Why going to a running club? And more important: why going back? These are the metaphysical questions I’m asking to myself on Wednesdays. It all started with a nice conversation with a friend one night, and then it shifted to an annoying one a few days after: “So, have you found your running club?”. After a while of avoiding his questions that remind me my laziness, I gave up, and I started going to a running club. To explain what it is in short: a running club is a group of people gathering to run together. I picked a particular club because it was organized by a brand of yoga clothes – I thought they would give me a free top to congratulate me at the end of class (I was wrong). It’s now been one month that each Wednesday night I sweat gallons of water (i.e. 3,785 liters). At first, it wasn’t a big success, but slowly I’m liking it.
First time: warm up.
I’m early to the meeting, so I go upstairs in the yoga clothes boutique. There are already 15 people, between 25-40 years old. Some have shirts showing the half-marathon they’ve just run – and even some shirts from the Boston marathon. My friend Trish is with me; she motivated me despite the rain, which apparently isn’t excuse enough to avoid running.
I tried to look as if I were perfectly at ease in my pink sneakers. I’ve been running on and off for the last year. At least the last time I’ve run wasn’t in middle school. That’s what I say to myself to feel confident.
There are actually two groups tonight: the running group, and the bootcamp one. I go with the runners. We start with a short and slow run to get to the public garden, and then we do loops around it. Trish seems perfectly okay – she runs 5 times a week, at least 7 miles each time. We chat, I’m already reddish (only the face, my neck stays strangely white), but soon I’m physically unable to keep talking. Once we get to the park, 3 things strike me:
- The park has hills.
- The group runs fast.
- I’m already exhausted.
After one and a half loops, the group is far ahead and I can’t reach them. Just below one of the hills (the worst one), I give up. Perfect excuse: Trish is in a rush, she’s supposed to go to a dinner and as a good friend, I’ll go back with her to the shop. We jog back slowly. I’m safe. But I feel that I failed this first attempt.
Second time: Bootcamp!
Tonight, I’ve decided to do the bootcamp; it seems more doable than running like a crazy around the park. Peter will train us tonight: he’s a short and strong guy who speaks with a loud voice and makes a lot of sounds with his mouth (like a steam train). The word bootcamp is scary: I imagined soldiers rolling in mud, but at the same time, I’m excited to start.
I met some nice people at the running club.
After running 10 minutes to get to the park, Peter explained the night’s theme: “Run hills repeat”:
- we run full speed on a hill
- we go back down really slowly to recover
- we start again
- at the end of a set, we do some classical workouts – dips, abs, push-ups, etc.
I don’t know what happened to me; I probably stopped thinking, but I liked it. The coach was motivating, and the group was motivating too. From the beginning I was completely into it. I liked bootcamp. The coach didn’t say stuff like “Retard! You won’t get anywhere” but things like “You’re rock stars”, “You’ll look great in your bathing suits this summer”, “Keep going, you’re awesome.” They’re the kind of phrases that really annoy me in real life, they seem so shallow, but there, they made complete sense (English has this capacity of making things sound cool that are kind of dumb). Everybody was high-fiving each other; there was a very supportive and inspiring harmony between us.
Third time: slow down.
I picked the bootcamp again, but it was less fun. Peter wasn’t there, and the two girls leading the class didn’t have the same energy: “You may do 15 push-ups if you want to”. Don’t make me think about what I really want.
Fourth time: cruising speed.
I think I’ve eventually gotten the point of the running club: the motivation of running with a group. When I run, usually, there are 3 possibilities:
- When I’m running alone, I’m always doing the same loop – I’m afraid to try something different and collapse in the middle of nowhere. I’m walking for a bit each time, always at the same point. Most of the time I’m running pretty slowly, I don’t challenge myself – except when I’m listening to Madonna. It’s easy even if I’m exhausted when I get back home.
- When I run with Manu, I’m complaining all the time, I find some imaginary injuries, I swear all the time.
- When I’m at the running club, I don’t want to look like the big loser, nor the extremely annoying girl who likes complaining. So I just have one option: running.
The level in the group is pretty high, people are used to running and come here for the social part (free appetizers at the end). That’s why when I’m in the pack of people, even if it’s too fast for me, I’m following, and I think of myself like a zombie or a dog – the metaphor can change according to the day. I run, without thinking of anything, I don’t think about my legs, or the fact that I’m red and sweaty. I just try to stay close to the person next to me. It’s kind of creepy, but it works.
Unfortunately I really can’t go to the running club tonight, but I went for a run this morning at 7am. Something has definitely shifted for me.