THE BASICS: Be Cool Running Club is a friendly and welcoming running club run by Beatrice, which sets off from Striders Running Club close to Sandilands, Addiscombe (Croydon). It is a beginners running group, affiliated with this venue, although separate from the runs that go on through the actual club. Your first run with Be Cool Running is free, £20 per year membership after that. Group meets for several runs a week- I went on a Wednesday evening.
THE BITCHES: Carly
THE CLASS: I had been chatting to Bea for a while via Twitter- she’d initially been in touch to chat about Project HB, and also to tell me about her journey from unhappy with her body to becoming a triathlete, iron woman and happy little human bean. Iron woman competitions, for those of you who haven’t heard of such crazy things, are seriously hardcore. Think a 4km swim, a 180km bike, and a full marathon (42.2km). My mind is blown.
When Bea invited me to come for a session with her running club, I was definitely up for joining them, but I was worried about running with a group. I needn’t have been. Bea came all the way to the station to meet me, so we could have a proper chat before the run; I was greeted by a tiny, toned ironwoman, who was really friendly and also thoughtful to my reservations about my crappy running abilities. I felt at ease straight away.
We walked and chatted up the hill to Striders, where there was a group of about 16 people ready for our run. There was a changing room; it felt very safe and I left my bags on the benches. Personal preference though- if you’re taking your family heirlooms then you might feel more comfortable keeping your valuables in a little running pouch (although may I recommend leaving such jewellery at home).
We were ready. Standing in the porch and waiting to begin, I got chatting to other runners. There were actually five running groups heading off that night- four levels of “Striders” runners who set off, and then we set off close behind- except in a different direction. We were going road running!
We hit the leafy roads around Addiscombe, and the pace was nice and steady- I felt like I could chat whilst running which was great. I nattered to Amy for a while, and we kept each other company at the back. She was telling me about her journey to lose weight after having her second baby, and I was shocked when she told me how much weight she’d lost and how great she was feeling! We discussed how much harder it is to motivate yourself to get out and exercise when it’s cold and dark, but that once you do, you feel pretty damn impressed with yourself.
At this point, the front of the group had broken around 300m ahead of us. Bea guided them round to circle back on themselves, and join up the rear of the group behind Amy and I. We now found ourselves at the front! I liked this tactic- it kept the group together, and meant that everyone was continuously mingling and changing- you never got “stuck” at the back, or had the pressure of leading the group for too long. It felt very inclusive.
Bea hung in the middle of the group for a while and checked in with how I was getting on. We talked about our recent injuries- this was my first run in about 2 months after a foot injury, and she knew I was nervous about joining the group having had such a long break from running. She was really kind and encouraging and kept me going.
Something really nice that Bea also told me was the fact that a lot of people in her beginners class improve to the point that they are technically ready to join a higher grade of running group- but that a lot choose to stay with Be Cool Running, as they enjoy the atmosphere and inclusiveness of this group. I could totally appreciate why.
I thought that was a great testiment to the friendly group she’s grown. I got the feeling that everyone felt welcome and challenged without any edge of competition. As we ran, I learned some had joined the group to reach a personal goal, but within the group itself, there was no feeling of “I’m a better runner than YOU” at all. Perfect!
We had avoided a pretty big hill much to everyone’s relief, and the roads were definitely manageable. The biggest killer for me was the rising flat, which got a bit steeper as we approached the top, but apparently it was nothing compared to the monster they’d tackled the week previously. I felt thankful to have missed that one!
We tracked along both busy and quiet roads, and I got chatting to another Carly (great name) and Esther, who told me about a 5km Eat Mud race- It sounded pretty awesome, and far more manageable than the Tough Mudders I’ve heard about. Might investigate some more, let me know if any of you have heard of these… I shall get googling.
The home stretch was alongside a park, and we pounded up a pretty steep hill before reaching the top, panting, rosy-cheeked and full of happy endorphins. We had a stretch and found out we’d covered 6.5km in 45 mins! Rock on, Bitches!! I felt really chuffed with that little achievement. Everyone said their goodbyes and I bounced back to Sandilands station, a happy little running gnome.
THE VERDICT: I was ecstatic with the distance we covered! 6.5km is a huge distance for someone like me, who isn’t a natural runner. To cover it in 45mins was awesome too. The chatter and camaraderie of the group made this run so much more manageable than if I’d have attempted it alone. Running clubs really are the way forward if you need that extra kick of motivation to get out and get exercising. This group made me feel really welcome- I just wished I lived closer so I could pop along more often!
THE EXTRAS: If you’ve got a personal goal to reach (your first 10km, marathon etc) or decide you want to take up running from scratch, then Bea offers 1:1 runner’s coaching sessions to offer technical guidance and set you off on the right track- give her a tweet if it’s something you wanted to chat to her about!