Join The Club: The Difference A Year Makes

Adidas Runners Toronto interval session

Photo by Jess Baumung, courtesy Adidas Canada

This time last year, I was a strictly solo runner. I enjoyed my time alone pounding the pavement, and used it as an opportunity to think, reflect on the day or simply zone out to the pop-punk soundtrack of my choosing. But there were a few problems with my solitary running routine: I was often lacking the motivation to lace up and my improvement had plateaued because I wasn’t challenging myself. Getting my weekly miles in had started to feel like a bit of a chore. I needed a change.

I had only just discovered Toronto’s Nike+ Run Club and attended a handful of times leading up to the big Nike Women’s 15K on the Toronto Islands, but I didn’t know anyone. So although I was running with a group and everyone was very friendly and welcoming, I didn’t feel totally comfortable. The group setting appealed to me because it provided a time, a place, a coach and a more structured type of training to keep me on track, so I kept returning. Little did I know that it would soon provide me with so much more. But before I explain how much things have changed, I’m going to take you back even further to what I’ll call my running rock bottom.

Lindsay in the Nike Loft

Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

Adidas Runners Toronto track

Photo by Jess Baumung, courtesy Adidas Canada

Running rock bottom

Two years ago, I ran the GoodLife Toronto Waterfront Marathon on a whim. I had been training for the Ottawa Marathon but I felt ready so I decided to tackle Toronto’s race as a sort of practice round (in hindsight, this was a bad idea).

I trained for the marathon entirely on my own. I showed up to the race alone, without a soul that I knew cheering for me on the sidelines, and I finished alone. It was my fastest marathon to date, by far, and there was no one there to share in my joy. I called my parents to tell them the news, texted my boyfriend and friends, and I walked the couple kilometres home after just running for four hours straight. Then I took a seat at the bar at the Drake Hotel, with that heavy AF medal dangling from my neck, and I scarfed down a celebratory brunch all by my lonesome. Sounds kind of depressing, right?

NRC HIT & Run Trinity Bellwoods

Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

To be fair, I hadn’t asked any friends or family to come out to the race to support me. I brushed it off like it wasn’t a big deal, like this was just a training race for the big event a few weeks later, but the truth is it didn’t feel great—to spend months training for something and then accomplish it and have no one there to high-five at the finish line, no one to talk about it with who really understood. But that was what I was used to, so I didn’t even realize how sad it was.

My friends weren’t runners and I didn’t want to make them feel like they had to be there for me or bother them with my boring running woes. I knew they would have been there to cheer or to listen if I had asked them to be.

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Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

The difference a year (or two) makes

Fast forward to last month’s inaugural Toronto Waterfront 10K and the 5K Pride & Remembrance Run on July 2, and I could hardly believe the transformation that had taken place in my run life. I saw countless friends and familiar faces both on the courses, in the sidelines and after the races. I had friends actually cheering for me—and not because I asked them to or because they felt obligated to, but because they’re part of the running community and they wanted to be out there supporting their comrades.

I now have people I look forward to seeing at group runs and fitness events around the city, people who count on me to be somewhere, who feel the same way about running and fitness as I do and inspire me to be faster and better. I’m no longer just a face in the crowd but a real part of Toronto’s running community, and that community is a great one. 

Not only has the social aspect of my run life improved by joining groups, but I’ve been PBing like crazy. Through weekly speed training sessions with Nike Toronto and Adidas Runners Toronto, and having a variety of pace groups to choose from that allow me to move up or back as I see fit, I’ve managed to take 15 minutes off my personal best marathon time, 7 minutes off my half marathon time, and achieve my quickest 5- and 10-kilometre races to date.

I’m taking a rest from full marathons this season to instead focus on speeding up my half marathon, and I’m looking forward to testing my limits at Lululemon’s SeaWheeze Half Marathon in August and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in October. Then I plan to spend the winter working towards my fastest full marathon. I’m confident that with the support of the run clubs I’ve joined, I can make some serious improvements.

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Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

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Photo by Tobias Wang, courtesy Nike Toronto

Join the club

All this is simply to say that if you’ve been thinking about joining a run club but you’ve been too afraid, or if you’ve been feeling uninspired with your solo workout routine, I would highly recommend breaking out of your comfort zone and giving a group (or several) a try. Many are free to join, and they’re always thrilled to see new faces. Here’s a short list of some of the free ones in Toronto to get you started:

If you have questions about any of the above groups, please feel free to ask away. And if you don’t live in Toronto, I’m almost certain there will be something similar available in your community. A quick Google search should give you what you need, or even better—pop into your local running shop and ask.

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