On Sunday I left my comfort zone and joined a new running group.
For some this might not seem like a challenge, but we all have a pace, route and go-to-running-buddy we feel comfortable with, and leaving the safety of this can feel daunting. A phrase has been going round and round my head recently, “to get faster you have to run faster” and personally, the only time I will truly try to push myself with my pace is when I’m trying to keep up with others. It sounds silly but I want to be part of that group and I don’t think I’m alone.
On Sunday I ran along my usual route towards Craiglockhart to where the group was meeting at 9am.
I’d roped in my friend Sarah so that I wasn’t the only new one joining. It gave me a slight sense of security I guess, if it was so bad we could always rely on each other and hang back to do our own thing.
A dozen runners showed up, all in road shoes except us, and the leader said hello and asked us what our 10k and half marathon times were. Eh, I haven’t raced one of those in many years. Does a 6km cross country count? or a 50km trail race? The group, from the outside, looked like a mixed bunch. Half ladies, half men, some dressed in short shorts, old race tees and barely-there racing flats, others in wind proofs, buffs and gloves. My ability to judge a runner by their choice of attire went out the window.
We were told that we were making our way along the canal and onto the Water of Leith for 6 miles, the route we’d turned up expecting. We’d then have the choice of turning around, or continuing towards the hills for a 14 mile option. Sarah had an eye on the clock, with a 1.5h time limit to get back to the kids for a Sunday together, so we decided between us we’d run for 45 minutes and see how far we got and then turn around. How much of this we’d be able to run with the group we didn’t know, but we’d try.
From Craiglockhart and Colinton Road, you can drop down to the canal pretty quickly, and off we went. Hugging the back of the group, grateful for the pack ahead of us as wind breaks! The pace was steady. Not unmanageable. Slightly quicker than our normal chatty pace, but achievable. As we left the canal and found the Water of Leith, the path widens but also gets busier with bikes and other groups of runners and dog walkers. A mile in and we were still with the group. Was this their warm up? Are they suddenly going to kick and we’ll soon be left behind?
We passed another group of a half dozen or so runners, heading in the same direction as we were. “They’re fast” I heard one of them say as we overtook them. Noted.
Someone dropped from the pack. He waved goodbye and turned back. We were still with the group. At the back but definitely still part of it.
Four miles. Five.
The path became familiar and I knew we were reaching the end at Balerno, where our option was to turn around. The group knew too and the pace definitely picked up as if they were striding for home. We hung back. Kept the pace consistent and steady. Just over five and half miles and we got to the end of the trail.
They were gone. We were left. They turned the corner and away they went. We stopped to catch our breath just for a moment then turned back on ourselves, returned to our chatty pace and made our way back.
We’d joined in and stuck with it. Stuck with the group. Got out of our own comfort zone and joined another. Our Sunday mission, accomplished.