We’ve all got to start somewhere….

Anyone who has been following my crazy, roller coaster running journey will know that I started out on one of the Redway Runners beginner courses in the deepest, darkest depths of winter. We all huddled together in a cold, icy car park, like a colony of penguins huddling against the elements in the Southern Hemisphere, hoping and praying our Run Lead wouldn’t turn up… but he did … happy, cheerful, a bit sweaty and wearing shorts of all things!!  Fast forward 15 months and I wag the tail on as many of his beginner sessions as I can, pushing the terror tot in her buggy while she happily hi-5’s all the beginners doing loop backs to us.

Steve and Me

This photo was taken at one of Steve’s beginners group and is one of my favs. I guess my helping on these sessions is my way of giving back a small part of what he gave me. I also guess that this is my way of unashamedly plugging their next round of beginners sessions – the details of which can be found here Redway Runners Beginners

But as nervous as us beginners were, sometimes it pays to know that our Run leads are perhaps just as nervous, and here to tell us what it takes to be as amazing and inspirational as my mentor is the man himself. Take a read…

Being a Run Leader

Picture a dark, cold, wet and windy evening. It is six o’clock and a group of runners are huddling together chatting in the rain. Comments of “Why are we here?” “It’s too cold.” and “I forgot my head torch” can be heard.

A voice booms out from the darkness –

“Hello everyone. Thank you for joining this evenings run. Has everyone signed in? Are there any new runners to the group?

We will be running approximately four miles, more if you do loop backs. Our route will be around the lake.

I am planning on taking it easy. Take this run at your own pace. It is not a race.

Is there a volunteer to tail run? Thank you. Please ensure you go all the way back to the tail when looping back.

Remember the Redway Runners etiquette – keep to the left, watch out for other path users, listen out for warning shouts – bike, post, etc. – and please do not to take over the whole path.

Has anyone got any injuries I need to be aware of? No? Good. Have you all got your GPS sorted and ready?Excellent.

Are you ready? Three, two, one, let’s go!”

And so, another Redway Runners Club run commences with the run leader up front leading the way. All very familiar to a lot people.

I have been leading runs for two years and never tire of the experience. I find it exhilarating and thrilling. The club has organised runs every day of the week and at present I am leading three of these runs on separate days – two social club runs and a beginners run.

My first run lead took place in spring 2015 when I was asked to cover for a friend who was away.  I had been running with the club for about six months, and still saw myself as a newbie, but had been on many runs so I knew what was expected. Whilst running I had found myself to be encouraging and assisting other runners.

I was very nervous and anxious. I did not want to let anyone down and I doubted my ability. There was some reluctance at first, but I knew that this would be a good opportunity to test my leadership skills. The run was over a familiar route, many of the runners already knew me, so I had everything going in my favour. The run itself went ahead without any problems. It felt natural that I start taking a lead. At the end of the run I received a lot of praise and thanks from the runners. It felt good. The runners felt good. I was happy and proud for what I had just done.

Soon after this I volunteered to help with the club beginners courses. I found that I had naturally fallen into the habit of helping other runners (this is a trait of my caring personality). I was able to shadow an experienced run lead who had already led a few beginners courses, so my mentor was an excellent example to follow.

The club very generously paid for me to train with England Athletics to gain the Leadership in Running Fitness coaching licence. All the club run leads are required to attain this. The training day was a little disappointing but I really valued the experience and learnt a lot.

Once I had my coaching licence I was able to lead my own beginners course. I had also become a regular at covering for other run leads in their absence. I have found it to be a fantastic experience.

Leading the beginners courses is so very satisfying. Being part of someone’s journey from being a non-runner to completing their first 5 km parkrun is a fantastic feeling. To witness non-runners become runners over a period of a few weeks, and then continue their running and take part in subsequent events is amazing. Also to see the beginners progress and take part in longer running events, or just to keep running a couple of times a week with the club runs is very fulfilling.

We must remember, however, that as a run lead it is a very responsible task. It is not just a case of leading a group out and back on a run. I am sure there are some who think we just turn up for the run with others following, however, the truth is far from this. The role requires responsibility. You are “in charge” of a group of potentially up to one hundred runners or more. This can become a daunting experience and there are certain rules to abide by –

  • Plan – The run leader must know the route, distance, approximate time it will take. Are there any hazards (roads, etc.)?
  • Runners – The leader must know how many are in the group and be aware of their abilities.
  • Brief – The leader must provide some explanation/instructions for the run.
  • Check – The leader must check on the runners before the event for injuries, suitable kit.
  • Lead – The leader should lead with warm ups, lead the run or activity, and lead any cool downs.
  • Observe – The leader must observe the runners and watch out for anyone experiencing problems or difficulties.
  • Check – The leader must check on the runners after the event to ensure everyone is OK and that no injuries have been received during the run.
  • Remember – “It is not your run. It is their run!”

I always encourage the runners, and I know that to some being told to pick up your knees and swing your arms, can be like teaching to suck eggs, but when accompanied by encouraging words they can be up lifting and help some to keep going. During the run I am watching and seeing how the runners are and if anyone appears to be struggling or finding it difficult I make of point of asking after them, provide encouragement, and ensure everything is OK.Checking on the runners at the end of a run is also essential. Giving praise for a good run lifts people up and encourages them to return. You do not want anyone going home in pain thinking that no one cares.

SB 2

You also need to be mindful and be aware of any untoward incidents. In the event of accidents (slips, trips, and falls) always have a contingency plan? Never leave anyone on their own. In the event of someone receiving an injury I always ensure theyare looked after and if they cannot continue ensure that someone is available to accompany them back to the start. Thankfully the club is very social and friendly and there are always willing volunteers to look after injured runners.

Being a run leader means I must go for the run. No matter what the conditions (unless they are extreme) the runs always go ahead. There are times when I do not feel in the mood and I think negatively (why am I doing this?). We are all human and mind set can be difficult at times, but, amazingly as soon as I get chatting to the runners and the run starts my approach and mood changes. Being a run leader also enables me to maintain my own fitness. There are occasions when leading a run can get in the way of a training plan for an event, but, I have learnt to adapt. My commitment is resolute. I do not want to let anyone down.

What do others get out of it? Being able to go for a run knowing that someone is leading. Not having to worry about a route as the leader has it all in hand. Being able to run without worries or concerns and having the peace of mind that running in a group with friends is safe. Going on an organised run helps so many to be able to focus on just running without any worries.

What do I get out of this? To see so many people enjoying their runs and to see them get better at running gives me a great sense of satisfaction. To have so many people being grateful and thankful to have someone taking the time to lead the runs provides me a sense of achievement, a job well done. I enjoy leading the runs and it gives me a purpose. Seeing the runners achieve things that some thought were impossible is amazing.

The Club has helped me, supported me, and provided me with the opportunity to get into running and enjoy running. I feel it is only fair that I give something back by offering my time and dedication.This provides me with a great sense of pride.

I am proud to be part of the Redway Runners – “Keep left! Bike!”

Thanks for writing for me Steve

Until next time

SM xx


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