Stepping up

No matter what level you’re at, stepping up a group on the Tuesday sessions can be intimidating! I went into group 4 for the first time this week, and I thought I’d share my experience with you all.  

A bit of background about my running: I started running with HPH on a dreary October night in 2016 in group 1. I moved up to group 2 within a few weeks, but was at the back for a long time. Turning up regularly though, I eventually got comfortable with the pace in group 2 (thanks to Richard Edwards!) and after about a year, stepped up to group 3. I remember how hard that first time in group 3 was, but also remember how wonderful John Hayes was, keeping me going whilst back marking. Since then, I’ve been mostly running in group 3 or leading group 2.

I’ve been wanting to step up to group 4 for a while but thought I’d really struggle. As a group leader, I always give people the advice of: ‘if you’re at the front of one group, you’ll be fine in the next one up!’ After running regularly in group 3, and even leading it twice this year, I figured it was time to take my own advice.

I was a bit nervous about looking after my legs however – I’d had shin splits the past few years, often triggered by high intensity runs. So after running together in group 3 last week, me and Danni made a pact – we’d step up to group 4 together, and if either of us got a twinge or were finding it too hard, we’d both drop out together and have a nice little run back to the edge. 

On the night, it was really wet! Neither of us particularly wanted to go, but we did because of our agreement! Once the announcements on the steps were done and we split into groups, we told our leader, Sarah, that we were stepping up and told her our plan. 

There was no need for our backup plan however! Despite the uphill start and the increased pace, me and Danni stuck with the group, even chatting for most of it! I really thought I’d be so out of breath on the way round that I wouldn’t be able to talk.

We headed out north of campus (uphill start – eugh!), through Woodhouse Moor, wiggled through Hyde Park to Burley where we went down the big hill in Burley Park… but then up it again! Then through Kirkstall, and down to the canal past the big generator. Once on the canal, the pace really picked up, but in a good way. It was nice to keep going at a challenging but steady pace, without stopping for roads. 

I even learnt a different way of signalling from Sarah’s leading. Normally, I just shout ‘keep left’ or ‘keep right’ to get the group to move around obstacles/pedestrians, but Sarah gives a wavey hand signal too – great for when you’re too out of breath to shout! 

Then onto the last bit – up to the Edge from the canal. I expected it to be really steep, but it wasn’t too bad. We headed up round to the west of the hospital, and though there were some stairs and a few short steep inclines, I managed to just about stick with it. I dropped to the back on the last incline as I didn’t have much left in me, but backmarker Jed was super encouraging and I soon got going again. 

Once back to the Edge, we did our classic stretches and group picture – I did have to stretch my tired legs again later in the evening too! 

Massive thanks to Sarah for leading, Jed for back marking, and Danni for giving me the confidence of going up to group 4 – we smashed it!

Here are my top tips for stepping up:

  • Let the group leader and backmarker know it’s your first time in the group, this way they know to check in with you on the run.
  • If you are unsure about stepping up (whether it be route, pace or whatever), drop the leader a message on Spond and they can help you decide.
  • If you’re super nervous, check the route beforehand – I’d personally not want to step up on a particularly hilly route! 
  • If you’re unsure of the pace, wait for a week where there is either a slower or shorter version of your chosen group – these can help ease you in. (These often happen when groups are large and split into two). 
  • As a tester the week before stepping – try to stay at the middle-to-front of your current group for the whole run, then you’ll know you’ll be fine stepping up the next week.
  • If you can, step up with someone else – it’s less intimidating if you’re going up with a friend.
  • Remember HPH is awesome and supportive, and regardless of the group, we’ll never leave anyone behind!

By Grace Charlotte Roberts 2nd June 2022