Ely Runners Beginners Course – Final Report

The Ely Runners 10 week Beginners Course was a great success and we were delighted to welcome such a great inspired group of like-minded individuals. Of the nearly 50 people that started 35 have completed the course, 20 of which have now joined the main club as members.

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Beginners getting ready for their first night. (Photo/Ely Runners)

The leaders have said it was strange when the runners from the first course started attending club sessions, it felt like a graduation and the leaders were the proud parents!

As the course was such a success, Ely Runners decided to put on a second course which has seen the return of some of those that didn’t quite ‘graduate’ first time round. The second course has seen just over 20 runners each week with no drop off as yet and that is 4 weeks in.

Here are the final stories from the first beginners: Alysoun, Tom and Sandi…

Alysoun’s story so far…

I used to go to the gym regularly before having my children (eldest now 12), but since then of course I have not undertaken any regular or formal exercise, so now am very unfit, and really fed up with my fat self. I Saw the poster for 10 week Run England beginner course in Tesco and knew I had to go for it. The idea of a group with support and structure is a brilliant one – starting off a running programme alone would be so difficult, and easy to fail.

Tuesday 25th (week 2), the heat was almost unbearable and a bit tricky knowing what to do with my car keys! Will invest in a bum-bag for essentials. Distance pyramids definitely preferable to time – at least there is something to aim at.
The sessions are hard work (aching legs!!!) – but I am assured it will get better?- the support from Ely Runners is amazing -thanks everyone.

Tom’s story so far…

Week 1: The build-up to week one was nerve-wracking to say the least, despite having had 3 weeks or so to prepare myself mentally. This was the first serious exercise I was going to do since getting married and having put on something like 7 stone in the last few years. (Not that I’m suggesting any link between marriage and weight loss!!!)
It turns out I had nothing to fear, as the course was definitely geared towards the completely inexperienced. It was very enjoyable and satisfying to have taken part, despite not being able to complete 100% of the session. After the third run-walk period, my calves tightened up, and I had to stop and walk off the lactic acid that had built up. However, kind words from several of the runners/coaches really put me at ease.
I was determined to continue the course, and made it my goal to complete the Cambridge Parks run after the last session. Watch this space…

Week 2: Well I was definitely less nervous about this week, although the prospect of ‘Pyramid Intervals’ induced Vietnam-style flashbacks of school day ‘bleep tests’. *Gulp*, Still, we must be positive.
It turns out the distance based Pyramid Intervals were great, it really helped having a visual focus of where you are running too, and encouraged you to keep going. The time based ones were harder, but perhaps if I had my own stopwatch, it would motivate me more in this area.
Calves felt fine this week, although my back troubled me a bit for the second half of the session. I am however feeling confident that these aches will diminish each week, and this course will become more and more enjoyable.

I am finding the coaching and assistance from the experienced runners invaluable, and I haven’t seen any of the perceived ‘elitism’ that running clubs can conjure up in the mind.
Roll on week three, our first trip out into the wilds!
Unfortunately Tom has had to give up the running for the time being due to a back problem but we look forward to seeing him running again as soon as he’s fit enough.

Sandi’s story so far…

My name is Sandi, I am 46 years old and a new runner.

I am probably one of the last people you would expect to have become a runner, when I was at school during those PE/games sessions I certainly was not in the first half of the class chosen to play on the team of the elite. I hated running, I hated sport of any kind – I suffered from asthma and was just a wheeze when I exerted myself! I did walk or bike everywhere, I had parents that didn’t run me around, so even though I didn’t compete at school I was still quite physically active.

Now much older, I love to walk and I practice yoga, over the years i’ve been to lots of different exercise classes, none of which have held my enthusiasm for very long. I’ve wanted to be able to run for a long time now, it always looked such an escape. Every time I had tried to run, I set off too quickly, knackered myself out and gave up puffing and panting thinking that I wouldn’t ever make a runner.

My thoughts on that changed when I was away on a girly weekend in February, my friend (who has run marathons and half marathons) took me out for my first ever proper run, there was snow on the ground and it was sleeting, but with her encouragement we jogged a set distance and walked a longer set distance until we had covered almost 3 miles – I was astounded, I could run, I had survived without the need for the emergency services, a runner was born!

Since that first outing in February I have been a dedicated runner, each week I could see improvements, and with each improvement I pushed myself further until in April I gave myself compartment syndrome – this is like major muscle cramps and is excruciating, it was brought on by doing too much too soon, my calf muscles had expanded but the sheath surrounding them doesn’t give, so the muscle ends up being very squashed in its own body. Two weeks complete rest and a lot of pain from a sports massage therapist and I could slowly restart my running. It was a very slow start, progress was much slower than when I’d started running in February and I was losing confidence in ever becoming a runner.

I had looked into my local running club when I was doing well but obviously wasn’t good enough to join without feeling like I was back at school and not good enough to join the elite again, but then a beginners course was developed. Perfect – I could start the course with other newbies and learn from scratch, I would be with people with similar experiences and ability, I had learned my lesson and would take it slowly.

Joining any new class or course is daunting, I turned up on the first night not knowing quite what to expect, I was gobsmacked by the amount of people that had turned up, all eagerly waiting to learn how to become a runner, it was great to see such a varied mix of people too.

This first week we walked, warmed up and jogged, we were shown some stretching exercises to avoid those stiff muscles the following day, the volunteers were great, they encouraged each of us all the way, pushing without bullying, I was relieved that I hadn’t signed up for a ‘boot camp’! At the end of the session I had met and chatted to new people, it seemed a very friendly group, each of us coming to the course with different life experiences, I felt good. Even though I was just about back up to running a 5k without stopping, I felt like i’d had a good workout, we all left feeling very positive and actually looking forward to the following weeks challenge. Homework was inevitable, get out and run-walk or walk-run.

Week 2 came along and there we all were again, we were introduced to fartlek training (luckily I’d heard of it before or my childish side might have got the better of me), we got into pairs and we each chose our own pace to either run or jog to a set point and then jog or walk back to the start, the distance got a little further with each attempt, but there was no competition, no teachers pet, no dunce of the class. We did the same again using set times rather than distance, I talked to a few more people as well as catching up with the people I’d met the first week, it was great, I was loving it, and it seemed the others were too. We were introduced to another couple of stretches and our homework was set. Even though I’m out running with my friend once a week and out on my own a couple of times a week, I look forward to Tuesdays coming around for our next instalment of training, tips, advice and encouragement.

Week 3 – we didn’t know before we turned up that they had planned some hill work this week, if we had known I think there might have been a few less of us this week. The plan was we were to put ourselves into separate groups depending on how we coped the previous week, we would then either jog or walk to a set point then jog down a big hill, keep jogging around a park and then jog back up the hill – not only were we jogging uphill but it was after we’d just jogged a good distance – around 2 miles! Unbelievably the majority of us managed this feat, one of the women i’d met the first week was inspiration to me when I was just about to give in and walk up the hill, I was really proud that i’d managed to jog the whole distance, it was such an achievement, we even decided as a group to then jog back to our starting point rather than walking. A whole bunch of new runners has now been born.

Week 4 – no longer do I arrive with trepidation – whatever they have planned for us, I know I can cope with it and it won’t kill me. This week we started with a warm up – twice around the field, we then put ourselves into two groups again, we were going to run a circuit of around 2 miles one group clockwise, the other group anticlockwise. The two groups met up on the way round where we were given the choice of going back the way we had just come from or continuing the circuit – our group had ran the furthest and had just jogged up a long incline, but believe it or not the majority of us decided to take the longer route home which involved another incline rather than the shorter level route! As a group we don’t seem to be able to get enough of this running lark. Bring on week 5!

Week 5 – I arrive early as usual eager to get started on the next part of my new journey, this week we’re doing a long run, we split ourselves up into groups again depending on how far we think we can run / jog without stopping and we set off on different routes. I’m feeling good, i’m running well, I run the whole route of 2.64 miles without stopping – it’s a good pace, faster than when running alone – see what a bit of camaraderie or competition does! I’m feeling really good about this running lark and i’m actually believing I can be a runner.

Week 6 and 7 – I’m away on holiday, I don’t sit back and do nothing though, I run in the hills and heat of foreign climes.

Week 8 – Fresh back from my hols and what do they have in store for us? Hills! Well at least I got some practice in over the last couple of weeks. We split up in our groups and jog off to a notorious local hill, there we are introduced to our markers and we start pyramid training up and down the hill. We run up to the first marker and gently back down, up to the second marker and gently back down, up to the third marker and gently back down, then the second marker again and then the first. I would struggle with this hill walking before the course but now I can’t believe i’m actually running up it! We’re then put through more pyramid training – timed; 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds, a few of us reach the top on the 90 second interval – wow! We’re then given the choice of walking or running back to base, can you guess what we chose to do?? We ran!

Week 9 – I can’t believe it’s week 9 already, even though i’ve been writing this weekly journal, I still didn’t realise we were on week 9! This week our group was going to be doing interval or pyramid training on the field, this was going to be so much tamer than last weeks hill training. Our focus was on speed, so we ran fast to a certain point and jogged back, then to a further point and so on. At the end of this interval training we then went off for a continuous run of around 1.5-2 miles at our own pace. I’ve now made so many new acquaintances, we have really gelled as a group, I will miss this camaraderie when the course is over. Next week we’re running a full 5k (3.1miles) – bring it on!
Sandi has gone on to complete the Grunty Fen Half Marathon and the Bonfire Burn 10k. She has taken on this challenge and ‘run’ with it, excuse the pun!

Dawn’s story so far…

We have also had these comments from a lady called Dawn.
I just wanted to drop you a few lines about the course, this is coming from a “bigger person” non runner.

Being married to a “good” runner I never had the slightest interest in running – until I heard about the Ely Runners beginners course.
Now – I had started a “change of lifestyle plan” 5 weeks before the running course began. I wanted to run around the block – mmm I cannot run to the end of the drive, how will I do that.. Children knew that Daddy ran – What does Mummy do??? Mmmmmmmm…

So, my first session was daunting – but brilliant, run for a minute walk etc – wow I could do this… and within the next couple of weeks I was running to the end of the field.

The instructors on this course are incredible/ encouraging and make it enjoyable – and for me what I found important was that they made you feel like you had done so well – the praise was constant.

I have now pulled a tendon in my back – so raced to physio this morning as I cannot miss a session – and yes whether I walk/run/jog the 5k at the end of this course – I will be there.

I would recommend this to everyone – All shapes and sizes, this has helped with the weight loss too..

Well done – Steve, Lionel Conan

This article originally appeared on the Greater Cambridge Athletics Network website in 2014.

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