A typical Green Heart Runners session

So what does a typical Green Heart Runners session consist of, I hear you ask? Faintly.

Arrival

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.

Warm-up

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.

Group photo

Group photo…

The 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).

Warm-down

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!).

Final thoughts

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 💚

RR

#keeprunning

*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)

Come-back Run

Today marked the come back on the marathon training schedule. After 3 weeks of feeling under the weather with a chest infection, and a couple of shorter sessions, this was the return to double-digit running. And didn’t I choose the day for it!

Storm Dennis was alive and well. First it threw it down, then it eased off, and then it threw it down.

I went on a route I don’t normally choose, and shouldn’t have, given the conditions. Having passed Good Hope hospital I then traversed through the Rectory Park and then New Hall Valley Country park through some almost impassable sections which required a combination of hop-scotch, grassy detours and some good old fashioned grin-and-bear-it splodging.

I turned around at New Hall as it really was impassable this time, and then carried along a main road which wasn’t familiar to me, but the directions back to Sutton Coldfield were, and I ended up back heading towards the town centre.

From there I was a bit indecisive and was just going to go up a tried and tested hilly road up towards Streetly before heading back through Mere Green and to home, when I spotted a lady clearly searching for her lost puppy. Cue a 3-mile detour around Sutton Park to join the search party. Sadly I didn’t come across the pup, but did spread the word amongst numerous dog-walkers, so I hope this had some effect.

Finally making it to the junction I had been planning to via a more circuitous route, I popped out at Four Oaks train station and plodded on home for a 12.3 mile run.

I felt good. The pace was slow but that was due to poor underfoot conditions, requiring some areas to be simply walked, so I’m not concerned. I’m not too bothered about pace anyway at the moment. It’s distance that I need and that’s why I feel good about it.

Returning to longer distance running after a break is psychologically challenging. Oddly enough, if it had been the perfect conditions for running I would’ve been less motivated, but the thought of battling the elements spurred me on and the various obstacles and incidences helped pass the time in a way that straight flat, road-running experience wouldn’t have.

Green Heart Runners – eight months in

Since the turn of the year we have welcomed many more runners to our little club. This has been the result of a bit of internal marketing in various staff newsletters, word-of-mouth, and January being a good month to try new things. From an average of 10-12 runners in November/December we’re now up to over 20 per run at every run-meet so far this year.

A few stats:

  • 32 sessions
  • 271 runners
  • 46 individuals have taken part
  • Approximately 1500kms covered during our sessions

These are numbers I couldn’t have imagined even three months ago, let alone when we started out.

The dynamics of the session are a bit different now that we’ve grown. It takes two of us generally to lead the group, and the eyes and ears of other runners as well to help us keep track and ensure everyone knows where they should be. But this is the great thing about our club. Yes, we run, we get fit and have fun, but there’s a great spirit developing. People are meeting new colleagues and making friends they wouldn’t have otherwise made and comment on an array of benefits beyond simply improved fitness.

Very soon we will be able to wear our very own Green Heart Runners branded running shirts, and in April will be taking a group of runners to the Birmingham 5k/10k/half marathon in Sutton Coldfield. This will be a first for me as I’ve only ever entered races as an individual runner. I can’t wait for this, and to support, be supported, and celebrate with everyone afterwards.

We’re emerging from the darker months where we’ve been following the well-lit areas around campus. In a few weeks we’ll be back in day-light which opens up a few more options to us and also offers us more opportunities to take advantage of the running canvas which is the Green Heart at the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus.

So onwards, upwards, and who knows where to from here. Continued thanks to everyone who supports us, champions us and of course to the wonderful runners who participate with such enthusiasm, patience and humour.