Midnight Runners are the running group who know how to have a good time! Every Tuesday evening these guys tear up Southbank with a music-thumping adrenaline pumping 10k boot camp. It kicks off near Millennium bridge with St. Pauls Cathedral providing a stunning backdrop for the warm-up. From there the group run 10k, stopping around every 1-2k to do a high intensity calorie burning workout activity. Yup, not your average running club.
I’d been along to Midnight Runners twice last year in between marathon training. Back then I found it quite an overwhelming experience (there were 200+ runners on my very first go) but the concept I loved. Especially as MR have their leaders and volunteers run alongside you with hand-held boom boxes and giant speakers on their backs, throwing out the likes of Calvin Harris and Sigma.
Having recently managed to run a few decent post-injury 5k’s, I decided to return to MR with some friends who I knew were going (that’s them above!) one of whom is a Midnight Runner regular.
Running a 10k seemed completely do-able; my injury felt like a distant memory and my recent park run PB had me feeling back to my old self. I was ready and raring to go; I downloaded the mycrew app and signed up with my mates.
Yet despite feeling ready for it all week, on the day of MR I was overcome with anxiety. I was suddenly doubting my ability to run a 10k distance, I feared hurting myself, I was panicking about the HIIT style sessions and I was even panicking about the people and the crowds.
Fortunately, a quick reassuring phone call from my pal Scott and I calmed myself down, hopped on the tube and was on route to meet him and Sarah. I just had to remind myself to take it easy and not push myself too hard.
(Famous last words eh?)
The run was a beautiful one; dark but dazzling. Previously I’d ran with MR in the summer, setting off in the warm light evening and finishing to the dusky pink sky. This time the sun was well and truly down before we even arrived at the bag drop. Darkness had fully descended onto London and the river was twinkling with street lamps and car lights. It was a cold evening but we soon warmed up as we ran past the warm buzz of riverside bars and restaurants, occasionally getting a round of applause from the Tuesday night punters.
I ran the first 2k at quite a good pace, although it did tire me quicker than I expected. We stopped for our first activity at South Bank for an exercise that involved partnering up and doing some sort of weird double mountain climber thingy. No that is not the correct name for it, I don’t want to know the correct name for it, I never want to do it again. As fit twosomes around us did this move perfectly whilst barely breaking a sweat, Scott and I struggled. We started ambitiously and Scott was far more enthusiastic than me. But nope. I gave up. I hadn’t realised how unfit I had become but my legs ached and shaked and then ached some more.
Fortunately, the MR leaders and volunteers won’t scrutinise you for stopping or sitting any exercises out. They understand everyone is at different levels. And whilst they are incredibly encouraging and motivating, they would never push any runner too hard … apart from one chap who was rather militant, but Scott and I chose to pretend he didn’t exist.
Surprised at my poor fitness level during the first workout (the first of five!) I felt determined to prove to myself that I could at least still run well. And so for the next 2k I – rather foolishly – sped up.
By the time we reached the next stop point I was completely out of breath. I could practically hear my heart beat pulsating in my ear like it was playing out on one of the boom boxes and I could feel it pounding in my chest. Am I really that unfit?
We were to do planking and push-ups next. Oh how fun. Once again I partnered up with Scott but pulled out half way as I felt so exhausted – yup, already! Instead, I hopped on photography duties, taking pics of Scott planking and Sarah and Hannah nailing their partner push-up hand clap thingy’s (again, not the technical name for it, but I’m sure you’re aware of that.)
I’d been running alongside Scott who is much much quicker than me. Realising that I needed to be careful, I decided to take it slow for the next 2k. And so he sped off whilst I tried to pace myself.
But it was too late. As I ran the third 2k, I could feel a teeny tiny pain in my lower back.
I began to panic that my injury was resurfacing. I ran very slowly and sat the next exercise out, which was sets of, erm, lying down & stretching your legs whilst a person pushes them, thingy’s.
I was loving the crowd, I was loving the stunning views, I was loving the music, but I was NOT loving that I had probably pushed myself too hard at the very beginning. Or maybe I just wasn’t ready for a 10k.
On their website and the mycrew app, Midnight Runners do advise that you must be fit enough to run a 10k in order to take part and that this particular Midnight Runners activity and event probably isn’t for beginners. I thought I would be fine. I’ve ran marathons for crying out loud.
But it made me well and truly realise – I am a beginner all over again.
For the fourth 2k I ran very very slowly again and I began to feel okay. Fine actually. We stopped near Embankment for the next exercise which was lunges – I know that one, so I decided to take part.
First lunge – okay. Second lunge – good. Third lunge – great. This was the only activity I had successfully been able to nail. Maybe my anxious and paranoid mind had imagined the back pain. Maybe I was fine.
But I made a big mistake after tottering through the next 1k run and stopping to take part in the final exercise.
You see I’m good at squats, in fact part of my recovery work with my physio was doing lots & lots & lots of squats. And the MR version of squats is a fun one, testing your strength and stamina in the process as they play out a song that you must ‘squat to’ in time with the music. Lots of fun! So I rather ambitiously decided to join in. But clearly my back had had enough and clearly my brain wasn’t listening (she does that sometimes, my brain, just stubbornly ignores the signals sent by my grumpy body parts.)
As my legs took me down on the third squat I felt a horribly familiar pain in my back.
I stood up and quietly removed myself from the group, once again sitting out the exercise.
What had I been thinking?? A 10k when I had only run five since my injury? And the push-ups? The planks? The mountain bloody climbers??
I very very slowly jogged the last 1k, I would have walked but I was desperate to get back, grab my bag and head home so that I could get into bed, eat noodles, gorge on chocolate, lie the fudge down and feel sorry for myself! I did the warm down, only doing the stretches I could manage and the ones I knew might help. Then it was home time.
At home I tried to lie down on my bed. But as I went to sit I felt a spasm shoot through my lower back, causing me to cry out in pain. I had to lie myself down without actually moving my body; I looked like I was wearing an invisible full body cast, not a great look.
Needless to say I’ve barely ran since. It’s been a month. I’m only just now starting to feel like I’m ready to get back out there and I am hoping that Runup2Christmas can push me to step-up my running levels a nice and easy pace.
I really do love this club and up until squatty pain I was really enjoying the social side of it. But I really had been a bit too adventurous and far too ambitious thinking that I was at the point where I was ready for a 10k boot camp.
If you are thinking of heading along to Midnight Runners, I absolutely recommend but be careful and make sure you’ve had some practice in first.
For me, it’s time to go back to basics in terms of stretching, doing my Pilates and sticking to lots but little runs. I have to remind myself that there is no rush. The road is my oyster and there will be plenty of time for squats, Midnight Runners and, perhaps one day, maybe another marathon.