10 November 2008

Running Club Almost 2.0

I can't remember where I first read about NikeTown's free running club last week (possibly one of the free newspapers on a day when I was too tired to say non) but there was also a piece in this week's TimeOut. I got quite excited because you go to the Nike+ website, create a profile and then book into one of their organised runs on Mondays (gals only) and Tuesdays (mixed), with options to run three, four or seven miles. You can check in a coat and a bag to the Oxford Circus Niketown store and they provide you with a reflective vest (in sexy grey and silver not Philippe Starck-esque yellow) and give you designer water afterwards (Vitamin Water in my case). They also give you a chip to lace onto your trainers so that when you sign in, you just scan your shoe in one of their registration points to show that you have registered online.

There were probably about 100 runners tonight, although only four of us were running the whole seven miles. The route involves running up Great Portland Street and then doing two laps of the Outer Circle. They tell you there will be NikeTown folks around the course encouraging you and making sure you don't get lost (I know: it's a circular route, but still). I also assumed that with so many runners there would be other people around for most of the route. This was not the case as the seven mile group set off first: one girl was much faster than me, but the other three were much slower so for the majority of the course, I was flying solo. I'm not sure if this is a good thing--I'm not a big fan of running by myself in the dark and the rain but then my competitive spirit would probably insist on keeping pace with someone slightly faster than me, even if doing so meant I overdid it, especially with my cough.

I joked about the inability to get lost when running in a circle--actually, more of a very squat, slightly rotated, almost isosceles trapezium--and yet it is actually quite disorientating running around in circles when it is dark and when you aren't entirely familiar with the buildings. So, during my first lap, I thought I was already running along the "top" of the circle but actually had got onto the straight between two bends. Similarly, running down the south side of the circle, I hadn't the slightest idea when the end of the lap was or whether there was even going to be a NikeTown person there to direct me (there were two NT staff per group, although ours disappeared pretty sharpish and I only saw them at the end). In the end, the guy was waiting on the "corner" where we had to turn and run down to Portland Place, except I was so disorientated, I was confused to see the Marylebone Road and couldn't recalculate my mental map of the area between Regent's Park, Great Portland Street and NikeTown. I got there in the end, though, and picked up my VitaminWater (I don't care about the "vitamins" but it did taste good after a good run).

As Nike also sells some kit called Nike+, which is a chip for your trainers and a gadget to stick into your iPod Nano so that you can get info on the distance, time and pace of your runs, as you run, and then upload it to the Nike+ website afterwards to track your runs long term, and as this information is displayed when you sign up for the Nike+ account you need to register for the NikeTown Runners, I naively assumed that the chip they were giving me would do the same thing (even though it was attached to the laces and not placed under the heel)--my estimation of technology is obviously too optimistic. I was therefore very excited about coming home to find out how far I'd run and how fast, only to realise that to do this, I would need an expensive kit upgrade (especially as my running iPod is now a Shuffle). 

Still, I probably ran almost eight miles because at my moment of nearing-end-of-run space-out/geographical catastrophe, I had to retrace my steps to find the Nike people and get them to redirect me (even then, I'm not convinced they sent me the most direct route). I was also going faster than usual, I think, probably due to the influence of others--early on, at least. Then, of course, there was the one-mile "warm-up" jog from my flat to NikeTown (when I realised I was running late) and the one-mile walk back home afterwards. It's no wonder my thighs are feeling as though they've had a very good work-out today.

All in all, the NikeTown Runners club is definitely not bad, for free (compared to, say, the Serpentine Running Club, which I had been thinking of joining). The free drinks and the no-fuss online booking and electronic sign-in are good (if I didn't live so close to the shop, I would probably find the bag/coat check facility more useful) and the 6.30 p.m. start time on Mondays suits me pretty well. They say you get a free t-shirt after three runs, which would be nice. However, I would like to be more reassured by the staff that I am going the right way and that they will come and find me if I get mugged and/or lost. Maybe there is more of that in the three and four mile groups but for the effort it takes getting down to Oxford Circus, four miles is barely worth it. It would be nice having someone setting the pace--maybe I'll just have to find a running buddy because it's really not a good idea for me to try to keep up with the really fast girl who, for a while, was tantalisingly close.

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