I started this post last weekend but then got busy with other stuff so I thought I’d finish it today. I wasn’t running that day. I was sitting in the summer house trying to get some work things finished and learning how to cope with my new MacBook Air. Facebook tells me that lots of ladies from the Clubhouse were running races that day and that others were battling the warm weather on their training runs. So the Clubhouse. I thought I’d tell you about it and about the Too Fat to Run (TFTR) Community/Group/Whatever you want to call it in more detail than I have before.
I am probably about the last person you might expect to join a running club. I am also about the last person you’d expect to join an online group of any kind and I am probably also one of the least likely women to like the idea of joining a women only group. Let’s face it, we can be bitchy and competitive and dramatic and mostly I really can’t be bothered with that shit. I’m also not the most sympathetic and I get irritated by other people’s dramas quite easily. I also don’t really care what other people think most of the time so it is difficult to see what I might get out of such groups or what I might contribute. The Clubhouse is an online, women only running club – so exactly what I would usually roll my eyes at and what I certainly wouldn’t pay to join, except that I did.
So how did the Clubhouse and my engagement with TFTR turn out to be so amazingly positive? Back in November when I felt totally lost and I was struggling to get off the sofa, Facebook showed me a suggested page for Countdown to Christmas run by Julie Creffield who is behind TFTR. It was fairly cheap and I thought it might give me a positive focus through December and it did.Daily challenges kept me doing something and it was fun to interact with people and laugh about our attempts at some of the challenges and celebrate our successes in others. It felt like being part of something at a time when I wasn’t really sure where I was going with anything. I read about the Clubhouse and I wondered whether it might be fun. I signed up on a whim really. I’m glad I did but I still find it really hard to articulate why.
The Clubhouse is a pretty simple premise – you pay a monthly fee (or pay all in one go for the year as I did) and get access to a closed online Facebook group in which Julie provides a sort of coaching thing which is also hard to capture in words. There are monthly themes (May =retreat) with challenges set to go with it, there are opportunities to ask questions – generally of course but also at specified points each week, there’s a discount on merchandise and the other things Julie does, there’s a closed section of the website with resources – running plans etc. You do actually get a lot for your money including tips on running and fitness from Julie which are specific to you. The Facebook group is the most valuable. I interact with someone on there daily. Ok, I hear you, I could do that on the open Too Fat to Run page too but it’s not the same. For a start the main page is public, the group is private and the page has too many followers to create the feel of a supportive group and network – it’s too anonymous (eventhough it is public – I know what I mean!). Ok, I could set up a closed group and invite all my running friends to join that – oh wait I don’t have many running friends… I have some friends who run but it is not running that has brought us together as friends and somehow there are things about running – particularly running as the fatty that I am that I’m not sure I want to share with people I actually know in other ways – not in a personal sort of closed facebook group kind of way (yes, weird given that I will happily blog about it all).
So the Clubhouse works for me because I am not a sociable runner and therefore don’t talk running with a group of likeminded runners on a regular basis – an actual running club fills me with dread (although I will go one day just to try a session, it’s good to be a little scared, right?!?) but I do have this slightly odd need to share my running stories, fears, disasters and successes with people who ‘get it’. The Clubhouse brings together a group of women who get it. The ‘it’ is slightly different for all of us I think. We are all at different stages of our running lives and our lives generally, we have different views on everything, including running and health and fitness but so far, surprisingly for a group of women, I have found it to be supportive, encouraging and totally non-judgmental. I like hearing the stories as much as I like sharing mine. The funny thing is, I’m not sure I would in ‘real’ life. Online is good. Others in the Clubhouse do meet up and make more of an effort to meet up at races etc, I’m not sure that’s what I need from the Clubhouse, what I need is instant unquestioning support right there when I need it and for that it works (don’t ask for much do I ?!?)
There are other things about the Too Fat to Run community I really like – there’s a blog, monthly virtual One Big Fat Run – a 5k run on the last Sunday of the month. You can even buy a medal in the shop if you run for the bling (more on that another time!). I like my Too Fat to Run t-shirts because whenever I wear them I get brilliant people watching opportunities – people don’t quite know how to react when they see me walking or running along with ‘Too Fat to Run?’ in big letters across my front and I wish I’d had something like the 5 weeks to 5k programme when I started out because it is so much better than the programmes I tried to get through and work with. And if you like having a nosey at what other people are doing there is always the Runner of the Month feature (I’m January and blogged about that here).
It might not be for everyone and maybe it won’t be for me in the long term, who knows, things change but for now I really value the support I get from a whole bunch of women I’ve never met (save for a few who I have met briefly before and even more briefly during the London Marathon). If you want to begin to get a sense of what it’s all about have a look at the main Too Fat to Run Facebook Page.