I hesitated to write this post for over a week. I talked it over with friends, both running and non, and mulled over it on multiple runs. I ultimately decided to post this fully knowing that some of the people involved may eventually read it (or may already have found my blog). If they do, perhaps this will serve as a wakeup call as to how they might be perceived.
Last week, I forced myself to go to a group run in Asheville. I am not opposed to running with other people but going as a stranger to a group run in a new town was terrifying. I was nervous all day and checked their website 10 times. Open to all. Social run. All welcome. Get out of your comfort zone Sarah. I showed up a little early for the 6:15 run in hopes that I could find some other attendees to connect with so I had a “friend’ for the run. As it turned out, there were two groups meeting to run that night, one for a birthday party (not the open one) and the open one I was supposed to meet up with. I walked over to a group of women and asked if they were there for the Thursday run and they confirmed that they were. Then, crickets. After some awkward silence, one asked if I was sponsored by Skechers (the gear and shoes give it away) and I answered yes. Again, crickets. One of the other women had to pee so I asked if I could go with her, since I had to pee too but wasn’t sure if we could use the bathrooms at the start.
When we got back from the bathroom, the group had circled up and the leader was describing the route. I, however, was on the complete outside of the circle with one other girl and we were neither included, nor able to hear. Thankfully, I knew the route from being in Asheville this summer. Then the run started, no, took off. The group literally took off from zero to 7 minute pace and left this other girl and I behind. As readers of this blog know, 7 minute pace isn’t a big deal for me. In a workout. When I want to do a workout. When I’m going to a social Thursday night run, however, I’m not running that pace. Thankfully this other girl who was also relatively new to Asheville was happy to run a more pedestrian pace of 8 minute miles and we did 5 miles together, chatting about endurance related things.
We waited for the rest of the group when we got back (the plan was to grab a beer as a group) but it turns out, no one would have cared if we did or not. No one could be bothered to acknowledge us and when we went to buy beer, they sat at a different table. It was the closest thing to my high school experience that I’ve had in 15 years and I coach high school!! We ultimately got up and went and stood awkwardly near the group for the remainder of our beers. As soon as mine was done, I drove home and was mortified/sad/angry.
One of the things that I LOVE about the running community is that it is open and welcoming to all, regardless of pace. Yes, people may not run together during a run or workout, but before and after, we’re all runners. This experience rattled me enormously and it made me never want to attempt a running group again. As my sister said when I told her about it, “Jeez, I would quit running altogether!”
Now that a week has gone by, I find myself wondering if I should go back. In general, I have a pretty low threshold for people who treat me poorly but this is the post-collegiate USATF group in town and if I want to do USATF events, I’m almost obliged to join. Maybe they’ve been burned by newcomers before? Maybe everyone had a bad day before the run?
Have you ever had a negative group run experience? Am I overreacting?