Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Running Club

I am trying to remember what on earth possessed me to join a Running Club.

I have never considered myself a sporty person and although I enjoyed stumbling my way around a 5K Cancer Research Race for Life course last year, carried along by atmosphere and sense of occasion, I have definitely never thought of myself as a runner.

Maybe it was the positive influence of the summer of sport with the impossible to ignore Olympic games. Or maybe my husband's obsessive enthusiasm for the triathlon he took part in recently was actually more infectious than it was annoying. Or just maybe it was simply to please my daughter who is very keen to increase her fitness and had already roped me in to the odd jog along the canal tow path with her (which I loved because it is a beautiful place to be plus a good excuse to spend time with my daughter).

Whatever it was, I am very glad I did.

Five weeks ago I went along with my daughter to the first session of the Beginners programme at the local Running Club. The beginners group was made up of a 60+ strong crowd of people (probably asking themselves the same question as I was - what am I doing here?) We started under the careful guidance of the instructors with 1 minute of running followed by 1 minute of walking to recover. This was repeated eight times.

The route we took was down a lovely country lane which for me made the whole experience much more enjoyable -  but even with rolling green fields, majestic trees and babbling brooks, my attention was never drawn very far from my laboured breathing, aching muscles and number of repetitions still to go. The thing that really kept me going was running as a group. If other people were still managing to put one foot in front of the other, so could I. The feeling when the eight repetitions were completed was nothing short of elation.

To achieve success with the programme, it was necessary to commit to running three times a week. The Running Club organised a second mid week run leaving us with one final run to do on our own before moving onto Week 2 of the training schedule.

The mid week run happened to clash with our  Zumba class. I love Zumba - bouncing around to energetic music and learning all the moves - but we made the decision to take an eight week break from it in order to give 100% to the Beginners course that promised to ease us gently into running continuously for 30 minutes. Although on paper, this seemed like an achievable target, the reality of struggling through the 'run 1 minute walk 1 minute' eight times target made me wonder if I'd ever actually get there.

Over the weeks, the nights have drawn in and we now find ourselves running in the dark.The lovely country lanes are off limits because being unlit, they are more dangerous than running through town. Everyone sports high vis clothing in some form or other which makes us look like a formidable dayglo pink and yellow army as we pound the pavements en masse. Head torches and flashing armbands must at times make us look like a low flying alien spacecraft (or travelling disco). We do attract quite a lot of attention.

The instructors are brilliant - full of support and encouragement and there is something about running in the group that makes me feel like a herd animal, compelled to move as one.

I laugh at how difficult I found that first week now that I have reached Week 6.

There was some confusion over the Week 6 target. The idea was to run for 12 minutes then walk for 1 minute and repeat either twice or three time depending on which schedule you looked at. I was fully psyched up to run three times and although somewhat daunted by it, determined to succeed. I paced myself sensibly running the first 12mins at barely above walking speed. At the start of the second 12mins it was clarified that we would only be running two. I felt as though I had practically finished already. It was no problem at all to run that 12 minute block at a pace I was proud of. Unfortunately for my daughter, despite my best attempt to inform her that we were only running two repetitions, she had her headphones in listening to a 6 minute Taylor Swift song so she would know when she had reached halfway point because she needed all the motivation she could get. She mistook my wild gesticulations as 'waving' and couldn't hear what I was saying. She was confused and felt slightly cheated when she eventually twigged that there would not be a third 12minutes. We both agreed that the mind was an incredibly powerful tool for the runner. Had we not been mentally prepared to run three lots of twelve, I'm sure the two lots of twelve would not have felt so easy. I don't really know how to fully exploit the power of mind to achieve my goal but I can certainly crank up my I CAN attitude and turn down any really? you gotta be kidding!! thoughts I might have.

There are plans for us all to dress up on the run that falls on Hallowe'en. Already there has been talk of stick on wounds, fancy tights and glow in the dark skeleton costumes. I have a whole range of costumes brought very cheaply in the 'clear out the spooky stock to make way for Xmas stuff' sales last year. One of them will hopefully be something I can actually imagine running in (certainly not the werewolf with hairy hand gloves and full mask!)  It seems that we may attract even more attention than usual.

Another idea on the table is for a charity Santa run. I love the idea of that although the only costume I have at the moment is a somewhat skimpy Santa's Little Helper outfit designed to be worn with stilettos rather than trainers. I'm sure it will look very fetching worn over the top of my jogging pants!

My goal after the 8 week course is to run 5K at least once a week (we are already regularly covering distances close to that). If I can reach that goal having a lot of fun, making new friends and maybe raising some money for charity on the way, then that makes me very happy. Whatever it was that possessed me to join the Running club, it certainly did me a huge favour.

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