More than 10 years ago a woman at my gym approached me and said she’d seen me running on the treadmill and would I like to run with a group outside. It would be much better than the treadmill, she said.

I decided to try it, not realizing how far the small group, there were 3 of us the first time I joined them, would run. we covered nearly 4 miles that first day. And I ran most of the way, because I wanted to keep up and not hold them back.

They convinced me that I should register for a race and do it. I had no aspirations of becoming a runner or entering even a small race, but I did. It was summer in Orlando and hot, hot, hot. But I trained and ran one 5K. I was so proud of myself.

I would not have done it without the group.

It’s 11 years later and I am trying again to work on being more fit. I decided last week that I would try to do a little running and see if I could do a 5K again. It feels like such a minor goal when I see that people are doing half and full marathons. And I can hear my inner critic saying that “you probably won’t even make it to two miles, don’t even bother trying.

I am so sick of her voice, though.

This week I looked up the Orlando Black Girls Run! group again and actually joined the FB page this time (I’d looked before). Inner critic: “Why are you even looking at that? You can’t even do that.”

The first group run event notice I received was for a run really near my home just two days away on Saturday. Inner critic: “Girl, you just barely ran / walked 20 minutes today and you gone try to run with them? Puhlease.”

I decided Friday night that I had stayed up too late and I was too far out of shape to go to the early run on Saturday. I would wait until I got into better shape and try again another time. Meanwhile, I’m peeking at the FB page and seeing women respond to my post about just being a run/walker and saying that all paces were welcome and that some of them were running and walking, too.

Still, I didn’t set my alarm clock for Saturday. But someone sent me an email just after 6 a.m. and I heard my device buzz. I was up. And in time to make the run. I started to dress and my inner critic was with me all the way: “Bet you can’t even find something to wear; you tying your hair up in a bandana – girl, that is so whack; what you gonna do when you sprain your ankle again, huh?”

I checked FB again and one of the women had said she would bring up the rear with me and see me in the morning.

I would just go check it out and try something new. I had heard about Black Girls Run from posts on social media and a woman I went to college with mentioned running with the Nashville group. This was something women like me would do.

When I got to the meeting spot, there was a good sized and friendly group.

It was so great to be with a group to run (think safety!) and to hear people talking about how long they’ve been running, or if they are starting out with walking. I need the group for motivation, structure and perspective. I, as you might have guessed from my strong inner critic, would not easily cheer myself along. And knowing there’s a regular run coming up is great. The perspective comes from seeing that there’s a range of people who are and can be runners. And I am one. It is not too late for me to do it again.

And the BGR group run was a wonderful experience. In fact, I’m writing this now before I can feel the soreness tomorrow, which might cloud the experience. (In fact, I will be pulling out the tiger balm once I post this.)

Why was the run wonderful?

1) I was grateful to have a group to join and know that the route was planned and I wouldn’t be on my own.

2) Everyone was friendly and open to new folks. I didn’t feel left out because I’m just getting started.

3) I work out better and push myself more in a group. I was careful not to be too competitive or prideful so I stuck to running and walking, but pushed myself to run a little more because I could see folks around me doing it. I would have given up in less than our hour if I’d been alone.

4) I shattered my iPhone face earlier in the week and ran without headphones and music. But there were BGR women behind and in front of me and we would chat a little as we caught up to each other, which helped break up the time. The lack of music isn’t a BGR thing, but I wouldn’t have thought I could excercise for an hour without music. Having company helped.

5) While having company helped, everyone is flexible and going it alone was fine, too. And I need that kind of flexibility.

6) Everyone is encouraging and talks about upcoming races, training, the next run, and more. I spent much of the rest of Saturday thinking about the next run, gear I would reward myself with for each milestone, and signing up for a race.

7) The whole group waits for the last runners and walkers to come in at the end. And you run a gauntlet of cheering women giving you high fives (and for us this morning, one guy). Cheering, y’all – cheering. A morning that begins with cheering has to be wonderful.

This won’t really be a “thing” until I am consistently running. But it felt possible today and the idea of running hasn’t felt that way in a long while. It felt like something I would do.

And one more thing – my inner critic was really quiet once I completed a little over three miles this morning.