Hi, my name is Teresa. And I'm thinking about joining AA.
Before you get too alarmed, it's probably not what you think. AA is a local running club here, Athletic Alliance.
I'd certainly heard of NHAA (I'll add the 'NH' to make it sound less like a well-known support group) plenty of times, even before I ever laced up my first pair of running shoes a few years ago. I'd seen their singlets, their logo. My job caused my path to cross with the paths of some of its members.
After I started running, they had always encouraged me to join. I'd been on the club's website plenty of times - and last year even made it to a season kick-off 5k that would launch the start of weekly track workouts. I took home the application. I even filled it out.
I'd planned to add track workouts to my marathon training last year at the urging of many experienced runners to swore by these training sessions. But somehow, I just didn't get there. There was always some reason not to go.
Truthfully, I was intimidated. I mean, this was a running club. I wasn't a runner. I was just someone who ran. For fun. These people were probably serious, clocking times, qualifying for Boston. Maybe winning races.
The application sat on top of my fridge for the entire season. When I moved last month, just about the time track workouts were starting again, I decided I'd just throw it away.
That doesn't mean that I haven't thought about joining the club and trying the track workouts. I'd thought about it plenty. But, I rationalized, if I didn't go at the start of the season I'd be an outsider. The group would be formed without me.
From time to time, I'd ask fellow Daily Milers questions about the club's track workouts. The application had gone in the trash, but my interest was still clearly there. A few days ago, I received a message from Ernesto, a fellow Daily Mile friend, who shares some personal and professional contacts.
Athletic Alliance was having an Open House.
I saw this as my second window of opportunity. In reality, I know I could have shown up and joined the club at any point, but it just seemed daunting and downright intimidating to even think about that. This Open House might mean there would be other newbies. Other people who didn't know the drills. Other people who didn't know the club members.
I opted out of a family obligation (apologies to TC!) and decided I'd commit to my first track workout with the club. I packed my running clothes and changed at the end of the day so I'd be able to make the 5:30 p.m. start.
I approached the field and saw two groups of people. One smaller group in the far end of the track's infield and a larger, livelier group that had dozens of children running around. The smaller group looked more serious, more focused. The larger group looked like they were there for a family event - like a PTO picnic or something.
Hesitating only briefly, I walked toward the larger group. I asked a woman if I was in the right place for the Athletic Alliance workout. "First time here?" she responded with a smile. "Welcome."
A wave of relief came over me. I looked around to see if I could find any familiar faces - keeping in mind that some of the "familiar faces" were only familiar from profile pics attached to their Daily Mile training logs.
Christine, whom I know through some work events and as a former neighbor, welcomed the group and asked if there were any newcomers. I looked around the crowd. No one moved. I opted not to raise my hand and identify myself as a rookie. I'd just ask around and learn the drill on the fly.
Somehow, I found Kristen, Ernesto's wife, whom I'd connected with on Daily Mile. Although we'd never met, it was nice to see someone familiar in the crowd. She smiled and shook my hand and quickly filled me in on all the must-knows. We ran the warm-up lap together as she explained how the workout would go. Another wave of relief.
The training session was well-run, with the day's scheduled workouts posted on the track's fence. The group was divided by running pace. I opted for the second-to-last pace group. (I think I'll feel okay going for the next level up after a week or two - but I certainly didn't want to get ahead of myself out of the gate.)
We did a series of 400s and 800s as the coordinator announced what we'd be running and when to line up. A large timing clock ran near the start/stop line.
Too focused on just getting things "right" in my first workout, I actually didn't even look at the clock or start my watch. I suppose the point of this exercise would be to improve my pace throughout training, so I'll have to take a look at that in the next few go-arounds.
The runners huffed and puffed and dripped sweat in the warm afternoon workout. They guzzled water during the breaks. They pushed themselves. But there was something else notable about this workout - it was full of smiles, laughs and camaraderie. They were having fun.
During one of the breaks, I met up with Ernesto (who wasn't running - he'd just finished two marathons in six weeks, one of which was one Sunday, and was on "kid duty" for the evening). He introduced me to Curt, another DM connection, who held his six-week-old baby while his wife ran the workout.
I was impressed by the family atmosphere of the event, keeping in mind that it was an Open House day and there was a kids' run planned for after the adult workout. I asked around and discovered that the inclusion of children wasn't totally out of the ordinary.
Children ran around the infield, they played in the play areas. Sometimes, they joined in the track run. And they were good runners. More impressively, they were learning healthy habits. They were seeing Mom and Dad take pride in something they enjoy.
The track workout ended relatively quickly - making me confident that it will be something that I can fit into my future Wednesday schedules. Kristen found me and led me around to introduce me to a few other club members. Ernesto introduced me to the club's president, who chatted with me about the Waterville duathlon.
I grabbed a slice of pizza and another club membership application. I promise this one won't sit on my fridge for a year. Maybe I'll hand-deliver it next Wednesday.
After all, the hard part is over - as usual, just having the courage to start.
Photo credit: www.scarboroughtrack.com