Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Thoughts on Running Groups

I was asked this week to get in front of a group of people and talk about my experience with Ride the Wave and the Catch the Wave programs.  The event is tonight, not a big deal, just 5-10 minutes with my friend Cheryl, where we can both talk about the differences between the programs and encourage those in the "Beginner" program to take on the challenge of the "Experienced Runner" program.

I am usually loathe to speak publicly, about anything, but I'm sort of looking forward to this.  I hope I don't blow it, but I am such a big fan of both programs - I got so much out of CTW that I did it for three years! - and I took a loooong time to feel like I might be "Advanced" enough to take the next step and try out the RTW program. 

There was an intimidation factor.  I was intimidated by the idea I would be running with "Experienced" (read:  "Fast") athletes.  Also, I still didn't get it.  Unbelievable, I am just so dense sometimes!  I still didn't get it.

"Get what?", asks my faceless reader...

The Community.  I haven't written much about this, but I think about it a lot these days, and I could perhaps write endlessly on the subject.  The Running Community is a family.  It's this amazing supportive group of strangers who get together periodically to push one another, talk about things that don't matter, and sometimes find themselves talking about those things that matter most.  Now, mostly my groups have consisted of women (I'm slow, the guys are faster), so my experience is biased in that way, but here is my experience:  We do NOT talk about work.  Most of the time we don't talk about our kids, though by one definition or another, most every woman has some.  We don't much talk about our partners (spouse, husband, wife, boy/girlfriend, what-have-you). 

We DO talk about our health.  We do talk about how running and other exercise has changed us. How the health of family members has changed us in unexpected ways. Changed our outlook on life, on our problems, our perspective of things past.  How we view and define ourselves.  We confess the ways in which we have let ourselves down (in big ways sometimes, mostly in little ways).  We provide suggestions on how to counteract the bad little demons in our heads that tell us "You Can't."  We chat casually about what we think is possible for the next race, then more seriously about what's possible by the end of the season.  And then we remind each other that we are capable of ANYthing - "you don't realize it but we finished mile 6 and you didn't even notice that big hill back there!"

Which is to say nothing of the Complete Strangers on the Road.  I think that's a post for another day.

My point.  Yes, I was trying to organize my thoughts so that I won't ramble on this way at the thing tonight.  We only have 5 minutes a piece.  Right. 

So I was intimidated by the idea that RTW was for "Advanced" runners.  "Fast" runners.  "Marathon" runners.  Not one of those words describes me, not even in my head, not even today.  But I would describe myself as an "Experienced" runner.  There are folks in my Relaxed Runners group at RTW this year who prefer a run/walk interval, either because they have a minor injury or just because it's more comfortable for them. 

The program does go on longer runs than the CTW group, but pace is flexible.  I pushed myself to run farther and faster without walking as much, but I still walk occasionally.  The group leaders are just as friendly and supportive and flexible.  (Kathy even indulged me while I took pictures of my dog on our Outer Loop run a couple weeks ago!) We do some basic speed workouts and a hill workout, which were new and challenging and a LOT of fun. 

I guess what I want to convey to the CTW folks tonight is this:
  1. You don't have to be ready to train for a marathon to join the Ride the Wave group.  You just have to be ready to take your training to the Next Level, whatever that level means for YOU.
  2. This is not a group of high school jocks who are going to make fun of you for being slower or for struggling.  It's a group of supporters who have your back.
  3. Not for nothing, but I've PR'd at every race I've participated in since joining Ride the Wave.  Last weekend I ran the 10k in Champaign SEVEN minutes faster than last April (after finishing CTW for the third time).  There is something to be said for taking my training to the Next Level.
  4. If you're not sure right now about whether you're ready or not... wait!  Do some of the other programs:  TNAM and Heat Wave are both coming up, and there are others.  Get out and run, by yourself, and join up with some of the other opportunities to run with groups - there are at least three a week, and they're come-when-you-can groups, no registration or other commitments required.  Then, at the end of the season - next January - give it some thought again and make your decision then.
  5. By all means, if you enjoyed CTW and don't feel comfortable yet in joining RTW, but you want a group training experience again next year, DO Catch the Wave again!  I did, and I loved it each time!
I'm so glad to be part of this community, and so glad I found my sport.  It's so much more than I ever thought it would be.

2 comments:

  1. That's wonderful! I wish I could find a group here where I live. No luck yet. There's a local coach here who has a small group but they run at time I am at work :(

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  2. I don't know where you are, but ... nothing on Facebook? Or Meetup? Is there a college in your community? It's so prevalent, I'm surprised there aren't more available groups for you.

    Oh, you know what else, try your local running shoe / bike specialty store! There are two runs each week that start at my running store, and the "competition" store that just moved into town, hasn't even opened yet, but they've been sponsoring runs every Monday night for months!

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