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I am super nervous about running with other people.

It took me 6 years of running alone before I plucked up the courage to join a running club, and I have had a love hate relationship with group running ever since.

What if I am too slow and everyone just leaves me?
What if someone has to run at the back with me and they don’t want to?
What if I get lost or fall over?
What if people think badly about me? Think that I am not a runner?

And with more than 10 years of running behind me these feelings never really leave me. Now I just know how to bulldoze past them, because I know in the end, group running is great for me, both from a social point of you, but also for accountability and confidence. The more I run with others the stronger and faster I become…it’s that simple.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at an event called Run Hack which aims to make London the most run-friendly city in the world. It aims to do this by inspiring, prototyping and developing new ideas, services, products and policies.

I spoke about FEAR and how women (runners and those wanting to run) are crippled by it. I spoke about my experiences of being heckled, and the freedom that run commuting has given me once I found the courage to actually do it, and how running has helped me feel more connected to the wonderful city I live in.

While I was at the event I met a whole heap of interesting and cool people from the running, technology and planning and built environment worlds, including the founder of London City Runners, the largest running club in London that is COMPLETELY free and not funded or affiliated to a sports retailer.

12814256_10153828167321210_2193989110749141484_nLondon City Runners has one aim; to help as many people as possible to enjoy the thrill and rewards of running in London for free…sounds great to me. And Tim their founder suggested I came along to check them out. At first I was a little apprehensive, besides I am already a member of a traditional running club…problem is as a single parent I can rarely get to evening sessions.

But when I took a closer look on their website I noticed their weekly 5k run takes place on a Tuesday evening…the only night of the week I do actually have childcare…whoop whoop. So I committed to giving it a go and checking it out.

I posted in the afternoon via Twitter that I would be attending, in part this was to ensure I didn’t chicken out…as I was already feeling quite apprehensive about it. I still very much feel like a running fraud. I might well be training for an ultra marathon, but I am still incredibly slow…and my legs are always sore from CrossFit.

I jumped on the tube from Stratford to Bermondsey on the hottest day of the year so far…what was I letting myself in for?

The group meet at the Marquis of Wellington Pub, which does lovely looking pizzas by he way (must remember this for next time)

So I arrived to find a small group of other first timers outside. This made me feel a little less nervous. And then Tim came and said hello.

The briefing was very relaxed, the route was explained and the group of roughly 100 people split into 3 speed groups, the slowest going off first.

The slow group went off fast, but I was able to keep up as far as Tower Bridge, and I knew the route well enough from there. What was strange was I didn’t feel the pressure I have with other group runs. Maybe this was because there were so many other runners around, so nobody knew if I was with a group or not, maybe it was because I knew there were runners behind me and even then I wouldn’t know who they were as they over took me.

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It was bloody hot…but the route was beautiful. London looks incredible in the sun.

My pace was OK, but with the number of folks milling around in the evening sun it was difficult to run fast anyway. So I focussed on running as much as I could at a steady pace. Glad I took my new hydration vest I have bought for my up coming ultra, as I seriously needed that water on route…even if it was warm.

We were told in the briefing to use the bridges as different distance options…the further you run before crossing over, the further you had to run back. Millennium Bridge was the target, but I’m not going to lie, I was tempted by Southwark Bridge…I just couldn’t work out how to get back up to street level…so I made it to the Millennium Bridge after all which was lovely to run across.

The run back along the thames was great even though it was packed, with a festival taking place at City Hall and stumbling across around 200 runners from another running group utilising London’s streets and the popularity of running.

I had run 4 miles, and was now ready for a cold beer.

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I got a little lost making my way through Bermondsey, but arrived back at the pub just over an hour after leaving it, with a great sense of achievement.

I was greeted by Kerry one of the clubs helpers and Alice one of the clubs founding members who made me feel fantastic about finishing…I have no idea if I was the last one back or not, it kind of didn’t matter.

Over the years London City Runners have helped 6000+ runners achieve their individual goals. It’s become a strong force for good in the local community and for many a social hub in the heart of the incredible city of London.

I love their focus on offering a good social side to the club and apparently that have had no less than 8 marriages (there’s hope for me yet), 3 babies and countless friendships…I can see why. I left just after 10pm after giving out 4 or 5 sweaty hugs and promising that I would be back.

I had a wonderful time.

And I will be back. I love how the club didn’t feel cliquey or elitist, that they have new people joining all the time, and that there is no pressure to come every week. It is perfect to schedule into my week when I can, knowing that I will get a warm welcome, a cold beer (afterwards of course)…plus a wonderful, wonderful route around London Town.

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To find out more about London City Runners and their weekly sessions check out their website.

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