Recreational running has almost become a dying art!

Recreational running has almost become a dying art!‘Watson’s Words . . .’  Section:

It seems that long gone are the days when an individual can simply trot out a few miles each week, at his or her own pace, in a token attempt to maintain fitness, lose weight, or even enjoy the outdoors.

These days there appears to be constant expectation and pressure to use the most updated and streamlined kit, manage your nutritional intake accordingly, and upload your times and performances to software like Strava or Fitbit.

Refreshing experience

Recreational running has almost become a dying art!Therefore, it was refreshing experience to join Feel Good Inc one recent sunny Sunday morning – a company that promotes running progression, but at the same time caters for all abilities and considers coffee and cake every bit as important as athletic performance!

The company started in 2013, and upon my arrival at their then headquarters in Upper Lamphey Road, Pembroke (Feel Good Inc has since moved and is now based in Tenby Leisure Centre), director Rhys Jordan explained to me why the group attracted a large following.

Go twice a month

“Our time trials are run every second and fourth Sunday of the month to encourage people to get out running,” he said.

“Each runner is set off at 30 second intervals, and people can be competitive or just do it for fun. All ages and abilities are encouraged to take part and can choose either one lap (5.5km) or two (11km).
“Anyone eight or over is welcome, with prizes for the fastest male, female and junior. You can run, walk, hop, or skip - as long as you get around. No time limits and £5 entry gets you a number, official time, coffee and cake.”

All can be involved – and free cake too!

Rhys then explained the reasoning behind a time trial format, and the benefits of including inexperienced runners and elite athletes in the same event: “Everyone runs with the main goal of beating themselves and not anyone else, and most importantly can enjoy themselves.

“We want everyone to be involved, and having novice runners mixed in with experienced competitors creates a role model environment.”

Of course, the incentive of free coffee and cake at the end of any run, should always entice a wide range of entrants.

“We (in Pembrokeshire) live in one of the best outdoor gyms in the World. We have amazing coast paths, beaches, and leisure centres, and there is no reason for anyone to be pressured into being healthy.

“Sport is contagious if delivered in the right way. 

“We have had coffee lovers turn into cycle lovers, and cake fans turned into runners. We want to embrace everyone’s goals and help them succeed.”

My tired legs encouraged . . .

Luckily for yours truly, 80 minutes of rugby the previous day meant my tiring legs needed just one goal to be embraced – that of completing the 11km without seizing up.

But any potential nerves were settled by Feel Good staff member Laura Chapman, whose friendly nature reflected the nature of the time trial.

“I love working Sunday mornings,” she explained.

“It’s a relaxed atmosphere and so nice socially afterwards.”

Just as well, as after well-known professional athlete Oliver Simon rocked up, fresh from winning the Lanzarote Marathon at the tail-end of 2015, I realised I was very much in the ‘recreational’ category of runners.

Rhys explained that the clash with the ‘Daffodil Ride Challenge’ in Pendine had robbed us of a few of the regulars, but regardless, a good number of us set off in unusually glorious sunshine.

. . . and a good start before reality rocked up!

I set off fifth, and felt like I was flying through the early parts of the first lap around the outskirts of Pembroke, as I moved to the front while maintaining a steady, if not all together comfortable pace.
And then, as the legs began to tighten and my breathing became heavier, came a serious dose of reality when I heard the sound of footsteps behind me.

Sure enough the afore mentioned Oliver, who had started two and half minutes behind me, and caught me within the first lap, subsequently breezed past me and into the distance without looking like he was breaking sweat.

Moments later Sion Jenkins, who next month will represent Great Britain in the Long Distance Duathlon European Championships in Copenhagen, seemingly strolled by in similar fashion, although he did do me the courtesy of slowing briefly to hold a conversation beforehand.

True grit shown in adversity

At the end of the opening lap, Rhys was waiting by the start/finish line to ask if I, and others, intended to carry on. Through slightly gritted teeth, I committed to lap two.

But I'm glad I did. Despite the inevitable slow-down in the latter stages, the opportunity of running in glorious Pembrokeshire weather, not to mention experience some unfamiliar surroundings, had been too good to miss. 

Indeed, as I went past Pembroke Castle and approached the finish, Rhys’ pre-event words of our county being ‘one of the best outdoor gyms in the World’ made perfect sense.

Ordinary time but a great experience

I eventually settled for an 11km time of 52:36. Sure, it was more than 13 minutes behind the quickest runner in Oliver, but it was good enough to justify enjoying a free latte afterwards.

And it was then when I realised what Feel Good Inc was all about, as runners mixed together and talked in exactly the sort of manner you would expect in a friendly, local coffee shop.

Of course, we live in an era where, in all sports, there is much greater scrutiny on training methods and progression, and where it is easy to get too engrossed in comparing your form to that of others - especially with the modern day tendency to post all performance times online or on mobile phone apps.

But a morning with Feel Good Inc reminded me of something. It reminded me that we can all make running or fitness gains, but low and behold, we can relax and enjoy ourselves while we do it.