Sunday, June 10, 2012

Get Your Group On!

No, I'm not going to write a post about a crazy deal I found on Groupon.  In fact, I don't even use Groupon.  Minor detail.

Nope, today I'm giving a shout out to my running group:  The West Toronto Pacers.

For the majority of my early running years, I was a solo runner.  That changed when I started doing longer distances and I started training with the Running Room.  We had 2 group runs a week which was a new experience for me.  I found that I looked forward to these runs more than the runs I did on my own.  Especially the Sunday long runs, despite the fact that they started at 8:00 am, which generally meant I would get very little sleep on Saturday nights.  Cause in those days I was still going out to bars and dancing the night away.  Even after staying out late on a Saturday,  I never felt like I could bail on the group so I'd drag my sorry, hungover butt out of bed and go meet the group.  The odd time I did sleep in, I got grief from my running partners.   I didn't like to miss a workout because it meant that I was doing it on my own.  Given that this was before the time of Garmins and Map My Run apps, I always had a tough time trying to figure out how far I should go.   Running with the group made it easier because we had predetermined routes and distances.  No brainer!  I ended up training with the Running Room Group for 2 years.  My last year with them got me a Boston Qualifier.  After Boston I decided it was time to try my hand at triathlons.  This adventure brought training with a group to a whole new level.  I swam with a Masters group and through cycling I was introduced to a whole other group of people.  Funnily enough, I stopped running with a group at this point in time.  I'd do the occasional run with some training buddies or my hubby but for the most part I ran solo and I was ok with that.
As the years ticked by, I kept running on my own.  I also started to slow down.  I figured that would happen as I aged but I didn't think that it would be so dramatic.  After my dismal B.Q attempt in 2010, I decided that I needed to work at getting faster.  The Universe intervened when my friend Joseph had a party at his place for all this "athletic friends".  This party also happened to be the fall social for the run club he was a part of:  The West Toronto Pacers.  I knew some of the Pacers from my old swim group and from seeing them around at various races.  That evening was a lot of fun and everyone I met that night was super nice.  At the end of the evening I timidly asked Joe about coming out to the group.  He was so excited to have another friend join.  I was worried I'd be the slowest person there.  He told me not to worry, there were people of all abilities.  He was right.  I'll never forget my first night out with them.  We met at the Memorial Community Centre and I was introduced to everyone.  There were a couple of folks there that I knew; the really fast gang, my friend Joe being one of them.  Jeff, who was one of the club founders was there with maps for everyone.  We did just over 10km tempo on a route that they call Southbound to Berry.  It was freaking hard.  You basically run downhill towards the water and then turn around and run back up.  I ran with Mike, who was someone that I happened to work with occasionally.  I remember getting back to the community centre totally breathless but pumped that I managed to average 4:59 km's.  As we all stood around chatting & stretching afterwards, I felt like I was back at the Running Room.  There was a great sense of camaraderie.  I knew I'd be back out on Thursday for more.  That was back in November of 2010.  I can't always make the Tuesday and Thursday night workouts but when I do, I always leave with a spring in my step.  I credit this group with helping me get my running to where it is now.  If it wasn't for them, there's a good chance I wouldn't have had the year I did last year.  I got faster and I made a whole bunch of new friends and training partners.  Win/win situation if you ask me.
If you have a local running store that you frequent, as them if they know of any local groups in your area.  What have you got to lose?  Nothing.  The bigger question you should be asking yourself is what could you possibly gain?  Lots.  So what are you waiting for, go and get your group on!
Some of WTP at The Korean 10km

(photo credit:  Phaedra Kennedy)


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