Friday, 10 February 2012

Running With The Pack

Jason and I trained for our first Marathon in 2009 solo. When I say solo, I mean we downloaded the free Pat Carroll program from the Gold Coast Marathon website and loosely followed it. We did most of our training by ourselves, doing what we thought was best, I distinctly remember Jason being injured right before the race, I ran a “massive” 16km run by myself for a “long” run and thought that was going to be enough.
On returning from our Marathon debuts Jason and I contacted the Rocky Road Runners and plucked up the courage to turn up to a Saturday group run. Well it was an eye opener! Let me tell you a secret, 2 weeks after the marathon the only people who turn up for the long run are gun runners, you know the type, athletes, freaks of nature. The runners we met that morning had all run 3.XX or something insane at Gold Coast and didn’t look like they were “busted”, certainly not like we were.
Most of the guys were pretty nice, asking how we went, how many k’s we did in training what shoes we wore etc; the usual running chit chat that is more about seeing how good you are rather than being overly nice.
We headed out from the Frenchville Food Store, and the pace was pretty quick, I got dropped after a couple of km’s, Jason held on for a bit longer – we made it to the Uni for the first drink stop. In hindsight we were getting sussed out to see how good we were. Not that good let me tell you! We hung on for a little while longer, but by the time we got to QMAG we were getting dropped big time.
2 runners came back to check on us, Michael and Geoff. I can honestly say that these two guys are the reason I still turn up on a Saturday. They checked on us, made sure we knew where we were going and said “see you next week”. We just kept turning up. It was like an induction into “the club”. A familiar pattern emerged for me over the next few months, each week, I would hang on a little longer before getting dropped, meeting up at the next water stop for a chat, then pushing on. Jason improved quicker, but I had some good times and enjoyed the challenge.  
Geoff and Michael always checked on us. Making sure we were ok, telling us we were going good (which was probably crap but made me keep turning up), and eventually a few more slower runners joined back on the Saturday runs and I could run with some others at my ability.
In the last few weeks I have had the same conversation with 3 other runners, Donald (who is just starting running training for a marathon debut and lives in Perth), Greg (training for a marathon debut also) and Luke (in Brisbane 2 x marathon finisher and training for The North Face). I have suggested over a couple of emails/texts that they join a running group, to improve their running.
 Donald isn’t keen, cause he thinks he isn’t good enough – doesn’t see himself as a runner (which he is). Luke is random all over the shop, I think he would benefit the most from a group because it would give him consistency and make him a bit more accountable. Which leaves Greg. Greg was man enough to join the group a couple of Saturday’s ago for his first training run of 30km. I see a lot of my own running journey in Greg, trying to work out what I should be doing, what pace, what to eat etc. I’m a details type of person when it comes to running, I can see Greg is also a bit like that.
Greg and I ran with the group for the first 15km or so, usually by that time the group has split into pairs of people running at the same pace. Then we took a detour to get our km’s in. As I guessed, things got tough after 25km or so, but he persevered and kept moving, never complaining, he was experiencing a distance PB with every step.
Greg said later that he wouldn’t of turned up to a Saturday run normally, he doesn’t live close and it’s an effort to drive the extra 20 minutes to get to the run by 5am – but he could see that it is going to improve his running, and is a lot more fun being with like minded people than running by yourself all of the time.
My initial experience in 2009 is a lot different to how things are now for newbie runners, Michael is checking on people even more than ever, coming back to make sure we know where the next drink stop is etc. And Leah and Kelly have done a great job with making the club more inviting to all levels of fitness.
You might ask, how does group running improve your running – it’s not like riding in a group where you are sitting in the slip stream. Running in the group teaches you about pacing, nutrition, hydration and also you get to make friends with similar goals or are doing the same races. I have learnt a lot about pacing and hydration from Gavin and Raelene, Geoff is always great for some positive reinforcement at the end of a long hard run.
If you want to improve your running and add a bit of variety to your weekly workouts, my advice is to run with the pack – group running is fun, safe and is a great opportunity to learn from other runners who have “been there and done that”! Rocky Road Runners leave 5am from Degani’s Farm St North Rocky.
As I said a few blogs ago, I am trying hard not to crap on about how many km’s I have done or what pace I am going at. I can report however that I am feeling pretty good at the moment and as such will be running a 52km long run tomorrow (Saturday the 11th Feb). This run is very important as a confidence builder for my North Face prep, I plan to really work on my hydration and nutrition and most of all enjoy the day out.  I’m not sure how many other runners have run from Rocky to Yeppoon to Emu Park in one run – but I think I will be in a small group if there are any others.
Be safe on the roads, especially if you are on a bike
PS – Good luck to my ultra mentor Run Benny Boy Run this weekend at the Caboolture 12hr, Benny and Marty “The Dr” are going down to set some new PBs. I hope they enjoy the experience, and bring home a trophy or 2 J  

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