A few months after we moved to a new town and I had let my running drift a bit and dribble on without purpose or real effort, I found a running group, the Dynamos. I decided to give them a go because they seemed relaxed and friendly, not a very serious running club. There is another running club nearby that includes all those guys who run parkrun in 15 minutes... soooooo intimidating and not for me. So I found it very reassuring to find that not all running 'clubs' are super competitive and full of fast marathon runners. There are lots like that, and they are great for some people. I even have friends now who run with said super speedy professional running club, and they are lovely too... but it's just not for me. I can't be and will never be that serious and don't want to be intimidated.
I want to run with other people like me...!
Dynamos are run by women, mostly other mothers who are passionate about running, health and fitness but also balancing that with the school run, feeding hungry kids, having a social life (oh yes, we also have the occasional tipple together!), fitting running around work and into a busy family life and so on. Perfect. Some of them are really good, experienced and/or fast. Some have run marathons and others are complete beginners and everything in between.
They are also incredibly friendly and welcoming. The first time I went to the Dynamo Monday night session I was absolutely terrified. I was so convinced I would turn up and find loads of super fitties who could knock out 10 miles in their lunch break and I'd never fit in. I sent a message to the organisers and got a text message immediately encouraging me to join them and making me feel welcome before I even arrived.
My first run was tough I won't lie - I had to push myself, which I would never do when running alone. I joined a 5km run with no stopping and slightly faster than I was used to, but I kept up, and did it and couldn't quite believe it! I discovered that running with people has so many benefits including:
- We chat on the way around so the miles go faster
- You can't just stop and walk if you're struggling as you feel you don't want to let the others down, so I always run further/faster etc when running with others.
- You always turn up and run, as others are expecting you, so you can't just chicken out and sit on the sofa.
- Making friends! Learning about what's going on in my community... (discussing the best primary school to apply to! hee hee).
But best of all, by joining a group I became a better runner. As well as sometimes just leading simple 5-8km runs where everyone runs at their own pace, the run leaders will other times lead us in different training sessions - I started to take part in (still relaxed, informal) training sessions doing hills, intervals, running further, running faster, adding strength and core exercises to build my muscles. I didn't expect to enjoy that or be able to do those sort of things. But I did, and I did! I also learned more about running from talking to others more experienced than me.
And I never ever felt like I couldn't run and didn't fit in. I started to feel like a runner. I became a runner. There were (are!) people at every level in the group, from beginner to marathon runner, slower and faster. But we all encourage each other and thrive off seeing each other's achievements.
I still run with Dynamos now most Monday nights at 8pm (if Hubby gets home in time or I have a babysitter), and I also run with another similar and lovely group, Chelmer Roadrunners.
Chelmer Roadrunners are an offshoot of the Dynamos, but they run on week day (Tues and Thur) mornings, so the runners are all women who come to run after dropping the children at school. Both groups regularly run beginner training courses to help those who have never run before or want to get back into running.
When I first started going out with the Roadrunners I would take my son in a running buggy. Now he's at school thankfully I get to run on my own which is a lot easier! Some of my running friends know me as the buggy lady though! There was another lady last year who used to run with a double buggy and three year old twins! Awesome woman.
Both of these groups, and the inspiring ladies that lead the runs have given me so much and helped me to really love running, by helping me to get better at it. When I ran my first 5kms at the end of following a c25k app alone, it took me 37 minutes, and now my personal best (pb) is under 32 minutes. Thanks to these groups I have now run some 10km races too. I struggled through my first with lots of walk breaks, but this year alone (2015) I have run 7 10km races so far, road race and cross country, and seen that distance get easier and more comfortable.
So... now the big question is... what next for me?
What's next for you?