to parkrun every Saturday, reassured me that the club was full of runners of many different abilities and speeds, and generally put me at my ease.
We ran in a big pack through the local parks to Walthamstow Marshes, chatting as we ran. This was a very new experience for me as I generally do all my running by myself, listening to music on headphones. Surprisingly I found I could chat and run at the same time though. Once at the marshes, we found a straight, paved path and started interval training: two minutes running hard (the guide for 'hard' was at your fastest 10k pace, but as I don't run 10ks I tried to run at my hardest parkrun, 5k pace) followed by one minute walking or slow jogging (I walked - as did most people). The first two minutes felt like the longest two minutes I'd ever run - it seemed to go on forever! But after that I got used to it, and managed absolutely fine. The nice thing about interval training is that everybody gets to run at the pace which is 'hard' for them, and yet as we were running back and forth along the same straight piece of track, you always had somebody in your sights and felt very much a part of the club. We did this for 30 minutes, before jogging back together to the clubhouse for tea and biscuits and more chat.
Someone told me at the end that we'd run 8k altogether - which is by far the furthest I have ever managed. I've only run further than 5k once or twice before. I couldn't believe what I had achieved - a longer distance than I had ever run before, and at a harder pace than I would ever do by myself. I was so pleased! This, ultimately, is why I will definitely be joining Eton Manor AC and incorporating a club run into my life once a week. I was on such a high when I finished. Running with a club will improve my running like nothing else, and push me to do more. But in a friendly, sociable and surprisingly uncompetetive environment.
What about you? Would you join a sports club? Do you have similar hang-ups to the ones I had, and wonder if they are only for super-fit, semi-professional athletes?
I'm really looking forward to the new developments in my running that I know being a club runner will bring. I'll let you know how I get on, once my achey legs have recovered and I've managed to get out of the bath.
|I really earned this muscle therapy bubble bath last night!|