Running Solo vs Running in a Pack

I love running because it is sometimes the only time I can be alone and have the space to ponder important matters or just completely switch off, giving my brain an escape from the grindstone. When I run, I experience a unique sense of freedom, inner calmness and oneness with my surroundings that I cannot find anywhere else. As a result, I find that running invigorates me, helps me overcome emotional stress and awakens my creative side in my thinking.

Until this year, I looked at my running as purely a solo activity. I was convinced that joining a club and running with others would only hold me back and that it would just become another social chore. How wrong I was! A friend of mine told me there was a group of running enthusiasts at our church who go out for a group run each weekend – not as an official running club as such, but as a friendly pack. One weekend in January I decided to join their group as I wanted to try something new. At the end of the day, I cannot really form an opinion about something until I truly experienced it! Looking back at my life so far, I have to say that I have discovered the greatest things (whether it was food, beliefs, certain activities etc.) once I was prepared to put aside my pre-conceptions and approach something with an open mind. After having done just 2 runs with the group, I must say I can see myself becoming a regular!

The runs usually start just before 8am. This means I need to get up around 6.30am on a Saturday (yes, you have read that right!) to be picked up by Paul who is one of the key organisers to be taken to the starting point of the run. A group of 6-10 people forms then we set off for a 10 – 13k run in the local vicinity. I guess I am quite lucky to live in this area as there are plenty of amazing offroad places to run – Marlow, Fingest, Turville, Hurley, Bisham, Hughenden, Saunderton, Bradenham, West Wycombe etc. just to mention a few.

I have done 2 runs so far. The first one may have discouraged someone with a faint-hearted attitude towards running as it turned out to be a real “tough mudder” adventure run through the woods near Fingest. For most of the run, I needed to heavily rely on my balancing skills and agility as it was so slippery and narrow everywhere that even a small slip could have made me tumble down the hill into the deep valley. Mind you, it was all worth it – you have not really lived until you have run through a beautiful forest just after dawn, when the first rays of sunshine peek through the branches and dress everything into a warm orangey glow. The fresh smell of the earth which blends into the season’s scents and the noises the birds and smaller animals make gives you the impression that you are far back in time, when the face of the earth did not carry any concrete blocks, smoking factories, heavy highways and electric posts. The most memorable moment of that run was when a big pack of muntjacs (small deer) appeared out of nowhere in the forest to run alongside us for a while then crossed our path just a few metres ahead of us. The only word I can use to describe that experience is breathtaking.

This morning our group went running from Marlow to Hurley Lock through Bisham village. I decided to join the “front pack” as I wanted to follow a relatively quick pace i.e. make this run a so-called lactate threshold session. I took delight in seeing the sun rise beyond the endless green fields and rolling hills, and passing by small farms and plantations which were just about to awaken and come to life. We had to rethink our plans when we reached the campsite at Hurley near Frogmill where the majestic Danesfield House Hotel towers up above the river from the top of the hill, as the field we wanted to cross was completely flooded. We were about half way and decided to go back a bit and approach the river from a different point. Once we reached the river and Hurley Lock,  it felt like we were entering a strange “water world” – we passed through small bits of islands scattered on the river, with the loveliest boats and huts, climbed over small wooden bridges to navigate our way accross this wetland, the home of dozens of different kind of water birds. Just as I naively thought I was going to make it through the run dry, we came across a pavement section which was under water so there was no escape! At the end of our run we joined the rest of the group (who did a short cut) in one of the local cafes to relax with a nice cup of steaming hot brew whilst exchanging stories and getting to know each other. My running partners from the front pack were impressed that I could keep up with them, it turned out we covered 13.5k with an average pace of 4:58 min/km. Needless to say, as I am writing this post hours later, I am still feeling shattered, but very proud 🙂

The above experiences revealed to me how rewarding group runs can be, especially when you are in good company. You discover new routes ( In my case, this includes ones which are out of my reach as I cannot get very far from home without a car), you get to know like-minded people who share the same passion as you do, and faster runners can challenge and motivate those who are looking to improve their pace. Good groups like this one always watch out for the less-experienced or slower runners and make sure there are options for shortcuts and that no one is left on their own. It is also very nice to spend a little time together at the very end rather than run off straight away. I can also see how starting that early really pays off later on in the day as the run does not get into your way of doing other things such as spending quality time with your family or running some errands.

What else can I say? Thumbs up for King’s Church Runners!

Marlow – where it all started…

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