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Join the Club

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

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According to the Dalai Lama: “The very purpose of life is to seek happiness.”

And so important is happiness that it even made its way into the US Declaration of Independence  240 years ago, as an unalienable right:

Said Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

(I’m not sure how slavery fitted into the above but that’s another blog…back to happiness).

Happiness studies confirm time and time again that one of the key components of feeling good is participating in your community, being part of a group.

Sense of Belonging

A sense of belonging, if you will.

If you want to learn about something, put in the hard miles yourself, go off at tangents, go deep. There’s a lot to be said for solo learning. In fact, study after study shows that it’s those solo efforts with the door closed that have the biggest impact on your performance.

But if you really want to add rocket fuel to your own efforts, my advice is join and actively take part in a community.

I’ve had a lot of value from communities this past five years, including: my local community where I live, in which we get actively involved as a family, the PR community in the UK and US, the Zude PR community (all the people who’ve been kind enough to sign up to my newsletter), the Northern Soul community, and others.

Giffnock North

But the community I want to write about in this blog is the running one, and specifically the running club I chose to join exactly five years ago: Giffnock North.

I’ve revised my initial rose-tinted spectacles view of the running community. There are some complete knobs, like in any walk of life, but none I’ve ever spent any significant time with.

From the excellent parkruns to the more-competitive club races, I’ve got to know hundreds of top people on a not-superficial basis over the past five years and formed scores of strong friendships (particularly those at Bella Road Runners with whom I spent two years crashing their Monday sessions; a more welcoming bunch you will not find).

But it’s the club I represent where most of my running mates reside. Here are my random unstructured thoughts about Giffnock North:

  • We (the Seniors section) have a Mr Miyagi, a Mickey out of Rocky. His name’s Bernie Campbell. He’s ace.
  • We have a fantastic junior section. It’s the best in Scotland. That’s down to the training the kids receive from the lead coaches, and the parent helpers (all trained to varying levels) who are the lifeblood of the club.
  • We welcome runners of all abilities.
  • All members of the Seniors section, organically, take on responsibility. No-one has to be asked. Ted, Luke and Jill organise the races, Yvonne, Neal and Caroline represent the Seniors on the club committee, Stuart shepherds our annual 10k race, Mary organises the do’s, Sheila is our prime recruiter, I do the award-winning Facebook group, or “the website” as Bernie calls it. And that’s just scratching the surface, everyone contributes.
  • There’s been a change at the club recently. There’s now what sports administrators love to call a pathway. This means that the youngsters are, instead of discovering the joys of the opposite sex and alcohol, now representing the club at senior level. Evidenced by a win for the men at the George Cummings Relays earlier this year.
  • And we have our stars too. There’s Grant Muir, Andy Bonner and Andrew Clark (pushing sub-4 for the 1500), Erin Wallace, one of the rising stars of Scottish Athletics, Jill Smyllie (second at the Stirling Marathon) and, of course, Luke Traynor, pushing sub-14 for a 5k, an improving runner, and a man whose talent and hard work will surely lead to a significant British Athletics breakthrough in 2018, injury allowing of course. Then there’s the sprinters under Ryan’s tutelage. They spend half an hour just warming up. Now that’s dedication for you.
  • When I joined Giffnock North I was 20:50 for a 5k. I’d be a low 17 now. My 10k PB was 46; it’s now 35:52. But that’s by the by. It’s the marathon training and experience I’ve gleaned from Bernie and all my other Giffnock North mates that I’m really bothered about. It’s the long runs with clubmates where the ridiculously low annual subs have really paid dividends. Nous. If you want to improve as a runner, joining a running club is the path of least resistance in terms of bringing your times down. For example, fancy doing two sets of speedwork on your own every week? Be my guest, try it. You will find your willpower severely tested.

The Craic

But, aside from all that, it’s the craic, the camaraderie, the banter, that really makes a good running club. The guy who takes immense pride in his route-finding but always gets everyone lost. That bloke who’s always complaining about an injury, but it’s all in the mind. Or the woman whose Facebook posts are consistently ambiguous.

This camaraderie was there in bucket-loads today when I and 19 clubmates spent a happy three hours, half of which above the snow-line, running the 17-mile Glen Finglas loop.

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A supportive community, learning together, sharing a common interest, and having fun while we’re at it. Good times: you cannae whack it with a big stick icicle.

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If you want to join the club, email me and I’ll point you in the right direction. Like most of the vibrant communities I’ve been part of in recent years, it’s a good one.