Or are they?
Solo running has always been my jam; had always been my jam. I even trained for my very first marathon solo and I’m still not entirely convinced that was a good idea …4 years later. When I decided to sign up for my second marathon in late 2018 – to take place in the Spring of 2019 – I decided to take the plunge and I signed up with a running club. I knew I would need something that would keep me accountable through the 18 weeks of training. When you register for the BMO Marathon, you can also add on a clinic through the Running Room with your race registration.
What if you’ve never run with a running club; What if you are running for the first time; What if everyone is fast? There were so many thoughts running through my head. I started to wonder what on earth I was getting myself into.
While I don’t consider myself to be a fast runner, in any way shape or form. I know that some people would kill to run paces like me, and some that speed past me. However, I used this as the number one reason that I should not join a running club. If I stayed back and trained on my own, I wouldn’t be embarrassed, nor would I hold anyone back. I am also a pretty consistent 10 and 1 run type of runner.
There is a lot of debate about whether the run/walk method makes you a runner or not. In my opinion? Are you running???? You’re a damn runner.
A new era – life as part of a running club
Full of butterflies, and still working on that post Christmukah detox, I went to the first clinic meeting in early January. There was a half marathon clinic nearing the end of their training, and the BMO full and half marathon clinics that started that night and there were a lot of people that showed up. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I recall secretly thinking, “there must be at least one person that runs a pace like me“.
Rabih had all of us around the room share our running experience, and what our goals for the upcoming race were. I mentioned that I had run one marathon and several half marathons previously, but my marathon was awful – I didn’t train properly and was injured on race day. You can read more about my first marathon experience here. I stated that my goal this time was to run the marathon without an injury and to just complete, but sub 4:45 would be amazing.
Rabih was the clinic organizer, and did a very good job at outlining our paces, and what our training should like, even for our solo runs. We ran tempo runs on Tuesday’s; hills/speed on Wednesday’s; long runs on Sunday. Our steady runs were to be done on Friday’s and Saturday’s; Monday’s and Thursday’s were strict rest days. However, I did swap Thursday and Friday to allow my body a day off after the temp/hill/speed from the previous two days. Everyone I was meeting and chatting with had definitely settled my introverted nerves.
After completing my solo 5k time trial, we discussed putting me in the 4:30 finish group. If I wasn’t able to manage, I could switch back. All that anxiety that had drifted away? Back it was! However, I agreed, and joined in on the faster runs. But this did mean I would be shaving over an hour off of my last marathon finish time. Gulp.
18 Weeks is a long time, but time flies when you’re having fun with your running club!
Everyone was so friendly, and we were always there to talk each other through those days where we’re feeling run down, or just not into it. With this group, we were also there for each other when it came to any twinges or odd feelings because no one wants to miss training for an injury. When we weren’t doing high intensity runs, we laughed together, especially when it was a distance like 32km. Now some of those runs turned out to be more than 32km – not by a lot – (…except for that time we took a wrong turn …) and if you didn’t laugh, you probably would have wanted to quit.
I recall one run where I felt a twinge in my left calf, and I had to bow out of the 29km run around 24km or so. It felt like I had let myself and my crew down. As I was stretching at the store, my group came back and their only concern was that I was OK and that I should take it easy. At this moment, I realized I had found my people.
I remember when we had our last 32km run coming up, it fell on the same day as the Sun Run. I was trying to figure out if I should run 32km solo on the Saturday, and then run a slow 10k on the Sunday. There was one other gal in the running club that was also doing the Sun Run so we made a plan to meet super early to run 22km. This put us at the start line, so we could run the last 10k with our friends & family, to round out the 32km run. Crushed it, we did and I am so thankful I had someone to run with. I wouldn’t have had that option if I were just solo running. Plus, the odds of me having volunteered to do the 32 the day before, or 22 beforehand? Slim to none; if I know me at all, I totes would have used the Sun Run as an excuse to not run the long distance, so I could push the 10k.
Now, not only did the time fly, but we all understood what we put our bodies through, that our spouses & friends just don’t get. This group understands why we were always so tired, especially when we hit peak mileage, and understand your moments of crankiness.
After the BMO marathon, my husband and I traveled to Italy. Upon getting home, we went for a 5k run, but I wound up hobbling through the 5k. The pain was so bad that evening, that I could not walk. As walking was near impossible, it was a work from home day, and I spent the day crawling along the floor to get around. Physio to the rescue with a quick diagnosis of plantar fasciitis; ice, rest, repeat. If you have experienced PF, you know how painful it can be. We’ve tracked this back to the Rome 21km express tour in a day, in the wrong pair of shoes. The one time I didn’t wear runners on long walking days – d’oh! I had been so excited to get home and get back to the social runs with the running club, however, the Universe had other plans.
As I was able to get the foot feeling better enough to start running Rabih had gone solo and started a new running club called Striderz. Since we gathered in a closer meeting spot, this was a huge selling point for me; parking in Kitsilano can be a pain in the you know what. Plus, I was familiar with his coaching style, and that was important to me, especially with the PF issue. I could count on his support as I struggled to get back to where I was. Since I knew I had lost of my endurance with the lack of running, it was back to the half marathon for me for the Spring. In fall 2019, I put my name in for the Chicago marathon – my name was drawn in December. I was so excited that I would run the Chicago Marathon in October 2020 (spoiler alert – neither race happened).
2020 Flipped Our Running Club Upside Down – The COVID Era
When COVID hit, and our running club had to halt running together, we struggled to stay on track. In true coach fashion, Rabih kept emailing and encouraging us to get out and run if we could, and at off peak hours. Especially here in Vancouver, all gyms were ordered to shut down and even those of us with gyms in our condo buildings, couldn’t use them. Getting outside was the only thing we could do …just solo.
During COVID, I wound up really pushing my pace and caused myself shin splints. If I had stuck to the group runs, and the pacing set out in the training plan, that likely would not have happened. But, as I am notorious for running injuries, it fit the mold nicely.
Rabih was able to get approval from a nearby city, to allow our run club to have a race. We did start in small groups and stay apart, but it meant we could do our virtual BMO half and full marathons.
Also, a huge shoutout to those that did the virtual full marathon. Especially when it was a first marathon. I cannot imagine doing the race with no big crowds and cheering sections. My husband and sister did have cow bells at their water station, so there was a little bit of cheering!
I ran with shin splints, very much against my physiotherapists recommendation, and still managed to finish in around 2:45. On race day, I was only up to running 6 minutes, walking 1 minute. I was A-OK with that finish time!
Ask for forgiveness, not permission
You don’t know until you try
I absolutely cannot imagine my life without my running crew.; they’ve helped me, and I’ve helped them. We’ve struggled, celebrated & laughed. If I had not tried stepping away from solo running, I would have never known how amazing a running club can be. Even if I run faster than someone, it doesn’t mean that they can’t inspire me. I love seeing people achieve distances they never thought possible.
The Striderz and Running Room clubs that I attended were not cliquey at all. You are bound to find someone to bond with, if not multiple people. These people know the love we have for running, and understand all the emotions whether you’re training for a race or not. They’ll help you celebrate every milestone and achievement [minus the high-fives in this the COVID era].
If you’ve ever thought about joining a running club – socially or for specific training – I would highly recommend. There are so many running groups here in Vancouver, that there’s at least one group for every type of runner. Trust me when I say, runners are always excited to welcome someone new into their circle and they do not care about your pace. Everyone has started fresh at some point, so we get what it feels like.
If you try a running club and you find it’s not for you, that’s totally fine. I know lots of people that love solo running, and only run by themselves.
This blog was born from a solo run, right after I was laid off from my job, due to COVID, in fact!
I plan on taking a break from training this fall; working on strength, and getting back to running without staring at my watch, will be a good reset. You better believe I will still join in for most of the social runs on Thursday’s and Sundays. I have made some really great friends through the running community, and who knows where I would be without them. I don’t have to be training in order to run with others.
There is no right or wrong; just what works for you and your style of running.
Let me know your experiences if you’ve tried a running club before or if you decided to try one, in the comments section.
You don’t have to be fast to be a runner; You just need to run.
- Ashley Feldstein