Friday, 22 August 2014

Run report - a running club

Finishing an early morning run - red face clashing nicely with my orange t-shirt
Joining a running club is something I've been mulling over for about six months.  The running magazine I read (Women's Running - do you read it? I am a big fan) frequently tells me that joining a running club would be: 
  • good for my running, 
  • good for my social life, and 
  • not at all intimidating.  
To be honest, I've been a little sceptical about those last two points.  The mere phrase 'running club' is pretty intimidating.  But Graham is also a member of a local running club, as are many of my friends at Hackney Marshes parkrun, and they tell me the same thing.

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 am in great need of a muscle therapy bubble bath this evening. I went running with my local running club this evening and ran almost twice as far as I've ever run before! #running #legsdontworkanymore #intervaltraining #etonmanorac #london #bath #bubble
I really earned this muscle therapy bubble bath last night!


  1. I just started running myself and I hope to make my first 5k run this weekend. Time doesn't matter - yet! Your running club sounds great! I'll have to look if there is something similar in my area! I really need some motivation sometimes to change into my running gear when I come home from work and not just pass out on the sofa! ;)
    Greetings from Austria

  2. Still trying to motivate myself to run, I'm sure I'll manage it any day now. There's a running club locally, it's incredibly intimidating and competitive. Rumour has it that the children's school had to stop having a mum's race on sport's day... I'm very impressed with your progress, it's most inspiring.

  3. I used to run with a club when I was running. I was never a great runner but it always motivated me to push myself further than when I ran alone.

  4. I'm really in awe Nancy; I'm not a runner at all. I hope you really enjoy running with the club (and the opportunities for post run baths!)

  5. Do you know, the funny thing is that since I started reading your blog several years ago now, you've started running and managed to look younger every time I see a picture of you Nancy! If running has magical reverse-aging properties, perhaps I should give it a go?!!

  6. Yes, I joined a club recently, too, though I'm very much a beginner runner (and have a feeling I might not make much progress). Have to admit I was talked into going by a friend but have found everyone surprisingly friendly and very supportive and, whilst there are lots of members who race, anyone (it's a very inclusive club) who just wants to be more active is made welcome. I think I may need to cut down on the chatting as I run, though!


Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.