Finding my place in the pack |

Finding my place in the pack

Group exercise kind of frightens me.

Whether it’s the horrible memories of attending jazzercise with my mother or past encounters with irate soccer coaches, exercise has been a solo operation since high school sports.

Preparing for my first marathon wasn’t supposed to be any different – I was well into my fifth week of training – until David Cotter called.

Cotter is president of the Tahoe Mountain Milers running club and is the head coach of Lake Tahoe Fit, the official group-training program of the Lake Tahoe Marathon.

Cotter said group sessions will make marathon training easier. Once you find a pack to run with, you’ll find your pace, and it helps you get over plateaus. Also, training in a group gives you accountability to show up for early morning runs with the group on Saturdays (“even when you’ve stayed out too late the night before.”).

I could think of a lot of reasons not to do it, not to mention being a non-fit runner among a bunch of acclimated, “X-treme” Lake Tahoe fitness gurus. Besides, I enjoy rolling out of bed around noon on a Saturday afternoon to go for a run.

But, I told Cotter I’d do it.

Two days later at orientation, a group of 35 or so gathered at Bijou Park in South Lake Tahoe for our inaugural run. The coaches gave us an overview of the 26-week program, which includes seminars, trail runs and a relay around Lake Tahoe.

All of the runners (and walkers, to my surprise) in the group had a story about why they decided to train for a marathon.

Monica, fresh off two knee surgeries, wants to pass up all the runners by walking the Lake Tahoe Marathon. One woman started training for a marathon last year and “only got to 17 miles” in her training. Coach George ran cross-country in high school but went on to live a life of “drinking, smoking and debauchery” before he decided to take up running again.

For many in the group, they hope the Lake Tahoe Marathon, barring injury, will be their first. Others have run more 26-milers than they can count.

After introductions, we set off on a three-mile run to see where we fit into the group. Happily, I found myself jogging somewhere in the middle of the walkers (who gave a hearty thumbs up or “good job” as I passed by) and the expert runners (waiting with words of encouragement at the finish line). It was all very positive.

When the run was over, I even found myself looking forward to next week.

Besides, it’s a good excuse to get out of bed on a Saturday morning, even after a Friday night filled with debauchery.

Renee Shadforth is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. For more information on Lake Tahoe Fit, check them out online at

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