I may have never won the lottery but I have found £20-£40 lying on the ground four different times since moving to London. You’d think money was falling out of the sky. One of the times was on the street, two of the times was on the Tube, and the last time, this past Friday, was on a dirt path in Hampstead Heath.
I found the £30 in Hampstead Heath while on a run with my running group. Unable to find it’s rightful owner in the Heath (people are so honest!), I planned to give the money to someone I saw on the street or bring it to church. But … then a better, more spontaneous, idea surfaced on the way home.
After the 8 mile Heath Route, I peeled off from the group and detoured to see my hairdresser Jonathan who had just cut my hair earlier that week. I wanted to schedule a follow up appointment for what we coarse, thick-hair people know as “more texturing.” Nothing like a sweaty run to make my big hair case. Sweet Jonathan offered to solve my problem on the spot.
As I was sitting in his chair for the five-minute fix, it dawned on me that it had been his chair where I first heard about the running group. Almost exactly a year ago. A woman named Stephanie was in his chair before me and she had been chatting enthusiastically about her great running group. Desperate for friends in a new city, I asked Stephanie for the details. She immediately followed up to connect me to Women Running the World (or WRW for short.) A weekly email was soon in my inbox with detailed running routes that look like this.
This is the 9 mile route we did from St John's Wood to Canary Wharf (!) last Monday. Not a run I would have done on my own. :)
Now I’ve been part of a few other running groups in the past but none quite like WRW. First, there are close to 150 women in WRW which means no one is left stranded if you accidentally forgot to set your alarm. The run will go on without you but you will have no less than two dozen WhatsApp messages letting you know how great the run was and how much you were missed.
The size of the group is in part because all abilities are welcome including and especially encouraging women who have never run before. The group runs from September through June and women are welcomed to join any time of the year which is why I was able to turn up in February and be immediately embraced.
The large group is broken up into pace groups who run 3x/week where we stagger start times for the sake of London pedestrians and a true beginner group who run the alternating 2x/week. I’m part of the “Naughty-Nines” pace group which is as entertaining as our name suggests. Regardless of pace, we all have our eye on a shared goal (a destination 1/2 marathon set for the spring) and love for the post-run coffee. 115 women are traveling to Utrecht, The Netherlands in about 6 weeks for this year's spring race.
The genius of WRW is that the group always meets in the same spot (the Barclays Bank in St Johns Wood) at the same time (8:15am.) The vast public transportation system in London means that we can always start at the same place and Tube or bus home. I have seen so much of this city by running destination routes with WRW. Route maps are consistently emailed the week prior but the only thing you really need to know is to show up at 8:15. There are at least two leaders for each pace group who know the routes and emergency loo spots which means your job is to simply run and not get run over.
One of the Friday Hampstead Heath routes was also my very first run with WRW last February. An endorphin hit plus a payoff view like this is enough to make anyone want to run.
That memory in Jonathan’s chair made me smile back at my red, sweaty face in the mirror. I did win a different kind of lottery that day. In a city of 8 million people, given where I live and where my children go to school, I may not have found WRW otherwise. It was through Jonathan’s unknowing connection that prepared the way for me to meet a group of ladies who have become treasured friends. So on this day at least the £30 from the sky was left in Jonathan's tip jar as a way of closing the loop to pay it forward.