Back in 2009 I started a running club, the Porter Valley Plodders. The ‘why’ is a long story for another time. Up until then I had been a fairly solitary soul when it came to training and racing, preferring my own company on the fells week in week out. However the evolution of the PVPs altered my perception on such things, and introduced to me the concept of the running community.
We had a disparate collection of individuals from every single walk of life. Occupations, backgrounds, ethnicities, abilities, lifestyles, aspirations; a mixed bag apart from one common denominator. We all loved running.
We raced together, we trained together, we socialised together (we frequently got drunk together – more stories for another time). We forged friendships that still endure and that in a few cases I am sure will last lifetimes. This was running as community. A network of people that would otherwise never have crossed paths, bonded together by one shared love and one shared identity. The purple vest symbolised a running club, but moreover, friendship. Unity. Community.
That hardy little bunch of Plodders remains. For my part I left the club at the end of 2012, content with the role I had played in its creation and ready to embrace new challenges in all aspects of my life at the time. I am, for the record, still pals with them.
Of course, the Plodders concept has been in effect all over the country for years and years, with varying approaches and varying degrees of success. Tough little bands of brothers and sisters in clubs exist the length and breadth of the UK, all of whom have been brought together by running. What has me excited at the moment are the moves being made down at Accelerate in embracing the concept of community and extending it out in a couple of new and important ways.
Take ‘Run Hub’ for example. A weekly initiative that has grown organically from a few of us just hanging out down at the shop on consecutive Thursday evenings. What started out a few months ago as a ‘thing’ has now become ‘A THING’, fully supported by Accelerate. Run Hub takes place every Thursday from 6pm (ish – it’s very informal) onwards, and absolutely everybody is welcome to come along. There is no format other than obligatory tea, coffee and cake (note – you will need to bring some of the latter to share!) and some good running vibes. Various people turn up at various points throughout the evening (the shop opens until 8pm on Thursdays) and we chat about running, we swap stories, we look at gear, we research races, we exchange advice and just generally indulge our respective running geekiness. Simply by the fact that you are reading this article right now I find it hard to believe that you aren’t the sort of person that would like to get your geek on down at the shop every now and again. So come down and join in the chat! Everybody is welcome. Use the hashtag #runhub on Twitter to check in on what’s happening every Thursday and get involved.
Then there are the new weekly group runs heading out from beautiful Bradfield on Tuesday evenings. ‘ATR’ (Accelerate Trail Runners, All Terrain Runners, whatever you want really) is young but growing rapidly. There are already several groups catering for all abilities heading out every week and the feedback from those involved so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Not only is the new ‘club’ located in one of the most idyllic spots within the boundaries of our fair city, we now have full use of the cricket pavilion for getting changed, refreshments, and that all important after-run pint. The wealth of experience on hand is astonishing, and it is a real sounding board for ideas and advice. It is a really well organised and friendly set up and I’m excited for what the future holds. In precisely the same way that #runhub is open to everybody, so is ATR. Don’t sit on the fence wondering whether to attend, get across to Bradfield and you will be made very welcome. Details can be found at the new website, http://acceleratetrailrunners.co.uk/ .
We all know that running is good for our health, increasing our physical mobility. That is the obvious part. What I am talking about here is using running as a tool to likewise increase our emotional and social mobility. Running can do those things. Running is powerful.