Run, fat girl, run!

Please don't be offended, I didn't mean you.  I was talking to myself - something I'm sure a lot of you do when out pounding the pavements, in an attempt to make time pass that bit quicker.

It happens every year.  I watch the London Marathon, feel exceedingly inspired by and in awe of all those taking part, swear I'll sign up for a similar challenge and then... that feeling dissipates and is replaced by the need for a glass of wine.

Well, not this year.  I’ve made an Olympic effort (sorry!) and signed up to a 10km and a half marathon.  I’m not a complete running novice, but it definitely wasn’t something I enjoyed and I really needed to dig deep to find the impetus to start and keep going.  That was until, I joined a running club.

A discount email popped into my inbox advertising 60% off 10 sessions with Run Club London.  
Now, I could claim that Run Club is a bit like ‘Fight Club’, given how much pain I was in the next morning, but then I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with you lovely people, so let’s scrap that assertion.

I meet Lizi, our trainer, in Wimbledon Park and it’s immediately obvious that she’s extremely friendly and super-encouraging as she asks about my previous running experience (nigh on zilch) and whether I have any events lined up, as I’m sumo-lunging my way around the periphery of the park cafe. 

The group, 9 of us this evening, is a mixture of newcomers and regulars and, as we set off for a lap of the park, I soon realise that there are varying levels of proficiency.  With my legs burning from all the lunging, I manage to complete the lap not too far behind the front runners and am feeling pretty jubilant until I realise that this is just the warm up.

Run Club
Now the real work begins, which comprises a series of tempo and agility exercises using cone markers to map out our course.  We’re split into two teams and start by ladder running, hopping over and weaving in and out of the cones and then running backwards to the starting point, repeating twice.

Next we race to complete a circuit of cone exercises and short bursts, which culminates in 3 sprints, each one about 10 metres further than the last, by the end of which my legs are screaming and my heart pumping furiously.  Then it’s onto our backs and non-stop bicycle curls until the last person in the team finishes the circuit.  Although the ground is wet and muddy I drop straight onto it, legs flapping in the air like a debilitated beetle, grateful to give them a few minutes’ rest, even if those minutes do involve ab work.

Our penultimate exercise is to try to complete as many laps of the green as we can in 4 minutes.  Lizi gives us our time for each lap and the intention is to use this as a benchmark that you aim to improve upon each session.  After a couple of minutes to get our breath back we go again and, strangely, it’s easier the second time around.  Maybe my legs are starting to get some of that muscle memory people are always talking about.

As we walk towards the steps to do some dynamic stretching and a warm down, I get chatting to a girl who’s signed up to do a half marathon at the end of the year.  We bond over the fact that neither of us actually enjoys running... yet...  but agree that if we keep up these sessions, that’s highly likely to change.  The combination of endurance, tempo and agility training, with a group for a whole hour, is so much more effective than anything I would push myself to do. 

I’m told by one of the regulars that the difference you experience in your running after a few sessions is considerable.  The main difference I experienced the day after was the inability to walk, but that can only show how hard the session must have worked me.  I'll definitely be keeping it up but the real test will be my first 10k in 3 weeks’ time.  I'd imagine it'll make Bikram feel like a walk in the park... well, maybe more like a jog.

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