My time with Cypress Running Club (CRC) and my past 12 months running.

My beginnings
As I pass a key milestone in not only my running, but also my life I wanted to share my experiences of CRC, and the “advanced” group, of the past 12 months.
My Houston adventure started, when at the end of May 2015 I left my parents along with several tears in the departure lounge of Heathrow Airport, to make the journey across the pond to start a new chapter in my life. Not long after, my time with CRC began.
Having never been to the States before, and not knowing anybody here outside of work, I didn’t know what I was getting into or what was on offer. As you can imagine I had bags of excitement but also fear and trepidation, after all, I’d only travelled for vacation previously, and been born and raised in the surroundings I’d left behind, I guess there was always going to be that aspect when it came down to it.
My running re-commenced after quite a few years out, back in early 2013 when during a drunken discussion I decided I was going to get back into running and run my first half marathon in the September of that year. Little did I know that 3 years on I’d still be doing it, having a fair few races, mostly of half marathon distance under my belt and be a part of CRC.

Houston running life
Anyway, onto Houston life and CRC. After about a month of being here and going to several bars and restaurants of an evening and weekend to try and find my feet and meet new friends, whilst this was enjoyable, I knew I couldn’t continue this and had to get back to running and what I’d enjoyed pre-move.
Whilst relative, I recall my first run in Houston, a short 4 mile solo run being terrible as I had to keep stopping and walking as the heat and humidity was just unbearable. Getting back home, all hot and bothered, removing my shoes, I was truly beat and down with how I felt. Not knowing the area meant I was also running on roads/neighbourhoods I had little knowledge of and knew this had to change. So after persevering on a few more runs, and some research, I discovered CRC on good old Facebook, and a recommendation on Yelp.
Soon after a general post, Daniel Benitez kindly got in touch and following various mail exchange about the club and my own goals I decided that this would be the club I had to be a part of. A couple of weeks went by before I attended one of Andrew Robia’s track sessions, and really enjoyed it, attending many more and building some good friendships over the course of the next few weeks and months.

The “Advanced” Group
It was now the end of July/early August and getting up at the ghastly hour of 4am, I made my way to Coles Crossing to meetup with what would be the “Advanced Group”, although what this actually meant I didn’t really know. Were they to be elitists, super-fast runners and a step too far for me? There was only one way to find out and that was to turn up and run, and see what I could make of it.
As I now know to be the norm, I met at the lap pool receiving a nice welcome and soon set off around the usual T-Loop and beyond. But where was I going, only time would tell, after all I was with a complete group of strangers in an area I’d never visited before, and in darkness, was this a good idea.
As we set off I was amazed at how many people were out in general, and I instantly felt a part of the group. I was hooked and went away looking forward to the following weeks run. Would it be the same?
The following week I attended and from there on I knew that it was the group for me. So what made it? Well I think the best way I could describe it, as with the other groups/people within CRC that I’ve since met and got to know, not only like now was it very welcoming but I also saw it as one that had, and continues to have, a strong focus and commitment to the cause regardless of the high/low points. I was also inspired of the motivation to each other both directly and indirectly, and the belief instilled.
Whilst each have their own plan and race goal, the camaraderie was, and continues to be great. I was drawn, and looked forward to the following weeks run. Jennifer Johnson Laughlin’s podcasts for example, and the other all-round general talk and motivation sure made getting up and running those long runs at silly o’clock easier.
Over the months, I can honestly say I’ve admired the group as a whole and would like to think that I have built many strong friendships through it.
Going back to my first meet and the questions as to whether it was full of elitists/super-fast runners. As is obvious, yes there are many fast runners within the group, however there are many times that whilst the long runs/training schedules wasn’t necessarily aligned to each other due to different A races, (Mine being Chevron) there was always someone running at/around my pace and distance. Even some a lot slower than the name “Advanced” could perhaps imply. Having this and the ongoing support certainly helped to keep me focused and accountable to my own training. Something that since the season has ended has dropped a little.

My Chevron Marathon (The A race)
It was during one of the early track meets that I decided that I’d sign up for the Chevron marathon, and from there decided I would follow the CRC training plan although I’d never followed a formal plan before when training for a race as I’d always just done it on the fly. However, I decided I’d follow this, so went into it with an open mind determined to try and stick to it as best I could, particularly with other commitments going on.
As the weeks passed by I was feeling good in my training overall, continuing to get inspired by different things. Setting new PRs at the Cypress Half Marathon, a great local event, and in other races I set myself some challenging goals for race day which ultimately I couldn’t pull off although, as I write this I plan to be back and adapt things to try and help me achieve them.
Not to use as an excuse but looking back at my training, I feel I got some things wrong which whilst hard to prove I think that one of the issues I had was doing too many hard runs including too much speed work as well as running the easy runs too fast resulting in a few issues and twinges pre-race day.
As the saying goes, having a plan is easy, executing it is the hard part.

So what makes CRC in general
Ah, the million-dollar question and one I still struggle to answer at times, but more so in the early days. Everyone will have their own view, but I think what makes the club the way it is, apart from the obvious friendships I’ve gained, is the variety of runners and groups within it.
Seeing all of the runners out on an early morning run for example, from the couch to 5k runners through to the advanced group is certainly great to see and one which I believe gives off good positivity throughout.
Then of course there’s the race days, and particularly seeing everyone before Cypress Half and Chevron Full was great to see and meant I was even more motivated to do well, albeit Chevron was a bad race from my personal perspective.
But the one thing that probably goes further than the above however is the amount of fun had. Whether this be within the regular group meets, and of course the non-CRC events that are attended by the same community such as the Yam Jam for example, even if I did hurt myself that day and still have the scar to remind me of it.

Finally, I’d like to thank all those I’ve met, experienced the good times with, and ultimately gained friendships with. It’s certainly been a great 12-month period for myself, and whilst I came without real expectation having not been in a running club before, I can honestly say it has gone further than I’d have imagined.
As the new season approaches, I’m already looking forward to experiencing more good times and hope that we all achieve our goals for the coming year and beyond.
Thanks for reading, and if you run with another group, maybe one day our paths will cross and we’ll be running together. Utilise the differing groups if you see fit, I think some will be surprised of the outcomes.
Happy Running!