A running tour? No I can't. YES YOU CAN
One of the most frequent queries we get in the Secret London Runs inbox are worries about being fit enough to join in with our running tours.
And when I talk to people, the overriding reason they're worried about joining a tour is to do with their running ability; fears of getting left behind as an unsympathetic tour guide jets off into the distance. Or a group of running enthusiasts leave you for dust.
But there must be many others who don't email us, or we don't get to speak to, so I'm writing this blog to tell everyone: YES YOU CAN.
The This Girl Can campaign is reported to have given 2.8 million women the confidence to do some exercise.
I'm not expecting a million-strong stampede, but hope that by the end of this article I've convinced you - men and women who might not be too confident in your running - YES YOU CAN join a running tour with Secret London Runs.
Gin Glorious Gin Week - a tour speed for everyone
We're got a new running tour to celebrate London's long-term thirst for gin, launching with tours every day in the first week of October.
Each day's 8k tour has a guided pace time, many of them aimed at the less-habitual runners.
Sunday 2 October 12pm: Power Walking
This has been the most popular group so far. We'll go at a walking speed that raises your heartbeat, but without putting any strain on you.
Sunday 2 October 3:30pm: 1 hour 15 minutes / 10k
You don't have to be able to run 10k to join this tour. Or even be confident at 5k. We'll be going at a gentle running pace for those who consider themselves plodders. Or perhaps you haven't run for a little while but want to get back into it? We will run all the way but stop 8 times for gin-related fun, history and ad breather. You'll be surprised how quickly the miles pass you by.
Wednesday 5 October 7:30pm: 1 hour 30 minutes / 10k
This evening tour is especially for those who are not confident at running. The tour will mix up a very gentle running pace with walking to help you cover the distance. And, as with all the other times, there are regular fun-filled stops on the way.
So you love gin, but not that big on running - can you join a tour in Gin Glorious Gin Week? YES YOU CAN. See our website for full details.
Private tours: your tour, your way
Though we sometimes run group tours (like to launch Gin Glorious Gin week, and we previously did to launch the London's Power Women tour), our main tour business is private tours. You book your own private guide at a time that suits you.
And you tell us how fast you want to run or walk. So you really don't need to worry about strangers making you run too fast. It's just the guide you've got to keep up with. Speaking of which...
A guide who knows what it's like to struggle
I'm the chief guide at Secret London Runs. So if you book a running tour with us you're likely to end up with me as your guide.
Although I now love running, this hasn't always been the case. I know what it's like to be uncomfortably struggling at the back of a pack, wondering when this torture is going to end, while others seamlessly stride out in front of me. I will not inflict that feeling on anybody who comes on one of my tours.
I first got into running at university. Although I'd always played a lot of sport, I never went running. As the fresher pounds (Ok, stones...) piled on, I decided at the end of my first year to use running to try to reverse the waistline expansion.
My mantra was '5k a day' - travel 5k on the treadmill every day. It didn't need to be pretty and it didn't matter how I did it. To begin with I walked most of the way with a few minute-long spurts of running along the way. And it was horrible. And wobbly. But I did it every day. After a few months, I was out running 10k and then 20k. I've had the running bug ever since.
Recently, I've had to go through that starting-from-scratch process all over again. Following an overzealous office Christmas party I broke my leg. Embarrassing - I know.
And really stupid.
The last 6 months have been a long old slog back to running. In May, my running consisted of five minute-long bursts within a 30 minute walk. I've gradually built it up and am now well on my way to normal.
So I know too well what it's like to not feel like you can go on. I'm not going to push anybody to run further than they can. But I will help you to make it round the tour. YES YOU CAN.
I hope you'll join me for a running tour. I promise, I'm gentle, fun and you won't believe how quickly the miles get swallowed up, even if we're on a run-walk mash-up.
Fascinating history to combat 'the boredom'
And sometimes it's not just fitness concerns that put people off running. Some of you (gasp) finding running boring.
Not on my watch.
Our secret themed running tours, as well as Gin Glorious Gin have built in stops on the way, to reveal fascinating facts about London's hidden past. Things you would normally walk straight past. So on these tours, you're often not running for longer than 300m or 400m at a time, before we give you something to think about.
Each stop gives you plenty to think about on the next run - like the Crossbones Graveyard on the In the Shadow of the Shard running tour: A medieval unconsecrated burial ground for the 'single women' of Southwark: The prostitutes who were taxed by the church but refused a Christian burial.
So you can cope with the 'boredom' of running - with a running tour YES YOU CAN. It won't be boring at all.
I hope I've convinced you that running tours are accessible. That YES YOU CAN join a group or get your own private guide, and have fun, not struggle with getting round, and end with a feeling of satisfaction like nothing else.
Secret London Runs has 6 private running tours. Gin Glorious Gin will be a group tour for the 2nd to 6th October and will then be available as a private tour. See you soon and do email me, email@example.com if you've got any queries.