The Bet

I’m not what you might call ‘clubbable’.

At parties I’m the one who’ll arrive with an escape plan. The one who can’t hide the overwhelming sense of relief when I recognise someone I know. The one who can’t remember names, stories or punchlines. The one who nods and smiles but can’t really hear a thing above the music.

So why am I drawn to running with a club and why my club, West End Road Runners? My starting point was a bet. Dinner with friends. All runners. Droning on about their aches and pains, their training, their bloody garmin watches. Oh and worst of all, their running club.

And so I blurted out that my brother had asked me to join his team to take part in a quirky event called The Nairnshire Challenge, a 30 mile duathlon from the highest point in Nairnshire to the sea. My friends rounded on me. ‘You?’ ‘Never!!!’. And crucially: ‘If you manage that, you can call me at the finish and I’ll say ‘Graeme, YOU are the iron man.’

And that was the start of it. I did the Nairnshire with Steve. I found that I could hold a pace for a few miles. I enjoyed the peace, the thinking time, the runners perspective (‘blimey,I never saw that branch’, or ‘that bloke walking towards me needs to look up from his phone. No really, PLEASE look up from your phone!’)

I entered a few 10k’s and did fine. Maxing out at 42 minutes and being quite happy with that. But then I started to plateau. I couldn’t improve. I didn’t know how to. And my interest started to wane. I cycled a bit and enjoyed that. But I’d reached a crossroads.

I didn’t really want to, but I knew that I should. And I joined the local running club. And it gave me what I needed. For the first time I had people round me, some much faster and some slower, who took strength and confidence from running with other people. It’s powerful and it gave new impetus.

I achieved my running goals at various distances and reset them, then achieved and reset. And I continue to do so – there’s still so much to do. I’ve stuck to coaching plans and reaped the rewards. But over that I’ve learned a lot about people. I’ve experienced what real support feels like. And I’ve built deep friendships based on shared experiences at training and at races. Agonising and celebrating.

West End Road Runners is set up to offer the support which I received. Use it and you’ll be a better runner. That’s the minimum you can expect.

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