The landscape of Tralee has changed significantly over the last 5 years. In times gone by it was only the elite long distance runners that could be seen running the roads around our town. Fast forward to today, and be it day or night it's actually difficult to not spot someone out for a run if you are driving in and around Tralee. There are a number of groups that have helped foster a believe in people that they can run, our very own Born to Run is one of these. Starting out can be difficult on your own and daunting to contemplate going to a group where you may not know anyone. Almost all those in Born to Run started our running journey with that difficult trip to our first night down at Born to Run HQ.
About 9 weeks ago, a brave and nervous bunch of individuals turned up to the Aquadome carpark. They had a common goal, an aim that to many of them seemed almost impossible. To be able to complete a 5k run. To those that run regularly, 5k may not seem difficult, but to those starting out it can seem like a distant dream. The summer 2017 couch to 5k group with Born to Run was spearheaded by Ann O'Shea and Tom Foley; who took up the role of mentors for this fantastic new bunch of runners. Other club members mentored throughout the programme as well. Offering support, time and guidance to those stepping up to the challenge.
The strategy of walking and running, and gradually reducing the amount of time spent walking while increasing the time spent running will seem familiar and maybe a distant fond memory to many who took up running as an adult. This same strategy was the backbone of the couch to 5k programme. Each week our brave new runners turned up to session after session, each week the challenge gradually increasing along with their fitness.
It is strange how our mind works. We can often get our mind stuck in a place of either comparing ourselves to others or knocking ourselves back because of how we perceive our own performance. Three or four weeks into the programme, our runners are running for 15 minutes straight, taking on hills. They are finding it tough. Sometimes it is not until you reflect back and think, "hey four weeks ago I wasn't able to run for more than two minutes"; that you realise progress is being made.
Terrific Tuesday Tea at the dashboard diner, fostering conversation. The group of new members mingling with the others. Chatting, getting to know one another. One begins to feel more comfortable around these mad people that run miles and miles.
Weeks go by, the timing running increases, the walking time decreases and while this new activity still takes effort it seems that it's getting a bit easier. Do you dare believe it is possible you may actually be able to run 5k soon?
Then you hear that the club has an event coming up. A 40 mile run! 40 miles!!! That's more than 60km!! You may have thought, Golly these people are nutjobs!! (Ya you are probably right there with that thought process) During training one evening Tom and Ann say they are looking for some volunteers to give a hand stewarding on the day of this event. It may have been curiosity, it may have been a want to give something back, it may have been you had nothing else to do that day; whatever the reason, you and just about everyone else that had some time available that day put their names forward. You turned up on the day and stewarded the route. Only you can tell us what you thought of that day and what you saw. But do you know what those running the event told us. In their feedback, everyone said how great the volunteers stewarding were. Enthusiastic, supportive, engaging. They had not seen this at any other event some of the runners told us. You, made their day so much easier by just being there and being yourselves. You made that event possible, you contributed in a way you may never fully understand to the experience of those runners and they are extremely thankful.
You see on the schedule for the next week week of training that your group will be doing 5k on Tuesday. You're maybe a little nervous but you've gotten this far. You trust your mentors will help get you through this. You arrive at the Aquadome only to find there's a bit of a buzz about the place. You see that Ann is handing out something. You realise she's handing out race numbers.
What's going on?! Ann calls everyone together. She explains tonight is the night. It's 5k night. AND THERE WILL BE NO MENTORS. No one will be setting the pace. This is your event. She quickly explains the route. Tells you that there are stewards out on the course. That halfway around there is an aid station. Were you nervous? What were you thinking at the moment in time? A group photo is taken.
Ann leads the group out of the carpark and to the starting point. She goes over the route details again and reminds people about road safety and about minding their pace.
All too quick your group is counted down and you are on your way.
A bit of flat and then you're straight onto the devilish Ballyard hill. This is tough. David 'Batman' Hughes is there at the top and directs you out Kearney's road and you meet the ever wonderful Catherine and Gretta at Blennerville and they have a table with water, coke and goodies. Onward you, Kirstie directs you over The iconic Blennerville bridge.
In the canal, thank goodness it's flat! And as you arrive back at the Aquadome there awaiting you are your fellow Born to Run members. They applaud your arrival.
You have done it! You have just completed a 5km run! The Ann presents everyone with a certificate of completion from the club. A group photo is taken and it's on to important business, refreshments from the dashboard diner.
Well done to everyone that was brave enough to come down that first night. Your dedication and commitment to yourself, your continuity and consistency in coming to training is what got you from being able to run for 2 minutes to being able to run a 5km event. Take a bow. You may thank the mentors as much as you wish, but the mentors did not bring you out of your home and down to the start each evening. Those times when it would have been easier to sit in front of the television and watch your shows, but you came down anyway….you done that. You done the hard work.
They say true altruism doesn't really exist. Why would people take time out of their day to host a programme such as this. There are lots of reasons; paying it back, helping others as we were helped and guided but none trumps it more than seeing that smile on someone's face when they achieve their goal. That smile you had on your face Tuesday evening at the dashboard diner. That cannot be quantified it is so immense.
So what now? That's entirely up to you. Scheduled runs will be posted on our page, the next stage of progression is available for those that would like to run further. But regardless of your goals moving forward, continue coming down to YOUR club. If you only want to run 5k distance that's cool come down and do that. You want to progress to 10k, you can do that. You want to progress to 100k runs, ya you can do that too and there are many in the club that have done that, couch to 100k. Whatever your goal is, it is yours. Go after it. You will have the comrades in your club to support you along the way. And remember, You are Born to Run.