Running with others.

Yesterday was my first run with a running group. Ever. And I’m not sure how I feel about it yet…

Firstly, lets talk about the actual run. Kasia introduced me to a few of the group that she knew (She’s a long time member).

The run’s ‘leader’ for the night explained to me the route we’d be running, a short 5k over Tower Bridge, down to the Millennium Bridge, past the Tate modern and back to the pub at the base of tower bridge. Easy. We’d be going in three groups, based on pace. As it was my first time, I opted for the medium group. Kasia went with the ‘slow’ group and took off into the early evening heat, leaving me at the mercy of a bunch of strangers.

My group left, about twenty of us. Instantly, my ankle responded with a resounding ‘nope’. I had a slight sprain from my half marathon training run at the weekend, and it was all taped up (thank heavens for Rocktape), but it still wasn’t happy about being put under pressure. Scott Jurek’s feats were still in my mind.

“Jurek ran 100 miles with worse. Suck it up,” I said to myself. So I did.

The heat was intense. Hitting around 90°F in the early evening, it was certainly not running weather. But we persevered.

“Jurek ran through much hotter, lightweight,” my brain argued with me. So I kept running.

And we kept running. I was a little surprised when we ran past the exit for the Millennium footbridge and kept going. Apparently, the two faster groups run a longer route. Nothing like being informed, huh?

At some point, I had passed Kasia, because as my route took me back over Blackfriars bridge, and down past the Tate Modern (where the Millennium bridge exits, Kasia called out to me.

I won’t lie. I was struggling at this point, and used the pretence of slowing to Kasia’s pace to take a breather. I ran alongside her for a while, letting others from my group (and the fastest group) overtake me, which they probably enjoyed, as I had left behind earlier. Again, Scott Jurek’s words about being a dick in a race rang in my ears…

Another couple from the slower group began to slow our progress, running right in front of us, with no room to overtake on the crowded street (a sunny day in London tends to draw everyone out) and when they decided to take a walk break, we managed to squeeze through.

The pavement suddenly opened up to a much wider area, and having a new freedom, I lengthened my stride and picked up the pace, re-passing some of the runners who had no doubt taken glee in running past me just minutes before. Kasia got left behind somewhere along the Southbank. I was in ‘the zone’.

For the fourth time, I remembered Jurek, warning how demoralizing it can be to see another runner stride past without a sign of fatigue so late in the race. Good. This is how legends are born.

A runner from the fast group was in front of me. I went up a gear and chased him down, finishing strong. Always finish strong. And then I did something nobody expected.

I turned round and started running back to bring Kasia home.

Passing the runners I had just strode past in the wrong direction probably caused them even more mental distress, but I didn’t care. I met Kasia, and ran back to the finish line alongside her.

It was a good run, not my finest hour, but I blame the heat, and my ankle. After ever run I tend to evaluate my performance, and I know that although I didn’t run particularly fast, and I found it incredibly hard going at times, I took no walk break, and I found reserves of character that I was beginning to doubt I had. Also, Kasia makes a great Pacer.

More importantly, I ran with (and, secretly, against) others for the first time since high school. And the feeling that I run my own race, and could seemingly speed up and slow down at will much later than other runners fills me with confidence – Yes, I found it hard, but I still had an extra gear when the others were burned out.

And today? Today, my ankle is sore. But my legs are fine, and my mind is still processing what I have taken away from my first time at a running club. Expect another post later.

It won’t be my last. I have a legend to build…

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