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I Completed My First Large Group Run!

Happy Tuesday, y’all! I hope your day has been fantastic!

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it is FREEZING here… literally! It was 29 degrees when I got home this evening. Yikes!

As the temperatures in our area have dropped, the dread for my 10k on Saturday has raised. (Side note: There is still time to donate a dollar – or more – for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Donations are tax deductible!) I’m actually really excited about the actual race, and I’m happy to be running for a great cause. I am terrified to be running in the cold over a bridge at 7 a.m., though. I’m such a wimp.

I finally feel like I’m in a good place with my 10k training, which makes me so happy! I’m definitely not running at earth-shattering speeds, but I’m proud of myself for even being able to run outdoors at all in this weather!

On Saturday, I woke up, threw on my layers and layers of clothing, and ran over to the City Sports in my neighborhood (yes, I ran because I forgot to set my alarm once again… oops!). Earlier last week, I’d stopped into the City Sports to pick up some nighttime running gear, and the manager talked me into running with the group on Saturday. Of course, this was not the first time someone had tried to talk me into running with the Saturday group; however, this was the first time a cute someone had done it.

Anyway, I got over to the store, and was worried I was going to miss the group. Fortunately, everyone was still inside, and folks were waiting to fill out their waivers. I sized up the group while I waited for us to start, and quickly made the estimation that I would be one of the slowest, if not the slowest. Then, slight panic set in.

One woman started stretching. She looked like a legit runner. Should I be stretching? I should definitely be stretching. I’m going to stretch. I awkwardly started stretching. I don’t know if I was stretching any muscles out, and I’m sure I looked a hot mess. I think I was doing a calf stretch I learned in elementary school. Fail.

Our group leader, a City Sports employee, explained how everything was going to work. He gave us little slips of paper that had directions for our run. That’s right, folks. Our run had directions! This is the point when I think I started sweating. Now, that could be from the nervousness, but it is also likely because I was wearing so many layers indoors. The world may never know…

I laid out all of my gear the night before. So much stuff!

Before I knew it, we were out the door and running down the block. Ah crap. Thanks to all of my stretching and sweating, I forgot to set my Garmin! Contrary to what the cute manager said to me just days beforehand, this was not a slow-moving group. Not. At. All. They were booking it! I did my best to keep up. I really didn’t want to be the last one!

As we weaved in and out of Downtown Silver Spring for the first half mile, I started to get a little frustrated. The old guy in our group was running with this younger teenager. I’m guessing she was his granddaughter. Neither of them were dressed like they were doing anything athletic, and they kept cutting corners and running across parking lots instead of around them. They were cheating! And they were kicking my butt!

Eventually, around the first mile, I realized that there was no way I could keep up the pace with this group. They were way faster than what I was prepared for, especially on such a cold morning. I keep track of the back of the pack pacer (the cute manager), and hit my own pace. Eventually, I lost track of the pacer as well. Geez! I am running so slowly! Is anybody else even back here? I looked behind me, and a smiling woman waved at me. I waved back. We eventually ended up next to each other, and we had a quick chat. (I’m not usually one for conversation when I’m running or working out.) She explained to me that she was usually the last one, but that it was totally fine, and everyone is nice. I saw that she was an ambassador for some running team, and I felt a lot better about being so slow. She had such a positive spirit, and it kept me motivated.

Soon, we ended up with the cute manager pacer. He asked me if I was doing the 3-mile or 5-mile run, and I signaled for 5, and we continued on. The other girl was doing three miles, so she prepared to turn around at the halfway point, which was just a few feet ahead. We waved goodbye, and I followed the pacer.

About a mile further into the run, we got lost. F. And we got lost in a super hilly neighborhood. Double F. We must have been lost for 30 minutes before we were just like screw it, and started to head back. Fortunately, I had my Garmin on me, so I was able to track how much longer we needed to run. The directions we received prior to the run were not helpful once we reached a certain point, since some street signs were, well, missing. Blergh.

We eventually reached a street with which I was familiar, and I suggested a course for our remaining two miles. I had a ton of energy at this point, surprisingly, and I didn’t feel so freezing cold. Unfortunately, the cold air had gotten to my chest, so I started coughing a little bit at this point. I was moving at a much faster pace at this point, but I noticed that I was actually moving a little bit faster than the manager, who was tall, and had a much longer stride than I could ever even dream of.

“My knee is doing something weird,” he said, and pulled over to the side to briefly stop. I kept moving, and started making my way back toward the store. I got stuck at a light, and he was right by me. We ran the rest of the distance together, and he said, “keep going! We’re almost there!” I cranked it the best I could at this point (so…many…hills), and we reached the store. I looked at my Garmin and it read 4.90 miles. Dang it! I can’t stop now! He pulled the door open, and I said, “I have to go until it says I’ve done 5 miles!” He smiled, and waved me on, and I ran up the block and back. Finally, I hit 5 miles.

Now, I know there are a few things you’re probably thinking (if you’re still reading). 1) Didn’t your Garmin not start at the beginning of the course? 2) Didn’t you want to get back inside where it was warm? 3) Why did you not follow the cute man?

The answer to all three is yes, naturally, but I didn’t want to cheat! I was so much prouder of myself when I finished, especially since my Garmin actually read 5.1 miles at the end. Cute manager high-fived me when I got inside, and I proudly filled out the clipboard with the number of miles I completed. City Sports is pretty cool with their organized group runs, and they give you rewards bucks for each mile you log with the running group! Isn’t that awesome?! Plus, the running group is absolutely free!

There were other runners from the group who were still inside, and they delivered some high fives as well. The runner’s high felt great, and it was nice to chat with this one couple before I left. They had competed in the Annapolis Running Classic last year, and they were raving about the race. They also informed me that they do another group run on Wednesdays at 7:30, and invited me to join them.

After my run, I laid out on the floor of my bedroom.

All in all, despite falling out on the floor in my room after my run, I was really happy with my experience. First their first time running with an organized group, normal people probably want to try a running group with a friend of a comparable pace. It would have been really nice to have someone there with me the whole distance. If that one woman had stayed for the 5-mile run, I think she would have been a great running buddy. The pacer was good, but I felt bad that he had to go so slowly with me once I eventually caught up.

I feel like I’m ready for my 10k on Saturday, you guys! Can’t wait to share all of the details with you!

Have you ever participated in a group run? How did you feel that first time? Have you ever been at the back of the pack for a group run or race? How did you stay motivated?

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