Have you ever stood at the start line of race and looked around at the sea of club runners around you and thought, “Oh dear, I really shouldn’t be here”?
This has happened to me a few times, but most memorably at Masson Hill in 2014. Here in Derbyshire, the local fell races get a strong following from the clubs in Belper, Sinfin, Erewash, Ashbourne, Matlock, Wirksworth, Ripley, Derwent, Dark Peak, Mansfield, Heanor, Totley and more. I remember that Masson Hill race well because it was one of my first local races. This was before I had joined a club myself and was early on in my fell running career. I looked around at all those svelte looking guys and girls and the rainbow colours of the club vests around me and honestly thought I could easily come last here. The nerves really kicked in then and I had one of my “I could be at home drinking wine and watching Come Dine With Me” moments.
The truth is though that wearing a club vest does not automatically make someone faster or stronger than you. Anyone can join a running club; you, me, your mum, the postman, Bob from next-door. Will that mean they will be faster than you? Probably not. Will it give them a sense of camaraderie and confidence? Probably. My point is, don’t be put off from participating because of a false sense of not being good enough. I didn’t come last at Masson, and crossed the line ahead of many of the seasoned club runners.
Most of us have heard the phrase ‘all the gear and no idea’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood next to someone at the start line of a race who was wearing the latest expensive trail shoes, snazzy compression socks, top of the range Garmin and pricey sunglasses. Having all that stuff is probably very nice, but it won’t really make you a better runner. At Masson that same year, there was a bloke there who looked like he had turned up straight from work on a building site. He was wearing normal day shoes, cut-off denim shorts and a tatty old vest. He easily finished in the top third of all the runners there.
So turn up and give it a go, you might surprise yourself!