What an interesting week it's been!
On Monday night I tried out a running club for the first time. I was apprehensive about whether it might be a bit hardcore and macho, but everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We met at Sheen Gate in Richmond Park, where the run organiser announced there would be three groups: 'fast, medium, and not-so-medium'! I settled in with the medium group, all women, and while I found the pace challenging, I could keep up. The first km was the hardest, but about half way through the 45-minute run I'd warmed up into a good rhythm. It wasn't easy, but I really enjoyed it. They said I should come back on Wednesday evening to try out their speed training session. My legs were a bit tender that night, especially shins and hamstrings, perhaps because I'd done a long run the day before (yes I know, naughty, running two days in a row). So I foam-rollered my pins into submission, and amazingly the next morning there was no stiffness, aches - nothing! These foam rollers really do the biz.
So, last night (Wednesday) – I joined in the fartlek session (no sniggering at the back, please): a mix of all-out sprinting for various distances, jogging and recovery walks. Oh! My! Days! It was tough. I've tried speed intervals on my own, but this session took me waaaay beyond. Thinking about it, I don't believe I've done any actual, proper sprinting since school (I don't count running for the bus), so no wonder. I was easily the weakest in the group of six – my poor little lungs were bellowing away desperately trying to suck enough oxygen back in. We ran the last intervals on Queen's Ride; a scenic, tree-lined bridlepath in the middle of Richmond Park that switchbacks up to White Lodge (home of the Royal Ballet's junior school). The final sprint was a long, uphill one to the lodge, and it hurt SO much that I just couldn't carry on and had to walk and jog the last section. But we all have to start somewhere, and everyone was very encouraging.
I've been pushed outside my comfort zone in these two sessions, but I've not found it impossible and can see how I'll benefit if I stick with it. My verdict? If you're thinking of joining a running club, and can find one with an encouraging, supportive attitude that welcomes all abilities (don't be afraid to – ahem – test run a few), then don't hesitate.
Cool runnings, everyone!