Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hunting In Packs: My First Nike+ Run Club Experience

The runner's life is a lonely one. Even with the strong club culture in South Africa just a look around the roads in Pretoria, many a solo runner will be sighted. It makes sense too. For the most part no two runners are the same. We all have different ambitions, with different strengths and weaknesses. So even if a common goal is shared, like training for a marathon, the road there will likely be divergent. This leads to the reality of running being a sport based primarily around solitude.

To be fair, that is one of the aspects of running that I love. I was out for a 10km run this morning and I loved being in complete 100% of the situation. I could go easy when I wanted or push when I wanted. I could also think. My thoughts race when I run and I like grappling with them. Solitude might be a negative in some aspects of life but when it comes to running it is a huge strength in my books.

But sometimes hunting in packs is called for. I joined Run/Walk for Life last year and it really helped with my running, particularly cementing the commitment aspect of running. Commitment to the sport was always one of my weakest points. I struck up an understanding with the runner's at my Run/Walk for Life branch in Benoni. They were training for far bigger goals, as big as Comrades while I was starting out. I had natural speed but lacked the strength and stamina of a runner like Tony, so we complemented each other.

I was saddened when I moved to Pretoria as it meant I would lose that. I have been lucky that my I have been able to run with my father. My mid week runs remain solo affairs but I do my long runs with him. Soon I will start doing speedwork with him as well as gym training. We are building up an understanding, which is great as I will be chasing his creaking, old experienced legs come the Soweto Marathon.

As my Run/Walk for Life mentioned nears an end, I am clubless and it's an awkward time to find a new club as my licence is tied to Run/Walk for Life. In the interim I have chanced upon an amazing initiate. I'm developing into a bit of a Nike fanboy! My last three pairs of running shoes have been Pegasus, the 2005, 27 and 28 and I love them to bits. I will probably invest in a pair of ZoomElite+ 5s as a lightweight performance trainer and as I get faster I will think about getting the LunarRacer+ 2. I use the Nike+ system as well and I'm also going to invest in socks, gloves and other apparel. So quite the fanboy!

Since the Run Jozi event, I noticed that Nike had quite the social network presence under the handle NikeRunningZA both on Twitter and Facebook. As a user of both networks I have like/followed them and had noticed the Nike+ Run Club that started in Rosebank and is now also at Centurion, on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. While I was staying in Benoni, both Rosebank and Centurion were quite inconvenient. I could have gone to Rosebank after work but it would have meant probably getting home after 7pm, not ideal when I have a three year old waiting for me!

This week I finally took the plunge and went. I was bit late but go there in the nick of time to sign the indemnity form and get the super duper awesome Dri-Fit shirt, brand new with the tag still attached. We did a quick warm up by the lakes at  the mall, impressively doing dynamic stretching instead of the usual static stretching, so leg swings, jumps, jogging on the spot etc, good stuff.

Swinging those legs, dynamic stretching is fun!
After posing for a group photo we were good to go. The route goes out of Centurion Mall, goes round the Gautrain station and back to the mall and is just short of 3.5 km. The runner's are split into groups of relative ability, not to single anyone out, but to ensure that we all get back to the meeting point at  roughly the same time. So wer were split into three groups staggered at T=0, 4 and 6 minutes. The route is relatively felt and potentially quite fast actually though I was unfamiliar with it which made the first 2/3 tricky until I could orientate myself.

Striding back to the finish at Centurion Mall
It's really awesome running though the area as the evening transitions from light to darkness. We dodge a few people doing their commutes home. I managed the 3.44 km route in a brisk 14:45, and it was a really enjoyable little workout. I'll try and go a little faster next time but that's not the point anyway!!! At the end there were refreshments like water, Energade and coke, on the house. which was followed by some group stretch and then people heading on home.

I enjoyed it so much I'm going to try and fit the Centurion Nike+ Run Club a part of my training routine. It really is great fun being around a large group of runners even if everyone is running at their own pace/effort. I will try and make the session fortnightly and use it as a time trial either doing a single lap or doing a double lap which will be ~6.9km. More than anything, I'm looking forward to, even if it's twice a month running with a group of people who enjoy running, doing it for their own personal reasons, but sharing that common enjoyment.

I really have to applaud Nike for doing this. I'm not sure if it was borne out of the Run Jozi event but I think it's a good thing for them to extend that goodwill from that race and push the idea of running as a lifestyle. I know how much good running has done for me over the past 12 months. I'm healthier, fitter and happier about myself physically and I hope that through an initiative like this more people can experience that. It's great to see a big company showing a bit of corporate responsibility, particular when matters of healthy living are involved.

Well played Nike. Well played!

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