Friday, 12 October 2012

A year in the life of a parkrun tourist...part 1

By the end of this year I should finally be over the 20 different parkruns mark and onto the leaderboard on the website. That would be 15 new parkruns this year but what has been the highlight, and why do it???

The “why?” is easier to answer – sometimes because I happen to be in a different part of the country so take advantage of the nearest local parkrun. Sometimes it’s planned for somewhere different to go, different people to meet- occasionally there’s someone I met in the discussion groups online that you just have to meet! Which reminds me- I must schedule Coventry in the diary for next year…

So to the highlights of a year of parkrun tourism – where have we been and who have we met??

My first visit this year was the Valentines Day run at Huddersfield, where event organiser Kerry Noble let me be a guest Bunny. All I will say is they are mad for the bunny over there and I got fantastic support and a decent time on a course which is the best example of human spaghetti I have ever seen! There were people everywhere and a fantastic atmosphere, probably the best venue for the kids too!! This picture is actually from our second visit to Hudds, but included meeting parkrun uber-tourist Dave and is one of the very few pictures of me I actually like!! The other is from the same day when Yorkshire Cancer Research launched their Bounce event – Jamie having a blast!!


A couple of weeks later we hit Oldham parkrun, travelling over with parkrun royalty Nicola Forwood, Ben and Jaz and meeting the infamous Simon Bruce Lee, sorry, Lake. Slightly odd choice this but bear with me- knew Simon from the forums hence good to meet but after the run I was meeting a mate and along with Ben we were catching the train from Manchester to go to a gig in Glasgow. Makes sense now!! Interesting course, usual friendly people and Ben in particular ran a blinder with a comeback pb that saw him finish in the top 10 and taking me down in impressive style on the last lap! The gig was fantastic too – a great weekend, though Preston station is not great to get stuck on a Sunday due to engineering works…

Next to Colwick in Nottingham- not a good run due to a late night out with far too much alcohol but a lovely course! Just over a lap round the lake and flat- this one needs doing again properly, and don’t be put off by the trails- keeps it interesting!! Definitely recommended, and one of my favourite courses!

In between travelling we do of course attend our local parkruns - and do some volunteering!! Sometimes I am off wandering, alone or with other tourists, but parkrun is always part of our weekend. Find out more about our touring plans by joining our Facebook group "Discussion Group for parkrunners on tour".

Monday, 8 October 2012

The injury comeback trail

I once read that being a runner means that you are always in one of the following three states:
1) Injured
2) On your way back from an injury
3) On your way to your next injury

Personally this has been my lot for the best part of the last 2 years. Some that know me well would argue its been more like 13 years - unlucky for some (me!).

Four weeks ago I was placed firmly back in state 1) after my old calf injury came back to haunt me during the last Sphinx Club Handicap race of the year. It seemed innocuous at the time, coming on gradually rather than the sudden tearing sensation I have been used to. But it kept me from running for a while nonetheless.

Within a week of sensible recovery I was back into state 2) and that is where I have been since. As an indication of my recent recovery, my best 5km time at parkrun is 17:28. My parkrun times over the last 4 weeks have shown a nice downward trend during my recovery as follows: 26:22 (tentative), 22:46 (still slightly wary), 20:02 (confidence returning) culminating in my 18:17 this Saturday just passed. Safe to say that confidence in the calf has well and truly returned after that.

I think that in anyones book it is hard to convincingly claim that you are still injured if you can run within 49 seconds of your 5km PB. So does that now mean I have left state 2) and am heading for state 3) ? I really wish I could find a state 2.5) and find someway to stay there for a long period, or in fact, any significant period of time.

At least I do seem to have found the common sense needed for successful injury recovery, which was all too often missing in days gone by. Far too often I would make my injuries worse by coming back too soon and targeting improvements at too fast a rate. There is no way I would have waited 4 weeks to go from not running to running flat out in the past. This is a good step forward at least.

One change that I seem to have stumbled on in a recent issue of Runners World magazine, is a change in my running style. I am relatively short (5 foot 7 and a bit), but I normally notice that I take roughly the same number of steps as the taller runners around my pace. Common sense tells me that I therefore take longer strides for the length of my legs than most others. I believe this is what the professionals call over-striding. The fact it has a name with negative connotations suggests it is not a good thing to do. The recent Runners World article stated a few related topics based around better running style for both speed and injury prevention:
- take shorter strides.
- runner at a higher cadence (more steps per minute). 180 steps per minute being the optimum.
- try to land your foot directly below your body, rather than out in front.
- land each foot as gently as possible.
- aim to have each foot only on the ground for 0.2 seconds (hard to time, but basically as short as possible). This was related to natural elasticity in muscles and tendons and the benefits this could give to performance.

I tried to do exactly that this last weekend at parkrun. It is hard to say whether or not I achieved those goals or even got close, but I certainly tried.

As a result I noticed a few things:
- Running felt easier.
- I went faster without feeling as though I had tried. 49 seconds outside my PB would normally feel hard. It really didn't. I was talking to marshalls the whole way round!
- I didn't feel like I was risking a recurrence of the calf injury.
- The impact of each stride felt less.

One other thing that I noticed was that if I didn't concentrate, I soon fell back into longer and slower strides with heavier impact. This tells me that it isn't going to be something that I can do without thinking for a while yet. This style of running is going to have to be worked at and it may take some time to perfect. But I certainly think it is well worth a go if there is any chance of the benefits that Runners World suggests. Particularly if I get less injuries and end up running faster! The Holy Grail - for me at least!