Chasing Laces – Voices from the Running Scene – Chapter 11

Chasing Laces – Voices from the Running Scene by Arthur Knaggs

Running with the Mums

Cathy told me to come running with the Newton Mums. So I went to the gate at the entrance to the park and waited with her. I was surprised by how many different abilities turned out for the same group. Sarah only took up running two months ago. Georgie ran with her collie attached by a harness to her hips, and it flew off the front. Jackie had just run a half marathon. Harriet was Jackie’s mother.

The pack split early. Some girls were fast, others wanted to run at a slower pace. I was sure that we would get lost. This, however, is part of the Newton Mums’ plan. They have a “loop and scoop” policy. At pre-determined points on the trail, the fastest runners turn around and jog to the back of the group where they start again. It is an excellent way to run. Nobody holds back. Everyone finishes together.

Claire

A tall lady, with wild hair and bright orange leggings, was happy to talk, and happy being out with the girls.

Hiya. Go ahead, ask away, I’ll try and answer. It’s coming up to two years that I’ve been running. No, I’m not sporty. I hate sports. I think after I had children I realised I needed to do something. I started going to the gym. I was watching the marathon and there was a ‘get inspired’ thing, so I did the Couch to 5K, you know the BBC app with Michael Johnson? That was so good. He’s so good!

I really liked the Couch to 5K app. I had Michael Johnson telling me I could do it, which was great and I could listen to my music when I ran. I quite missed it when I finished.

How does the course work? It’s walking. You start walking for the first two weeks. Then running for five minutes. Before you know it you are running for twenty minutes.

A neighbour told me about the Newton Mums. I stalked them for a while on their Facebook group before I joined them. I’ve not looked back since, it’s been great.

The best thing about running? When it finishes! I hate the thought of running. I feel quite ill thinking about it, but once I’ve done it, it’s very good. It’s fine once I’ve started and I’ve got over the first kilometre. But I love it when I finish.

I love this group. It’s really important. They motivate you. Everyone has positive comments, and make you feel like you can do more.

***

Sarah

A quiet lady with dark hair, Sarah approached me in the car park while the Newton Mums were building momentum for their run. Running is not an escape for Sarah. When she runs, she is looking after her family.

Are we off? I’m sure you’ll be able to talk and run, but I don’t know that I will be. It’s not the actual running that I like, it’s how you feel when you finish. I’m not a committed runner yet. I’ve only done a couple of months. I was forty last week, and it’s not that I decided all of a sudden that I was going to get fit, but it was a slight turning point, even if it wasn’t conscious.

I did virtually no sport before I started running. I tried some yoga but that’s it. I have got a reasonable level of fitness because I try and walk everywhere. I wasn’t starting from base level, but I still find this a real push. But unless you get your heartbeat up, you’re not going to get fit are you?

Why I run? Healthy old age I think, mentally and physically. Fighting off dementia. I’m just determined to be healthy when I get older so that I’m in good form to look after my son, and don’t just slide downhill health wise.

***

Debbie

A short blonde lady, with a big smile and a twinkle to her eyes, Debbie looked and sounded like she enjoyed life. She ran with me up the hill, which she wouldn’t normally do.

Hi yeah, not at all. If I can speak that is! I’ve been running for just over two years. I started with the Couch to 5K. I got quite badly overweight after I had my son, and decided to do something. I never thought I would be able to do thirty minutes of running, but I did!

When my friend was diagnosed with cancer, it was an escape for me to come out with the girls and cry. They were all here for me. Without these girls and going out running, it wouldn’t have been so easy for sure. Not that it was easy, but just talking with these people who maybe you don’t know very well, but who all have issues of their own of some kind was great. I just keep going.

***

Jenny

Jenny had her head down. She was on her own at the front of the group. She said that she was one of the slower runners, and didn’t go back to scoop up any back markers. But she didn’t look slow.

I’m not one of those people that is scared of joining new groups. My husband thought it was weird going running with a group of strangers. But I’ve been following them on Facebook for a while so I knew they were a nice bunch. I wanted to be fit enough to run with those ladies, and I had my first run with them last week.

The most intimidating part of joining the mums was that they had all been running for a long time, but everyone has to start somewhere. A friend told me how welcoming they were and how the group sticks together so that everyone can run at their own pace. I thought I would give it a go, and I managed to stay with the group last week. It felt good!

***

Georgie

Georgie is a canicross runner. She ran with Gordon, her collie-poodle cross. Both of them looked delighted to be out on the trail. Canicross runners have a harness to their hips that attaches to their dog’s chest. The dogs fly off and pull their owners along behind them. A working canicross dog is highly trained, and can take up to a minute off a runner’s time each mile.

Oh no! It’s fine, go on. He’s called Gordon. I started when he was a year-and-a-half. We started with a Couch to 5K together. He picked up on it really well. He’s not running that well today because we did 12km yesterday with other dogs. You get all sorts of dogs. There was lady with a dachshund!

I’ve done Couch to 5K programmes before and then given up running afterwards, so I know that that formula does work for me. It’s always been keeping it going that’s harder. But because I have Gordon, that gives me an extra kick.

If you’re very good, running with a dog will make you faster. From my perspective, it’s mostly a distraction for my brain. When I run, I’m not thinking about how tough it feels, I’ve just got my eye on Gordon and what he’s doing.

Running with the mums is really good. I don’t have kids so I had to say: “If I have to get any to join the club then I’m not doing it!” I just want to do it for fun.

***

Jackie

Jackie was full of beans. She had been out for a hard 3km run before the morning session and would be out again in the afternoon. As we ran, she flitted between the front and the back markers, herding, cajoling and encouraging her girls. This was her group and she loved it.

I like to keep this group together so I like to make sure that I’m between the front and back. That’s why when I saw Jenny up ahead I thought ‘right’ I need to go and get her.

It came up on my Facebook this morning that I have been running for four years. I took it up when my daughter was six-months-old. She was an awful baby, she just cried. Pretty much for six months and I put on a bit of weight then. I was basically a prisoner. She wouldn’t go in the car, she wouldn’t go in the pushchair, she wouldn’t do anything apart from go in the carrier attached to me.

After six months, I had a little bit of a breakthrough. Things got easier and that’s when I decided to lose some weight and get out. My husband works in London, so the only time I could go was in the evening when it was dark and cold and miserable, but I did it. Then the Newton Mums formed. The rest is history really. Cathy and Sarah asked me to become a run leader. That was just over 18 months ago and that’s it. This is what I love.

***

Harriet

Jackie’s mother, Harriet wore a bright pink top and a big smile. She came up to me in the car park after the run. We chatted as the other runners left around us.

If you’re interested in why a 64-year-old runs, I’ll talk to you afterwards. I’ve been running for two years. I got into running through my daughter. Jackie is my daughter. She started running. I play a lot of golf so I am quite active. She just said, I think it will be a good idea for you to do mum. I couldn’t run a hundred yards when I started. Literally!

I’m active, I play golf, but running… Jackie started me off. I tried the Couch to 5K, but I found that I couldn’t keep up with it. So I did my own and adapted it by increasing the walks and doing shorter runs. It was easy to motivate myself. Once I started doing it, I had set myself a challenge and didn’t want to give up.

I went from running just up the road to doing a 5km run. I started in April then I did a 5km run in July. It went from there. In a moment of madness, I committed to running the Great South Run in my first year.

Then I got the bug. I love running for the feeling I get after each run. It’s uplifting. It’s the feel good factor. Plus you know, a bit like golf, you can switch off from everything else that’s going around.

Running with Jackie? It’s like she’s not my daughter in the group. She does her thing and we are mum and daughter, but she’ll always check on me. It’s good fun and I’m really proud of her. What she’s done. What she’s achieved… it’s amazing really.

Running ambitions for this year? Not really. I just want to get back to running 10km comfortably. I’ve done the Great South already but I’ve not got any goals. Another ten years and I would still like to be running. I suppose that’s a long term goal.

Yes, running has made a difference to my life, and a big difference to how I feel mentally. I know I’m the oldie in the group. I jokingly say that I’m tail-end Charlie and I know that I am, but it doesn’t matter. I no longer worry about things like that. The fact that I’m lucky enough to be out here running, and fit and healthy enough to do it, is good enough. I just follow the group round. That’s it really.

© Copyright Arthur Knaggs 2019

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