If you follow me on Instagram (thank you!), you may have seen my photo with "mini_runner" and "mr.eddie" from my long run this past Sunday up in Griffith Park. It was amazing and beautiful - made even more amazing because I got to meet some of the folks from Instagram that I follow and who share their running journeys like I do. And it was a blast!
Aside from racing, I've never run in an organized setting. When I first started running, I signed up for a race with my then boyfriend, and never ran a race alone until a little over 2 years ago when my girlfriend dropped out the morning of the Long Beach half because we had too much sangria at happy hour after the expo the day before (the struggle in that race was so real, ugh). Since then, I'd consider myself much more of a solo runner. I normally train on my own even if I plan a race with someone because I rarely live close to them. I also enjoy just walking out my door and running.
This was an entirely new experience for me. The running community is a strong force - whether you are a solo runner, or more of a groupie, there's something for everyone. This group run was organized by Mr. Runnermarx (aka Mark). He's somewhat of an Instagram phenomenon; a running coach who has become a leader in the social media running world - offering tips, advice and support to runners of all speeds and abilities. When he invited me on a very hilly run in Griffith Park after seeing a post I made about incorporating hills into my training for Big Sur, I was nervous! 1. Because I haven't run with anyone, let alone a large group in a long time and 2. Griffith Park has some serious hills and I didn't want to embarrass myself because I wasn't ready for it.
I woke up early on Sunday to make sure I was there on time for our 7:30 am meeting. It almost felt like race day - clothes laid out, coffee before, should I eat? No, I'll be fine.
When I got there, Mark greeted me with a hug and I met the group of already 12 or so who were gathered. We waited for a few more, chatting with everyone on their running pace, recent races, what they were training for. I met a few others from social media that I already followed. It's funny because you remember them by their Instagram name rather than their real name! My friend from the So Cal Half Marathon, Edgar, was there as well!
We finally started the run around 8:00 and the first 5 miles were pretty flat on dirt trails. It was soft in some spots and I slowed down a bit. I spent most of it alone with the super fast kids way ahead and some of the people behind were taking it easy because they had done a 14 mile training run the day before for the LA Marathon. Yes, they came out for 12 miles after doing 14. Total beasts! A legit group of runners all around.
Once we hit mile 5, it was straight up hills. And they were brutal. I ran/walked a few and ended up at a 13:30 pace at one point. It was a bit of a reality check. Mark waited for everyone to catch up at all of the points that opened up optional paths for us to make sure we all took the right one. When we got to mile 7, I was running with Diana (aka mini_runner) and Eddie (aka mr.eddie). At this point I was not worried about my pace at all, and we were able to talk. I found out that Eddie was newer to running and would be running Surf City - we might end up pacing each other because he's looking to finish under 1:40 too. Diana, who is a seasoned runner with lots of marathons under her belt, told me about fueling properly for a marathon. We finally made it up the steepest hill to be met by 2 miles of rolling hills that were much more manageable, but still painful on sore legs.
The beautiful part was at the top where we could see the observatory right before our final descent. It turned into a beautiful, gorgeous warm day. The downhill was rough - if you've kept up with my Fit Friday posts, you know I've been focusing on strengthening my back and core. For downhill runs, a strong core is key. Even though I've focused on this, the downhill slope was so intense that my back was aching pretty bad. We finished in 1:50, which does not include all of the time between stops. I stopped my watch at meeting points for the entire group to catch up.
Overall, a great experience. I was able to conquer a scary hill training session and meet an amazing group of people. If you live in Southern California and are interested in being a part of this, let me know so we can connect!