Well, I did it. I went along and met the Mornington Chasers and I had the toughest, but most satisfying run with them. It would have been easy to chicken out and put it off until next week, and then the next week, and then the next… but I was brave and pulled on the lycra as soon as I got home from work.
The Chasers meet at Talacre Sports Centre in Kentish Town on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and they offer lots of different runs and training sessions at each of these meetings. I’ve never been a part of anything like this, so I had no idea what to expect, but the Team Captain (one of four captains) that I met explained everything very clearly to me. Depending on how many people arrive at the meeting, one of the captains will assess how many different runs will go out and find a volunteer to lead each group. There will be as wide a variety of speeds to run at, depending on what people want. There will also be speed sessions running, again depending on how much demand there is for them.
The different groups running last night were announced by one of the captains, who stood on a chair in the middle of the 50 or so runners and made the volunteer leaders wave their hands to themselves. However, despite this very simple process I managed to lose sight of the group I wanted to go with (a 6-8 mile flat run at about 8.5mins/mile) and ended up tagging along with a group of runners headed for an 8 mile run up Highgate Hill at 8.5mins/mile! I had never run 8 miles before, let alone uphill!
I won’t lie, it was tough – one of the toughest runs I have ever been on in fact – and if I hadn’t been with the group I really don’t think I would have stuck it out, but that is what made running with the group so good. The first quarter of the run was pretty flat and I kept up well with the pace of the group, but as we started to climb Highgate Hill I soon began to fall behind. By the time we were halfway up the hill I was at least 10 metres behind the end of the group and I only seemed to be getting slower… The road that we followed up the hill had lots of bends in it, so it was impossible for me to know how much further there was to go. I think it was only a fear of being stranded on my own in the dark without money or a phone that kept me going! When I did eventually make it to the top though the whole group was waiting patiently for me and as I panted out my apologies they were all so encouraging and supportive, telling me not to be sorry because they have all remember starting out. Everyone was so supportive throughout the run and quite a few people from my group ran alongside me part of the way, chatting about each others training and offering lots of support – it really was a positive experience.
I am planning on going along to the Thursday night session this week and trying out some of the speed sessions that they run and then who knows – perhaps I will join and become an official Chaser!
So what have I got out of group running? Have my pre-race jitters gone? Not quite… I’m still feeling pretty nervous, but I’m feeling far more hopeful. The group has definitely given me a confidence boost and now that I’ve managed over half of the total distance I know that I am on track to finish the race. I can’t wait for the next meeting!