What do you want to experience more regularly? shift’s CEO Andrea reflects on her experience with a Jog Derbyshire group…
It’s a question I spent some time pondering over after listening to a reflection podcast by Tara Brach this week. It reminded me of a profound experience I shared with my 10 year old son on Monday evening in our village in rural Derbyshire.
I had been invited to join our local Jog Derbyshire group for their weekly run. Some of the shift team were attending to catch up with the leaders, see how the group runs and offer support. I thought it was a nice opportunity for a work/community social with the added benefit of exercise. Having already juggled several family commitments to make this possible, I cajoled my son Henry to come along with me. He’s a keen rugby player, skater, surfer and cyclist so running shouldn’t be too daunting for him but the thought of joining an adult group made him feel quite nervous.
There was no need – when we arrived at the meeting point outside the butchers we were greeted by the very enthusiastic and super friendly jog leader Ian Travers. Ian is a local resident, dad of two boys and runs his own management consultancy from home so is often seen running in hi-vis early in the morning or after dark.
Feeling of acceptance
As 6.30 approached, more and more people gathered with head torches and smiles, warmth and genuine enquiry of each other’s wellbeing: “How are you?”, “What have you been up to today?”, “Is Claire coming this week?”. We were soon wrapped up into the group, stretching our limbs together and guided by Ian. We introduced ourselves, everybody listened in and Henry was immediately accepted alongside the regulars. Amidst the dark, as commuters made their way home past us in their cars, we emitted a warm glow and low ‘hubbub’ across the market place – a coming together of people who wanted to be out there doing something with others, for fun, for fitness and mostly for friendship.
As we set off along the narrow streets we split into pairs and threes, chatting as we ran. Naturally the faster runners stretched out ahead whilst others found their own pace and rhythm. What’s most striking about running at night is the sounds – of heavy breathing, trainers landing on the pavements and jackets rustling. Making our way through the darkness under torchlight was a real sensory experience and felt like an adventure on our own doorstep.
Tackling the hills
Henry soon found his place (‘I don’t want to run at the back Mum!’) and eagerly kept up with the front runners, talking to my colleagues along the way. As we crossed the road and into the back lanes we all sensed the impending pain of the long hill ahead. Ian reassured us that we’d all make it up the hill without any bother and organised us into a long line before introducing the caterpillar game. This is a great way of self regulating a group of runners – the runner at the back moves out and to the front to set the pace, then the next one goes, and so on. If you want to speed up or slow down, you can when it’s your turn at the front. Before we knew it, we’d reached the top and the outline of the Derwent Valley opened up in front of us. ‘Ahhhh!’ went the collective sigh of relief and sense of achievement.
Half an hour was enough for our first time out, so as we ran back into the village to regroup we said our goodbyes and watched the remaining joggers head up another hill towards a well known view point. A bold voice chirped up “Can we come every week Mum?” – well, yes, of course we can! I asked Henry how he’d found it and why he wanted to come again. His response was unequivocal – “I loved it, the people were really kind”.
The kindness of others
I’ve thought a lot about this since Monday. As a competitive 10 year old boy I fully expected him to enjoy the evening, especially the excitement of running in the dark with a headtorch. Yet it was the kindness of others which impressed upon him and the experience he most wanted to repeat.
What a relief to hear that kindness is valued by our young people! And so reassuring that experiencing basic goodness is reason enough to carry on and do more.
Jog Derbyshire has been built on the premise that running in a group leaves you feeling good, and that it is possible to create, recreate and replicate an environment which is warm, friendly, welcoming, kind and caring to include all regardless of age or ability. To me, community is all about connecting with others and feeling that sense of belonging, so it’s no wonder Jog Derbyshire is one of our flagship programmes at shift. For many, it’s the glue which keeps people together every week, the reason to leave their desk earlier on a Tuesday or to put in place a whole load of child care arrangements to enable a conversation with friends whilst pounding the pavement.
Recent studies support our belief that it’s the social element of group exercise which keeps people engaged. But when I experienced it through the eyes of my son this week with Crich Jog Group, I realised the deep and true value of group activity and togetherness.
To find out more about Jog Derbyshire visit www.jogderbyshire.co.uk