Founded on 16th February 2017, the BackPackers are a running crew like no other. Led by Community Captain Leeanne Adu and Vice Captain Megan Beggs, alongside regular coaches Nav and Chevy from Chasing Lights Collective, the crew has grown in numbers and strength for the past 365 days.
Celebrating its 1st Birthday this evening, there are instantly recognisable reasons for its success. This is a family of nurturing individuals, not hardcore running machines. They celebrate the efforts required to keep moving, regardless of the every day mental and physical challenges which often prevent runners from getting to the start line, let alone claiming their medals.
With 3 pace groups - Walk / Jog, Jog or Joggier, they welcome all levels of runners - but they do not focus on Speed, Time or Distance. These are new and seasoned runners, beginners, happy joggers, runners returning from injury - the back of the pack - but do not let that fool you.
This crew meets every Thursday evening at 6.45pm, in the Lululemon Regent Street Store, to run in the west side of the city. When I have joined the crew, we have run drills in Green Park, or amongst the roads between Regent Street and Hyde Park, ran challenges to get as many Blue Plaques as possible, investigating surroundings and building crew members' confidence on route.
Specifically aimed at those runners who line the back of the pack of races up and down the country. Those of us who enjoy running, but are happy enjoying party pace, perhaps a treasure hunt, or are training to complete an event, not break into the elite starting wave. We struggle to find our place in the running community at times. A large proportion of media images of runners are svelte, young, fast, dynamic individuals.. but rarely do we see the beginners or those of us who are still running the marathon course 5-6 hours after the starters gun was fired.. or who didn't start to think about running until our 30's or 40's or a significant life change or challenge made us look at other ways to cope.
It's tough out there and hard to keep motivated without the love and support of other runners who know the pain, or the mental games required to keep trying to place one foot after the other, when you've been out on the road for so long. These are the runners who train hard and with dedication, but for whom the challenge of getting out to run, can be as much about getting the confidence to get started, as any number of miles or races in their way.
Each week the group celebrates individual achievements and talks about their week, the good and bad.. I have missed loads of sessions and can probably count the number of times I have made it along, on no more than two hands... But tonight reminded me why this crew is so special and why they have achieved so much over the past year. Many of us run with CLC too and catch up at other training sessions, but it's the warmth and chilled vibe of the BackPackers that made me realise long ago, that there were other people who shared my race pace.
There's an openness and space to talk, that instantly puts me at ease. I entered the store tonight, feeling pretty low and unsure of whether to come along, but without doubt, by the time I left, I felt warm - my inner smile was back and I know I need to do this more often.
So... BackPackers - I salute you and thank you for the many good smiles and miles shared.. Keep doing what you're doing, as it's a wonderful and much needed part of the London running community.. Big love to you all - I'll be back soon xx
Backpackers can be found on their Facebook Group or on Instagram but just roll up any Thursday, upstairs at Lululemon Regent Street store at 6.45pm - everyone welcome xx