Waddle, waddle, splash

I appreciate that pregnancy is a binary state – you either are or you aren’t, there’s no being ‘a bit pregnan’t – but over the last week or so, I have felt Very Pregnant. Certain movements, bending forward to reach something when I’m sitting down for instance, are somewhat hit and miss and are often accompanied by a chorus of ‘ooooofs’, ‘bloody hells’, or sometimes even ‘ooooof, bloody hell’.

It’s a bit of a cliche, but one of the times where I feel slightly less lumbering is in the swimming pool. Just as the penguin is a bit ungainly and waddly on land, but sleek and gymnastic in the water, I am a bit ungainly and waddly on land, but a bit less ungainly and waddly in the water. I am still managing a nice 20 lengths on my trips to the baths, albeit a bit slower than before, and am now 65% escaped from Alcatraz. I think I would like to complete my daring swim to freedom by my due date.

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Me at the pool

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve also been looking ahead and doing some forward planning (conveniently ignoring the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, the actual birth and the first couple of months with a newborn baby). This has partly been triggered by other bloggers (particularly the inspiring words of I run because I love food) and hearing about Australian cricketer Sarah Elliott, who was back in the gym after six weeks and scored a Test century in between breastfeeding. I will concede that it’s probably a bit late in the day for me to contemplate an international sporting career and if I’m totally honest, at the moment the concept of running for a bus is as unimaginable as running an ultra. However, there’s only me that can make it happen when the right time comes and so I’ve been pondering my return.

My ultimate goal is an autumn half (to keep up my ‘half-marathon a year’ that I’ve done accidentally for the last three years). This might be helped along by the Lancaster Race Series Wagon and Horses 10 miler. We were up in Lancaster a couple of weeks ago when we saw the organisers setting up this year’s race, and I’ve always got time for an event that starts and finishes at a pub…

The other news that’s made me a bit excited is that I have a new local parkrun at Cuerden Valley. The inaugural event was last Sunday and I did consider having a waddle down, only to fall asleep instead. I’m not sure how the route works, but it looks intriguing and I assume that it will be somewhat undulating. Either way it’s a lovely setting for a run (it’s where I did one of the Badger 10k series  and I last ran there in the snow during this year’s Janathon) – country park rather than municipal park, and it’s handily close to the M6 for all you parkrun tourists out there.

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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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Juneathon 16/30 – how much do you trust me…?

Thanks to a spot of oversleeping last Saturday, today was my only bite at the cherry with one particular piece of Juneathon treasure. This of course was Parkrun tourist Abradypus’s suggestion of a Parkrun t-shirt. I am now spoilt for choice as I sit equidistant from 3 different Parkruns but don’t tend to run any on a regular (or even irregular) basis. In fact, it’s a full 11 months since I ran my very first Parkrun, also at Pennington Flash.

As we gathered round waiting for the pre-run announcements, I peered at my fellow runners in the hope of spotting the elusive garment. I was just toying with the idea of using a Parkrun volunteer t-shirt when my eye was caught by a flash of red. There it was, a Parkrun 50 shirt. Unfortunately I’d decided to run unencumbered so I lacked phone or camera. It was too late to nip back to my car and judging by the athletic form of the gentleman changing into his well earned prize (not that I was staring) he was likely to finish while I was still on my first lap. My only hope was that he would have a brew afterwards and not be freaked out my the red-faced sweaty woman asking for a picture.

Anyway, I ran; the hills didn’t seem as daunting as last year and i was happy with myself, even though I think I was a touch slower this time. I remember that I was feeling as if I was running really well at that time last year, but it was also one of my last runs before my hip and knee turned on me and I ended up having to make friends with a foam roller and a physio.

I didn’t get a photo of the actual treasure, so to compensate here is a picture of assorted waterfowl.

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For those of you with a less than trusting nature, here is some independent verification about today’s treasure find:

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I am now off to the big city for lunch where I I have a strong suspicion that there will be local ales and maybe even a Manchester tart

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.

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