First Group Run: Done!

So happy and relieved to write that, yes, I finished my first group run and apparently was all worked up for nothing – in fact, it was kind of anticlimactic! But I think those pre-anything jitters can be a good thing – I know in my professional life, for example, I give presentations all the time and I love public speaking. But no matter how prepared I am, I always get just a little nervous right beforehand, and I calm myself down by reminding myself how much I’ve practiced and how much I’m ready for whatever is coming next. Afterwards I always feel silly for getting worked up ahead of time – but it’s my style and I think if I didn’t, I’d start taking things for granted. So in the end – the pre-run tummy ache and general nervousness – I guess it just works for me!

I got to the meet-up spot and as soon as I got out of my car there was another girl asking if I was there for the marathon training and whether I was bringing my phone – she was really nervous too. That actually made me relax pronto – as soon as I found someone else who was worried, I felt much better! I had decided in advance not to bring my phone because I wasn’t sure what others were doing, and if no one had phones/headphones, I didn’t want to look aloof. Plus it was only 6 miles and I knew I didn’t need music to keep me going for that short of a duration – 10 miles, absolutely, but 6 – no sweat.

Anyway, my new little nervous friend and I walked over to the gathering spot together and I was just really amazed – there were SO many people! The last time I trained for a marathon I think there may have been 20 of us; I think there were more than double that number today. And there were little signs for your pace group so you knew where to stand and get ready. And there was a guy on a microphone kind of directing foot traffic – the whole thing was just bigger and more professional than I’d expected – all really good!

The only snafu was that I signed up for the 11:30-minute mile pace group, doing a run/walk of 5 mins running to 1 min walking. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be fast enough, so my plan all along was to default to the one slower group than mine – a 12-minute mile group, also at a 5:1 ratio. Well that particular leader was doing another event so we kind of blended together, and our pace leader tried to keep us going at a blend of the two paces. The whole thing was haphazard – I think it’ll be better once both pace leaders are out there.

What I liked: the woman who led my group (not officially a group leader but she was experienced and jumped right in so that our actual leader could hang back with the slightly slower crowd) actually ran faster than the 11:30 pace and I DID keep up, so that was good.

What I didn’t like: the woman wasn’t great with her watch, so there were multiple times where we ran beyond 5 mins or walked more than a minute, plus I felt like we stopped at every water station. Great for an actual marathon, not so necessary for a 6-mile run. And the actual walking breaks were dramatically slower than what I do when I’m on my own.

That being said: I made a running friend, so that was nice, and I probably wouldn’t have if we were actually keeping a more rigid pace, since it’s hard for me to run and talk at the same time!

In all the whole thing was just way more relaxed than I’d anticipated, for better or for worse. At the very end of the course is a hill (the only hill I’ve seen since I moved to Chicago!!) and our leader said we can run up it to get a bit of an incline experience but that it actually deducts from the total distance of the run. I loved the hill (it reminded me of an incline on my favorite trail in Washington) but it felt kind of weird to end the run before actually going the 6 miles.

I’m curious to see how it goes in the coming weeks. Hopefully once both pace leaders are active it’ll be a better organized run – I think the straight-up running groups were much more disciplined. This is where I get a little Type A – knowing that we should be going faster, going longer, but wanting to fit in with the group; I know for certain that if this were one of my regular solo weekend runs I would have finished faster and I sure as hell would have completed 6 full miles. But the way I see it, the training season is long and there’s plenty of time to tackle the distances – if anything it was better for me to have a more relaxed first run than to be overwhelmed and scared at the get-go.

Later today I’m getting my hair cut at a place about a mile and a half from my house, so that’ll be a nice 3-mile walking loop, and tomorrow I’ll do some cross training. And then it’s on to Week 2!


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