Janathon day twelve: parkrun

Forget the Bermuda triangle, forget the rhubarb triangle, I live in the middle of a parkrun triangle. You would have thought that means that I’m a regular Saturday morning parkrunner wouldn’t you? Well no. I have done three, two of which were during Athons and the third being to meet up with abradyus, an Athoner and parkrun tourist extraordinaire.

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I always think of Pennington as being my ‘home’ parkrun (because I have been twice and it’s near where I work so I can navigate there without thinking, whereas I always get lost in Bolton). Twitter had told me that as usual all of the cool kids were running a parkrun this morning, so it seemed a good a time as any to add on the third point of my triangle – Preston; Avenham Park to be precise. Preston also fitted nicely with our plans for the day, so poor Ginge was forced out of bed at an unreasonable hour in order to act as driver and photographer. Sorry Ginge.

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All of the three local parkruns involve a hill of some sort – Preston’s is a short, steep one at the start of each lap, the course then meanders downhill, under the railway, tantalisingly close to a pub with very good beer and alongside the River Ribble (across which blew a chilly wind) – repeat x 3. Or as I described it to JogBlog (who, along with I Like to Count, has lost her parkrun virginity at Whitstable this morning) “Mine was flat STEEP HILL gentle downhill flat flat STEEP HILL gentle downhill flat flat STEEP HILL gentle downhill flat”.

Hill - my elbow to left of shot

Hill – my elbow to left of shot

Despite the hill, I really enjoyed it and Pennington now has a fierce competitor for my annual affections.

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Parklife round two

Amidst much excited tweeting, I ran my first Parkrun back in July. Unfortunately the week after saw the start of my hip/knee issues and I hadn’t been back since. However, last week, I was tweeted by Abradypus (who is part of the tribe of nomadic Parkrunners who travel near and far, visiting as many different events as they can) as she was up north and offering a bit of company on a Saturday morning. Both of my nearest runs are about a 40 minute drive away from my house, which is a bit of a contributing factor to my Parkrun laziness. What Abradypus was proposing was driving from London to Leeds on Friday night, and then crossing the Pennines to be at Leverhulme Park in Bolton for a 9.00 start. Phew.

Bolton Parkrun includes an incline described in the route instructions as That Hill. Normally, the route takes you up That Hill twice, but this week the running track was being refurbished and so we would have to run That Hill not once, not twice, but three times. At the start of the race we were informed that we would know when we were on the third lap because “our legs would be screaming”. Yay.

Initially I managed to keep up with Louise whilst still being able to make conversation (albeit slightly gasping conversation at times), but halfway up the first hill I realised that my lack of hill training (oh alright, my lack of much training) would scupper any chance I had of maintaining my early pace. At this point, I released Louise from her supervisory role and off she went while I strolled up the last part of the hill. At this point, I was overtaken by a woman running with a child and a dog. Soon I would overtake them because I am a finely tuned athlete.

Oh alright, her dog stopped to drink from a puddle.

The hill came around again far too quickly and I hate to admit it but I wussed out of running it, deciding to put more effort into the flat bits and try again with the hill on the next loop. I’m not sure who I was trying to kid – I walked most of the third hill as well. Ooops.

I finished in the aesthetically pleasing time of 33.33 and once again was the first woman to finish in my age group. I say first, it would be more accurate to say ‘only’, but I take accolades wherever I can. Looking at the results of the regular Levehulme Park runners, the change of route put about 2 or 3 minutes on people’s PBs, so I was quite happy with my time given how much I had walked. Conditions-wise, it was slightly odd that my July run was completed in the cold and wet, whereas October’s was done under blue skies and sunshine. It was lovely to meet with another Athoner and I’ll definitely be running Bolton again in the future, but maybe I’ll wait until the normal route is resumed.

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.

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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

Juneathon Day 13: A change in routine

This week’s routine is all over the show. On Thursday I will be going to Manchester for a swift half with my mate Rob, who I haven’t seen for ages. This means that Thursday’s social running has been replaced with social drinking. An uncharacteristic burst of efficiency on Sunday saw us get the big shop out of the way a day early, thus freeing up Monday to do my normal Thursday run. Tuesday will see me running with Ginge, Wednesday I’m back to normal with my morning run/evening yoga, Thursday we’ve discussed and Friday will be after work (possibly after collecting Ginge from the pub) because there’s no way I’m getting up any earlier than I have to after being out the night before.

The prospect of towpath puddles put my companion off the idea of canal running, so we met in the town centre and set off on our usual path. We tried to think of an alternative, but everything we came up with involved a hill (seemingly hills are worse than puddles) until we set upon the idea of starting off on our normal run then going through the park. I never go through the park due to the high concentration of al fresco Special Brew drinkers, having two of us made me brave though and I have to say that it was very nice. There’s enough little bits of the past remaining to make it feel like a proper municipal park (the little brick groundsman’s shed on the bowling green for instance) and enough signs of investment to make it feel modern and cared for. The sweet irony of all this, is that it was uphill all the way.

We did a round 5k that would have been a round 3 miles, but I couldn’t be bothered walking the last 0.1 of a mile.

Juneathon Day 4: Good morning!

Last night I decided that I wouldn’t set an alarm, but whenever I woke up, I would get up and run. I woke up at 4.30. So I went back to sleep. When I woke up at a more reasonable time I managed a good 45 minutes of procrastination and planning before setting off. The problem was that my run didn’t have a shape or a soundtrack – Should I run far or near? Left or right? Loop or there and back? Tunes or words or Audiofuel or nothing? When did it all get this complicated?

In the end, I assembled sunglasses, shuffle, Garmin and self and set off down to the lodge for what is a standard but lovely route. It’s a mile there and back along the main road and a mile down a side road and round the lodge. I always listen to tunes on the boring bits, but then take out my earphones when I reach the lodge so I can hear the birds and bask in the loveliness of it all.

I didn’t really see anyone on the way down, but at 8 o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning, the park was busy with dog walkers and I got to do lots of one of my favourite things – saying a cheerful “Good morning!” to anyone and everyone. I’m generally happy when I run (although Ginge would dispute this when I’m having one of my “can you run back to the car and pick me up….?” runs) and like to share my sweaty happiness with the unsuspecting passers-by.

All told, I said hello to a grand total of 13 people. The only people who I didn’t say hello to were a woman was explaining to her young daughter why she couldn’t go in the water, a chap who was explaining to his terrier why he couldn’t go in the water and a man who was quite scary looking and was staring so determinedly at the ground that I didn’t want to interrupt his focus…

The lodge itself

More fluffy wildfowl

Sleepy ducks

On the way back home, I have to run up what was once my nemesis hill (I now run up and down it for fun. Well I attempted some hill training on it. Once). It’s about half a mile of hill and does sometimes seem to be endless. As I set off, I spotted a woman who I’d seen running around the lodge. She was wearing teeny shorts and looked every inch the ‘proper runner’. And then she walked. I carried on with my steady plod, she ran a bit, walked, ran a bit, I carried on, catching her up and eventually overtaking her. There was a definite hint of smugness about me as I reached the top (I’m a bad person) – I wasn’t judging her running abilities, for all I know she might have been injured, hungover, doing intervals (although the walking bits did have an air of fed up and knackered about them), or had all sorts of reasons. What pleased me was that the hill makes me realise how much my running has improved and I’m proud that my wobbly bottom powered legs can get me up the damn thing.