So what does a typical Green Heart Runners session consist of, I hear you ask? Faintly.
We all arrive just before 5.30pm on Tuesday evening and congregate outside the main library. When Old Joe* bongs we move to a wide path between two of the newest and sparkiest buildings on the Green Heart – a beautiful grassy parkland at the centre of the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus.
I tend to get everyone into a big circle and we jog in a clockwise fashion with me shouting out various exercises for the runners to leap in to on my command. We do anything from squats, lunges, high knees, backward kicks – standard stuff, to the not so standard (but more fun), ‘hurrah, it’s nearly pay-day!’ “leaps”, ‘Santa’s climbing down the chimney’ “arms”, and other seasonal treats.
After that we tend to get the blood pulsing around our bodies with some static 40% jogging, ramping up to 80%, before some explosive 100% sprinting for 10 seconds.
Occasionally we get creative and do this whilst moving around the Green Heart and then throw in some triangular 40/80/100 warm-ups as well up and down the paths.
After that, a few light stretches and we’re ready to run.
In the darker evenings we have been sticking to two main routes. One involves 2 x 2 mile laps around the campus, and the other involves us running to the Vale Village (student accommodation). Both are scenic in their own way, and both involve hills!
We have runners of different abilities so the challenge is to get people running at a pace they are comfortable with, whilst keeping everyone roughly together. Now the group is getting larger this is becoming easier to do as runners are naturally finding their running buddies. In addition though, we encourage mustering back by the front-runners so they turnaround and meet the runners at the back of the group. This means more running for them, and more chances for high-fives, encouragement and for run leaders to check we’ve not lost anyone.
There are always options to vary the length of both the Vale and campus routes and as runners become more used to the routes, they can just take their own decisions as to which routes they take – with some advice from the run leader(s).
Through guidance, direction and a dash of common sense, everyone descends back to the Green Heart within a few minutes of each other at around 6.25pm. Early birds can expect to be sent on a lap of the Green Heart, prior to the warm down while we wait for everyone else to return.
We then do a few stretches, I offer a key messages, we congratulate each other on a job well done and we head on home feeling happy and tired (occasionally we’ll stop for a drink – in the summer months this may happen more often!).
So that’s about it. We add in variation now and again to keep it fresh, but not too much. It’s a running club and people who come want to know they’ll get some solid running amongst friends and in a safe, supportive and social environment.
I don’t run as much during the sessions now, but that’s ok as this club isn’t for me. I tend to run so far then take short cuts to make sure I’m at a point where I can see runners of all paces coming through various checkpoints.
I also now have a co-leader, Jess, whose support we couldn’t do without and which has helped us grow to the club we have become. Jess often leads sessions when I can’t make it (or even when I can) and this also adds to the variation of the sessions and keeps things fresh.
I am grateful for the support of UB Sport and, of course, the wonderful colleagues and friends who have been so encouraging and who make it such fun and so rewarding. Tuesday evenings have never been better.
I absolutely love it 💚
*Old Joe is our famous clock tower right in the centre of campus. It’s huge. Tallest of its kind in the world. We love it, even if it does love the attention (see @oldjoeclock on twitter)