I've always been pretty independent, preferring to check if I can do something on my own before asking for help. The same went for running. I started doing laps of the field behind where I live to get my fitness up before I started circus classes. The first few attempts were horrific – forcing myself round the edges of one lap of the field as I felt my cheeks redden, my muscles tire and my lungs tighten. I hated it! Then one day, I did two laps – I hadn't planned it, it just happened. Suddenly I 'got' running, I'd achieved something and I wanted more. It became my way of relaxing, where it was just me and the pavement (I outgrew the field).
But when I started circus classes, running took a back seat. With the weekly sessions, plus extra conditioning classes, I found it hard to fit everything in. My trainers saw a bit of action, but not on a regular basis. Then, amidst the sport theme of last summer and cheered on by the July weather, I joined a few running club introductory events. At first I found it hard to run with other people, especially in larger groups (pacing myself was tricky) but it was fun. And really nice to share an achievement with a group of people.
Running clubs help you build up a like-minded community. When your friends are declaring you mad because you actually choose to regularly run through rain, wind and snow, you have a group of people that truly 'get it'. And with something in common that's more lifestyle than hobby, you're bound to make friends within a run club. So when that little pang of laziness hits you, it's easily pushed away – how can you cancel on your friends. And when you're invited to 'social events', you want to be involved. It just so happens that these socials have routes with a start and finish line!
Naturally, when you put a group of focused people together a competitive culture emerges, which is often what pushes you to run harder and faster. An organised group can also offer things that are often missed on a solo run – who interval training on their own? Run clubs, especially during dark winter months, can also offer the safety you need. Cars aren't always going to see your reflective bands and stripes, but they'll spot 20 of you in bibs without fail!
I haven't completely given up on my solitary runs, though. These, I find, are where you can really see the benefits of the group runs in a slightly less chaotic environment. It's where you can do a cheeky 5K to test your speed. Or where you can pound your bad day at work into the pavement without having to deal with groups of people whilst in your bad mood. But for now, whoever I want to run with, I'm going to have to settle for doing in my sleep.
|A swift break with the Nike run club Covent Garden|
NIKE RUN CLUB
Covering almost every day of the week and offering different distances, the clubs are run from stores all over the city. They welcome everyone of all abilities after all, Nike co-founder, Bill Bowerman claimed "if you have a body, you are an athlete". I [used to] be found running with these guys on the women-only run on a Monday from the Covent Garden store from 6.30pm, clocking up my runs to earn rewards for my loyalty.
SWEATY BETTY RUNNING CLUB
I joined the 'Run Britannia' run clubs in the summer, which offered a sightseeing tour of London with a difference. We were in really nice small groups that made for a team atmosphere. Whilst this was only for a limited time, a few of the boutiques still offer running clubs.
ASICS RUNNING CLUB
Based in the new flagship store on Oxford Street, Asics have gone all out boasting free lockers, with showers and towels for a minimal joining fee. They offer an intermediate run on Thursday and beginner run on Mondays and Wednesdays (ideal if you have done little running before). Follow them on Twitter for more information.