Want to Know What the Race Feels Like? Try a Group Run

September 02, 2009


First of all, I'm not all doom and gloom. I just like sharing my experiences so that 1.) you find some humor in my training, 2.) you realize you're not the only one with painful running experiences and 3.) I can vent.

Ashley is a huge proponent of group runs. I on the other hand am a loner and prefer to run by myself. A few weeks ago, I realized this isn’t necessarily because I enjoy pondering life’s eternal questions, rather it reminds me too much of race day.

As I mentioned, a few weeks ago, I met up with Ashley in Charlotte. It rained the entire trip from Nashville to Charlotte. Secretly I was dreading the group run and was hoping the rain would give me a good excuse to bail out. Needless to say Mother Nature thought it would be more fitting for me to run and the rain subsided just as I arrived in Charlotte.

We headed to the group’s meeting spot, The Common Market. There were an array of sizes, colors and fitness levels. Ashley is definitely the more advanced of the two, and I reminded her that I didn’t want that day to be the day that I die from running. Everyone was friendly, but I couldn’t help but reminding myself that my pace was SLOW and I knew we’d be the very last ones in. I insisted that Ashley run ahead of me if we got too far behind. She reminded me that it was probably highly unlikely that I would die and that she’d run the entire route with me.

With an informal greeting and brief description of the course we’d be running, the group leader signaled us to start running. My anxiety kicked into high gear. Here I was was, running along the street, humidity at what seemed like 110 percent, it was all too familiar. It felt like race day. As predictable as the sunrise and the sunset, nausea ensued, my legs began to shake and for whatever reason, I began to hold my breath (because that’s what I do when I get nervous, however, it isn’t the greatest coping mechanism for running). These measly 3 miles were going to feel like 10.

So we ran and we ran, until I couldn’t run anymore. So we began to walk. A lady came up behind us and introduced herself as the “Sweeper”. If you need something to lower your self esteem, meet the Sweeper. What is his/her responsibility? As the name implies, she is the very last person with the group and makes sure no one has passed out or gets left behind. Needless to say, this did nothing for my self-esteem. But, the “Sweeper” isn’t all doom and gloom. She knows the route AND the short cuts. My eyes lit up as she explained a way to shave off a few steps. Of course we took her advice.

As other runners caught up to us, we ran the rest of the way back to our start place. All in all it wasn’t as horrible as I had thought. As the “Sweeper” and others made their way in, I was grateful the rain held off and we were able to do the run. (This is usually how I feel after every run). Afterwards, we hung out with fellow runners and had a few Lucky beers. Will I ever do another group run? Of course! Will I have such a bad attitude about it? Probably not. Will I get nausea and almost pass out? Absolutely. But the great thing is, the more I experience that feeling, I will recognize it for what it is and each time it will get easier and easier. Although in this scenario, practice won’t make perfect, but it will make me feel a little more comfortable.

Photo courtesy of Associated Press http://www.daylife.com/photo/0b1817F630guf

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