Saturday, 24 March 2012

New contributor: Victoria Dick

Name:  Victoria Dick (Yes really!  Who'd make up a name like that?)
Home parkrun: Basingstoke
Date of first parkrun: 21st May 2011
Total number of parkruns: 37
Number of other parkrun locations run: 3 (Oxford, Frimley and Newbury)
Number of times volunteered: 11 in this 'Basingstoke parkrun year' and probably once or twice before that
My parkrun history

A bit about me? Hmm, mother of 5 (three boys, two girls, aged 5 to 14), wife to he who is known in cyberspace as Husbando, full time teacher (science to 11- 16 year olds).  In my 'spare' time I love reading, cooking (and eating), needlework, photography, cinema and, er, running!

The last bit is a bit surprising, even to me!  I played a bit of hockey at school (a long time ago!), ran because I had to when I was in the TA, but gave up as soon as I could.  I started running three years ago in May.  I used the Couch to 5k programme and can't recommend it highly enough.  Husbando, who has run all his life, was sceptical, especially during the early weeks when it was more walking than running, but as soon as I finished the programme I entered a 10k race (for Cancer Research UK) and haven't looked back since!  I finished that first race in 'about 53 minutes' and was well and truly hooked on running - despite the fact that it rained incessantly for the entire morning.

I did a few more 10k races, joined an online running club, and started blogging about running, life, children, training for teaching etc. etc.  I met a few people on the start/finish lines of races and kept in  touch through the wonder of Facebook.  Occasionally I saw a mention of parkrun.  What did this oddly styled word mean?  I did a Google search and found that there was a parkrun near me - about 11 miles away.   Of course, I didn't do anything about it for months!  I'm not a joiner.  I didn't want to go along and be the slowest person there, with everyone laughing at me.

I can't think what changed my mind, or what made me turn up one sunny Saturday morning at War Memorial Park in Basingstoke.  It was a little bit overwhelming to see so many other people there.  I don't think I was brave enough to speak to anyone for the whole morning, I just ran, had my barcode scanned and went home.  I went back the next week though, missed a week due to having to go to a wedding in Bergerac or some such nonsense, but couldn't wait to get back.  I still wasn't brave enough to talk to anyone or go to the post run coffee.  That didn't change until I volunteered for the first time.  It is hard to volunteer without communicating with other volunteers and runners.   That Saturday, on our alternate venue (Crabtree plantation), changed my parkrun experience for the better!

These days, it would have to be something very special to keep me away from my parkrun fix!  I'll be missing next week as I have a place in the Olympic Park Run, and believe me, I did try to work out the logistics of a 9am run in Basingstoke and needing to be in Stratford at 12noon!

I love the thrill of a PB, although I haven't seen one of those for months, but I really enjoy the sense of community.  I've probably missed a few PBs by slowing to encourage fellow runners who are struggling, but I love seeing the sense of satisfaction on people's faces as they finish.  Two of my boys have caught the bug.  My 14 year old has stated that it is his ambition to smash my PB on or before his 15th birthday (April 7th) and my 7 year old cheerfully runs the whole way, always finishing with a huge smile on his face.  Both of them love their '10' shirts! I've made lots of new friends, been encouraged to enter far too many races - mainly because I know that there will be lots of people I know there to encourage, celebrate, commiserate and generally have a laugh with! The post run coffee is one of the highlights of my week!

I can't wait to get my 50 t-shirt!  Or my 100 one come to that!

Eastbourne parkrun 24 March 2012

by Martin Allen.

I arrived early at today's very warm parkrun, eager to put in a good performance. The sun was beaming its anglepoise brilliance into my eyes as I stepped off the train and mozied on over to the park, some 20 minutes' walk away; a nice warm-up distance.

I was one of the first to arrive and, with few people around, I decided to walk a short part of the course to see what underfoot conditions would be like. The ground at the start was nice and firm; yes, the sun had done a great job there. But, my interests lay in the ditch. The sun had done its best, and while it was not anywhere near as boggy as previous runs, it was still going to be heavy going through there. I scratched my chin in deep thought as I contemplated the route that might be taken through it.

The rest of the short lap seemed fair enough and fast times were definitely on the cards if the sun and heat wasn't too bothersome.

9:00am approached. I was focussed and keen to do myself justice. All I kept thinking to myself was, stay focussed, stay strong, breathe properly and don't get carried away.

I took my position and the whistle went to start the run. I could see runners shoot off ahead of me into the distance. I maintained my position, knowing that there were going to be tough times ahead in the next 30 minutes.  The sun was having an immediate effect on me, though, as a small drip of perspiration escaped from the confines of my temple and ran for its life down the side of my face. This could be a war of attrition.

Two minutes in and it was already time for me to put in some effort. I strengthened my core, girded my loins, gritted my teeth, stiffened my British upper lip and told myself to 'just go for it'.

I raised my marshalling right arm and expertly directed the leading pack around the corner and onto the pathway at the 1/2km mark, giving them lots of verbal encouragement as they pounded their merry way.

Ten, fifteen, twenty people passed. I was now into a lovely rhythm, "Well done, round to the right please," "Excellent running, round to the right please," "Only 4.5km to go; round to the right please."

Phew, it all went swimmingly. Nobody tripped in front of me, potentially impeding my performance. Nobody pushed me out of the way. I stood my ground firmly. I was a rip-roaring success.

But, I still had more to do. Before the leaders came round again, I had to switch the arrow to the reverse position and, when they were in sight, use my left arm to navigate them back from whence they came. I paced around in anticipation of their arrival.

The first of the hot and wearied runners appeared from the trees and, suddenly, it was my moment again. I raised my left arm this time, to a horizontal position and shouted, "Fantastic running, round to the right please". The runner consented to my instruction.

The others followed. "Round the corner, please, thank you," "Just a lap of the field to go, well done," "Not far now Sir…. sorry, I mean Madam… round to the right please".

Eventually, the last of the runners passed me with a weary, but fantastic, smile and my job for the day was done. I gave a massive sigh of relief. I hadn't disgraced myself and I had lasted the distance.

I'm not sure if I marshalled a personal best today, but it was a good, solid performance. Both my right and left-arm directional technique was strong and I was pleased with my friendly encouragement and clear verbal instructions.  

But, I'll certainly be back to running it next week.

Other blogs by Martin Allen:

New Contributor: Martin Allen

Eastbourne parkrun course description: a runner's eye view

Friday, 23 March 2012

Eastbourne parkrun course description: a runner's-eye view

by Martin Allen.

What Eastbourne parkrun may lack in sheer beauty, it certainly makes up for in technical challenge and beastly charm.The course is set in Shinewater Park, a purpose built piece of land, incorporating meandering paths, a nature reserve, a fishing lake, a sports pitch and play facilities. Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any toilets (or if there are, I haven't found them yet). This means the bushes get plenty of watering from all those pre-run anxiety wees. I just hope the dogwalkers don't get to see more than they bargained for, resulting in 75 parkrunners getting marched en masse to the local nick on a charge of multiple indecent exposure.

The park sits between a dual carriageway, a housing estate and a railway line and, whilst it is perfectly fine at ground level and certainly not an ugly course, it will never win awards for Prettiest Parkrun of the Year. But, remember that beauty is not skin deep. The delight of this parkrun lies in the intricate and surprising challenges that face the runners who attempt this switchback route.

This route is not easy to describe and I beg forgiveness now if you get lost further down the description. If, at the end of any paragraph, you feel completely lost, please raise your white flag and someone will come to rescue you. Alternatively, you may want to view/play the route here: Eastbourne Route Map

The start appears innocuous enough, in the middle of the park, on a grassy paddock area, looking due south to an asphalt path that you join after 100 metres. However, no sooner do you hit the path and speed round a corner, than you are diverted left off it, across the bottom edge of a sport's pitch and down into the first challenge - the ditch.The ditch is a self-named, sunken corner of the field that, by virtue of its position, the recent winter weather and the topography, means it retains a lot of moisture after a damp spell, or without the summer sun on it. For four or five steps you must navigate your way through squelching mud and grass, doing all you can to remain upright and to bear left again to reach a more stable, grassy footing behind some trees.

This grass path continues straight and north for about 200 metres, before emerging by a children's playground. You once again hit upon firmer pathway, now heading west.  An unexpected welcoming applause greets you as you emerge from some trees and magically appear back at the start/finish on your left. 'Have I finished already? 'No? Oh flip. What's that? Another 4.25km to go, you say? Oh, double flip'.

You are now running across the back of the start/finish area, having completed a small anti-clockwise circuit of about ¾ kilometre.

Continuing past, you head through little wooded copses, round sharp left handed corners and back onto another grassy stretch, heading due south once more, this time on the western side of the starting area.

Marshalls expertly direct you back onto an asphalt path and now you head out for a large, long, lingering loop. At the southernmost end of the park, you turn right, under the dual carriageway at the 2km mark and then right again for a long-straight kilometre, heading north once again.

Whilst there is a dual carriageway to your right, it is not at all noticeable as you run this section. The road is raised above and the noise on the path is minimal. The most disconcerting part of this area is the fact you can see lots of runners stretched ahead of you and you know you've still got all that distance to go!

Finally, after what seems an eternity, you reach the northernmost end and turn right, back under the dual carriageway. The path meanders again as you join a stonier, gravelly section that takes you past a nature reserve lake. Here you are approaching 4km and the fatigue is really beginning to set it. The shortest of short descents to a small wooden bridge over a stream is small respite, before you head left and back on to your original path that passes the start/finish, but, this time heading in the other direction, with the start/finish now on your right.  This is a real test of mental strength as you see runners funnelling through and you know you have that final reverse loop of the pitch and a trip through that muddy ditch again. 

Back past the playground and right onto the grass path behind the trees with the dreaded ditch waiting for you at the other end. As you approach you deliberately slow a few strides to ensure a good foothold, whilst retaining enough speed to not let it grab you by the ankles and drag you down into the mire (I am exaggerating a bit here!).

You’re running on vapours now. You pull on all reserves to pull you up the short bank, across the bottom of the pitch, right onto the path and sprint back towards home.

Overall, it works out about 80% path and 20% grass. Apart from a couple of very small undulations, it is perfectly flat .There is no danger of getting lost as marshalls and clear signs are there to guide you every inch of the way. The challenge of this course is that there is no respite from any downhill sections; it is flat self-propulsion all the way. Furthermore, add in the alternating underfoot surfaces of path, grass and (in winter) mud, the fact you pass the start and finish twice on your way round ,and the intricate twisting, turning nature of the course requiring technical adjustments (which compares starkly to the long, seemingly never ending back straight) and you have a really interesting and challenging little course.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Wythenshawe Park Course Description

Wythenshawe parkrun has been up and running since August 2011 and is attracting more runners each week.

This a two lap course which starts and ends outside the entrance to Wythenshawe Hall which is located in the centre of the park.

The first short section of the run loops around a small area of grass, past  the statue of Oliver Cromwell before rejoining the main path.  It then follows the main path through the park and along a tree-lined footpath before coming to the football playing fields.

The route keeps to the right of the playing fields, alongside the stream then over a small footbridge, before doubling back along another tree-lined footpath and on to the path towards the main car park and small farm.

After passing the farm the route cuts through a small wooded area before the tea rooms, bringing you back out in front of the Oliver Cromwell Statue again ready for lap two.

Lap two is the same same route as lap one (apart from missing out the first grassy loop). Once back at Oliver Cromwell on the second lap, turn left and finish back at the Hall.

Wythenshawe parkrun route

parkrun to 10k - Week Two

parkrun to 10k - Week Two

So…brief recap for those of you too lazy to read previous blogs.  In five weeks time I will be running my first 10k and this collection of blogs is going to share the fun of a reluctant runner maybe (huge maybe) becoming a little (tiny incy wincy) bit of a runner!

So far week one was pretty good….oh really, just read the previous one….saves time!

So Week Two

I did manage to get off the floor after Sunday’s run you will be glad to know, the cat was a little annoyed as it had just got comfortable, but really, on floor is not a good way to spend the rest of your life…..although I did spend a good twenty minutes on the floor thinking this could be a good way to spend my life!

I also spent the rest of the weekend all excited after running the ridiculous 9 miles,  so week two was looking good…...


Up at 5.20 am again….why don’t the children or animals in this house sleep?  I know I am a morning person, but anything before 5.45 is just silly.  So by 8.20, when the children get picked up for school, I was more than ready to get out of the house for a run.  Weather was good, I was already having a bad hair day, the red top I had put on made me look like a radish…so no excuse really not to run.  So I headed out of the door.

Today’s plan was walking one minute and running for five minutes, ten times.  Didn’t sound too bad.   So I set off for the warmup, this time walking around the field after the big black dog and running incident a few weeks ago… you want to know about the Curious Incident of the Black Dog in the Field?…it has nothing to do with this blog, but it is quite short….okay, here goes.

Why running is not fun….Tale 1
A few weeks ago I set off running through the field when a huge black labradour called Penny attacked me.  I have two ‘bottom biting dogs’ of my own, so when a large dog runs towards me I am really not that bothered.  But once Penny had got hold of me, she just wasn’t going to let go…the poor owner is shouting at the other side of the field “Penny darling, Penny, come here good (!!!) dog” and I am still trying to run with a big black dog attached to my bottom.  In the end, I gave up, walked to the top of the field with ‘Good Dog Penny’ still attached to my bottom and returned her to her owner….who rather than aplogise said “well what did you think would happen if you ran through a field, she must have thought you were a rabbit”

So……I walked round the field!  And had a lovely run walk combination all the way up to Slaithwaite along the uphill canal, round the canal basin and all the way back again about five miles.  Nothing really exciting happened, the run was okay!  Excellent!

So to sum up
  • 50 minutes of running
  • 14 minutes of walking
  • listened to Lotte Mullan, Al Lewis and Elvis
  • carrying house key and iphone, battled with the earphones
  • how do I feel at the end - fine, lovely run


Darkrun - for those of you that are not reading this from the Huddersfield parkrun loony bin - firstly welcome…... and this next bit will explain a lot!

Darkrun is an extension of parkrun.  It started when we were looking at changing the route at Huddersfield parkrun and wanted input from the parkrunners.  It seemed logical to test the new route in the evening to fit in with everyone.  So one evening we all turn up with headlights and glow sticks and start running around the park….nothing more terrifying to the local park ferrels than 20 odd (and they are odd), sightly glowing parkrunners, on mass, running around the park, in the dark.  Everyone enjoyed it so much it was suggested that we do it again…..and even when the new route was agreed…."let’s do it again".  Then the local pub next to the park re-opened and now it is really an excuse to have a quick (slow in my case) run around the park and then drink and pub quiz!  We even have our own table reserved at the pub now!

So this week, I decided rather than handing out jaffa cakes at Darkrun, I would actually run at Darkrun and the lovely Nicki Dawson kindly agreed to run with me.  So off we set with the idea that I would be running for five, walking for one just eight times.  I couldn’t figure out how to get the iPhone app to work properly with the other app to check distance so Nicki and her Garmin agreed to coach.  

All I can say is that Nicki and her Garmin would not make the best of personal trainers at Darkrun.  
  • After the warm up five mins we start running
  • about nine minutes later  I ask “when are we walking, Nicki?”
  • ”Oh” says Nicki “about now”!!!!  
  • We then walk and talk and talk for two minutes (ends up four and a half)
  • Me “when are we running Nicki”…..Nicki “Oh, about now”  
  • We then run for the five minutes ( ends up six and a quarter)
  • Me “when are we walking, Nicki”…….Nicki ‘Oh, about now”   
  • Do you see a pattern amerging???
This goes on for a while…..then we have a ‘Genius Idea”  By now there are lots of other Darkrunners in the park, all doing there own thing, some in couples or groups, some on marathon training, some just waiting around for the pub!  Nicki and I decide enough running has been done for the day and it will be a really good idea to hide in a bush next to the POND and jump out and surprise runners!  So in the bush we go to hide, unfortunately spotted by a lovely couple walking a dog, tried to explain why we were in a bush….took quite a bit of explaining!!!! Although if anyone had seen them talking to a bush, they would have had some explaining to do too!   Nicki and I then spend a lovely amount of time (with the Garmin still doing whatever Garmins do) jumping out and surprising (scaring the life out of) Darkrunners!

After a while the jumping out of the same bush becomes a bit predictable and the next 20 minutes are spent running around the park, finding somewhere to hide to scare Darkrunners.  

Good hiding place Nicki on the Belvedere 

The following ten minutes are spent on the zipwire and the swings

Zip Wire Nicki
Bunny ears on the swings

Then off to the pub…. just for a couple, no quiz this time, we popped to the curry house instead

So to sum up….

  • Walking   - more than I should have
  • Running - who know
  • Zip wire - 20 times
  • parkrunners scared witless  - five
  • Darkrun quiz winnings - £0.00
  • Fun and laughter…..unquantifiable


After the disastrous run (but lots of fun)  at Darkrun I decided that I better have a ‘Serious” run the following day - this 10k is actually going to happen you know.  So after too much coffee I decide to run along the main road into town and then up the canal again back home.  It’s a 4 mile loop and I am not going to listen to the app (really can’t work it….top tip….don’t choose an app just because the graphics are pretty)….I am just going to run when I want and walk when I want.  And you know what?  It works….and I have a really good run.  This could be the way to go.

I don’t know what you all think about when you are running, but my mind never stops.  Sometimes it is about wether if I ever met Eric Clapton I could persuade him to let me sing with him on the stage at The Royal Albert Hall, sometimes about shopping, quite a lot of the time about how to get my children to behave for any period of time without calling in Super Nanny and sometimes about things I really can’t mention on here! :-)

Today it was all about wobbly bits….just to clarify, my wobbly bits, not anyone else's!  As mentioned in earlier blogs, I think running bras are designed by men with a sadistic streak.  They are ugly, they take contortionist skills to get into and after a long run are nearly impossible to get out of with out help.  But give them their due, they do manage to keep everything under control and not wobbling…..which is good.  But what about the bottom?  Why has no one designed a bottom bra for running.  There really was too much bottom wobbling (and not in a Enrique Iglesias bottom wobbling way) on today’s run.  So if anyone has a running bottom bra design they would like to share…please comment below……and Rich….this is not an excuse for you to mention the word knickers….I was wearing them!!!

So to sum up…
  • Walking  - 8 minutes
  • Running - 43 minuts
  • Carrying - a wobbly bottom
  • Listening to Eric Clapton whilst practicing for our upcoming performance
  • How do I feel at the end….good!
So all in all this week hasn’t been too bad….well the running side of things!  Friday night was spent at parkrun social and it’s amazing how many parkrunners can get PBs the following morning while still drunk…..but no blogging about that…..or posting photos!!  Probably!!!

Tune in for week three update early next week, Kx

Monday, 19 March 2012

New Contributor - Martin Allen

Name: Martin Allen
Age: 39
Home parkrun: Eastbourne, East Sussex
Date of first parkrun: 11/02/2012
Total Number of parkruns (to date): 5
Fastest time (to date): 23:53

I started running in March 2010, just on a whim. I have never been overweight, but, equally, I have never been what you might describe as fit. I have a high metabolic rate, so I'm one of those annoying people who can eat what they like and not put on an ounce. I'm short and lean and light and, for as long as I can remember, I have been 5' 3" and 8 stone, and I think I will be forever more.

My first run was that one we've all experienced - about 100 yards of action and a near-death experience. Fires of hell rage in your lungs, your throat feels like it has been stripped by caustic soda, your thighs are about to explode from your legs, your stomach wants to expel the contents of this morning's breakfast and that disappointing thought as you walk home that you'll never be a runner.

But, unlike some, I decided to look at what I had done wrong. Ah, yes, I had run too fast, my form was appalling and my muscles had no idea what they were supposed to be doing. I was going to have to learn this malarkey.

I had two days rest to enable myself to walk comfortably again and, this time, I tried to pitter-patter for 1km around my park, nice and slowly. I can do it!! I CAN DO IT!

Two years and several injuries later - you know the kind - small blister on little toe, toe-nail falling off, cramp in left buttock, strange red rash on inner thigh, cut lip where you trip on a kerb and fall flat on your face - and I am now completely hooked.

I am not a plan runner and I don't belong to a club. I enjoy the unstructured, free side of running - doing what you want, when you want. I don't follow a system, other than running two slow, easy runs per week (varying distances), one eyeballs out parkrun and one long-slow run with some home-made yoga in between. Occasionally, I throw in a hill session, but Hastings is so full of hills, it's enough of a challenge finding a bit of flat that doesn't involve wind-resistance training on the seafront promenade. I have undertaken a number of 5km, 10km and half marathons in the past two years and I am currently 'training' for the Hastings Half Marathon on Sunday 25 March. Sub 2hrs is possible.

I have been desperate to do a parkrun for months but the nearest one was Hove, some thirty miles away. Then, in January, one started a little nearer in Eastbourne. I missed the first couple as I had no idea it had started, but boy was I pleased when I found it existed.

My journey consists of leaving Hastings at 7:20am, catching a train and then a 20 minute walk to the venue. Then I have to do it all again on the way back. All in all it's a 3 and a half hour round trip each week, home to home. I'm dedicated.

My desire is to help Eastbourne parkrun develop and flourish, run fast, be kind to animals and wish for world peace. The parkrun, currently, has between 55 and 80 runners per week and it would be great to have a few more. I'm sure it will as the warmer, spring weather opens its doors to us. It's a very friendly place with a challenging, cross-country (ish) course - more on that in another post.

I find experiences on most of my runs and I look forward to sharing them with you. Next week will be a slightly different one though, as I am volunteering for the first time. I am going to be a cheerleader!! Now, where did I put my pom-poms??
Carrying the Olympic Flame at the London Olympics 2012

At last,  I can finally say that I will carry the Olympic Flame in Leeds on Sunday 24 June 12!

This morning came the official confirmation and more details about what will happen and I hear a nice pink and blue uniform? OH DEAR I dont suit pink!

I have to say that there are many more people that deserve this honour, but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that I am highly honoured to accept, but it is also for all persons that suffer from post Traumatic Stress Disorder as this is what I promote.

Not once did I think many many months ago when I was kinldy nominated by a number of very kinfd people, would I get the phonecall of the email that said that I had been successful.  I have to give my thanks to Gill down in Sheffield as she was the one that nominated me and it was the nomination that they used, I thank you from the bottom of tmy heart and I am very humbled.

I was nominated partly for my efforts in setting up the Roundhay parkrun (also with a few other people) and also for my charity challenge of running 100 Marathons in 100 weeks to raise funds for Help for Heroes and awareness of PTSD.

I dont put my body on the line for these things and I expect nothing back, not even any praise but there are some that believe that this is deserved fo the effort that I have given, not just now, but for all of my life where I am told that I have inspired many people.  I always say that I am just a lad from Leeds trying to do his little bit and that this honour is for all my friends and family and all Servicepeople and those that suffer with physical and mental injuries through war.

I am very proud of what I have achieved and I will be very proud to carry the Olympic Flame.

I guess I will have to run a parkrun with my Olympic Flame?
Its not the Oscars but I would like to thank a few people, behind every inspirational person there are others who support you:

Rich, Kerry, Shelley, Ronnie, Nette, Phil, Andy, Gill, Chris, Les, Helen x 2, Adam, Tim, Michelle, Dan, Olu, Linda, Michelle, Atilla, and of course, all my sponsors and supporters.

And my biggest thanks go to the ladythat supported me from the very beginning .... Susanna, who is inspirational in her own way.!/100mara100weeks