Kirsty Reade shows that sharing your passion and motivating others to get fit can be a hugely rewarding experience
It all began a few years ago. People at work used to make fun of my running, but I knew that they were just jealous. Secretly they wanted to start running too. They knew it was cool. Slowly they started to approach me, saying things like ‘I can’t run for more than a minute’, ‘it makes my face too red’, and ‘it makes me really out of breath’. Finding strength in numbers, six of them tentatively agreed to join me for an introductory running session.
But there were some conditions attached to the agreement. Firstly and most importantly, they were adamant that nobody could know about this. We would be a secret society, we would meet around the corner where nobody could see us in lycra (though, to be fair, none of them were anywhere close to owning any proper running kit at that time), no members could tell anybody else about the existence of the club. So this is how the name of the club came into being: Fight Club. For those unfamiliar with the film – the first rule of Fight Club: you do not talk about Fight Club (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fight_Club_(film)). Secondly, I would ease them in gently. A plan of 1 minute running, 1 minute walking was drawn up. Thirdly, the key objective was to look good on the beach above all else.
I can’t lie. Those first few sessions were hard. There were lies (‘is the minute up yet?’ – ‘No’), there were bribes (Haribo), there were tantrums (theirs), there was a lot of shouting (mine). But they stuck with it and before they knew it they were running for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour. 5ks and 10ks were entered, they raced (hungover) dressed as Santa. There was jubilation, there were amazing performances (including far too much outsprinting of me on finishing lines after I’d run the whole way round with them), and proper running kit and even Fight Club t-shirts were purchased. Half marathons were entered and they trained through the winter, 10ks were run in extreme heat in the summer with only minimal whining. There was so much progress and a huge amount of pride on my part.
But it has all been about so much more than the running progress. As their confidence grew they were happy to openly admit to their new hobby and more people joined Fight Club. We all made friends with people we wouldn’t otherwise have come into contact with in different departments at work and the social side of things probably became more important than the running (strangely, more people turned up for the socials than the running nights).
The experience of starting the group taught me a huge amount about coaching. Everybody seemed to have a different motivation, ranging from fitting into dresses and getting ‘beach fit’ (‘can you get me beach fit in a week?’) to running a marathon or pushing themselves to a 1.40 half marathon. It’s easy to assume that everybody wants to go further, quicker, or train for a race but that just isn’t the case. A lot of people run for fun, to be sociable, to lose weight, or to gain fitness for another sport. Unless we understand what drives them, we can’t coach or motivate them. If they’re not motivated they won’t turn up and they won’t improve.
I leave my company for a new job in a few weeks and Fight Club is without doubt the thing I will miss the most. I don’t think that anybody who’s ever been in a running group or a club would be surprised by that. I’ve made great friends, I’ve learned a lot about coaching, it’s given me an insight into all the hang-ups people have when they start running, it’s given me ideas about getting people who don’t think they like running to run, and hopefully Fight Club’s fitness has improved. One thing I know for sure is that I’ve got a lot more out of it than they have.
Thanks for everything, Fight Club, and keep on running.
I’d describe myself as borderline obsessed with running, racing, reading about running, and watching others run so hopefully I’m fairly typical of Run247’s visitors. I tend to do longer races, particularly off-road marathons and ultras, but am pretty much a fan of any distance. The thing I get the biggest kick out of is being involved in my running club, Didcot Runners, encouraging people to get into running through a group I have in Oxford, and coaching runners to improve.