When I started running, it was a solitary experience. Running at 5:30am, under the cover of darkness, hoping no one would see me having to take a walk break and nurse a stitch. For my first half marathon in October 2010, Charlie Dark came to my aid and offered to run it with me. Without his support that day, I would most likely still be on the course in floods of tears. That day, I realised the importance of a little encouragement. When I asked if people would like to run my next half marathon in Paris with me, I honestly expected two people to reply. Twenty did. And so, Team Bangs on the Run was born. A happy accident to start with, it has become more than I could ever have imagined.
I didn’t know what I was doing. I never thought of myself as a leader, but all of a sudden, I had twenty people asking me what to do. I would send motivational emails to my ‘team’ once or twice a week, with some training advice. I was still a relatively new runner myself so was learning as I went, but we were all in this together. We shared our ups and downs and though most of us had never met and all this was taking place over social networks and email, we were becoming a support network but more than that, friends.
During that training cycle I was constantly getting emails from people asking me when the next Team Bangs would be. I had never even considered it. By the time I crossed the finish line of the Paris Half, I knew I had to do it all again, get more women involved, being active, being supportive of other women who were making the effort to change their lives.
Team Bangs 2 saddled up and was ready for action. As those 13 incredible women trained for Run to the Beat, it was more than a support network, more than friends, we had become a sisterhood. As they blogged and tweeted about the blood, sweat and tears of training, something was happening. More emails flooded in about when I’d be doing the next Team Bangs, it seemed I couldn’t log on to Twitter without seeing legions of women talking about running, so many saying the Team Bangs girls had inspired them to give it a go. On my 5:30am runs as a beginner, I never imagined this.
Team Bangs on the Run 3 rolled around, this time with eight girls, training for the Berlin Half Marathon. Suddenly, I felt I was losing my way a little bit. My leadership was called into question, various projects stole my focus. Try as I did to maintain my work/life balance, hone my own training to nab a PB, guide eight other girls on their journey to half marathon completion and respond to a myriad of emails from women who’d been watching it all and were training alongside us online to complete their own races, it all seemed to be falling apart.
When I crossed the finish line in Berlin, I decided not to do another team. I’d kind of lost direction with it and was wondering what it’d all been for.
But then I got some lovely emails from women who said they’d watched the journey, been inspired to run and were training for races. I check Twitter and all except two of the 41 women who were part of Team Bangs are still running – not a bad success rate. I now count many members of Team Bangs among my closest friends.
I look at people like Melissa and how her confidence has blossomed since getting back involved with fitness. The beautiful Sarah Scribbles, who despite injury has kept on and is prepping for more races. My lovely Jo Jo, who despite having a chronic pain condition is now training for another half marathon and a 40K bike ride. Lauren, the youngest Team Bangs member has done two more halves and even roped her mum in to do one.
Then of course there’s Sam from Team Bangs 2. I was on the wrong side of the road so I missed it when she flew through mile 21 of the London Marathon a couple of weeks ago, proudly wearing her Team Bangs on the Run T Shirt. But my Run Dem Crew family saw her shirt and gave her some massive cheers to carry her through to 26.2. The beautiful Candice, of course, seems to be doing a race every other day and just completed her first marathon in London too. The lovely Tahirah is now fully ensconced in a world of fitness, throwing herself into a 30 day Bikram Yoga challenge and all sorts. Super smiley Karleen from the first team looks like a completely new woman and is taking on challenge after challenge. Orsi from team 3 quit smoking cold turkey and is now a lean, mean running machine. Dani, Christiana and Rachel from Team 3 are about to embark on barefoot running. And Sarah Mei, who was the most running resistant person I think I’d ever met, has slowly learned to, dare I say, enjoy it and I now run with her once a week.
I’m not even sure what it was supposed to be when it started, but Team Bangs on the Run definitely grew into something quite powerful. At the beginning of the year, I started a weekly Team Bangs email with running tips and motivation and that now has almost 400 subscribers. If it’s changed just one person’s life, I’ve done my job.
Who knows what the future holds for Team Bangs, but so far, we’re doing alright.