In the hours beforehand, as my colleagues can attest, I was ashen with a sense of foreboding I could not shift. Memories of long-gone PE lessons and gargantuan teachers brandishing all manner of equipment while barking directions to run faster and GET YOUR KNEES UP! flooded back to me. What on Earth had I wilfully signed myself up for?
I made my escape from the office and changed into my brand new, sweat wicking top and (till now) indoor-only trainers. The ensemble was well matched and theoretically aesthetically pleasing, yet its execution really was a little too… revealing. Naturally, once the transformation into budding runner was complete, I promptly covered myself up with a coat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay that way forever.
Off I jogged to Regent’s Park (incidentally, what a beautiful location!), unsure of where I was going and how long it would take but acutely aware that I would already have a black mark against my name as I was ever-so-slightly late for the 18.50 – prompt – start. Once I realised that others were still arriving, and that a couple of others looking as worried as I felt, my tension eased a little – but a glance at my heart rate monitor revealed that yes, I was still anxious. Either that or hanging about standing still makes my heart rate shoot up.
Out of nowhere, my hand was suddenly taken by one of the trainers who welcomed me – much more warmly than any PE teacher ever has. I signed myself in and steeled myself for the dramatic coat-reveal as I looked around the group. Yes, I was larger than the average. Yes, there were lots of people chatting away to each other like old friends, apparently relishing the thought of running. Yes, their svelte bodies really hit those aesthetic peaks my outfit aimed but failed to reach.
After a brief intro and splitting off into three groups, we focused on the warm up – some gentle (!) jogging followed by dynamic stretches that The Ministry of Silly Walks would have been proud of (and weirdly quite good fun). After this came the fitness test which was not, as I’d feared, a beep test, but a 2.5-and-a-bit km run. Or jog. Or walk.
What?! I could WALK this thing if I want to? Blimey.
I admit now that, despite starting at the front of the group, I rolled up finishing much nearer the back of it. A competitive spirit is nothing against physical reality but i) I didn’t finish last and ii) I didn’t really walk any of it. My pace was just a lot slower than those who have obviously been running much more regularly (i.e. more than never) and so I have a lot further to go (metaphorically – I’m pretty sure they’re training to run much further than me this time). No big deal: I knew this was going to be the situation when I signed up.
Now comfortably settled into the beginners group, I am actually really looking forward to next week. Apparently it’ll follow the same pattern as this week, just without the same sense of dread. I’m sure I’ll keep you posted on the progress and revelations, like sweat wicking fabric – what a find!