Tuesday night was cold and wet. It was raining at just the wrong time and I’m glad to say that the evening did not work out as I expected. What I expected was a poorly attended and subdued club run, what I got was 20 or so people determined to brave the elements and push themselves just a bit further. I should explain, Tuesday was the start of the third week of a Learn to Run course I am helping to lead for my running club. It was the first night I can remember hard driving rain at precisely the time when the group was supposed to be meeting. When you start running it is hard, it tests you, and who wants to take a test in the rain? By all rights there should have been nobody there but, there is something about running which brings out the determination in people… or the stupidity, I haven’t worked out which it is yet.
Over 30 people signed up to the course, that in itself is quite incredible, so many people trying to make a change in their lifestyle. Last night more than 20 of them turned out in a downpour to hear a talk from a Run England coach and run for longer than most of them had ever run before. We started the course with a 2 minute run 1 minute walk ratio, Tuesday night we reached double that starting time, running for 4 minutes. They were all already making progress. I am not saying it was easy, a few struggled, some were starting to come across aches and pains in muscles that they did not know existed but, they were there despite having a very good excuse to stay at home. You have to have some respect for that kind of determination. It’s the first stirrings of the bloody minded attitude that makes you run a marathon.
It is not just the new runners that are gaining from this group I am getting a benefit too. I learn from them as they learn a little from me. I have been put into a position of leadership and trust, and have once again found the running community challenging me in a new and different way. I am honest enough to be able to admit that I don’t have the answers and probably have some very bad habits but, despite this I am trying to pass on what little I know. Stretching is a prime example. Like most runners I am terrible about stretching before and after runs but I have a responsibility to the group to look after them. If I injure myself by not warming up or static stretching as part of a cool down, then tough shit I should have known better. I cannot take that risk with a group of fledgling runners though. The worst thing I can do is get any of them injured and put a stop to years of running enjoyment before it has even started. So there I am feeling like a prize plum bending and stretching in a slightly embarrassing fashion, congratulating and encouraging the newbies joining in and, doing my best to instil good habits that I never follow into fresh running blood. My inner show off gobshite is also taking the opportunity to make it’s presence felt and, just between you and me I am starting to quite enjoy it.
When asked questions I try to give realistic answers even if it is not always what people want to hear. When somebody asked me at what point running just became easy and something I wanted to do I had to admit that part of the reason I do it is because it is hard. If it becomes easy I just push myself a little further. There are beautiful summer evenings where there is just a group of friends out running across hill and dale and it is a pleasure. There are mornings when you feel privileged to have the world to yourself as you run through the dawn, and even days at work when you are itching to go for a run to clear your head. Despite all of these magic moments though I always have to give myself a little mental kick up the arse to get out there and the first mile is invariably hard. Possibly not what people want to hear but it’s honest.
This is why last night was so fantastic for me. In 3 short weeks this small group has overcome the biggest obstacle to running. It is hard, and everywhere there are ready made excuses to stop you, a cup of tea, something on the telly, 5 more minutes in bed, kids, work, and of course the weather. The learn to run group last night showed me why I love this sporty hobby and most of the people I’ve met who are involved. They demonstrate that whatever else your motivation is, in part it is the challenge that makes it worth doing. Don’t be a runner if you want running to be easy, be a runner if you want to overcome the things which make running hard.