Friday, September 6, 2019

Running Group Challenge: 4 Weeks of Research

Recently, and perhaps brought on by a big life change including a move halfway across the country, I’ve been more willing to step out of my comfort zone these days. I’ve been feeling empowered lately, mostly because I realized that I AM capable of so much more than I thought I was (and YOU are too!). I always thought my worldly “bubble” was pretty large – I’ve traveled, I went to school in Europe, raced BMX all over the country, stepped WAY out of my comfort zone after BMX and joined a sorority in college (💓 my fellow Delta Gammas 😎), taken on grad school (and the corresponding student-debt), but until this move and an introduction to all the changes that came with it, I realized that my bubble could definitely be bigger, and that it would certainly benefit me to try more in this world.
One of the tweaks I’ve made recently to my training program have been the addition of group runs on Sunday mornings. Instead of slogging through a long run alone on the same park trail each week (and usually not until around noon), I drive into Westport to a local running shop early in the morning to meet up with 50 other fun and interesting people who are just as crazy as me when it comes to their love of all things running.

Always a good sign to see when you pull up to a running shop!

Running has typically been my solitude. Being an introvert, I use my time during a run to think things through and decompress from a stressful week. It leaves me happy and ready to take on the day (and sometimes a good nap). Large, energy driven, talkative groups are always fun but as any introvert knows, they are draining after a while. Thus, the need for a long, solo, calming run. With everything that had been going on lately and everything I continue to learn from, I began to realize that a group run was at least worth a try- and maybe more than one try. A solid opinion should include some in depth research, meaning multiple group runs, am I right?? SO, after years of running solo, I decided to take a deep breath and give this new thing a good try. Fast forward a month and I have now completed my 4th group run. Keep reading for my experiences/opinion.

Week 1: August 4th

My 1st ever group run! I just want to know where everyone else parked...
On the morning of my 1st group run I got up, got dressed, and headed out to Run 816. Run 816 is a local running store that not only hosts these group runs, but also gives back to the community as well. I got there early for some good parking and went inside (they open the shop early Saturday for the runners) to get in line for the bathroom. After their announcement of the course and reminder that water is every two miles, we took off. Some friendly runners had approached me prior to the run, so that was really cool, and I began my run with them. This course was a preview for the Kansas City Marathon, so this was a net course to run, complete with many hills. After a while and due to my being quite the hill novice, I fell back in the run. I found the first water stop quite easily but ended up getting glost after that since I couldn’t find any signs. Another runner came by who was also lost, so we got our phones out and figured out a way back to the shop. Frustrated and feeling quite defeated I headed back to Run 816 with a “measly” 6 miles under my belt (I had been hoping for more). My opinion of group runs after this wasn’t too good. A few days later, I found out that a disgruntled homeowner had removed one of the signs and sent a strange (and grammatically incorrect) email to the store, so to be honest, it took me a few days, but in the end I decided to give it one more go the next week.

Week 2: August 11th

I made a new friend. Excuse the awkward photo, we just got done with 12 miles.

Week 2 was petty similar to week one, minus the huge crowd. There were about half the people there this time; I’m assuming it was partly due to a non-Kansas City Marathon partial route, and partly due to some pretty crazy impending rain. Luckily my boyfriend keeps track of the weather, because when I let him know my Sunday morning plans and he told me it would rain, I took that to mean, “put your valuables in a sandwich bag”, so that’s what I did. I got there, got some good parking, bought a Honey Stinger waffle for some pre run fuel, waited for my Garmin to locate a signal, and was on my way with the rest of the crowd. Since this run wasn’t on the same route as the previous week, all the signs were left where they were supposed to be. This helped tremendously! A New Balance rep was also set up at the shop to loan anyone who wanted to run in them a new pair of Fresh Foams. I had been wanting to try these out SO badly- so I swapped my Glycerines for a pair, stretched, hydrated, an got ready to take off. A few miles into my route I met several runners at a water stop and ran with them for several more miles. By now the rain had started, but with people there it made the miles more fun. My biggest fear was the pressure of matching other’s paces, but it became very clear that it just wasn’t the case. If someone wanted to speed up, they said goodbye and took off, and vice versa. Also, people who were turning around (not everyone does the same amount of mileage) always said waved and said encouraging words to those still running the opposite way. Throughout the miles I found myself doing the same thing. To be honest here, I wasn’t planning on running 12 miles, it just…sort of…happened. In the rain. Strange, I know. When I made it back to Run 816 and traded in the New Balance Fresh Foams for my Brooks Glycerines, I realized that my feet had so many hot spots and blisters. I attribute this less to the shoes (they were SO comfy!) and more to the rain and the fact that I needed to start putting Vaseline or something comparable on my toes before runs. That run also called for some pancakes afterward, and my feelings toward group runs had begun to change a bit.

Week 3: August 18th

Post long run chat with an amazing, fast and super nice trail/road runner before heading home.
Going into the 3rd week of group running, I was starting to look forward to it, and to meeting new people and trying out a new course. Since you’re not really forced to meet people during these runs, the pressure is off and occasionally I found myself making small talk with someone. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE getting to know and chatting with people; everyone has such an amazing story to tell. However, I never thought I would at 7 in the morning. That part surprised me. What also surprised me is how quickly my 12-mile run went by. I can’t say enough about how cool it is to have a fun route through the city, as well as water stops every two miles. Luckily it didn’t rain, and I even stuck around at the end to chat with an amazing runner, as well as a group. They gave me some great tips on recovery as well (Epsom salt baths are the bomb for muscle aches!)! I left this morning feeling hungry and like a million bucks. I got home, had a bagel, some eggs, and an Epsom salt bath after. After a nap, my day was ready to begin!

Week 4: August 25th

Everyone getting ready to get in those miles, and my boyfriend and I chatting lol. He's the tall one in front of the white column.

Everyone taking off! We're in the middle in the white and black tops...

Running in a thunderstorm makes 8 miles feel like least they did on Sunday!

How I feel after a training session! Woohoo!

By week 4 of my running group challenge, the habit of waking up at 6 am was already becoming ingrained in what I considered my usual Sunday morning routine. I found myself looking forward to it, but after 2 back to back weeks of longer runs (I am NOT marathon training at the moment, so I’m trying to keep my mileage down some and work on other things- I don’t want to burn out come January), not to mention lots of running and BMX during the week, my legs needed a bit of a rest. I was also able to finally talk my boyfriend into waking up early as well and joining me on this run, so we settled on 8 miles for this one. We got ready and I put my phone, key and ID in a Ziplock bag, then we were out the door. It was very overcast with the threat of rain, but during this run the rain managed to hold off until our very last mile, in which case it began thundering, lightening and pouring like no other. It felt great to run in the rain for a bit, but I’m glad it was our last mile, because between the Vaseline on my toes wearing off and my feet getting soaked, the lightening was no joke either. We ran for a few miles with another runner, a student who had just moved back to town for the start of the school year, and before we knew it we were back at the store, getting water from the cooler and standing under the awning for a few minutes (thank goodness for keeping extra old towels in the trunk of my car). Everyone who continued their run that morning was caught in the thunderstorm, as well as the participants in the Go Girl Half Marathon, which was going on through part of our route. I will be missing my next group run doe to some traveling next weekend, but I will definitely be continuing with this awesome group!

Right?!?! 😃😄😎

Final Thoughts:

I feel like joining this running group gave me the best of both worlds- solitude, the freedom to run your own pace (while getting faster) and still having support (and water stops) throughout your entire run, as well as being surrounded with amazing, supportive people. This group is diverse and minute mile times range from 7 to 13-minute miles. This group makes it a point to include everyone, and it shows. I can’t speak for every running group out there, since I don’t want to generalize, but I’m glad I tried this. If there’s a takeaway (or two) from trying this, I learned that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone to try something new. Running groups are not just for extroverted people, and it’s beneficial in so many ways, especially being far from family and friends. I also feel that it’s important to try something like this more than once to get a real feel for what it’s like. I’m already looking forward to my next long run. The routes are clearly mapped out and uploaded to Map My Run. I don’t have any cons to my experience so far except the sign being removed on the first day, but that wasn’t the group’s fault. My advice after 4 very intense weeks of “research”, is that if you have never tried a running group, go try one. I don’t mean to encourage anyone to pay to be a member of a running group if it’s not in your budget; there are many free running groups out there, including this one at Run 816 (if you’re in the Kansas City area come check them out!). In fact, check out a few groups to find out which one you ultimately like. Even if you try it and realize later that it’s not your thing, you haven’t lost anything by checking out something new. I’m certainly glad I did.


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