We Met at Serpies

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A running club or a dating club? Serpies has always been both, and Kim interviews a few of the happy couples who have found each other.

Love isn’t an exact science, but that hasn’t stopped boffins the world over from trying to find the key to what sends us head over heels.

Some theorise that the secret lies behind pheromones, magic smelly chemicals that are released through our sweat glands. This slightly dubious theory claims that the right concoction of chemicals can have spell binding powers.

If it’s true that we release this airborne aphrodisiac when we work up a sweat, then it’s safe to say that there must be plenty of post-run pheromones wafting around the Serpie club room on any given training day.

So are exercise and love interconnected, and could there really be a link between physical activity and physical attraction?

To answer these questions, I set out to find out whether any Serpentine members have met and fallen in love at the club – and decided to start my investigation at one of the Last Wednesday Of The Month evenings. After all, what could be more romantic than wine and cheese…

Amidst the post-run hustle and bustle in the club room, it didn’t take me long to meet a couple whose romance has blossomed at the club – Sara and Henry told me that they first noticed one another at a Last Wednesday Of The Month in February 2017, and hit it off over their joint love of climbing. They’ve now been together for 8 months, so I asked the couple to tell me a little bit more about themselves and how their romance started.

What did you notice first about each other?

Sara: Henry was very chatty and easy to get on with. We chatted about the places we have been climbing around the world.

Henry: Sara was very talkative and interested in what I do, which was nice. I remember that she talked at length about prison reform, which she actually managed to make sound interesting!

Who approached who?

Sara: Henry asked me to go for a drink in Peckham after the May handicap. I assumed he just wanted to chat more about running, and didn’t realise it was actually a date until I got there!

Henry: I asked Sara out for a drink in Peckham after the Handicap in May 2017. I was pretty nervous about asking her out, and was very relieved when she said yes.  I was hopeful the date would go well, as we’d already had a really nice time climbing a few weeks earlier, and had had a drink after that.  I remember thinking afterwards that she was really easy to talk to, and was really surprised at how time seemed to fly in her company.

What was it like meeting up outside of the club – was it weird seeing one another in normal clothes?

Sara: I didn’t feel nervous as I already knew we’d been getting on well at the club and at the socials. It was a tiny bit weird seeing each other in normal clothes though – even now, sports clothes are our main attire when we meet, as we spend so much of our time together doing sports-related activities.

Henry: As we kept meeting up for climbing or running, it was actually ages until I actually saw Sara in ‘normal’ clothes.

Do you run together and does this help to keep you motivated? Do you ever get competitive?

Sara: Henry is much faster than me, so we don’t often run together.  Recently, though, he’s helped me with training for my first half marathon – which we ran together in Stroud, his home town.  I particularly enjoyed one of our 21.1km training runs around the London parks – during which we even managed to check in with the giraffes at London Zoo.  I wasn’t overly confident that I would complete that training run as it was the longest one I’d ever done, but Henry was so encouraging that I actually found it very easy, which gave me loads of confidence on race day.

Henry: As Sara mentioned, we don’t often run together as our training goals are different.  But Sara was the one who first encouraged me to participate in the Handicap races, which I really enjoy – they’re hard core but such fun, and offer the perfect opportunity to spend lazy afternoons catching up with club mates at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen.

What has been your best run together and why?

Sara: Running the Stroud half was really nice – the race started from his old school, so I got to meet lots of his friends and family. The market town is very pretty and the course relatively flat, so a perfect route for my first half marathon.

Henry: I liked running the San Sebastián half marathon with Sara. The course had lots of hairpin turns, so every time the course doubled back on itself, we got to see how the other was getting on.

Anything else you want to add?

Sara & Henry:  Given how much fun we had at San Sebastián, we plan to do more European racing holidays next year – the combination of racing, exploring, sampling delicious food and having a laugh with other Serpies is irresistible!

After the chat with Sara and Henry, word spread around the club that I was keen to speak to Serpie couples for a Serpentimes article – and it wasn’t long before I was pointed in the direction of another couple who met at the club, Maureen and Richard. They first got together in 2013 and got married in August 2016 – here’s what Maureen had to say about their time together since meeting at the club.

When did you first notice Richard?

At the pub, after a Wednesday night run.

What did you notice first about him?

His kindness.

Who approached who?

He approached me on Facebook and asked me on a date to the London Symphony Orchestra.

What was it like meeting up outside of the club? Was it weird seeing one another in normal clothes, and were you nervous?

I was definitely nervous, but it wasn’t at all weird to see him in normal clothes as we hadn’t been regular running friends beforehand.

Do you run together, and does this help to keep you motivated? Do you ever get competitive?

We go through cycles where we run together for a while and then stop, depending on time, travel constraints and what’s in our race diaries. Running together has definitely kept me motivated in the past, especially when training for ultras.

What has been your best run together and why?

Probably the Swiss Alpine 78 km race at Davos, because I beat him! The Schengen Sprint was also a really cool experience.

After catching up with Sara, Henry and Maureen, some more asking round revealed another Serpie couple who were happy to share their story of running and romancing, to help me with my pheromone investigation.

Chiara and Salvo sent me their insights by e-mail during the festivities, and what I read made me feel far more warm and fuzzy than any Christmas film – the pair married in September 2017, so I found out a bit more about their story since their first meeting at the club back in 2015.

When did you first notice one another?

Chiara: I had noticed Salvo at the Seymour Centre, after a Saturday morning run – it was June 2015 and he was a new member. The first time I really spoke to him though was a few weeks later, at the Serpie Summer Party. He was on his own and probably knew very few people – so I invited him to join our group of friends. I’m proud of that move, as he turned out to be such a lovely man!

Salvo: After joining the club in June 2015, I joined as many training sessions as I could – though I actually first spotted Chiara not at a training session but at one of the socials, the Summer Party in August of that year.

What did you notice first?

Chiara: I first noticed his incredible smile and easy laugh, as well as his positive and optimistic attitude.

Salvo: Her gorgeous blue eyes and her accent-free English…I just couldn’t figure out where she was from!

Who approached who?

Chiara: I approached Salvo, asking whether he was on his own at the Summer Party (luckily he was!) and whether he wanted to join our table.

Salvo: I was very pleased that Chiara said hello and invited me to join her group of friends, as it gave me a chance to get to know her a bit more.

What was your first date outside the club?

Chiara & Salvo: After the August Summer Party, we exchanged a couple of messages. Then we got in touch again in September and decided to go out for dinner at a Korean restaurant on a Friday evening. The date went so well that the next day we met again (for a run in Hyde Park, of course), and then again on the Sunday. It was basically a three-day-long first date!

What was it like meeting up outside of the club – were you nervous?

Chiara & Salvo: Strangely enough, it felt very natural and cosy. We weren’t nervous at all, probably because we already knew that we had something in common: our passion for sport. A very good starting point!

Do you run together, and does this help to keep you motivated? Do you ever get competitive?

Chiara: We do run together, though not all the time. I should probably mention that I’m slower than Salvo, so the reality is that sometimes he slows down and runs with me to keep me company. Since we started running together, I have improved massively both in terms of speed and resistance. Other times he runs with faster runners, while I follow at my pace: though I end up being on my own, I don’t feel lonely – simply knowing that he is around, in the same park as me, makes me feel good. It’s impossible to get competitive with Salvo, he is just way too fast!

Salvo: I love knowing that Chiara is there at training sessions or races, even if we run at different paces. It’s also very nice knowing that I am such a motivator for her.  Chiara is definitely competitive, and although she might not be as fast as me, we both think that what is key is being competitive with regards to your own targets, rather than trying to compete with someone who has different training objectives to yours.

What has been your best run together and why?

Chiara & Salvo: It was in Richmond Park in September, just a couple of days after our wedding there. We ran together, the two of us, immensely happy:  we had just found out that it wasn’t just “the two of us” anymore.

Anything else you want to add?

Chiara & Salvo: Being members of the club is a great experience, with great people and in a great city! We feel very lucky to have joined the club, as not only have we achieved our fitness goals – we have also found each other.

So, having talked at length with three Serpie couples about how they met at our club – I feel I have gathered enough information to be able to answer the question that first set me off on this light-hearted investigation: is there a link between physical activity and physical attraction?  Could there really be any truth behind the pheromones theory?

I think the answer is ‘yes’ – with so many examples of love stories that have blossomed at the club between training sessions, it seems that getting sweaty and red-faced could well play a factor in setting hearts racing too.

So a parting message to any Serpie singles out there who may be keen to romance another runner: although everyone other than the object of your affection will not be impressed, you may want to skip that shower before heading to the club room for the Last Wednesday Of The Month – the last thing you want to do is wash away those smelly pheromones, which could turn out to be more handy with helping you achieve your romantic goal than any wingman or woman!

Kim Nicholson is an art, food and film fiend. When she’s not out running, she can be found walking around in art galleries or making a mess in the kitchen.