Most of the time when I tell people I'm a runner, they ask "oh well what do you run?" (most assuming I'm going to say marathon), then I say 400 hurdles, then the next question is "What school do you run for?" then the even more perplexed look of 'Huh' when I say I'm not in school. Then the long winded explanation that I run for a club and no I don't get paid to torture myself. Then I come across the conversations with the semi-recreational runner, and next thing you know I'm telling them (strongly urging) you should join a club. I get the doubtful response of "Well I don't know, I'm not fast enough", because they know of the club or clubs I have run for boast the elite athlete, Olympians, and the such. They also have this crazy notion that I'm really fast (this is only partially true). So I'm here to give you my fairly elaborate story and bring hopefully some displacement of fears and info to those not in know.
The back story, started running in middle school eons ago, ran throughout high school, walked on the team in college my frosh year, trained that year but didn't compete (red shirted), then quit. This was 2000. Yada yada, got lazy, decided partying and being social butterfly was way more important and didn't run at all for 3 years (I'm sure most of my college friends didn't even know that I at any point of knowing me was a serious runner at any point in my life). Then had to escape that life and moved to Boston. Fast forward to April 2004, my first experience with a marathon ever, not going to lie I really had no clue what a marathon consisted of. From my colleges I was under the impression this was a day for an excuse to day drink. My bartending comrades and I set forth near the finish line to chug back way too many libations. We poked our heads outside to cheer on some of the runners passing by, then it out of no where it happened. This flush of excitement, I felt this insane connection to these people passing by, I wanted to jump over the barriers and run with them. Ignored that crazy feeling and went back in for even more margaritas and shots, then decided I had entirely too much to drink and decided to
Fast forward again to Boston Marathon April 2005. Still using the day to party hard, this time drunk me overcome with those runner emotions went into Niketown and bought a pair of sneakers and then convinced myself I was going to run the 113th Boston Marathon (113th only because 13 is my lucky #). Started making some 5K races a yearly ritual, getting faster each time too. Fast forward to July 2006, signed up for the Iron Girl 5K a few months prior forgot about it (forgot = I started dating someone) and didn't really train for it. Ran a not so shabby time and placed 3rd in my age group. It was at that point I knew I had to do something with my running, if I could run what I ran without any real training, I had some untapped potential I needed to get out. I thought ok, not my first choice but road runner I will be.
That August signed up for my 5 miler again (year #3) and decided if I was going to be a road runner I needed a pair of zippy racing flats to fit the bill. I went to Faneuil Hall to the Bill Rodgers Store (now no longer) to acquire said zippy shoes and while dude went to get my size for the flats I liked, I found myself staring at the spike wall and holding a spike. When he came out he asked if I needed a size to try on for the spikes too, I said no. Then we started to talking about my running past and my missing of the track. He tells me why don't you join a club. At this point I had no idea what club running consisted of. In my mind I thought it was like a book club, where people who like to run got together and ran. Not exactly what I was in the market for. Then he said no that's not it at all and next thing you know with my racing flats I had a business card with a list of coaches and their respective clubs.
It took a few months but eventually I finally went online and looked up each club and emailed the coaches inquiring about the clubs. This was December 2006. Only one coach actually got back to me, it was Greater Boston Track Club. Now at this point I was 6 almost 7 years out of any kind of track shape. I mean don't get me wrong I wasn't a lug, I had been running on a "regular" basis and lifting but I was in no means in any kind of great shape, especially for the track. Even with this I was welcomed aboard no questions or judgement given. The 1st year was a struggle for me as I was certainly the bottom of the chain, I was slow in comparison to the majority. Actually for the next year or so my name always graced the bottom of the performance lists. Thing is while this did bother and frustrate me to no end, my coach never ever once said hey you're the slowest person on the team you should think about quitting. Actually it was the complete opposite he encouraged me and pushed me as well as my fellow teammates who rooted me on no matter whether in my eyes was failing or succeeding. These people became my extended family, some of my greatest friends to this day. When I moved to NYC that was the thing I clung on to hard, I was afraid to leave them and join my current team. Obviously when I realized I couldn't train hard on the track alone and was going to stay in New York, I transferred over to Central Park Track Club and then found another group of amazing training mates/teammates and coach, who in the same have been my big supporters and cheer section, continuously pushing me beyond limits I thought were possible.
For anyone that doubts their "fast enough" running abilities, if my story doesn't compel you to rethink your thoughts on joining a local club team, well I don't know what else to tell you. There are so many options out there for every level, whether you want to stick to the roads, try out the track or just get faster. Don't be afraid to take a chance and check one out. If you don't know where to start, http://www.usatf.org/clubs/search/ will give a list of active clubs near you; email around, check out their websites if they have one, ask to go to a practice with them. You might find your extended family like I did, you might get to those goals you have in the back of your mind that you didn't think could be a possibly, or you could just have tons of fun with a bunch of other like minded "crazies".