I have been part of the Hatch Warren Runners (HWR) for almost 1 year now, never did I ever think I would be part of a running club!
Back in October 2017 Zac’s Mum and Dad (Victoria & Andy) very kindly offered to take me running twice a week to get me back into excising. I remember not even making it to the end of my road before I was moaning, sweaty and beetroot red, my lungs couldn’t even take a slow jog at this point. Their patience was probably the only thing that encouraged me to try again the week after and the week after that. Overtime, as our jogs around the houses turned more into longer routes they recommended joining the club they are members of (HWR). I must admit this is something I have not regretted!
I find meeting new people very nerve wracking, especially big groups of new people. I may have a confident and loud outer shell however most of the time its just verbal diarrhea masking my insecurities. Meeting Andy and Victoria’s HWR group (The FABS) for the first time was horrible, I was uncomfortable for my first run with them as it was, I really did not want strangers looking at me too! I kept my head down and as I was being introduced I was finding I could not help but be quiet and blunt with responses to questions. When anyone would say how much I will enjoy running in a club and as part of a group I would respond with a very negative comment, something like “well I don’t even like running so I doubt I will be here for long, haha!”. It took me a few weeks to build up the confidence to talk properly to members of the group, after a few months I was running with the same people most weeks so we got chatting more and I met Rachel who I ran alongside to maintain a good pace. Rachel and I now run together pretty much every time we see one another at the club, she paced me through my first ever race and alongside her and Victoria they are the members of the group I feel I can be open with about any worries or concerns. I feel like being part of this club has given me a confidence boost and a new support mechanism with some new and unlikely friends!
Occasionally I do have those bad days where I have zero motivation, no belief in myself or I am just feeling every negative emotion and after a whole day at work running is not something I look forward to. Building up the motivation to come home and put my running gear on and go out is mentally exhausting, sometimes it gets the better of me and I don’t go, instead I am convincing myself that laying in bed under the covers will benefit me more. However, on those hard days when I have managed to pick myself up and off my bed bracing the cold I surprise myself, just the warm arrival greeting from my running friends gives me a small boost and a voice in my head says “well done, we’ve made it this far”. I might mention to Victoria or Rachel that I am having an off day but aside from them I never mention it. Once we start running I stick with Rachel at our usual pace, if I am slower than usual she won’t say anything, we stick together and we run the whole way. It feels good to have someone right by you and supporting you even if they do not know it. On the final stretch sometimes I get a bit emotional because I feel that huge sense of achievement and its even more overwhelming than usual because I know I have achieved more than just completing the 3/4 miles we have run, I conquered that negativity and shown it who’s boss!
For me, running clears my head, it feels like my lungs and my chest open up and that cold yet refreshing air gives me some sort of detox, that feeling of being overwhelmed with negativity smashes like glass and fills up with a sense of pride and accomplishment. On days we do not have a club run I am not afraid to go out by myself anymore (I try to do it when it’s still light), I stick at my own pace and do my own route or a club route and it still has a great impact on me and my mood.
Since joining the Hatch Warren Runners confidence, friends and a nice runners top are not the only thing I have gained, I have even started entering into races. I have now completed 3 races and have some lovely shiny medals to show for it (no I have not come 1st for any of them!). Being able to stand at the start line surrounded by a massive group of people and maintaining my cool plus having to keep that physical and mental endurance throughout the race is really pushing me out my comfort zone but wow its worth it! I am finding I want to keep entering races and being surrounded is starting to bother me a little bit less every time.
If you struggle with anxiety, depression or low self esteem I am not saying that running is the cure for you, but its drastically helped me and maybe my experience might encourage you to think about your passions and what clubs or exercises you can do. Being part of a community ensures I keep at it, I have made friends there and I meet new people every week which is scary but getting easier which tells me I am relaxing more. Maybe invite a friend to join you on a jog or a trial dance class? Set yourself a goal for 2019 to do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone but in an environment where you are surrounded by support. You’ll be amazed at how great it feels to find something that can put a smile on your face on those darkest days.