I, um, joined a running club

November 09, 2017


When I wrote my post on how to run after a marathon back in June, and detailed my new running goals, never did I even write in code that I wanted to join a running club. Because I didn’t. It was never even in the back of my mind. The thought of joining a running club was ridiculous. Why? Well, 1) I’m not that kind of runner, and 2) That would mean joining a CLUB and being DEDICATED and, more importantly, TALKING TO PEOPLE. 

No. I absolutely had no intention of joining a running club…

‘had’, being the word here… because I have… joined a running club, I mean… and I actually feel fine about it… 

I’m fickle, ok, you know this.

Ryan had mentioned quite a few times during marathon training that he wanted to try and find a running club after that whole ordeal was over. It made sense, he’s fast. He wants to get even faster and learn how to have a better form and train better. Of course he could join a running club. 

He already knew which one he wanted to sign up to: Petts Wood Runners, near Orpington. We’d seen their kit a lot at other races so knew they must be popular, and after researching we found they were also the most friendly looking and most cheap. So he went along one Tuesday night to try them out, and he enjoyed it! He ran 5 miles in an easy-paced group for him, chatted with a few people, utilised the group stretching session afterwards, then drove home. Bish bash bosh. 

Never did Ryan suggest I should tag along with him one night, but by the next week, I was debating it. I started to question my own thinking, my own rules and restrictions. Why should I not go? I could just... try it. I don't have to stick at it. I just have to try it out. I should be brave! Right? It could be fun, I could make friends. I can run. I could get better at running. It's an opportunity. Just an opportunity, an experience They'll be nice, they won't leave me behind... will they? 

Reader, I was terrified. Why did I say I would go?! I couldn’t run with Ryan! He’d be in a faster group! I couldn’t wear earphones, that’d be antisocial. I’d have to talk to people! If I didn’t talk, I’d be the weird one. It’d be cold and dark and late. What would I wear? What would I say? What if I lagged behind? What if I shat myself? WE ALL KNOW MY FEAR OF SHITTING MYSELF. Did I mention the talking to people bit? 

My anxiety was through the roof. Joking aside, I felt so ill when we arrived, but I knew that in an hour it would all be over and it was just a test. If I didn’t like, that’s ok. It’s only one hour out of my life and still worthwhile and… a character-building experience? 

I only cried once during that first week. Nobody noticed because of my quite timely talent of ridiculous sweating, but I was honestly quite proud that I only had one wobbly moment. I didn’t have the courage to speak to anyone - everyone had their own friends - but the leader did notice I was on my own and asked if I was new. He gave me a little boost of encouragement and welcomed me to the group, and soon enough I’d run 5 miles. I’d done it. I wanted to kick myself that I wasn't as chill as I could have been, but I'd still done it. 

At the beginning of the second week, I was determined I wouldn’t cry. Before we split into our groups, I’d heard somebody say they were new (they actually did the normal thing of going up to someone to say, “Hi I’m new what’s your name?”, my new role model) and they ended up joining my group so I SAID SOMETHING. I SAID HELLO. It might sound ridiculous to some, but those with gut-wrenching anxiety will know how momentous that would have been. All it took was a ‘hello’ and we ended up chatting for the whole night. I felt wonderful. I mean, I haven’t seen her since so I was clearly too intense and she legged it, but I’M STILL CALLING IT A SUCCESS. 

After those two free sessions, I committed. I signed up to be a Petts Wood Runner and paid my yearly membership fee of £25 (including an England Athletics registration meaning cheaper race entries - buzzin’). It’s been three months and I’ve been to most Tuesday night runs, in the mud, hills, wind, rain, and freezing temperatures. I still get super anxious as soon as we arrive, I’ve cried a couple more times when I’ve felt particularly wobbly, and I’ve had some nights where I’ve felt incredibly sick or my IBS has played up. I still haven’t properly made friends, though I know names (thank you, Strava), recognise people, and say hello, and I’ve even bought myself a PWR t-shirt now. One of us, one of us, one of us… 

I’m not the kind of person who falls into these things and fits right in. There have been people who joined after me who now have a solid group of pals already. I tend to just stick to Ryan like a leech. It really is like joining a new school as a kid, but, despite it all, I’ve carried on. I’ve stayed with it! I’ve proved to myself that I can push myself. I’m sure I’ll get more and more confident and I’ll relax a bit more. These running clubs are meant to be friendly, welcoming, and inclusive. Petts Wood Runners encompasses that and more. It doesn’t matter who you are: young, old, fast, slow, anxious, not anxious. You stick together. 

I didn't expect to join a running club this year, but I didn’t expect to run a marathon either. You really don’t know what you’re capable of until you try, and I bet you’re capable of a hell of a lot. Even if you do shit yourself. 

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6 comments

  1. I've been thinking of going along to PW Runners for a while but haven't done so, for ALL THE REASONS you just described!

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    1. Amazing! I highly recommend giving it a go, for all the reasons I described. You're not alone; I posted this blog in the Facebook group and I had SO many amazing, supportive comments, some from those who struggle with anxiety too. They're a good bunch. Give me a shout if you do want to give it a go one Tuesday night! I'll stick with you.

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  2. Louise, you write about social anxiety with such clarity...I relate so much so that I felt sick and my heart started beating faster when i read about your first night. Well done on joining and sticking at it. And even though I'm old enough to be your mum you still inspire me to keep going with my running:)

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    1. Thank you ever so much. I'm so glad I can inspire you! Never stop running.

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  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. Well done for plucking up the courage to come the first time. Well done for coming the second time. Well done for joining the club. So many of us feel and experience what you have felt and experienced. Thank you for putting it into words.

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    1. Thank you, Sherry! It's always great to be reminded that you're not alone. You guys are wonderful.

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