So­cial Move­ment

Slow, steady and sure is the way for­ward for Lon­don run­ning group Back­pack­ers

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

Back­pack­ers is a run­ning crew happy to bring up the rear

NOT EVERY runner is driven by set­ting PBS and beat­ing peers. It’s a fact of­ten over­looked by main­stream run­ning clubs, but a new run­ning group – Back­pack­ers – sets out to cham­pion those who are per­fectly happy to be bring­ing up the rear.

‘Slow is not weak,’ says crew cap­tain Leeanne Adu, 32, from south­east Lon­don. ‘We may not have supreme speed, but we do have the heart to go the dis­tance.’

Leeanne never thought of her­self as a runner. In 2012, hav­ing never run fur­ther than 10K, she got a place in the Lon­don Marathon. She trained hard and com­pleted the race is 5:36, which made her re­alise that noth­ing was out of reach.

‘In the course of my train­ing I saw that there were so many run­ners like me, work­ing hard to get stronger but also want­ing to have a good time while do­ing it,’ she says. ‘I’d al­ways loved en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to find their feet with run­ning so I started lead­ing groups.’

Back­pack­ers is a pro­ject from the Chas­ing Lights Col­lec­tive, a Lon­don run­ning crew founded by 36-year-old run coach and trainer Chevy Rough. ‘I en­cour­age mem­bers of the Col­lec­tive to give back via projects that bring move­ment, con­nec­tion and com­mu­nity to peo­ple,’ he ex­plains. ‘Just as Leeanne is do­ing with Back­pack­ers.’

‘There can be a lot of bar­ri­ers to en­try when con­sid­er­ing join­ing a run­ning group for the first time,’ adds Leeanne. ‘“Will I be too slow?” “What if I walk?” “What if I'm the last one back?” We wanted to cre­ate a crew specif­i­cally to sup­port those peo­ple.’

When crew mem­ber Ruth turned up for the first time, she cried be­cause of the warm wel­come she re­ceived. ‘I’d been to one run­ning club where I was told within the first mile that it wasn’t the right place for me and ad­vised to turn back. Other clubs told me I could join when I was faster. At Back­pack­ers, I knew I’d found my place – there’s com­mu­nity and friend­ship as well as move­ment.’

On a typ­i­cal evening, 20 or so run­ners show up. ‘Af­ter a cel­e­bra­tion of the past week’s suc­cesses, we warm up and then hit the road in our pace groups,’ says Leeanne. There are three choices – walk/jog, joggy and jog­gier (10minute mil­ing is as fast as it gets). But it’s not just about grind­ing out miles: ‘We’ll meet mid­way to do some tech­nique work or strength prac­tice – or play games. The ses­sions are var­ied to keep it in­ter­est­ing and help run­ners stay in­jury-free.’

At the Hack­ney Half Marathon in May, Back­pack­ers provided of­fi­cial pac­ers for the back end of the field. ‘We wanted run­ners to feel sup­ported and ap­pre­ci­ated for their hard work and train­ing, re­gard­less of speed or time,’ says Leanne. ‘It was amaz­ing – we laughed, joked and sang our way to the fin­ish line.’

The feed­back they re­ceived was re­sound­ingly en­thu­si­as­tic – so ex­pect to see them at fu­ture races. And if you do, Leeanne has a word of warn­ing: ‘Don’t feel sorry for us be­cause we’re at the back. We like it there.’

Clock­wise from top left: Leeanne Adu leads run­ners along Re­gent Street, Lon­don; tak­ing in some green space; postrun group shot; a lit­tle work on those quads never goes amiss; Nav Kiani, vice cap­tain of the Chas­ing Lights Col­lec­tive, ad­vises on tech­nique and run­ning form

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