What it’s like to lead a beginner runners group

Sarah has led Lazy Girl Running beginners groups at Hampstead Heath and Downhills Park, Tottenham. I asked her to write a blog on how she’s found it.

“I HATE RUNNING!” One of my runners let out a groan.

“ME TOO!” I said quickly. Then caught myself. I was their leader.  These women had only known me a week, I was the expert, they were meant to trust me. Had I already made a total dick of myself, in only the second week of the course?

“I mean, I did, until I loved it.”

I moved quickly on with the session.  90 seconds running and two minutes walking – week two of the plan. It was my second week of leading the first Lazy Girl Running group to take place in Downhills Park, South Tottenham, just across the road from my flat.  I’d led a couple of Lazy Girl Running groups in Finsbury Park before, but there was something different about doing it in my own neighbourhood.

I use these parks for my own training and now I got to share my love of them with others: Downhills Park with its rose garden and 960m walking track is full of people on a sunny day.  Once we were even serenaded by a man playing the saxophone!  As we pushed the distances out we crossed into Lordship Rec across the road.  With views over to Ally Pally and quirky “model traffic” mini street scene it was a great place to practice.

Later in that second session, one of my runners approached me.  “How long did it take? Before you loved it?”

I replied truthfully.  “About six months.  But I was in a group a lot like this one. I kept coming back every week because they expected me to be there.  At some point, something changed and I started to really love it.  I did my first 5k, it took me 37 and a half minutes but I ran the whole way.”

I explained that running hadn’t always come naturally to me.  Running is hard. I don’t always love it. But why do anything easy?  For me, part of the challenge is finding out if I can do a thing.

So these brave women started out with me. I told them at the end of ten weeks they would be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping.  Had I given them any reason to trust me?

As the runners were getting to know me, they were also getting to know each other.  I encouraged them to set up a Whatsapp group to communicate with each other to meet up and do their homework – two runs outside the weekly group run.  A Sunday morning run was quickly arranged and other ad hoc runs as group members were available during the week.

As the weeks went by and the intervals got longer, I watched my runners go from “I don’t know if I can do this” at the start of the session to “I did it!” at the end.  Watching these women support each other to achieve things they didn’t know they could quickly became the highlight of my week.

In week 10 almost all of my runners managed to run non-stop for 30 minutes.  One of them ran her first 5k race the following day. Another group member spoke of the sense of freedom and self-reliance she had found through running. All looked back and said they couldn’t believe how far they’d come, from struggling to run for two minutes back in week three, to being able to run for 30 – and even enjoying it!

We have groups in Finsbury Park, Downhills Park and Hampstead Heath. Join us and start running.