Snicks - who would be sacked from work for spending all her time on the RW forums if she wasn't a freelance - was one of 60 forum users who met up at the Windsor Half last weekend...
This was going to be the biggest blind date I'd ever been on. But instead of single red carnation, I had to look out for around 60 blue and yellow vests - just like the one I was wearing.
I arrived early, feeling a tiny bit anxious. Internet eyeballs haven't exactly got a good reputation. I've seen the stories, witnessed the website tales of woe on Trisha, and Kilroy. What if they're all weird and nerdy? What if a pervy lurker with a fetish for women aiming for a sub-1:40 were to turn up dressed in nothing but a raincoat...?
The first person I spot is Ratbag: the most famous of the 'forumites', our record 'poster', and funniest running raconteur.
Meeting Ratbag is like meeting an old friend. And all 'blind date' feelings go out the window. Soon there are around 30 of us assembled - easily identified in our blue and yellow vests, or yellow T-shirts (Well done The Lamb and The Dog Walker) - smiling for group photos and enthusiastically forming pacing groups for the race.
The Unofficial Runner's World Forum Running Club, was as it says on our unofficial website, formed after the London Marathon 2002. Chatting about the race online had brought us together, given us a common bond, and a desire to share our passion. But was the club idea all post race sentimentality? Or, was a virtual club with real runners something that might just work...?
Windsor proved it can work. Drew, club coach, and our top runner, pointed out that unofficially our club would have been the top 4th team at Windsor. As one of the sub-1:40 group, I know that I wouldn't have achieved my 1:38:59 had it not been for Venom pulling me round and keeping a check on our pace.
But why not join your local running club? Most club runs start at 7pm, so for many of us working long hours, or raising very young children, this just isn't an option.
Some of us have met four of five times already. Our virtual club feels more real. Our RW forum has now more than 10,000 posts. More and more people want to join this loosely knit unofficial club.
So, look out Runner's World, the URWFRC are a force to be reckoned with – and are coming to a race near you! [See the Events forum for loads of race discussions.]
PS: I wish we’d thought of a snappier name!
More URWFRC photos (a big page to download!)