Saturday, 2 June 2012

Don't Stop One Now...

This weekend, Brits up and down the country are celebrating sixty years since the coronation of Freddie Mercury and the creation of one of the finest bands this country has ever produced - Queen.  Even today, their first ever hit, God Save The Queen, (I think It got to number 5 in the hit parade), is played at many public functions and when BBC1 goes off air at midnight.

As we know, Freddie passed away in 1991, but since then, his legacy has lived on. I always thought it was some perm-haired man who took over lead-singing duties, but I have noticed that a little old lady called Elizabeth seems to be the new face of the band. Having seen her on the tele recently, I consider her a most unlikely spokesperson, but Elizabeth Regina (or HRH to her fans) seems to be taking it all in her stride.

She is a remarkably fit pop star with a range of other talents. This afternoon she’ll be riding in the Derby, before rowing up the Thames tomorrow. I am also led to believe that she is giving a pop concert at Buck House on Monday, duetting with Gary Barlow.

At parkrun this weekend we were encouraged to come in red, white, or blue to celebrate the utter britishness of Queen. Regrettably, the only running-related colour I had was red and white shoes and a bit of blue on the heel of my sock.

However, there was no need for me to wear these colours, as people have said that one is a spitting image cross between Freddie and HRH - what say you? I’m not convinced.

Nevertheless, one does thinks one might well be from royal stock. My people keep looking at me, pointing and saying, there goes that queen again.

Anyhow, one rocks up regally at Shinewater Park 10 minutes before the start of the run. I gently remove my robe and crown, pop them in my matching clutch bag and pass it to a footman. One puts on one’s running headscarf and beckons a couple of corgis to heel. We climb aboard our carriage and are horse-drawn over to the starting area.

It is muggy with a swirling wind and one figures a fast time might be difficult to come by. Lord Stuart of Pelling (Event Director), gives his state opening of parkrun speech and, on the bang of a 60 gun salute and whoosh of the Red Arrows display, we are ‘orf’.

One is not very good at negative splitting on a parkrun and today was no exception. One tends to run a comfortably fast first mile, a steady, becoming tiring, second mile, a hanging on for dear life and don’t you dare stop third mile and a strangely exhilarating sprint in the last 100m.

One didn’t feel under pressure in the first part of the run, settling comfortably into a 7:30ish minute mile. It was quick, but nothing too taxing at that point. After a mile, we turn into the long back-straight, lasting almost a mile in itself. As usual, the fatigue begins to come on here, dropping to a 7:46 minute mile. By the end of that mile, all I’m thinking is that I want to break free from the agony. 

I side-saddle under the road bridge and a huge swirling headwind brings one to a virtual halt. However, one girds ones royal loins and, thinking I’m going slightly mad, I press on with stately determination for the final mile. 

I have been slipstreaming one of my public for about a mile and, slowly, thoughts emerge that one may be able to pick him orf, towards the end.

With 100 metres to go, we switch from gravel to grass and that was it; I'm off like a flash, as if it's a kind of magic. Churning up the grass, I focus one vision, running headlong towards the finishing chute. I can hear ‘great sprint, Queen Freddie’ coming from the sides, just as one floats one's majestic body through the finish and graciously accepts a finishing tag and a posy of flowers from a shy little girl. But, then, it was one step, two steps and another one bites the dust, as one collapses (with noble dignity!) to the ground.

One didn’t quite breakthru the 24 minute barrier, but, still very happy with one’s overall performance. Of course, one will be back next week as the show must go on.

What about the corgis, you say? Oh, the corgis were fine . My ladies-in-waiting, a couple of fat-bottomed girls, were running with them somewhere behind. I do hope they finish soon, as one’s brow needs mopping.

It’s a hard life being Queen Freddie, but, occasionally one likes to play the game.  I thought, perhaps, that you, my public, might wish to share in that game.....

So, how many of Queen’s hits did you spot in my blog today?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A pyrrhic PB

Pyr·rhic victory
A victory that is offset by staggering losses.

Over the London Marathon weekend, I managed to pick myself up a new parkrun PB at Wormwood Scrubs.  I was fortunate in the respect that conditions on the day were pretty decent.  I was also in good condition as I'd been training for the following week's Greater Manchester Marathon.  This was the third time I've set a parkrun PB the week before a marathon and it was the perfect confidence booster ahead of the big day.

A friend from my running club also beat his 5k PB over the same weekend.

Unfortunately, it was something of a pyrrhic PB as he was actually running the London Marathon at the time.

So, when the gun went off, so did he -- like a scalded cat.  His split for the first five kilometres astonishingly turned out to be quicker than any of his previous stand-alone attempts at the 5k.  All well and good, apart from the small matter that he still had over 23 miles to run.

Unsurprisingly, he paid for it later on: I'm not sure if the time he recorded was also his best for the full marathon, but it was nearly a debut appearance in the wheelchair marathon -- St John's Ambulance were apparently taking quite an interest in him during the latter stages of the race, as he told me via email:

"Paralysed with cramp 400 yards from the finish attended to by st johns ambulance - not pretty. It has to go down as a textbook 'how not to run a marathon'."

A suitably poignant conclusion to the tale is that he then had to walk home, which proved a bit of a struggle.  He very graciously gave me his permission to relate the tale of his over-exuberant, unscheduled 5k PB as a warning to others.  Save it for parkrun, folks.


5 tips for marathon pacing

My blog post on the Greater Manchester Marathon

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The 2012 Eurovision parkrunning contest

Round two of marshalling this week and another really warm day again. The last time I marshalled was when we had the very warm spell at the back-end of March. Today was much the same – only hotter.

The day needed some coolness and class, so I decided to wear my nautical-inspired outfit. I bedecked myself in white shorts, blue and white striped t-shirt and blue deck shoes. The only item missing was a hat.  I almost opted for my Richard Gere Officer and a Gentleman outfit, but, on second thoughts, and knowing the forecast, I left it, neatly folded, in my special dressing up box.

7:00am arrived – time to make my way to Ore station to catch the 7:15 train to Hampden Park. As we trundled down the track, somewhere near Norman’s Bay, I noticed a small tea-drip on my shorts. Nooooooooo!

It wasn’t as if I had over-spilled on my legs; it was the tiniest drip, but now I had seen it, it seemed noticeable. And when one has such thrilling legs, as I do, I worried that others may spot it when I was marshalling and that may put them off their stride.

I had some orange-fragrance Marks and Spencer hand wipes in my rucksack, (as every self-respecting gentleman should have), so I took one out and dabbed gently at the offending mark. Bugger! It wasn't coming off. Oh well, I was just going to have to live with it. And, maybe, nobody would notice.

I arrived at parkrun and strode joyfully to the start area, where the organisers were frantically setting up the start and finish chutes. They are great though. Despite the freneticism, (I have just made that word up), they still had time to greet me:

“Hi Martin, nice to see you. I see you’ve dripped a small amount of tea on your shorts this morning…”

“Hey, Martin, good to see you. Do you want a cup of tea? Oh, I can see you’ve already had one….”

Once everything was set up, it was time for marshalling duty. I donned the over-sized high viz and, resembling a nuclear-fuelled oompah-loompah, I made my way over to marshall the bridge section.

On Eurovision weekend, I am affectionately renaming this bridge The Hump and, from hereon in, this week’s extravaganza is known as the Eurovision parkrunning contest.

9:00am ticked by. I heard the countdown in the distance. Three, two, one….  Let the Eurovision parkrunning contest, BEGIN.

A couple of minutes later, the first of the runners thundered by, going hell for leather in the heat. The first to go were well-rehearsed, with excellent stage presence and production values. 

Fortunately for me, they were going too fast to notice the tea-drip on my shorts. Whoosh, phnow, shooom – past me they all whizzed, heading off on their large loop of the park. A couple of friendly “Thank you, marshall” graces were proffered in my direction.  Was that a subtle attempt to nobble the Eurovision parkrunning jury? Try harder, I can be nobbled, for the right price.

The last of the runners came through, with determined concentration and friendly smile, and the sound of feet disappeared into the distance. The birds could be heard tweeting the end of their morning song, the sound of a train rat-a-tatting in the distance and the sun was silently piercing down on me.

Then, the excitement  really began and, in true Song Contest style, it was time for the voting…

First over the bridge came Ed Dodd, representing the Current Republic of Eastbourne AC with his version of ‘You Can’t Catch Me (La La La La La La)'. A favourite with the parkrunning audience, he was awarded ‘douze points’. For anyone who doesn't speak Eurovision, that's 12 points.

Dix (10) points, went to Matthew Southam also representing the Current Republic of Eastbourne AC with his entry, 'Boom, bang-a-bang’ as he bounded with style and aplomb over the bridge. (Note to self: investigation into the partisan running of two entries from the same country. Is this permitted under the Eurovision parkrunning contest rules? )

Huit (8) points, and third place, went to David Perry, representing himself, and who entertained us all with his upbeat version of 'Happily Slappidy Feet'.  This was a very slick performance and one he should be very proud of.

The other 76 nations followed behind. I was particularly impressed by this entry from the little known nation of Labradoodle. As you can see, these contestants had real grace on the stage with stunning production. Their version of ‘Woof for Peace’ was a mightily uplifting ditty.

But, as with most Eurovision parkrunning contests, there were a few entries that sounded the same. With versions of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’, ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘It’s Too Damn Hot’, being some of the more memorable ones.

I did have to disqualify the lovely Kate Fowler for smiling as she came over the bridge. Grimacing, pained expressions, pathos and determination are all permissible at the 4km mark of the Eurovision parkrunning contest, but grinning from ear to ear is not.

There was one entry though that did particularly hit home. It came later down the running order, but I couldn't identify the artist. 

What was that you were  singing?

‘I see you spilled some tea – tee-he-he-he-he!’

I was very much struck by this …

And when I kicked him in the shins, so was he….

Martin Allen, nil points.

All was forgiven though at the after-parkrun party as the runners mingled politely, sipped water and deconstructed their performances.

The lambrini, ferrero rocher and debauched dancing came later - and rumour has it that was just Kate Fowler again...

Ps. – please note this piece is entirely fictitious (for the most part) and no runners were actually injured (or drunk) in the making of this blog.
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