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The Impact of Group Running: A Conversation with Lorie

The Impact of Group Running: A Conversation with Lorie

Getting involved in something new will always have its challenges. It may be the feeling of experiencing uncharted territory, the fear of integrating into a new community of people or understanding that there's a chance of failure. Perhaps the most challenging part is engaging in the first place; being willing to say, “yes, I can and I will,” even before it starts. And if we’re persistent, honest with ourselves and tenacious through the peaks and the valleys, we’ll eventually find our sense of place.

Meet Lorie Stucke. Lorie has been a part of our community for a few years through training groups and our Fleet Feet Run Club in Spokane. We had the chance to sit down with her and hear about her experiences with training groups. Moreover, we got to hear a real, honest chat about one’s relationship with group running. Let’s take a dive into this inspiring interview.

Spokane running

Photo by Jesse Tinsley

FF: What drew you to our training groups?

LS: I have been on a quest the last few years to become healthier, both physically and mentally, and I found this great community at the gym where I work out – Air-O Fitness. A lot of the things we were doing at the gym involved running, yet I was never really good at running. I played softball in high school and was good at sprinting around the bases, but that was about it. Anything running and I shied away from it because I felt like I was not good and that I couldn’t get better at it.

I had a lot of success with a healthier lifestyle. I lost some weight working out at the gym and we would make goals to do things together. We had done some Spartan races, and my friends would often be training for a goal race – I thought signing up for them would motivate me to get out there and to work on my running. Instead, the races would just sneak up on me. I would put it on the calendar thinking I could get ready for it or that would motivate me, but that just didn’t work and I would have to run unprepared. So, I started looking around for a place where I could learn more about running, improve my own running and have the accountability and consistency that it takes to do the work and see the results.

So I came to Fleet Feet’s No Boundaries program (now named Ignite!) in the Fall of 2019.

I participated consistently and had a great wrap-up 5k race. After that I joined the Fleet Feet Running Group. We did some hill work and even stayed connected through other activities together. We even did things like yoga, focusing on having a well-rounded group of activities all designed to move you forward as a runner after No Boundaries. I loved it. Then, everything shut down for COVID. 

Fleet Feet leaders did a great job of creating an online community for runners, posting running challenges and running routes. We loved that, too, but it’s not the same as having a running group that can meet in person.

It helped me realize that there is nothing better for me than having a scheduled event on the calendar to get me out to run with a group. It was the thing I needed to start moving forward. It gave me a reason to keep showing up, even when I didn't feel motivated, doubted that I could change my habits or felt like I wasn’t improving.

When there is a group to meet with and an appointment on the calendar, I show up.

Lorie and her team after finishing the Spokane to Sandpoint relay.

FF: So, accountability works really well for you?

LS: Yes. And I feel like that goes hand-and-hand with having a group. I realized over the years that group fitness was right for me. I would go to workout groups and spend time with the gym community. It was very motivating, especially because you have a lot of the same people that share the same goals. The crazy thing is it never occurred to me until I saw the Fleet Feet group that the same kind of accountability works in running. Running often feels like a pursuit that is very individual, but there is something about meeting together, seeing other runners and being out there with everyone that shares that same kind of great motivation I found with my other fitness groups.

You see people in these training groups who are in all different stages of running. Those who are motivated to see other people doing it and want to be doing it with them. Those who just want a little dose of fresh air and sunshine. Those who appreciate that we get to see things we wouldn't normally see and would otherwise miss if we were in bed or on the couch. It’s the sunsets, lights, sunrises and all of those things we would miss if we stayed inside.

That has been the real gift.

Not just the group fitness or group dynamic part of it, but the gift of just being out in the world and seeing all the beauty it has to offer. It reminds me that I wouldn't see and experience these things if I had not committed to a group like this.

I have really enjoyed it. I try to remember to stop and let myself take in the moment.

FF: What was the most challenging part of this journey?

LS: It sounds like something little, but showing up is the most challenging part for me. Like everyone, my work and life have just been more stressful lately. I am someone who can be full of excuses, and there are so many and they are all so valid. Everything from fearing failure, to worrying about how fast or slow I’m going, or being afraid of what other people think of how I’m doing. So, showing up can be hard for me, and it's not something little. I can find so many ways to be too busy to get to things, but when I really think about it, it comes back to the basic fear of failure and simply not feeling like I’m up to the task.

I know that’s silly. We all know it's silly. But it doesn't mean that our brains don't tell us things that aren’t true. They tell us that we’re going to fail. But it turns out it really doesn't matter.

Even though showing up is hard, I realized that’s the important part. Once I get there and am with the Ignite! group, it didn't matter that showing up was hard. I was there and I didn't fail.

Initially, the program looked intimidating and I worried about it because I didn't feel that I was up to the task for some of the workouts.

However, the coaches and mentors run alongside you and talk to you about the things you worry about. They walk beside you no matter if you're ready to turn it up a notch and get faster, or if you're just looking for a way to get more consistent and out there running more regularly.

So all and all, just showing up was hard for me. But when I did, it was great and I realized once you get there it's all going to be okay.

FF:  You shared about how that was a battle at the end of Ignite!, but you did it, you made it almost every single time.

LS: I made it to most of them. I would take note of how I was feeling before, even on the days when I didn’t think I could do the whole workout. Even when it would have been easier to stay home. Because if I didn’t go, I couldn’t fail, right? Well, despite those thoughts I showed up anyway, and I’m so glad I did.

At one point, I posted my concerns and fears in our Facebook group, and later found myself thanking the group because the support I received was so great. Not a single person minimized it or was dismissive or unkind. They all listened to me complain and responded with things like, "you showed up here and that was great, and you did a great job,” or “You don't look like you're hurting now, so great work.”

This accomplishment was big for me, and you told me to write it down and put it on my fridge to celebrate it that night. Then tomorrow morning, look at what I wrote down and celebrate it again. I loved that exercise. Shouldn't we do that with all the things we accomplish? 

Whether big or small, acknowledging and celebrating when we overcome hurdles like this is such an important part of being a better human and feeling better in life.

Aside from the physical challenge, I do think it's important to acknowledge that mental work is also hard work. We think we just need to change our self-talk, and there are lots of strategies for doing that. But it’s work you have to do over and over again. We need to remember it's not just something you do and fix easily. It's not that simple. It’s hard work that you have to do often. Acknowledging when you are doing hard work is part of the process, too.

The other thing that I found very effective was the online support from other runners through the Facebook group. When I shared my struggle and thanked everyone for lifting me up when I needed them, another one of the runners said that he has tapped into the “collective soul” of the group for motivation many times over the years. I don't know if I will ever think about it in any other way again. Having a group you can count on, tapping into that “collective soul” and using it when you need to is a powerful reminder.

FF: What was your biggest reward from that experience?

LS: The funny thing about a lifestyle change is that there are some things that can linger, that are hard to deal with. Self doubt is one of those things for me.

Although I have had success with some weight loss and I have done some really long and difficult obstacle course racing, I continue to doubt myself when it comes to running. I feel that the more success I can have – whether with Ignite!, group running or just on my own - those reminders are so important.

It’s tough when you have done the hard work to move forward on physical fitness or mental health but then lose ground and feel like you have to do all that work again. Failure just sticks with you. But it's never a mistake to try again. That has been hard for me – to be reminded that wherever I’m at in the process, I am okay and I can keep moving forward.

You have to be persistent. You can have many successes but still feel like an imposter when you line up for the next race. I wish I had a magic wand for that, but I think the magic is in showing up.

FF: What are your goals going forward?

LS: I have an injury that has been bothering me. In the past I would have let that stop me, but instead I am carefully trying to heal and keep moving. So, I have been coming [to the training groups] and trying to run as much as I can. I have walked while rehabbing this injury, which has been hard mentally. I feel a little frustrated and I would normally use it as an excuse to say running is not for me and quit. Instead I am trying to be very conscientious, patient and keep moving forward.

I do have more races on my schedule, but I feel like I can keep moving toward them with the help of group gatherings.

My big goal is to run a half marathon in Missoula in June. It’s my hometown and it will be my first half. A 10K has been my longest running event I’ve done before. I have done some of the crazy Spartan races like the Montana Spartan Beast last year which ended up being about 15 miles. But those are mostly slogging and hiking, not running. It's not easy but it is not running.

There are things about that that are very well suited for me as there are obstacles to break it up. It’s weird to say, but mentally it’s harder for me to run for 13 miles straight than to do it with obstacles. I still have some mental work to do and I need to learn more about how to keep going when I want to stop.

I've got some other races scheduled. I will do a couple of the Negative Split races and a couple of 10K races in the spring. To be set up for those, I’ll be joining the spring distance training group at Fleet Feet. I'm a little nervous that I won't be prepared for the group, but who knows, maybe I will be. If I have a plan to run 13.1 miles with structured intervals of running and walking that would be really good for me. What I have noticed is that if I don't have a plan, then I run until I feel like stopping, and I stop a lot sooner.

FF: What would you tell someone who was thinking of joining one of our training groups?

LS: You would be hard pressed to find another group of people who are so supportive, positive and knowledgeable. When you are starting out in running and you don't really know what you need, it's nice to talk to other runners about it. Everything from gear, advice on rest days, what their routines look like or how far they run.

It's nice to have somebody running by your side when you're not sure you can do it. Fleet Feet has really cultivated a positive community of coaches, mentors and runners who will give you the support you need when you are starting out, continuing or restarting.


For information on training groups and how you can get involved, visit this page.


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