I’d first thought of joining a running club when I was living with my mom last year. I would visit Northport Running Club’s website and wonder if I should go to a weekend meetup and just see how it went. I even met a member of the club at a race and she encouraged me to join. Part of me wanted to, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be in Northport for long. I’d be moving back to the city at some point, and I guess I didn’t want to join a group I knew I’d be leaving. Like going on a first date when you are terminally ill, I was reluctant to face the extreme emotional highs and lows, opting instead for the neutral. I was also just very busy. Either way, no one will ever write a movie about me.
So when I moved to the city, I revisited the running group idea. I’m confident I’ll be here a while. I have no plans of moving out of New York ever again; the only reason I might is if a natural disaster puts the island of Manhattan underwater, and then I suppose I’d just head to Brooklyn.
I scrolled through a list of NYC running clubs and visited a few of their websites. I focused mostly on ones I’d heard of – meaning, shirts I’d seen worn at races. I settled on three, figuring I’d go to a workout for each club and see which one I jelled with most.
Last Wednesday, I met up with the Harriers, a club/team that’s been around since 1988. That’s right, the year I had braces put on was the year they formed. I liked their vibe. I liked their shirts. I liked their website. They seemed serious about running, but there was also mention of donuts and beer. They seemed fun and unpretentious. Funpretentious?
I emailed them and asked if I could show up to a workout – pretty much all the clubs encourage you to come along for a run or two before making the commitment to join. I was invited to come to any workout I wished. I saw they did speed work on Wednesday mornings at 6:30 so I bit the bullet and put it on my calendar. And once something’s on my calendar, I have to do it.
I was nervous. I thought they’d all be faster than me. Maybe I wouldn’t fit in. Maybe I’d feel too old. I don’t know. All the potentially terrible things that could happen ran through my head. Still, I knew I had to give it a try. I mean, it was on my calendar.
The meeting point was in Central Park about a 17-18 minute easy run from my apartment. Perfect, actually. A solid warm-up. The morning I set out for the workout, it started to drizzle. I had butterflies in my stomach. I felt like I was heading to freshman orientation, only everyone there already knew each other.
I found them easily, as they were the only ones standing in a small group. There were 5 or 6 of them, with more to arrive shortly. I introduced myself. They were all super nice. One of them, the coach, said that today’s session would be relatively short because of that weekend’s Queens 10K that most of them were running. I was running it, too. Maybe I’d fit in after all.
Eventually about 20 of us were there on this humid, drizzly, overcast morning. We were going to do 6 x 400s with a 400 jog in between, heading north up the park’s east end, then cutting across and eventually making our way back to the starting point. Just a few miles. Easy distance. I hoped I could keep up with the pace.
We started out, immediately breaking into a few smaller groups – the fastest one way too fast for me. I hung back, right behind the coach and another woman and in front of a group of 4-5 guys. So in the back, but not dead last. I thought there might be a warm-up (because maybe not everyone can run for 17-18 minutes beforehand) but we started out pretty fast. Like a 7:00, 7:15 pace. I asked out loud “Is this the fast or the slow?” and a couple of them chuckled and I was like “ha ha” but in my head I was like, No, I’m serious, because what do I know? Maybe this was their warm-up. If so, I was fucked.
But it was the fast pace! No warm-up. Thank god. After a quarter mile, we all slowed to about a 10:00 pace. Phew. I had done it. Now I just had to do it five more times. I slowed a bit on the uphills but overall, I kept up with them.
When we got back to the starting point we did some form drills and strides, things I never do on my own but seem incredibly helpful. We made small talk; a few of them invited me to various races they were doing, and there was mention of a party and a picnic. They were incredibly welcoming and warm to me.
At 7:25 we all spilt up to go on with our days. I jogged the 17-18 minutes back home, almost in tears because of how well it had gone. I felt great. I took a chance, and it had worked out. That’s a good feeling.
I stopped briefly at the reservoir to take a picture.
I might not even go to another club’s workout. I really like the Harriers.
I’m excited to see where this will take my running.