Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Run With A Group?

I love my running group.

I've been running with it for seven years now and couldn't imagine my life without the regular speed sessions and long runs and even the hill sessions. Actually I can imagine my life without the hill sessions and my weekly dose of fear-of-falling. 

Running with a group pushes you way out of your comfort zone. It makes you challenge yourself to do things that you'd never dreamt that you'd do. Like running down vertical gravelly slopes. Like driving for an hour at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning just so you can run on the sand at the beach. And like getting up before 4:00am just so you can get enough kilometers in before it gets too hot.

It makes you push yourself harder in a session. And this is never so evident as at speed sessions on Tuesday morning. 

The last speed session was a particularly challenging one for me. It wasn't the distances of the reps or the length of the session. It was the little in-squad rivalry between Bevan, one of the squad members, and me. Let's just say that both of us are competitive beasts and we're fairly similar in speed so we often end up running close together in the session.

Coach Chris had a challenging set for us. We started off with two ten minute reps - run out for five minutes, turn around at the whistle then run back to the start by the end of the next five minutes, then repeat after a 3 minute recovery and try to make it to the same spot. And then it was 400m reps till the end of the session.

Bevan had been to the squad camp over the weekend and declared that he was too tired to really push the reps when I suggested that I'd be eating his dust. 

He lied!

When we were sent on our way, he shot quickly to the lead and stayed there. I closed in on him a couple of times but he kept checking on me and any time I'd get closer he'd put on the afterburners. We walked together for the 100m recovery and then we'd repeat it almost identically - except this time a little bit faster because I really did want to catch him and he really didn't want to be caught.

By the end of the fourth one, I realised just how much Bevan wanted to keep ahead of me. When he finished the rep there was a little bit of coughing followed by a little bit of dry-heaving. That was followed by a little bit of laughing by both of us. Why? Because runners are a strange bunch and think it's cool, hard-core and a little bit funny to push yourself to the point of being sick.

I was starting to think that maybe I'd get him by the end of the next rep. But his competitive drive kept him just that little bit ahead of me again. And had him dry-retching again. You've got to admire a man who can keep pushing that hard and can still keep the contents of his stomach IN his stomach. And be able to joke about where he'd be aiming his vomitus. At least I hope he was joking because I wasn't joking about the new shoes and socks he'd owe me if his aim was good.

The sixth rep was our last. And it was my last opportunity to run down the Silver Fox. He was slightly ahead to about the 150m mark and then, for the first time, I pulled in front. But being in front doesn't mean you'll stay in front with Bevan. I had to keep running hard to make sure I stayed there and passed the finish first. Thank goodness it was the last rep because I don't think I'd have liked to have tried that again. I gave it just about all I had and the result was my fastest rep of the morning.

It was a good hard session and it hurt just a bit (I'm lying - it hurt a lot) but in a weird way it felt amazing. My two 10 minute reps were really consistent as were the 400m reps. And my pace didn't die at the end like it had a tendency to do last year. And I almost made someone throw up. That's what I call a successful speed session.

And that's why I love the squad. All the support, encouragement and friendly rivalry - you can't help but become a better runner. And maybe even a better person.



  1. There is nothing better than running with a group. Honest to goodness. There are days where I sacrifice speed to run with my group, and then there are days where I want to die at how fast I'm going. It has worked out great!

    But the support is like no other. Thats why I love my group!!

  2. This sounds awesome. Since I already dry heave on my mill, I may as well join a group and have some company.

  3. Charmaine you give me way too much credit. You are an awesome runner and way better than me, as you proved on that last rep. You are yet to get back to your best, which is way better than I could ever hope to be, while I might have peaked. But I thoroughly enjoy our runs and the challenge. Speed is all about pushing yourself, and you certainly make that happen for me. Looking forward to the next episode already. (Chris, don't worry coughing, etc., it is just the last bit of recovery from my chest infection and doesn't effect the running).

  4. I agree with you! I run with a group on Monday nights. They run on other days, too, but I can't always make it with work. But I like my Monday camaraderie!

  5. Why do you think I coach? That I will always have guys to run with....

  6. You are so lucky to have such a great group of people to run with!

  7. Where do you find a great group like that? I do love my Tuesday morning track group. Fortunately we have AM sessions before work, as well as PM sessions (Metasport has a really big membership) so that I can definitely get my speedwork in.

  8. I don't personally train with a group but my club has more than one group and people love it.

  9. Oh, this made me miss my track days - maybe I should join a group!
    And, I love the picture at the end - looks like some synchronized stretching going on!!

  10. Oh, I can't think of anything worse! It reminded me of my basketball training days and suicide runs (shuttle runs / windsprints) and how I'd spend all day dreading training that night COS of the running. (In my anorexic days I'd skip school to go to the court and practice so I'd make the times the coach set for us!)

    Scarred me for life!

    Glad you enjoy it though.

  11. If I could find a group like yours I wouldn't hesitate of joining. We have running groups here in Holland, even in my town but I haven't join because:
    - every training is an hour, 1.5 hours so if you want to train with a group for a half it's not really possible.
    - trainings are on Saturday mornings where I nowadays usually do the long organized walks with Bella and at night on weekdays and I don't run well at night.

    And I don't really mind running alone, it's me time especially when I'm busy. It gives me time to think or not and just listen to music. I don't have to talk.

    But running groups do have it's advantages that's a fact.

  12. That's quite a big group you've got there. I like running all by my lonesome, though I can certainly see the perks of a group.

  13. What a beautiful group! I seldom made my workouts in group because I run in early morning and my friends in late afternoon.

  14. Beautiful picture of your running group!
    I hate running on my own ... you're right, running with the group is more challenging.
    Congrats for getting up before 4:00 am. :) Fortunately, although climate change affects the environment in the world and Europe,
    I am not still compelled to do the same.

  15. I usually run by myself, but hope the closer I get to training for NY, I can run with a group. Love to join your group, one day!

  16. My group fell apart a few years ago when the leader started his own running store - too busy to keep up with the group while starting a new business. I miss them.


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