Saturday, 31 March 2012

A different park to run in!

What a day!  Up early this morning to take Number One Son to the drop off point for his DofE practise expedition, and then back up the A3 to pick up a friend and catch the train to London.  For once I was going to have to miss my weekly parkrun fix.  Much head scratching and timetable consulting had been done, but there was no way the logistics worked to fit in a trip to War Memorial Park today.  I have to admit that I probably drank rather more than I should have done on Friday evening, a combination of extreme tiredness and euphoria at surviving another term lowered my resistance to temptation and, it being a wee while since I have had a drink I think I felt the effects a bit more than usual.  I was a little tired and emotional this morning, not actually hungover, but very tired!

A lovely late breakfast at Balans seemed to improve my mood, and we headed to the stadium.  The queue to get through security was very long, but moved quickly and we were soon in the Olympic Park with thousands of other runners and spectators.  I couldn't quite believe it.  

The Stadium itself was impressive, but not as pretty as the Beijing Olympic Stadium.  I think it suffers from the cloudy backdrop and would probably look better with a clear blue sky behind it!  And the Orbit Tower is very strange!  A sort of giant helter-skelter!  

 As we walked into the stadium I suddenly started to get really excited!  We found great seats for Husbando and my friend in a position where I could easily spot them as I ran through the stadium.  I couldn't believe I'd actually be running on that  track!  Then the nerves struck.  Regular readers will know that I haven't had the best couple of weeks with respect to running.  This is the first race I have ever started without being absolutely confident that I could actually run for the whole distance.  

I sat and watched the entertainment for a while, trying to calm myself down, but eventually decided that I needed to get myself away and made my way to the start line.  Via the loos of course!  Whoever planned the Olympic Stadium definitely got the loos right, there are far more ladies' loos than men's loos.  There were no queues for the ladies' which was a refreshing change. 

The start was a sea of red shirts, with virtually all runners wearing the race tshirts.  I was in the second starting wave, so had a long wait at the start.  The race was started at 2pm by Princess Beatrice, but our wave didn't go off until 12 minutes later.  Princess B sounded the starting horn for our wave then ran down from the podium to run the race.  The race was congested at the start and, to be honest, the field never really thinned out, it was so strange to be running with everyone else wearing the same thing - that hasn't happened since PE lessons at school!   It was very, very cool to run around the park.  And a great relief to be moving so that I could warm up a bit! 

Some of the Park was still under construction, but we ran past all the various arenas, including running right around the mirrored outside of the Velodrome - possibly my favourite of all the buildings.  It was surprisingly hilly, with quite a few hairpin turns to negotiate.  I set off at what I thought was a gentle pace, taking it easy as I wasn't sure how my knee was going to cope.  It hurt, but adrenaline was keeping me going.  I didn't want to run the race without seeing the sights and enjoying the atmosphere.  Because all the spectators were being entertained in the stadium there was very little support on the course, a couple of African drum bands and bemused looking builders was about all!  I did wonder why they didn't think of positioning speakers around the route to relay the events inside the stadium.  

The mile markers were way off!  I thought this might mean that the fifth 'mile' would be very short, but I suspect that this was quite a long five miles!  The strange positioning of the markers meant that as we approached the stadium I thought that I was almost there, but no!  If you look at the photo below you'll see that it appears that I ran directly across the stadium before running around the track.  In reality we ran through a tunnel underneath all the stands, then into the stadium as 'Chariots of Fire' was playing (I was tempted to run in slow motion!) 

The crowds cheered enthusiastically and the track was beautiful to run on.  At 200m to go I looked up and saw Husbando and my friend waving and snapping away with cameras.  I waved!  Who wouldn't?  I realised that I really wasn't tired at all, I felt great, albeit great with very sore knees!  Crossing that finish line was amazing, my watch said I'd done it in 41min 32secs which was far better than I'd hoped for at the start of the day.  My Garmin took the distance to be 5.1 miles, and watches of those around me said anything between 5.1 and 5.3 miles (depending I suppose on how they accounted for the indoor time).  Those distances would give me a 5 mile time ranging between 39min 10secs and 40mins 40secs, which is where I shall be aiming for if I run this distance again!

 Medals and goody bags were handed out, timing chips were collected and runners were funnelled back to meet with their supporters.   The organisation of this event was fantastic!  Such a shame that this event is a one off as I'd sign up to run it again in a flash.  

We made a hasty exit from the Olympic Park after I'd finished as West Ham were playing Reading at home, we didn't want to get caught up in the mass exodus and resultant Tube chaos, that would have taken the gilt of the gingerbread of what was a really brilliant day out!  

I think 5 miles is a fantastic distance to race over.  Long enough to get into your stride, short enough (in future, when my knees are better) to really give it some welly.  It is the sort of distance that you can run hard without feeling totally wrecked for the next day!  I'll be looking for more 5 mile races in the future.

End of a busy weeks training

Norwich Eaton Park, 31st March 2012 275 runners, dry and about 9 degrees So much for taking my own advise of resting a good few days prior to attempting a 'Hard'/'PB' standard run, although in my head I had decided that "today, I was just here to enjoy my run and the time didn't matter' (yeah right!!!) the day I learn to do that is the day I become uncompetitive with myself! The build up to this weeks parkrun, found me doing a long run 11.64 miles on Tuesday night (my longest ever run) as a training run for my half marathon in May and a solid hour of five a side football on Thursday night. I woke up this morning with the DOM's from Thursday nights football, which is not a great start, I got to the park nice and early for my usual routine of stretching and light jogging to warm up, I especially needed this today because my legs and hamstrings felt really stiff, so I told myself to take it easy and just enjoy the run, clock up the miles on the iMapMyRun and smile. We did the acknowledgment of the helpers and headed off to the start and I even made sure I started well back to stop me going off like a rocket, when I knew my legs wouldn't survive it, I set my music off, I set my my GPS and prepared for the whistle........... The second that whistle went everything I'd told myself went out of the window, I worked myself up the field, found my stride and started to push forward and decided to see if I could at least get a sub 25 and at 2.5K I was at 12:19 so I thought I'd push harder to see if I could get close to my PB of 24:00, but within 5 mins my legs felt heavy and I had a stitch, but I ran through it and just kept a decent pace, behind a couple of decent looking runners from tri-anglia, knowing I would still try to sprint finish. As I ran up the final straight, I was very close to the two in front and one other runner and I decided to go for it and gain 3 places, which is exactly what I did and sprinted through the finish line to the claps of the watching crowd, I stopped my GPS and was pleased to see a sub 25. I queued up, got scanned and went off for my usual black coffee, unfortunately I had to scrounge one as I dropped my £10 somewhere in the queue, but had a great chat with a fellow parkrunner and his daughter about his Iron Man events, which has got me considering a triathlon. Please remember I am training for 6 events in 2012 for Alzheimer's including a 480K bike ride from Vietnam to Cambodia or text GOLD51 £2 to 70070

Eastbourne parkrun 31 March 2012: How Kathy Bates sabotaged my parkrun


No, not the fuel deliverers, or the stamp sellers, or the pasty crimpers. It's my body that seems to be on strike. After last weekend's hilly half marathon effort, it has thrown a right hissy fit this week and both short run-outs (Wednesday and yesterday) have been devoid of any rhythm or ability. I don't know why because it wasn't even a quick half marathon by my standards (compared to a couple of non-race HM distances I had run already). Yet, my body has decided enough is enough and it refuses to co-operate.

Yesterday, in particular, I was nothing more than a piece of flesh, slowly cooking like a joint of crackling pork as I lumbered round 3 miles of the park. I wasn't so much running as being spit-roasted round the course.

I decided that firm action was required and, like a strict parent, I would take a slipper to my own backside. I had hoped, with a bit of luck, it might put the other runners off as I galloped round the course, cracking a carpet slipper on my rump every 100 yards.

Needless to say, I forgot the slipper this morning and today's parkrun was little better than the rest of the week. It was a battle of wills as my brain gave instruction to run fast but my body just sat there, arms folded, scowling back at it.

I ran like I had been hobbled in the middle of the night. If I turned around, I half expected to see a frantic-eyed Kathy Bates chasing me, brandishing a woodblock in one hand and a sledgehammer in the other, hollering, 'Cock-a-doody' and 'Heavens to Betsy!' (for those who have no idea about this - watch Misery).

Either that or mummy had tied my shoelaces together.

Whatever the reason, my feet slapped the turf like a walrus with flat flippers and my lungs puffed like a knackered old boiler. No, that's not a reference to dear mummy again.

Nevertheless, it was still a really enjoyable run out and the cooler weather was refreshing. I shunted round in 24:20 (about 27 seconds slower than a course PB) and, if nothing else, I average a consistent time in the high 23s to mid 24s week on week. If there is one thing I am, it's consistently average!

I would like to think next week will be better and I can run like a lissome Mo Farah.

Alas, I fear I will run more like Eastenders' Mo Slater.

Other blogs:

A parkrun lesson

How parkruns and bumblebees can lead to half marathon success

Eastbourne parkrun 24 March

Inaugural runs: Oak Hill parkrun (27 August 2011)

Today, in North London, a new parkrun was born. For parkrun tourists, new parkruns hold a certain charm. For starters, they're new, so by definition will add to the all-important parkrun tally. But they also increase the chances of crossing paths with other tourists, offering up the possibility of chatting to other parkrunners in the grip of the same addiction.

Oak Hill parkrun did not disappoint. At least five other tourists turned out to sample its slightly undulating, three lap course.

  • Mark A Jennings (84 runs at 45 different venues) and Paul Freyne (85 runs at 43 different venues) have been parkrun hopping for a while, and can tell tales of parkruns from the length and breadth of Britain.
  • Ron Hill (87 runs at 29 different venues) started his journey at about the same time as me, in an attempt to add spice to his pursuit of his 100 club shirt.
  • Danny Norman (222 runs at 16 venues) has four and a half years' worth of parkruns under his belt, and regularly places in the top ten at Bushy. I suspect he is a member of the elite group of nomads looking to win as many different parkruns as possible. To date, he has won seven different events and come second at another four.
  • Timothy Williams (60 runs at 12 different venues) is showing the early signs of addiction, and may yet rise meteorically through the ranks.

I had been considering a break from my hunt for new parkruns, as I've pretty much exhausted the ones within easy reach, but talking to other tourists has inspired me. Now all I need is a plan.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Inaugural runs: Riddlesdown parkrun (2 July 2011)

I was feeling lazy today, so I opted for the brand new and relatively local parkrun at Riddlesdown near Croydon.

With 154 runners at its debut run, I have a feeling that this parkrun is going to be a stunner. And deservedly so. The two lap course is essentially flat (which came as a pleasant surprise after the steep hill I drove up to reach it), and the park itself is vast. We were warned to stay out of the long grass (skylark nesting territory apparently) so for parts of the course overtaking opportunities were limited, but a little patience and a few excuse me's took care of that.

As luck would have it, I ended up running most of the parkrun with Paul, an experienced (and usually extremely speedy) runner nursing an achilles injury whose idea of a gentle stroll paced me to my second best 5km time of 29.27. As an added bonus, I got to pick his brains about interval training, race pacing and various other running related matters.

Paul is one of 20 runners from the Stragglers running club who are taking part in a 24 hour baton relay from Lands End to John O'Groats to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, YMCA London South West and the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy. Good luck, one and all.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Inaugural runs: Wanstead Flats parkrun (21 May 2011)

The lure of a brand new parkrun for the second week in a row proved too strong to resist, and this morning saw me driving across London to Wanstead Flats parkrun.

If Wanstead Flats were a diy product, it would definitely be from the Ronseal stable. It's near Wanstead and it's flat, a welcome relief after the hills at Hampstead last week.

It's also one of the most well appointed parkruns that I've been to. The car park, loos, indoor bag dump, start and finish are all within a stone's throw of each other, and at the end you can help yourself to Finest London Tap Water (and probably tea and coffee on colder mornings).

It's also blessed with an extremely friendly local running club, the East London Runners, who chatted quite happily to anyone and everyone and who made encouraging noises to us stragglers at the point where the course loops back on itself 1km into the lap.

A special mention to the quick thinking volunteer team. Despite the instructions at the beginning, the lead runners missed a right turn at the end of the first lap, extending it by about half a kilometre. The rest of us, sheep-like, followed them unswervingly. Un-panicked, the race director sent instructions to the marshals to cut lap two short, bringing us home in just a little over 5.25km. PBs all round next week!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Why is it that, having been injury free for a long time, and relatively cough, cold and other nasty bug (so easily caught when cooped up in a classroom all day) free for weeks, that a week or two before a race everything starts to go pear shaped?

I've done other races this year (apart from parkrun).  I started on New Year's Day with a 5k race around the airfield at Lasham (having first completed Basingstoke parkrun naturally), and then went on to do the Bramley 10 and the Winchester 10k, but these were not really races I had built up in my mind as being 'a big deal.'  That's not to say they weren't hard work, and if you want to know just how hard I found them, or what a prat I felt when I fell over then you can check all that out at my personal blog, but some races are different.

Last summer I got it into my head that I wanted to do a half marathon.  I'd failed to get a place in the ballot for the Royal Parks Half (although I later went on to get a charity place), and wanted my first half to be somewhere special.  Hence when the Berlin Half was mentioned I jumped at the idea.  I checked the school holiday schedule - we could fly out on the first Saturday of the holidays, run on the Sunday, spend Monday being tourists and then come back late on Monday evening.  Husbando was keen to come along too.  I paid for entry to the race, booked the flights and a hotel.  A nice hotel, because I figured it was as close to a holiday as I was going to get!   I was excited.  Very excited!

Then in October news of another run on the same weekend emerged.  I entered the lottery, along with thousands of other people (Husbando included) for the Olympic Park Run.  To be honest, I don't think I was really aware that it was the same weekend.  I always seem to let enthusiasm run ahead of practicalities (like checking the diary to see which other races I've already entered) when I see a race entry pro forma on a website!  I was one of the lucky 'few' (5,000 to be exact) who secured a place in the race.  Husbando didn't and neither did any of my parkrun friends.

5 miles isn't a long run.  Normally, if you said "Toria - go out and run 5 miles without stopping, and try to run it fairly speedily!"  I'd just yank on my trainers and get out and run.  But, but, but, on Mothering Sunday I went flying during my long run and banged up my left knee.  I hobbled around all week, did a couple of gentle runs and parkrun on Saturday and thought that everything was OK(ish!)  My long run was not a joyous and relaxing experience, but I slogged on.  Last night's run resulted in a sore right leg and knee - I put this down to new trainers and switched back to my old pair for this evening's walk.  It didn't make much difference.

I'm going to 'rest' now!  In as much as one can rest running around after five children, and teaching on three different floors!  My knee feels distinctly wonky.  Once I have finished on the computer for the evening (I only have another few lessons to plan) I will retire to the sofa with an ice pack and a pile of marking.  There is no way I want to miss out on this 'once in a lifetime' experience, but I suspect that the run will not be fast and will not be pretty!  And once again, I find that the holidays are approaching with me not in a fit state to take advantage of them and do lots of lovely running!

At least it will take my mind off the fact that Number One Son will be out in the wilds of Sussex doing his training expedition for his DofE!

Inaugural runs: Hampstead Heath parkrun (14 May 2011)

You didn't know there was a parkrun on the heath? Well there wasn't. But there is now. It's a complicated (but well signed and marshalled) double lollipop with hills that go on for ever. At one point, I was beginning to think I was running round one of Escher's never-ending staircases, but just as I began to lose hope, the downhill section arrived. Will I do it again? Probably not, since the journey's vile. Would I do it if I lived nearby? Definitely.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

parkrun to 10k Week 3 (I feel this needs a more catchy title but it not going to get one)

Week 3

So… you all know things have been going quite well with this increase in running and I have proudly shared this with you….well I should have kept quiet as this week has been *in the voice of Craig Revel Horwood*….. “A disaster”


The weather was good, the first signs of spring and I was really looking forward to getting out and having a run (am I starting to sound like a runner?  Mental note….must stop that).  The children were off and out the house with minimum of fuss…well if you disregard the incident with the ipod, the plastic duck and the toilet cistern…apparently these things can just happen in child number 4’s life!  My trainers (running shoes) were on, there was no big black dog on the field so off I set.  Today was 10 mins running and 1.5 mins walking…so quite a big jump from last week.  And boy, did it feel a big jump!

After my five mins walking warm up I set off, taking it nice and easy, and I ran, and I ran and I ran and  checked my watch and I had been running for two minutes and 21 seconds (!!!) so I ran, and I ran and I ran and I ran and I checked my watch (still no Garmin) and it was six minutes and four seconds….so I ran and I ran and I got a little bit bored of running and I got to thinking what a stupid idea this was and why was I doing it and I checked my watch and I had done eight minutes and 59 seconds, so in my head I was thinking well that’s nearly ten minutes and as there is only me and two cows in a field who would know if I stopped running now, but then I thought the cows would know and then every time I had to run past them I would know that they would know that I stopped running, so I ran and and I ran…..and then at last it was 10 minutes and I could walk!!!  And I walked for a whole one and a half minutes! And then this started all over again and I ran and I ran and I ran and I checked my watch and I ran and I checked my watch and…..oh this happened another four times with each time me wanting to give up running around the nine, eight….four and three minute mark! Finally it is the five minute cool down walk and I am back at home.

After having a cup of coffee I start to think how ridiculous todays run has been….. I know that I can run for 35 minutes non stop and there are actual people, not just two cows who have seen that so even they know that it is true.  So why was running for 10 minutes at a time so bloody hard today??    If anyone knows….answers on a postcard please!

So to sum up…..

  • 50 mins of running
  • 16 mins of walking
  • listened to the voices in my head muttering about running for 10 minutes at a time
  • carrying a bottle of water and some left over jelly tots
  • how do I feel…..bit deflated


I have discovered that I prefer morning running, but as I have entered my lovely husband into this 10k madness too, then sometimes I have to run with him.  So, Rob arranges to finish work nice and early, I arrange for the children to be picked up from school and then I promptly forget about the run plans and am side tacked with coffee (glass of wine) and salad (posh sausage sandwich) in the cafe with friends……several shouty telephone calls later and a very quick walk (nearly a run…but I had heals on) the two miles home, I arrived just a couple of minutes late for my run with my hubby!   Ooops!

Quick change into running gear as apparently there is 'no way I am running with you with that skirt on’ and I am ready to go.

Same 10 mins running and one and a half walking but six times today and Rob is going to run alongside me to support and encourage me after Mondays Metal Block run…awwww how sweet!

Reality is…we have been walking warm up for about two minutes and he is already suggesting we run and that if I had been home on time then this warm up would have been over and done with already.  We finally set off running and I am left in his dust!  I can just about spot him on the distant horizon!  So I run for ten minutes just about following him and the is an ache in my right calf that I just can’t seem to stretch out…it is there every step and is nagging and groaning and becoming more painful.

I finally catch up with Rob at the bottom of a huge amount of steps and am told “don’t worry about it, pick up your pace, that will sort it out”…..oh yes, I am sure that it will…..not!

So my one and a half minute walking is up these hundred or so steps (I am prone to exaggerating….can you tell?) and then it’s off running again.   At let me tell you, picking up the pace did not help one tiny incy little bit!!  By the end of this run it really does hurt and I could be walking faster than I am running, tears are beginning to form in my eyes and……. I have just about had enough…..would stomp feet….but even that would hurt!

Luckily (for him), my hubby doesn’t say anything too stupid this time and puts his arm round me and says “it’s okay 'limp a lot', walk it home and I will have the kettle on when you get back”, then leaves me in the woods and runs off home……true love, obviously!!! 

And that’s what I do….I walk, with a bit of a limp home…..and drink coffee!

So to sum up…….
  • 10 mins of very slow and painful running
  • 35 mins of walking a faster pace than I ran 
  • listening to my tears fall onto stoney ground (that’s so poetic)
  • carrying some pine cones and a really big stick that I found on the walk back that the children might like
  • how do I feel….bit broken 


Whoop de Whoop de Whoop…’s parkrun day!

And to make parkrun day even more special it is Bunnies on Tour to Leeds parkrun day!  Whoop de Whoop de Whoop de Whoop!!

And guess what?…..I am actually going to run at a parkrun on parkrun day!  Whoop de Whoop de Whoop de Whoop de Whoop!!!

It is an even early than normal start with all of the Bunnies meeting at Huddersfield parkrun at the ridiculously early time of 7.30am for a car sharing tour to Leeds.  After twenty minutes of chatting, deciding who is going in whose car, laughing at Chris who we are leaving behind to look after Huddersfield and threatening him with death if he breaks Huddersfield parkrun, we finally get into the cars and set off!  It’s not exactly convoy as we manage to take a wrong turn just getting out of the park.

Finally after travelling through dense fog on the motorway we we meet up with the lovely Jason Newell who guides us into a perfect parking spot just next to Leeds Hyde Park and then he hands over a packet of Jaffa Cakes… really do have to love the people you meet through parkrun!!!

On the way over there was the usual discussion in our car about what to do with the children, we only have the little two today as middle child has finally got a Saturday job….at last, someone to pay board!!
In the end we do the traditional coin flip and I end up with the children….and they are really happy about that (please detect the sarcasm there)…..they are so happy that Molly says “I wish I had a job too so I didn’t have to come!

For those of you who haven’t been to Leeds parkrun…you must.  They really are a fun and friendly group of people and loved the fact that 20 Bunnies turned up.  Special mention to Jocelyn, Sam, Jaz, Jason and Tess who made us feel very welcome….it was great to meet you.  It is a very well organised parkrun and the course is good to run….not that I would know about running it as there wasn’t a lot of running going on!

Some of the Bunnies on Tour at Leeds parkrun

We go to the start line and I am at the back with my little ones and off we go….we run about 100m and number 4 child is already kicking up a fuss.  Number 5 child is haring ahead and you just know that 2kms in she is going to be completely shattered and won’t run and will only talk about bacon sandwiches….and that’s just what happened.  Luckily daddy had already finished by the time we were on our second lap so I could leave the bacon sandwich loving child 5 and only had one left to run with (ha ha….there was no running).

I am not known for my motivational skills with my children….there is still the much talked about…teaching middle child to ride a bike….motivational moment……which lasted for 10 minutes including the eight minutes to drive to and from the park…..middle child learnt to ride his bike on his own!!! And with me being a very reluctant runner on a bad week….this wasn’t going to be pretty.

I am not going to tell you my bad mother moments, although if you were at Leeds parkrun you may well have seen them….all I can say is that through bribery, cajoling, threats, fake nice voice and dangling a Jaffa cake in front of her, child 4 and I completed Leeds parkrun in 40 minutes!  

Child 4 with Child 5 plotting behind her!

The next couple of hours after parkrun were spent in delightful company and we were joined by the super awesome Amanda Crozier and Nicki Dawson Bunnies who ran all the way from Huddersfield to Leeds to join us at part of their marathon training….a whooping 23 miles!  It kind of puts into perspective my prattle, complaining and nonsense when these incredible people are running distances like that! 

Nicki and Amanda arriving at Leeds parkrun!

So to sum up ………
  • 40 mins of walking and jogging and picking up ipods and going back to find earphones and dropped coats and dropped barcodes and being a ‘motivational mum’
  • listening to myself turning into my mum
  • carrying two ipods, two sets of earphone, barcodes for all the family, two sets of bunny ears, a bottle of pop for each child, two children’s jackets and oh I wish this bit was true, some valium!
  • So how do I feel…..incredibly proud of the fact that my children walked, hopped, ran and sulked any distance and incredibly happy to be part of this wonderful parkrun family.
So on that note…..I feel there is nothing else to say today….except parkrun is changing my life and I am loving every minute of it!  See you next week KX

A parkrun lesson

by Martin Allen

Saturday morn; I topple out,
leary eyed, stumbling about,
'It's half past eight', the radio shouts,
I'm running late, darn it!

At the course with seconds to spare,
The starter gives a quizzical stare,
And points out that I'm standing there,
Without my running kit.
'No worries Sir, you're here with friends,
You can still run and make amends,
For running here does not depend,
On having all your gear'.
'Stand over there with all the rest,
Just go out there and run your best,
But you're doing it in your pants and vest',
And he clipped me round the ear!
I'm lined up ready to compete,
Feeling rather incomplete,
At least I've slippers on my feet,
To protect them from the ground.
The whistle goes and runners flee,
All of them, except for me,
I'm still fiddling with my mp3,
I didn't hear a sound.
Music's done, so off I tear,
I try to float with style and flair,
My slippers flapping in the air,
I'm feeling such a loon.
I see a man ahead of me,
Shuffling as is customary,
For a man who's almost 93,
I hope to catch him soon.
I near him with such manly grace,
I'm in the zone; I've picked up pace,
Then thwack - a blow straight to my face,
I fall in disarray.
Dented branch and dented pride,
Dented head with pain inside,
Why do trees always decide,
To get right in my way?
Dusted down, regained my pose,
Wiped the debris from my clothes,
Two lost teeth and bloodied nose,
I'm flapping once again.
The finish line appears in sight,
Onto grass, that final flight,
Dodging dogs mess left and right,
I'm finishing like a train.
I hit the line, I hit the floor,
Was it quick? I can't be sure,
But my underclothes were revealing more,
Than just my personal best!

So, next week at your parkrun place,
Wear a smile upon your face,
Though kit and shoes must always replace,
Your slippers, pants and vest.

Other blogs by me:
How parkruns and bumblebees can lead to half marathon success

Eastbourne parkrun 24 March 2012

Inaugural runs: Pymmes parkrun (9 Apr 2011)

The lure of a parkrun overcame my sloth this morning, and I headed off to north east London for the first Pymmes parkrun.

If you find yourself near Pymmes park on a Saturday, I'd recommend giving this a go. It's a three lap course on tarmac with very slight undulation and comes complete with trees, duckpond and kebab van. As ever, the volunteers are efficient and encouraging and the course was beautifully signposted. Congratulations all round.

I also bumped into an acquaintance from an earlier parkrun, who after doing 58 parkruns at Bushy decided to visit as many others as possible on the way to his 100th parkrun. He's being much more methodical than I am and has already planned next week's run. It's Finsbury Park. The one with the hill at 4km.

Inaugural parkruns: introduction

When parkrun revamped their most events table, they added a new column showing the number of inaugural events runners have attended. To my delight and amazement, I headed up the list. I suspect that I won’t do for long, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

I didn’t set out to attend lots of inaugural events. My goal was simply to do as many different events in a row as I could. I’m not a fast runner (sub 30 still comes as a shock) and as I only found out about parkrun in January 2011, there will always be runners with far more parkrun pedigree than me. But visiting different parkruns doesn’t require experience or speed. And as I found over the last year, even if you never visit the same parkrun twice, the parkrun community will still find you.

Monday, 26 March 2012

How parkruns and bumblebees can lead to half marathon success

Yesterday was Hastings Half Marathon day.

Okay, this isn't specifically a parkrun précis, but parkruns have had a serious influence on how I ran and I just want to indulge in a little more blogging.

Having taken a week off from parkrunning (volunteering my services instead), I was concentrating all my energies on the Hastings Half.

Now, to appreciate this you need to understand I am different. I'm not like the others…

Whilst I train hard and always try my best, I never, ever, ever, set myself a goal time. It's not what my running is about. As long as I know I've given everything I can in a race, and I've trained wisely, then whatever time that brings me home in, I am satisfied.

I am not hungry for times; I'm not motivated by times. In that way, I never experience disappointment and frustration and always feel a sense of achievement. I try hard and I try to run my fastest, but times are guides and helpful markers; nothing more than that. Parkruns have also really helped in that respect. The competition is with you and your mind - not with other people.

Yesterday was challenging.

Weather: Hot
Wind: Negligible
Course topography: Take a look at the link here and you get the picture
Race stats

Summary: 12 miles of wonder and 1 mile of running like a lazy old sloth

10:30am start is quite late when the sun is already high in the sky and the old suntan is well on its way to completion before you've even set off. Fact: it was going to be rather warm.

The gun went and off I tootled with about 5000 other runners, just positioning myself, (not intentionally) behind the 1h 58m pacer and Batman. It took the usual 4 minutes or so to get across the start line, followed by about a mile of ducking and weaving as runners jockeyed for position. The first 3 miles were rather uneventful. Lots of cheering from the side, lots of inclines, very few descents and several people clearly not having got all of their anxiety wees out of the way, dashing hither and thither to water the bushes after less than a quarter of the way.

The scouts and guides, handing out beakers of water were very efficient, because, even by mile 3, the intensity of the sun was noticeable, especially knowing that the infamous 2 miles of Queensway was about to set its trap for us. Queensway is nothing more than a ring road, but it's one that climbs, and climbs and climbs and, just for good measure, climbs a bit more.

At the top, we turned right and ran along The Ridge, where the crowds were just phenomenal. The cheering and noise was great and you couldn't help but smile. Old dears banging pots and pans and schoolchildren with whistles and vuvuzelas. It was a right, rousing cacophony, but very welcome. Combine that with stunning views round here - across to Rye to the left and down over the town out to sea on the right, and I was hard-pressed not to stop to take a photo.

Now, things were getting a bit hard. Although I had an energy drink, it wasn't really 'refreshing' me and I could feel my lips and mouth getting drier and drier. Gel number one at mile 5 had given me a mild boost. Another water stop was welcome respite as I gulped down half a cup of coldness and threw the rest down my back. But still, all I (and everyone else, probably) could feel was the sun piercing into my eyes and forehead.

By this time, I noticed that the 1hr 58 pacer was nowhere to be seen and I just carried on as best I could. Maybe I had passed him, maybe he was miles ahead? I had no idea. My breathing was strong, my legs felt okay, but general fatigue was just beginning to creep in ever so slightly.

Up and down the undulations of The Ridge - small respites of descent quickly followed by another sapping incline. Through halfway and we climb some more - thanks Hastings!! Mile 9 is the key marker, because you know,  after 9 miles of mostly uphill, from here until mile 11 it is 2 miles of quad-crushing downhill (bar one incline). It's quick and it's fast and those that have saved some energy can really motor down this bit.

I went as quickly and as controlled as I could and blasted through 10 miles in 1hr 30m on my Garmin. 30m mins for a 5k and I could go sub 2hrs - that would be a pleasant surprise and not one I was really bargaining for - despite some 1hr 57s in training over the more amenable winter months. I've been doing just under 24 minutes at parkrun, so this was time to put that experience to good use and, with a 6 minute cushion, I might be close to a PB. I downed a second gel in preparation for the last 3 miles. On I went, with controlled speed down the hill, knowing I had the longest 2 miles in running history to come as you hit the seafront, turn right and run its full length to St Leonards On Sea.

I was really feeling it now. It was hard work here and the dehydration was crippling - 500ml of energy drink and four beakers of water on my way round had done very little in all honesty. Well, it might have made the difference between keeping me alive and killing me off. I slowed considerably at mile 11 and then, briefly  to  a complete stop to take on some water at the final station. Probably a mistake, because, having wiped a whole bathtub of sweat from my brow and drunk another beaker of water, I could barely muster any kind of speed on restarting. I had suddenly gone from comfortable 9-minute miles to barely  13-minute miles for about half a mile. I wasn't walking but I felt like I was running on the spot and that walkers might start passing!

Mile 12  came and I forced as best I could to pick the pace up again - at least finish with some distinction. I don't really remember much of the last mile, except making sure one foot went in front of the other - although I felt a lot fresher than I did a mile before.I stopped my Garmin, unofficially at 2hr 01m 52s. 31 mins for a final 5k was a bit poor by my standards. But a big phew, nonetheless, I had finished without injury and with a smile. My age grading was congruent to my parkrun performances (about 53%) and I beat last year's time by 11 minutes.

It was not my quickest time; in fact, some 5 minutes slower than recent training (albeit on the flat and in cooler conditions) - so not my quickest by a long chalk, but do I care? Do I heck. The hills and heat were sapping and for me, that 2hr benchmark is not the difference between a good runner and bad runner. Someone did ask me if I was frustrated at missing it having stopped for a short bit to get some water? Why would I be frustrated? 2hrs has no more meaning to me than 1hr 59 or 2hr 01. My time is my time and I did the best I could on the day.

How do I sum up this performance? Well, I am officially slower than a bumblebee and two clowns, but I did beat Shrek, SpongeBob Squarepants and a man dressed as an ironing board. I think I can be highly satisfied with that. Oh, and a small matter of raising £233 for East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service

I have decided on two things:
1) Parkruns have definitely improved my ability to run at lactate threshold
2) The quality of a performance should not be measured in time but by the number of bumblebees, clowns and wobbling, bobbling Disney characters that can beat you.

Other blogs by me:

Eastbourne parkrun 24 March 2012

Eastbourne parkrun course description: a runner's eye view

New Contributor - Martin Allen

The Hanley parkrun Half Marathon

In case you are worried by the title, this isn't a parkrun rebellion against the 5km Saturday morning challenge. We just wanted to let parkrunners know about a special event happening in and around Stoke-on-Trent over the next two weeks, which joins up with Hanley parkrun on Saturday 7th April 2012.

Phil Thomas, also known as the 6 Towns Runner, is a Hanley parkrun regular. He is currently preparing for the incredible challenge of running 12 half marathons in 12 days around the highways and byways of the 6 towns of Stoke-on-Trent and surrounding villages. His efforts are in support of the Donna Louise Children's Hospice and if you want to know what has inspired him to take on this challenge, read his very moving blog post: Can you remember when you first saw the sky?

On day 11, he'll be running his half marathon for that day around the Hanley parkrun course. He's planning to start at around 7am and lots of the Hanley parkrunners will be there to support him as he runs laps of the parkrun course. Some parkrunners will be completing the half marathon with him, others just a few extra laps of the park. Some people will just be there for support and others will complete the regular parkrun with him as he completes the half marathon distance.

And as its Easter Saturday, there may be a few Easter Eggs hidden around the course for eagle-eyed runners to collect as they complete the parkrun.

If you'd like to support the 6 Towns Runner or you're interesting in trying out Hanley parkrun, then Saturday 7th April would be a great day to come for a visit. It might be a little bit different than usual, but you are welcome to join the 6 Towns Runner for the Hanley parkrun Half Marathon. Don't forget to register for parkrun if you've never taken part before. Fancy dress optional - but you know its more fun when you take part in a parkrun dressed as a chicken, bunny or Easter egg. Just ask the Huddersfield Running Bunny!

And if you'd like to read more about the 6 Towns challenge, and offer encouragement and support as the half marathon miles clock up then there are lots of ways to keep in touch:

- The 6TownsRun*2 website and blog contains details of all the routse for the 12 half marathons:
- Follow on Twitter: @6TownsRunner (!/6townsrunner)
- Like on Facebook:

Watch out for the 6 Towns Runner and hope you can join us at Hanley parkrun soon,