Just a walk in the park

I’ve been aware of Parkruns for ages, “…if only there was one near me…” I would sigh. Then a few months ago I realised that there is one near me. Did I start going? Did I heck. So when I went down to the Juneathon picnic and Hels and Louise enthused about them, they¬† shot down pretty much all of my excuses and anxieties (the list is too long to go into, but I’m sure that you can guess the bulk of them).

Suddenly (and soberly) I heard my voice saying that yes, I would do one the weekend after. The plot thickened when the peer support/bullying/can’t-back-out-for-the-shame-of-it side of twitter emerged. If I would do one up north, Sue would do one at the same time in Cardiff.

Before I knew it, Saturday morning was dawning (I say dawning, it was belting down with rain, I’m just assuming there was a dawn somewhere behind all the clouds). I’d printed out my barcode and lovingly wrapped it in sticky tape to waterproof it, my bag was packed, my Garmin charged and my Parkrun picked. I had a choice of two runs, but opted for Pennington Flash because I know where it is and that at least removed one aspect of my stressing. With windscreen wipers swishing at full pelt, I set off down the M6, parked up and immediately I was intimidated by the sight in the car park.

Flash, I love you...

There was a large huddle of lean, athletic looking types in matching yellow tops. They looked very serious. What had I done? It emerged that they were a team from The Stragglers running club who are running from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise money for Macmillan (you can read more about them here and sponsor them here). An extra twenty serious proper runner types joining us? Excellent.

As I followed a less intimidating couple to the meeting point (all of the Stragglers bounded past, warming up effortlessly) I was struck with the horrible thought that I had forgotten how to run. I called myself an idiot and carried on trying to work out the mechanics of how the run worked, before giving up and asking a friendly marshall. The course is described as, “a 400m run along a bridleway to a 3 lap clock-wise loop (1400m per lap) consisting mainly of a gravel trail with a grassy downhill section towards the end of the loop. Runners then finish with the same 400m run down the bridleway back to the start/finish”.

What goes down, must go up

With hindsight, I realise that the downhill section would inevitably involve a corresponding uphill section and, given that we run three loops, there would in fact be three uphill sections. This, combined with me setting off far too fast, combined with the wind and rain, made for a more challenging run than I had expected. Later that afternoon (after several hours of clicking refresh on the results page) I discovered that I had finished in 29:53 – 50th out of 61 and second in my age group (on closer inspection, second could also acurately be defined as ‘last’ – clearly all the rest of the 30-34 year olds have better things to do on a rainy Saturday morning, they’re probably all hungover or raising children or something).

The thing is, I know I can go faster. I’ve gone faster in my training runs. I want to go back and do it again to prove that I can go faster. I suspect that this is one of the purposes of Parkrunning and I’ve fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Here is the prerequisite photo of a duck