On Sunday I bundled up in my warmest running gear and drove over to the City Sports in Georgetown to join their Rock ‘n Roll half marathon training group. Each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. until the race on March 16, the store will be hosting a guided run to help get participants ready to conquer 13.1. This weekend they had 11 miles on the docket.
I don’t typically eat before working out, but I woke up with a grumbling stomach and knew I needed to feed it something before we attempted any sort of distance. So I stuck with something relatively plain – ezekial toast, almond butter, raw honey, and banana – with the hope of satisfying my hunger without causing any unnecessary stomach upset on the road. It worked!
There are always so many things to think about when joining a new training group. What pace will they run? How many runners will there be? Are they chatty or quiet? Down for stretch breaks or not? Will the route be worthwhile? Are they friendly? I mean, 11 miles is a long way to go with people you’re not meshing with. That said, you don’t know till you try, so I decided to take my chances and dive right in. Here we are taking a group photo before hitting the road – notice how nice and toasty we all look. That didn’t last long!
There were two pace groups on this run: one at 10 minutes or slower, and one that was supposed to be around 8 – 9. The store manager mentioned that they typically offer three pace groups, but today one of the leaders couldn’t make it. Because I’m trying to hold somewhere between 8:15 – 8:30 for the half marathon, I stuck with the faster of the two groups. We ended up running 9 minute miles the whole time and I seemed to be the only one keeping track of pace and distance (there were a lot of “what mile is this?” and “how fast are we going now?” questions).
It was the first group training run I’ve ever been on that didn’t have the familiar chorus of chirping Garmins chiming at every mile. Strange and refreshing all at the same time. But for someone who is training with a time goal in mind, the laid-back attitude was a bit frustrating. Then again, I’m a tad competitive…so take that for what it’s worth. My advice is this: if you are looking for an easy going, non-intimidating group to train with, I’d check out City Sports. If you are particular about keeping a faster pace and know your way around the paths and trails of DC, I’d check out one of the more established groups like DC Road Runners, Pacers, or Potomac Runners.
The other thing that struck me as odd about this group is that the run leaders were not vary familiar with the city or with commonly-used DC running trails. I was happy to point out where Rock Creek Park trail was and how to get through the Zoo to Connecticut Ave., but was surprised that nobody else on the run knew where many of the major landmarks and turns were. I’m not saying runners need to be DC map experts, and going out for an exploratory run and finding your own way can be fun – but joining a group for a training (vs. fun) run shouldn’t come with the adventure of finding your way around the city for 11 miles. Just my two cents – the group is fairly new and hopefully with a few more runs under their belt they’ll have it down in no time.
That said, I really did enjoy the runners in our little pace group and want to give a shout out to Joy, the City Sports representative on our run, who was a constant source of upbeat energy. We all made our way through Rock Creek Park, up through the Zoo (hello hill!), down Connecticut Ave to Dupont, and over to the City Sports store in Chinatown. This is where we stopped for a quick water break (and to try to return feeling to our frozen fingers). Then we made our way over past the White House to Connecticut Ave., up through Dupont Circle, across P Street to Wisconsin Avenue and then home on M Street to the Georgetown store.
The run itself was really good and I felt ready to tackle 13 miles in March. But then again, the pace was slower than I was used to and I also had a lot of opportunity to stop and stretch along the way thanks to a route that zig-zagged through downtown (read: stopping every block for the traffic lights). I mentioned to the City Sports folks afterward that this wasn’t a lot of fun for tired (and cold!) legs, and maybe a better route for their 12 miler next weekend could include a few more miles outside of downtown to help keep runners on pace and cut down on lag time waiting at crosswalks.
After saying my goodbye’s at the Georgetown store, I came home and promptly changed out of my cold and wet running clothes, grabbed a big glass of water, and settled in for a good stretch. Thanks to the cold temperatures, my muscles were already feeling stiff and I knew I needed to give them some extra TLC. I had been hearing good things about the site Do Yoga With Me – which offers an online library of free yoga videos – so I thought I’d give one a try. It was meant to be, because I immediately found a video called “Yoga for Runners: Post Run” that was perfect. It had a few moves I’ve never done before and they felt phenomenal on my tired legs. I’ve bookmarked it to use regularly, but if you have any others that you’d recommend please let me know!