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On group running (Guest post)

In February 2017, I joined a running group. I had been thinking about something like that for a while but did not want to sign up for something official and pay fees. I did not want to join a group to find motivation or train for specific races and distances. I was just curious as to the dynamic of group running and perhaps, unconsciously, try to break out of my isolation. I live by myself and am a very independent person who can do pretty much everything on her own, including training. But I had started thinking this may not be good for me.

So when I saw a few posts on my Facebook feed about the Merchant Ale House Run Club I inquired. This was the perfect group for me to try: I was told all levels of running and walking were involved and it was very informal: show up at the Merch at 10am on Sunday and go out for a run. And so I did.

It was intimidating to join a group of people I did not know (as it turned out, I knew the one person I inquired from and found out when I showed up). Peter, a group member, saw it was my first time there and ran with me even if it slowed him down. That was really nice and made me feel welcome. After the run, I returned home not entirely convinced though that this was for me. So a few Sundays in a row I forced myself to go. A bit more than a year in: I would not miss Sunday morning run club unless I am out of town and even then I miss it.

As we like to say, this is a drinking group with a running problem. After the run, we gather at the pub for some pints and food. When I first joined, I did not know this was the pattern and on my first visit even left right away! Now? I would not miss the run or the gathering of friends. As I see it, the Sunday morning sessions are a great boost to my physical and my mental health. Now it is not just the pints, food, and merriment that boosts the latter, but also the encouragements and mutual support the group offers while out running and after.

I have blogged before about my return to running after a stretch of injury and how I had been amazed at running 8.5 km with a goal of eventually running 10km (see here). This past Sunday I ran 11.5 km with the group, including climbing the Hydro Hill by Brock which is a very steep escarpment hill. The fasties (Lisa, Tony, and Jordy who regularly run 2 digits distances at a fast pace) waited for us at the bottom of the hill. At first, my friend Alex and I thought we were going to run to the bottom of the hill and back. But once there, and with encouragement and enthusiasm, there we went! And we conquered it!

Hydro Hill conquered! From left to right: Tony, Alex, Jordy, me, Lisa, Peter, Christine

3 weeks before, gently pushed by Peter and Christine I ran 10km at a pretty good pace for me without having planned for it. This is what run club has also done for me: lead me to unexpected achievements. Also, we have signed up for races – something I would never have done on my own – and I ran the Run for the Grapes 5km on the hottest day of the year on 24 September 2017 and then 10km on October 15, 2017 as part of the Niagara Falls marathon! Crossing the finish line with my run club friends cheering me from the side was such a great experience! On April 21st, we are running Head for the Hills Trail Race. Who have I become?

Running by myself is still great. I enjoy the meditative aspect of it. It also happens that run club is a solitary run as we spread out running at our individual paces. But gathering together after the run, cheering and celebrating each other’s accomplishments, is the mental health boost that can’t be beat!


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