Writer


When life makes you run, join a running club.

I have been running after things my whole life. I have run after goals, which I have failed to achieve; after boys, who don’t even know my name; and buses of which I have no chance of catching. My whole life I have been in pursuit of the finish line, the roaring crowd, the gold medal. I can see the finish line and I can see others burst through it. But I’m always frozen on the spot, pacing thin air. Eventually, in March 2020, when the whole world slowed down to a halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I decided that it was time to put all my running to good use. If I was going to spend my whole life running after things, I was going to become the best damn runner there is.

"I have run after goals, which I have failed to achieve; after boys, who don’t even know my name; and buses of which I have no chance of catching."

As 2020 progressed and lockdown was one everyday life, I found myself dashing around my hometown more and more. I swapped chocolate bars for salads; my morbid Smiths playlists for high energy clubbing tunes; and my daily Netflix binge for a 10k around the streets that I grew up in. For once I was not running after something; I was running away from something. Away from that depressing fear that the world would never go back to normal again.

Luckily, I was wrong. Normality began to creep back into our lives again, and soon after I started my first year at the University of Glasgow alongside lots of other anxious students. After six months of seclusion, I was thirsty for new friends and new experiences. Deciding that the best way to settle into city life in Glasgow would be to join one of the university’s clubs, I knew right away what club I was cut out for. After a summer of recreating the Rocky training montage I was ready to solidify my runner status as an established member of the university’s running club.

After arriving at the club embarrassingly early, I began to limber up. After all, I could not afford to pull a muscle during my much anticipated running debut. I had spent too long running the streets alone, and I was ready to be part of a sporting community. As people started to arrive, I could not help but notice they were all mostly male, very tall and extremely quiet. They all hovered in their groups, looking off into the distance. The last member of the group to arrive was a wonderful law student, who introduced herself to me and made me feel welcomed. I managed to let out a sigh of relief as I realised that I had made my first running friend. Just as I was getting comfortable in my new surroundings, I was confronted with an alarming piece of information. My new runner friend casually mentioned that I had entered myself into the most advanced running session and that this group of runners were the crème de la crème of the university’s athletes. I had been so blinded by my newfound running ego that I had signed up for the wrong session. This was followed by a sharp blow of the coach’s whistle and the group started galloping away from the sports hall like gazelles from a lion.

"As people started to arrive, I could not help but notice they were all mostly male, very tall and extremely quiet... This group of runners were the crème de la crème of the university’s athletes."

Shit had truly hit the fan. As the runners tackled the “warm-up” with ease and grace, I could be found struggling at the back. Sweaty and breathless, I gasped for air. The hellish warm-up quickly came to a stop so that we could begin “the hard stuff”: a gruelling full speed sprint around the Kelvingrove Art Gallery carpark. Not once, not twice, but twenty times. The session was a blur. I cannot really remember what I was feeling during the run, I think that the trauma removed the grisly experience from my memory. All I recall is my new friend running beside me the whole time. Despite being completely capable of overtaking the majority of  the group, she remained right by my side, never once speeding ahead.

"[We began] a gruelling full speed sprint around the Kelvingrove Art Gallery carpark. Not once, not twice, but twenty times."

Eventually, the coach blew the whistle to indicate that the session was over and just like that the team transformed. The group began laughing and chatting as they gulped their water and started exchanging stories about the weekend. Their serious expressions melted into warm grins as they stretched out their hamstrings and suddenly these intimidating athletes seemed so friendly. They weren’t angry at me for holding back their training session with my amateur antics. In fact, they seemed quite exhausted themselves. As we left the training session I said goodbye to my new friend and thanked her for sticking with me during the session. She told me that she had not been waiting behind for me, but that she just happened to run at the same pace. However, we both knew that this was not the truth.

Unfortunately, I was never able to return to the group due to tier four, but I often think about the lessons that it taught me. Despite being out of my depth the team had not abandoned me. The runners had taught me the importance of never leaving anyone behind and above all, the importance of always, always double-checking the bloody timetable. Now I’m back in Glasgow to begin my second year of university and I’m going to give running a second try. This time most certainly in the beginners’ group. And who knows, maybe one day I will be able to keep up with the advanced group. One day.

The conclusion from my experience: I am going to keep chasing the things that I want, but from now on I am going to do it with people by my side.


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