Joining a running club could give you the boost you need to advance, whatever your fitness ability. I interviewed Nathalie, who joined the club as a Beginner and never looked back.
This is how she improved beyond what she expected and took control of her running journey.
Joining Cheltenham Running Club
A year or so ago I wouldn’t have joined a running club – I had looked into various running clubs but they all seemed to be for people who already felt confident running and were faster than me. By chance I came across a leaflet for Cheltenham Running Club, and something clicked.
Supportive members of the club, a coach to advise you and a program provided.
Before I joined I’d signed up to the Cheltenham Half, but I couldn’t get past the 7/8 mile mark without pain, I think it was in one of my feet..?
Motivating myself to go running on my own was just getting ridiculous. The most amazing thing that Conor did was getting me to progress steadily, without injury or pain (physically or emotionally), up to 20K, and actually enjoy running again!
Another huge achievement of that for me was being able to run/jog/shuffle non-stop – there was NO walking. You get the feeling of my disbelief that I’d managed this in the photos – it’s been nice to revisit these.
Made some really lovely running buddies.
Over the time in the club there have been different people I have run with, depending on the type of club run (intervals, tempo or long run) and the stage of running I’ve been at. The only time I ran alone was for training for the Cheltenham half on my long runs.
Although I did warm ups with the rest of the runners who were hugely supportive, it really helped having a few other members to hold me accountable for training and who I could have a chat with prior to getting on with the run. The last few I was lucky enough to have lovely company for the duration of the run.
How Taking Part in Running Events Feel As a Running Club Member
A week or so before Cheltenham Half, I did the 5k inflatable event at the racecourse – it was good to have the fitness for this, as it was such a hot day.
I wouldn’t have even known about this event had I not joined the club and heard through another member.
About a month after the Cheltenham Half was the Blenheim 10K in October – there were 10 of us from the club who took part and, having done my last 10K race prior to joining the club alone, it was such a lovely feeling to know you knew people at the event, supporting each other as we made our way around, and cheering each other on until the last member of the team was over the finish line.
This was a trickier course than I had anticipated, and towards the end I could have easily stopped running to walk, but I ran with one of the girls from the club I hadn’t even spoken to before and we spurred each other on for the last few kilometres. Everyone is friendly at CRC!
Confidence in Running
My confidence rocketed - Knowing that my average pace and distance was already decided, and I didn’t have to plan a suitable route. I could just enjoy chatting or listening to the runners around me, or on the solo long runs sometimes I’d listen to podcasts and most of the time I was happy in my own company where I could keep a close eye on my pace.
Without repeating myself too much, I have to emphasise that I never ever thought this would be possible a few years ago.
But I just had this quiet self-belief that I would be able to do it.
I had the best advice and I now know I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and that at whatever speed, even if I had to slow down, I could keep going until I had finished that distance. The support from the club runners really helped with this too.
Made new friends – I mean I’m quite sociable but am a little socially awkward too; I do like my own space!
A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would love talking all-thing- running with a group. Everyone supports everyone else, no matter how fast or ‘slow’ you are. The experienced runners fast or slow, will always make the newcomers welcome.
I just wish I’d discovered the club sooner!
Improving Fitness and Health
My fitness of course got better, and it was great going for a run with Ian (hubby) one day having not run with him for several months, for him to say “you’ve got a lot faster since we last ran together, you used to struggle up this hill”.
With this fitness improvement and feeling I was on this upwards line on a graph. It made me excited to be meeting up with like minded people on a Tuesday & Thursday straight from work, rather than dreading getting home from work and having to go back out again for a run.
Even if the weather had been horrible, you had this feeling that you wanted to be ‘all in it together’, we were the ones who turned up and ran anyway.
I had never been a morning person.
But I found myself excited to get up at 6am on a Sunday to have breakfast in good time to ensure I wouldn’t get stitch on a long run. And as it turns out, it’s so nice getting up early and getting ahead of the day, particularly for a run!
Nutrition's Affect on Fitness
Having a greater awareness of what I was putting in my body has been really helpful. I don’t have a great relationship with food, but when it comes to running, knowing that eating certain foods will very likely give me stitch on a run and that getting stitch may mean you don’t get to run with your friends because you can’t do your normal pace (I would never expect other runners to slow down for me) – that’s motivation for me to eat the right thing on run days.
I’ve also learnt that just because your watch says you burnt however many calories – this doesn’t mean you can eat anything and everything you like!
After a while I found I didn’t want to jeopardise my pace or fitness by eating all the less healthy things I ate before. The recipes from Georgina (Club Nutritionist) were great – we’re still using them for our dinner and more recently with lockdown for our lunches too, to help us look after our bodies better.
Adpating a Program to Injury
I had my first injury February/March this year. I had been running with no walking breaks up until that point and my speed was progressing – all had been going well until the injury. So the injury was a big knock to my confidence.
Over these last few months having Conor, our coach, mentoring me has just been amazing. I’ve run for a few years, I’ve heard of and spoken to others who have been injured, and I’ve googled to search for the best thing to do, but what do I know about running and running injuries really? Not that much actually!
Conor has a wealth of experience, and takes each of us runners on a case by case basis.
He listened to what had happened/gone wrong, and suggested what I should do next. This made me feel more positive. I had something to look forward to which would be my building blocks and get me back running.
After a month out from running, I started out doing run/walk intervals, and after every run, through my progression to running for longer again. I’ve been sending through the stats of my runs to Conor with an update on how the run went, so that he can make suggestions for alterations to either take things back a notch, or to progress further.
Having this regular messaging contact and professional advice has been quite emotional at times, as left to my own devices I have been too scared to start running again and I know I wouldn’t have known to do the intervals as Conor had advised. I would have pushed it too much too soon and become injured again, or just been too scared to even re-start running.
The Difference Between a Coach and a Personal Trainer
I’ve had personal trainers in the past paying for an hour of their time – they’ve been good but it would literally be an hour of the trainers time in the gym. I’ve had gym memberships for which motivation dwindles after a few months. I know other people who have been part of other running clubs with no coach as such, no professional guiding them or providing a programme, and therefore no guidance when things go wrong and injury happens.
Cheltenham Running Club is the best of all three of these areas: personal trainer, enjoying exercise outdoors with friends (which beats the gym!), and running knowing that you have the knowledge of a professional when you need it.
I can honestly say I feel so lucky to have come across Cheltenham Running Club.
Running with like minded people (virtually or in-person) is fantastic, such a supportive bunch in person and online, a dedicated coach who knows what he’s talking about and is supportive all the time; not just for a 1 hour training session.
If you’re interested in seeing if running is for you, then there isn’t a better way you could start. You will feel happier. What better way to invest in your health!