When I first heard it mentioned pre run, I didn’t take too much on board (this is normal). But when we got back from the run it was mentioned again, the ‘holiday’ word, and it dawned on me quite forcefully that in a couple of weeks’ time, leading the ABG-ers might be my responsibility, even my sole responsibility. Yikes. I have big shoes to fill and not because Hilary is currently sporting Hokas (running shoe joke there for the footwear obsessed like myself!).

Still though, I reasoned to myself, Vicky Ward has just thanked me for a good workout (although she did the work!) and I have a small credit card sized piece of card that says UKA think I’m a coach, so all should be OK.

However, I was still thinking about it later when I got home and while pondering the niceties of possible routes and other plans etc., I managed to set the smoke alarm off by incinerating, as opposed to toasting, a tea cake. There before me was the perfect metaphor for what could go wrong. A blazing ‘Hindenburg’ style disaster of a group run!

Because – and I’m not especially proud of this – I am the Horsforth Harrier who once took a group out and came back alone. A 100% attrition rate. Now, before anybody thinks that there might be bodies still lodged in the Leeds and Liverpool Canal or filthy, wild-eyed savages scavenging for survival in the woods off Underwood Drive, I’d just like to point out that the group, none of whom run with the club any longer, was basically a bunch of friends who frankly thought I was there as some sort of ‘staff’ and who viewed the run as ‘me time’ and they were going to do whatever suited them, despite what I had carefully planned to attempt to cater for their abilities. And of course, I wasn’t Hils, who wasn’t there that week, but you know, who is? (I’m aware that the answer to that is ‘Hils’, it was a rhetorical question!).


So less than halfway round a moderate circuit, one decided that seeing as she was going to run near her home it would be a good idea to drop out there, and the rest of them thought they’d ditch me and go with her. It was made plain to me that completing the planned route wasn’t in their immediate plans. So I was left to complete the run solo, returning back down the canal, which I had included for their benefit, being nice and flat, although frankly it doesn’t do an awful lot for me. I just had to sheepishly field a few embarrassing questions when I got back to the clubhouse on my own.

Fortunately, they didn’t leave the club immediately after that, so when they ultimately did leave having completed their goals/targets, whatever they might have been, it wasn’t, thankfully, down to my, erm, expertise, or lack thereof, in leading the group.

But recalling it got me thinking. Normally on a Tuesday night I pin my ears back and hare off on the basis that I think I know where we are going, although I haven’t got a 100% track record on that front either! This naturally won’t do if you are group-leading, as being at the front doesn’t mean the same thing as leading in my book. So I’ll need to temper my own ambitions, shepherd the flock, encourage but not harass, and dispense sound advice. Probably a bit of a stretch, that last one though! And I’ll need a hare or two to drag to the troops along and point the way and a route that provides interest while being do-able.

But most importantly, the success of the evening won’t purely be down just to me alone as I’ll look for and listen to, on-run feedback from the ABG as well, because the clue is in the word ‘group’ and it’s important that the group not only participate, but also contribute and communicate, either by suggestion, confirmation, effort or seeking of advice. It’s not ‘I can do this’, it’s ‘we can do this’, something we achieve together, even though we might be trying to get different things out of the session. I’m just a benign dictator with the piece of paper from UKA.

So, providing nobody decides to go home mid run, I’m confident that, yes, WE’VE got this!

Photo credit: Tynedale Harriers website