Sunday, 6 January 2019

Resolution Run

I've just looked back at the blog I wrote when I ran this race in 2017.   I haven't read it in detail (too much to do today), but some sections seem as though I could write them again!  The nature of the race calendar is that the same races crop up at similar times each year, so it is hardly surprising that I am again looking forward to spring marathons and that races in the build up to that are really just 'training runs with added bling!'  As in 2017 my target race is Paris.  We are travelling over there with a group of friends to run the marathon and celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  I really want a sub 4 hour marathon time.  I've talked myself out of it far too often now so something has to change.  This is the year that I am going to go for it...

So today sees me at the end of the third week of training for Paris.  My marathon plan says I should run 9 miles, last weekend I was supposed to have run 8 miles, but ran a half marathon, so thought that I would probably run a half marathon this weekend too.  Well, that was the plan.  It would mean I could get home nice and early and take down the Christmas decorations.   I set the alarm for 6.30am on the last day of my holiday and woke to read on social media that the portaloos at the aid station had been vandalised.  This threw me into a panic until I remembered that there was a 24hr McDonalds on the way to the start.  I also began to question whether the rather delicious vegetable chilli had been a sensible choice for supper on Saturday evening..... Nevertheless, I grabbed all my gear, said goodbye to Husbando and off I went, looking forward to grabbing a coffee and using the facilities at McDs - only to arrive to find that it was closed!

The Resolution Run takes place along a section of the Billy Line on Hayling Island.  Last time I was here we'd had a lot of wet weather and it was very foggy.  I don't think I saw the sea for the entire day, so it was quite a revelation to realise just how much of the course was along the edge of the water.  We all assembled at the start area, collecting numbers, chatting, sighing with relief that the loos were just about useable!  It was very chilly - much colder than I'd anticipated, so I kept my jacket and gloves on.  There was a nice 'brisk' wind off the water which prevented people from overheating!  It was also lovely and dry under foot which made a nice change from my previous trip.

The event is a 6 hour challenge.  Competitors are able to complete as many laps as they wish during that time - only one lap is necessary to get a finish time and a medal.  On this course each lap is 4.4miles long - an out and back which is probably about the flattest I have ever run on.  I ran three laps, all the while telling myself that I would stop after the third, but then after a comfort break at the end of lap three I set out again.  I've no idea why.  However, that lap took me to 17.6 miles - which is a silly distance, so it seemed that I had no real option but to carry on.  And obviously after five laps it would be ridiculous not to run a mere 4.4 more miles to get a marathon done.

I always struggle with remembering the relative positions of landmarks on lapped courses.  I always try really hard, because it would be really helpful to remember that, when you pass the bench next to the foot path sign (for example) you only have 0.7miles to the aid station.  But I can't do that even on a course that it studded with landmarks.  The Billy Line is somewhat monotonous so it is even more difficult.  I kept having to do mental marathon maths (never my best subject) to work out where I was.

It was always a pleasure to chat to other runners.  There were so many familiar faces, and even more people seemed familiar by the end of my sixth lap.  I was really grateful for the support today, as I dug deep towards the end of the second half.  I'd aimed for 10 minute mile pace, but was averaging a bit faster than that.  I wasn't sure that I could keep up that pace on minimal training (remember that this wasn't a target race just a training run).  But it seems I could.  I did have a very brief walk (about 100m) at the far end of the last lap... not sure why really, but then I decided that I hadn't needed the walk so I would have to make up the time and pick up the pace!

I crossed the line in about 4hrs14mins - my fastest On The Whistle marathon, I spend too long chatting at the aid stations!  Nothing on the planet could convince me to go out again and run another lap for the ultra... I've seen enough of the Billy Line to last me until next January at least! What makes these events work is the people and the organisation.  On The Whistle are a small, local, company run by runners for runners, so there is a well stocked aid station which is manned by people who know enough about running to know when to give you a kick up the bum or a hug, they are great at encouraging runners to exceed their expectations.  You do not have to be super fit to take part - a quick look at the results will show you that they cater for everyone up to and including ultra runners and they all encourage each other.  

Thanks again to the On The Whistle team for a great day out.  The addition of a coffee van from Winchester Vintage Catering was  wonderful.  The thought of that post run cup of tea kept me going during the last lap.  Until next time....

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Frozen Phoenix

If you want to run a race well there are some basic steps one should take in preparation.  It is a good idea to train for the distance.  I haven't run a marathon since the 18th of November, but I wasn't too worried about the lack of formal training, I've made sure that I've run half marathon distances at the weekends and, when push comes to shove, I know that I can run a marathon off very little training if I have to.  It is also a good idea not to push oneself too hard the day before.  Lots of people schedule a rest day or an easy run.  Most people aren't stupid enough to achieve their highest ever WAVA % grading at parkrun the day before a marathon.  Finally, it helps to be in good health and to have had a good night's sleep.  Coughing and spluttering all night is not ideal!  
Still, life is rarely perfect and, as I'd paid my race entry fee and had no other plans for the day, I set off for Walton-On-Thames and soon found myself sitting in the Xcel Leisure Centre chatting with fellow runners about upcoming races, mutual friends, plans for the new year - that sort of thing.  I still wasn't feeling the love for the idea of running.  At least it was warm and not raining!  We made our way down to the river, dumped our bags at the aid station and assembled on the tow path for the start.  

I set off at a steady pace, I wanted to treat this 'race' as a long, slow, training run with bling and was aiming for running just sub 10 minute miles.  This would see me completing a full marathon in about 4hrs 20mins or a half in 2hrs 10mins.  A nice easy pace, which allowed me to negotiate the muddy patches, dogs, small children, bikes etc. with ease.  I was happy to chat with people as I ran, but spent much of the time running by myself, at the end of the first lap I collected my wrist band and carried on.  My current, back of a fag packet, race nutrition plan calls for a banana every 6 miles which on this course is every other lap.  

I lost the plot a little bit towards the middle of lap two.  My chest was a bit sore, I had a busy week coming up, I'd told myself that I had nothing to gain from running a whole marathon and possibly making myself properly poorly.  I had pneumonia this time last year and I NEVER want to be that ill again!  The slightly damp air and the head wind on the outward leg of the lap were not helping me at all.  I was all set to stop at the end of lap two (6.6 miles), but as I got to the aid station I saw that another lady had just finished.  My stubborn streak decided that I wasn't going to be second lady at that distance... I would have to go on... I grabbed a banana and on I went.

Lap three came and went.  The highlight of this lap was seeing a Dalmatian in a leopard print coat!  I couldn't bring myself to stop after this lap as 9.9 miles is a bonkers distance.  I made a deal with myself.  If I could up the pace a bit I could salvage some pride from the day.  I decided that if I could finish the four laps in under 2hrs then I could stop running.  I also took the decision to run the return leg on the slightly longer route that goes along the road and not along the muddy section of the tow path - I thought I would probably be able to run faster along here and more than make up for for the slight added distance.  

I never quite trust my Garmin when it comes to distances left to run!  So I just ran as fast as I could for as long as I could.  As I rang the bell I said 'I'm going to regret this - but I'm stopping!' At least I'd squeaked in under the 2hr time limit I'd given myself.  I think that is a 7 or 8 minute PB with Phoenix at this distance - although it is 15 minutes slower than my half marathon PB!  Lots of work still to do.

The bling from today's race is awesome!  Even my cynical 16 year old son said so!  The egg moves to reveal the phoenix beneath - and it is purple.  Those who have done more than one 'Frozen Phoenix' race have the added bonus of medals that interlink.  Very cool.  Today was my 10th run with Phoenix - which meant that I was awarded my Bronze wings.  You can see them in the bottom right hand corner of the photos.  These can be worn on trainers or, as I have chosen to do, used as a fridge magnet.  What a lovely gesture and reward for loyalty!  The next set of wings is at 25 events... I'll have to check my diary.

I don't regret 'giving up' when I did!  There would be something wrong with me if I thought that 'only' running a half marathon was 'failing!'  I got out, had a long run, saw loads of lovely people and still had plenty of time to go out to lunch with Husbando and do stuff at home in the afternoon!  All this while, hopefully, not making my cough any worse.  That sounds a lot like winning in my book.
Thank you as always to Rik for another well organised event, thank you to the volunteers - especially the lady who said I didn't need to diet (she should have seen my back in July!) I think I love her!  

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Brooklands parkrun

This morning was the last parkrun of 2018 and one where I did not have to take my DofE volunteering son to our local venue.  The small children were off to visit grandma, Husbando was leaving the house at 4.30am and taking them with him on his way to a book fair in Market Harborough.  I refused the proffered cup of tea before they left, but accepted the hugs from my youngest child before going back to sleep.

There had been some discussion about where to go.  I didn't want to set off for a parkrun miles away on my own (and not just because my car is reaching the end of its life now and the poor old girl doesn't like travelling too far).  For a while it looked like we might all go down to Henstridge Airfield - but at nearly 90 miles each way that seemed a little excessive and would use up most of the day, so in the end 2 of us, Mr B and I, decided to visit the relatively local and relatively recently established Brooklands parkrun.  Husbando was pleased about this because he wants to do Henstridge as he is a  bit of an airport geek (we had to run around Templehof when we were in Berlin) and because his grandparents lived in Henstridge.  He was also unhappy because he wants to do Brooklands being a bit of a history of aviation and motorsport geek... but Brooklands is at least close enough for an easy repeat visit!

Mr B arrived to pick me up bang on 7.45am, to find me struggling out of the door with hat, hoodie, sunglasses, gloves, rain jacket and a bin sack of rubbish - luckily the right stuff got put in the car and bin respectively and we were soon on our way.

Brooklands Community Park is within the historic Brooklands site - home to the first purpose built banked race circuit in the world and one of the first airfields in Britain. Now, I'm not terribly interested in either of those things (although I will bore for England if you start me on what it is like to fly Concorde to New York), but a quick glance at the Brooklands Wikipedia page revealed names that even I knew about; Sopwith, Vickers, Hawker and Marconi to name but a few.  If that kind of thing floats your boat (or gives lift to your aeroplane I suppose) then the Wikipedia page is well worth a look.  There is a museum you could visit and I know that Mercedes Benz World is a popular attraction - you can drive cars very quickly there I believe!

The parkrun is located in the Community park that was established by a collaboration between the local council and Mercedes Benz.  It is a mix of bits of the old runway and wooded areas with a children's play area and car park thrown in for good measure.  There are no loos in the park itself - but there is a HUGE Tesco just across the road that probably opens in plenty of time for a last minute wee stop!  We parked in the car park (free we assume as we didn't see a pay point and didn't return to a ticket on the windscreen) and made our way towards a group of hi-viz jackets assembling in the middle of the old runway.  Having attempted to cough up a lung in the car I thought I better take it easy today (memories of being flattened with pneumonia this time last year have yet to fade) so I kept all my layers on while Mr B, in shorts, went off for a warm up run.

The first timers briefing was enormous - I haven't looked in too much detail at the results but it seemed as though most people were running at Brooklands for the first time.  I did wonder why some people bothered coming to the briefing though if all they were going to do was talk through it.  After this, and the main run brief we made our way to the start.

'I will take it easy, I will take it easy!' is what I was saying to myself as we waited for the signal to start.  But then I was among runners who were running, and I hadn't run for two whole days and my legs decided that taking it easy was not going to happen.  All the time my brain was saying 'Don't be silly, you are supposed to be running a long run tomorrow'  but I kept on plodding away.  The first section of each lap is on tarmac (into a slight headwind) before turning off into the wooded area.  This was muddy today, but not puddly (is that a word?) but it did seem to slow a lot of people down (that and watching out for tree roots) and I over took a fair few people in these sections before we came out, back on to the runway to run up it with a tailwind before turning back down to either start the second lap or sprint for the finish funnel.

And I did have to sprint for the finish funnel as Mr B had not only finished his parkrun but had time to retrieve his phone and stand brandishing it at me taking photos - slowing down was not an option!  I flung myself past one poor runner and across the finish line.  My efforts were rewarded with the best finish token of them all - 69!  It was also one of my fastest parkruns (23:39) which thanks to a birthday in November gave me my highest ever WAVA of 70.05%.

After barcode scanning we made our way to the coffee shop in the Tescos - we didn't see many other runners in there, but had a couple of cups of tea and a catch up about the joys of parenting: is it too late to move to a kibbutz and outsource child care to someone else?  Would I be put in charge of everyone's children given that I am a qualified teacher?

Thank you to all the volunteers both out on the course and behind the scenes who made today run so smoothly and thank you to Mr B for driving.  There are now no more parkruns until next year - but at least we get to do two in one day on New Year's Day - hopefully I will catch up with some of you in parkruns around the country/world (a girl can dream) next year - but until then I wish you all the best for 2019.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Finsbury parkrun

Despite living in London for many, many years there are huge areas that I have never visited.  Harringay is one such area and I will admit that, prior to today, if someone said "Finsbury Park" all that came to mind was yet another Madness farewell or comeback gig!  A little research reveals that lots of people have 'played' Finsbury Park - from Hendrix to Queens of the Stone Age via the Sex Pistols, Oasis and The Stone Roses (amongst many others).  The park itself has an interesting history - it was opened in 1869, during WW1 it was the site of pacifist meetings, during WW2 it was military training ground and housed anti-aircraft guns.  It fell into disrepair through the latter half of the 20th century, but a lottery grant in 2003 was used to fund cleaning of the lake, building a cafe and children's pay area and repairing the tennis courts.

We were up in London for the very excellent Nine Lessons & Carols for Curious People on Friday, coupled with a book fair for Husbando on Sunday, so we thought we'd make a weekend of it and throw in a parkrun too.   The idea was that we would get public transport to the start, run parkrun then run back to the hotel for breakfast.

Finsbury Park station is a third of a mile from the start.  We spotted the high viz jacketed volunteers by the cafe and made our way up there.  There are loos right by the cafe - which is good to know.  They were fairly clean and the ladies loos were very pink - pink tiles, pink paint!

After the first timers' briefing we made our way to the start.  It was bitterly cold, I was very glad to have my gloves with me.  So long as we kept out of the wind it was ok, but that wind was evil!  The start is down hill, on a nice wide road through the park. This is followed by a long, but gentle, uphill then a fairly flat section followed by a short,  steepish uphill and then back round to the start.  Two laps mean you get to look forward to the hill a second time, but the reward is a gentle downhill to the finish funnel!

We were so lucky with the weather. Rain was forecast - but held off until later in the day.  Running warmed us up.  It was refreshing to run on an entirely tarmac course for what feels like the first time in about a million years.  It was hillier than I'd anticipated, but I was fairly happy with my time.  Thrilled to be first in my age category!  One thing we have noticed is that the demographic at the London parkruns we have done appears to be much younger than they are out in the sticks.  

After we had finished we went to grab a drink in the cafe while we worked out our route back to the hotel.  As we sat down at one of the tables two regular Finsbury parkrunners (I want to say Paul and Anna - but I may have misremembered) asked if they could join us and soon tables were being pulled together and we were chatting about all things parkrun!  This is the 70th different parkrun I have done, and the first time locals have made us feel so welcome.  Thank you!

Thank you to all the volunteers who supported and encouraged us today - a lovely parkrun community with a deceptively challenging route in a great park.  Super speedy results processing - our texts arrived during our 3.5 mile run back to the hotel! If there weren't so many other parkruns nearby I'd be back like a shot next time we are in London on parkrun day.  

Sunday, 18 November 2018

A Day At The Movies

The 'A Day At The Movies' race is a bit different.  It is organised by Phoenix Running as a charity run, raising money for Rays Of Sunshine.  Over the course of a year not everyone who enters a race actually shows up to the start line and this, along with a few more medals than absolutely necessary being ordered, means that there are left overs.... so Phoenix came up with the idea that a race could be put on where we could choose our own medal from the surplus supplies and the profit (more than normal because no medals or race numbers would need to be produced) would go to charity.  I signed up.  I mean, why wouldn't I?  On the entry form we had to choose our first three choices from a list of available medals.  I entered my choices, then did the same for Husbando and promptly forgot what I had chosen.  'A Day At The Movies' is a multilap event where you can complete as many 3.28 mile laps as you want within the 6 hour time limit.  Given the fact that it was less than a week since my last marathon I was pretty sure I would be running a half marathon at most.  

Saturday started well.  I didn't read the race instructions and assumed that the race started at 9am (as the Remembrance Day Marathon had last Sunday) and Husbando relied on me for timings, so we left quite early!  He'd also told a friend when we were leaving, so she left her house at a similar time.  We met up at a Starbucks en route, where I was becoming quite stressed about the time we were wasting, until someone checked and we had a whole extra thirty minutes to spare!  Plenty of time for coffee, visits to the loo and Christmas tree decoration shopping!  

We were still early when we arrived at the Xcel Centre in Walton On Thames, but not excessively so. We collected our numbers - all three of us had numbers from different races, which was exciting as none of us could really remember what we had chosen! We had another cup of coffee, another trip to the loo, caught up with some friends and chatted to a lady about the Disneyland Paris half marathon.    The run briefing was short and sweet, the weather was fantastic - bright autumn sunshine and, once I had put my bag in the gazebo - with my bananas easily accessible, we were raring to go!  We set off in the opposite direction to last week and the laps were half the distance, so four laps for a half marathon and eight for a full marathon.  Each lap would require crossing the dreaded blue bridge before going under Walton bridge and then enduring the longest every 400m to the turnaround point, and then having to go over that blue bridge again on the way back!   To be fair, the bridge isn't that bad, but it is the only incline on the whole route.  On the first few laps it took me 21 strides to get to the top of the bridge, one the last lap it took 24!  

Laps sound boring, and I know lots of people don't like them, or don't like the idea of them but there is a lot to see on this route.  There are boat houses, a pub, bridges, coffee shops, people rowing, cyclists, dog walkers, children on scooters, swans, geese and ducks - plenty to see!  There was also the temporary addition of Stella Point - not a peak on the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro, but a 3/4 full bottle of Stella that stood at the edge of the path for my first four laps before someone picked it up and put it in the bin... at least I hope they put it in the bin and didn't decide to drink it!  

I started too fast.  I haven't run a single step since the marathon last Sunday and my legs, while not 'fresh', were eager to run.  It didn't matter, at some point I'd decided that I would do that full marathon distance.  I am not in the habit of running marathons so close together (although a lot of my running friends think nothing of running 10 marathons in 10 days and more!) so I decided that if could run this one in about 4hrs 30mins I would be happy.  Knackered, but happy!  About 10 miles in I realised that my pace was still too fast and that I had completed the first 10 miles faster than I did last weekend.  I made a conscious effort to slow down.  I spoke briefly to Husbando at the end of my 4th lap - he had collected his 'Leon' medal at the end of a half marathon distance - grabbed a banana and carried on running.  It is quite hard to resist the vast array of sweet and savoury treats available at the aid station, but resist I did!  

As I carried on running I became aware that there were very few women ahead of me.  Just one or two I thought.  There was another lady about a quarter of a mile behind me (based on my marathon maths calculations this could be very wrong - I just estimated guessed on how far away from the turn around point I was when she was coming in the other direction) and I determined to keep her behind me, this might sound uncharitable - but I needed something to keep me motivated when any sane person would sit down and have a nice cup of tea!  This was turning out to be my best marathon in quite a long time.  I realised I could possibly run faster than I did last weekend... and I didn't take any walk breaks until the very last lap.  

As I crossed the finish line, 6 minutes faster than last week, I handed over my wrist bands (one for each lap) and declared that I was 'done' Rik informed me that I was the first female finisher for the marathon distance.... all the fast ladies had stayed at home today.  I am very glad they did - it is probably the only time it will ever happen!  In addition to my Mogwai medal (with googly eyes) every runner also received a collapsible cup for use during races and a ceramic Phoenix mug - so that we can think about running and entering more races while on a coffee break at work!  Thank you Rik!  The collapsible cups are part on an ongoing desire to reduce Phoenix's carbon footprint, any paper cups used by Phoenix are fully compostable and runners are encouraged to use the same cup throughout the race (numbered trays help here).

It was lovely to see so many familiar faces, and wonderful to run on such a crisp, clear day.  A huge thank you to all the volunteers.  You were cheerful, friendly and supportive - you guys (and Rik) make these events really special.  Thank you!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Remembrance Day Marathon

I have a mountain of marking to do, 129 reports that need writing and I suppose I should be planning lessons for the coming week, but I cannot do any of these things until I write about today’s very special marathon.

I signed up ages ago, and decided I would, for a change, train properly for this one.  A broken toe and a 50 mile race put paid to any thought of a sensible training plan, in my normal style I would just have to wing it!   Whatever happened I was not going to miss this marathon.  

Not only does today mark the 100th anniversary of the end of ‘the war to end all wars’ it was also Phoenix Running’s 100th marathon.  This was obviously too awesome a coincidence to be allowed to pass without Rik organising something pretty amazing.  We knew he had planned a hard stop for 2 minutes at 11am, we knew that we would get a special commemorative medal for Phoenix’s 100th marathon, but Rik was uncharacteristically reticent when it came to revealing the race medal. 

Saturday saw torrential rain virtually all day and through most of the night.  Rain was forecast for most of Sunday too.  I dragged out my only pair of plain black running tights so that I wouldn’t be wearing too many clashing patterns, packed my race bag full of spare clothes and rain jackets, completed my pre race ablutions and set off for Walton On Thames.  IT was still raining - and there was so much surface water on the roads I had to take it quite easy, but I arrived in good time.  There were far more runners than normal - Rik had organised 420 race places - meaning that the total distance covered by the runners would be as close to 11,000 miles as possible.  I'm not good with crowds so tried to find a friendly face - and luckily I did. The weather fairies were being kind and, by the time we assembled outside for the race brief, the Sun was shining.

Rik's race briefing was poignant as he explained why this race was so important to him - I apologise for having to use my teacher voice to ask people to be quiet!  Off we went to the start - no huge dash to cross the line as the race was chip timed.  

I wasn't sure what my race strategy would be.  All I knew was that I'd quite like to get a course PB.  I wasn't confident though as my right knee has been a bit (that's an understatement) painful since the Leviathan 50 back at the beginning of October.  As we all set off though everything felt OK, so I just ran at a pace that felt comfortable.  A fair bit of puddle jumping was involved - this was not always successful and my feet were soaked before the end of the first lap.  We were running 6ish mile out and back laps between Walton On Thames and Hampton Court Bridge.   The foot path is lovely in dry weather, but prone to mud in the rain... and there was lots of mud - but that seems only fitting for a marathon marking the anniversary of the end of the war! 

The running was going well, despite the increasingly slippery mud.  I ran the first 10 miles in just under an hour and a half.  The weather was great, as 11am approached we could hear church bells ringing up and down the river, we could watch swans swimming, rowers rowing and chat with other runners as we ran up and down the foot path.  At 11am the marshals, who were positioned at 500m intervals along the route, sounded their air horns and all the runners stopped.  I was at the apex of a bend so couldn't see any other runners or members of public, but other runners report that cyclists dismounted, parents hushed their children and everyone joined in.  It was quite a surreal experience and I have to admit that I shed a tear.  It was so quiet that I am convinced I could hear the RHA firing their salute in Central London.  The only human generated noise was the ever present hum of traffic.  At the end of the two minutes, three short blasts on the air horn signalled the restart of the race - it wasn't easy to get moving again. I'd stopped my Garmin and miraculously remembered to restart it again!

I'd left bananas at the aid station, so that I wouldn't be tempted by the wonderful selection of sweets and savoury snacks.  I haven't eaten a Haribo since July and am happy to keep it that way!  I took the time it took me to eat a banana as a walk break at the start of laps 2, 3 and 4.  Rik has moved over to compostable cups at all his race, but I carried my own water bottle, just getting it refilled at the aid station.  The volunteers there were amazing - so cheerful and encouraging.   Huge thanks to you all.  

I was slowing down a little, but still making good progress until suddenly my right knee and my right foot both decided to kick up a fuss.  I walked a little but realised, that with 9 miles to go, if I walked it was going to take an awful long time to finish the race.  I considered pulling out altogether - then decided against it - the soldiers in WW1 had much more than a sightly sore leg and a bit of mud to put up with.  I found that if I didn't put my foot flat on the floor it didn't hurt too much - I shall probably pay for that with a very tight Achilles tomorrow.   My pace dropped off a bit, but I realised I could probably complete the marathon at an average of 10 min/mile pace.  

I had to throw a couple of walk breaks in during the last lap, but as I approached the finish I managed to pick up the pace to snag a time of just under 4hrs 20mins.  I also managed to avoid the rain!  It was just starting as I crossed the finish line.  I was covered in mud but smiling like mad as I was presented with two medals.  One HUMUNGOUS, fantastically detailed one that I could very easily use as a paper work, the other small but perfectly formed serving as a memento of Phonenix's 100th marathon.  I grabbed some water, a handful of pretzels and was starting to collect my stuff when I was told that I had something to collect from 'the art tent!'  Lisa Smith had been at Carry on up the towpath (where Husbando face planted) to make sketches and take photos of runners - she painted the picture of me below and Husbando had bought it for me!

Thank you Rik and team for a great day.  I really hope it lived up to all your hopes and dreams - I loved it!  

PS - lots of photos of the medals below!

PPS - strangely the pile of marking and the report writing still needs doing!

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Last minute plans

Some of you may remember the I ran a stupidly long distance off the back of not enough training at the beginning of October.  I survived that, but have suffered from it somewhat since.  My right knee has been a wee bit dodgy, resulting in a few aborted long runs and whole weeks where I haven't even put my trainers on during the week. It has made me a wee bit grumpy, particularly when combined with the fact that it is getting dark so early now!

I've been pitching up at parkrun, I even managed to bag three course PBs in a row, and last Sunday I managed to run 13 miles - although I did suffer for that for the next few days.  I have a marathon next weekend, so hopefully I will be able to get myself from start to finish in one piece...

Anyway, back to today.  Last night saw me make a mad post work dash up to London to see Husbando, number one son and number one son's significant other.  Husbando was exhibiting at the Chelsea book fair and as he would need to be there on Saturday too we were staying over.  We'd planned a trip to Fulham Palace parkrun.  I'd been there before (twice in fact) but I had an ulterior motive for not wanting to add to my tourist tally this weekend.  As of Friday I had run at 68 different parkruns, many of you know that I think 69 is the best number on the planet and I wanted to run my 69th parkrun as an 'arbitrary number celebration' complete with cake, fizz, friends and (I hoped) a smutty sounding parkrun.

On Saturday morning - while dealing with water pouring in from the hotel room above us - I found out that Fulham Palace was cancelled.  We looked at the options and linked them to our transport choices and decided to jump on the train from Kensington Olympia to Clapham Junction, from there it was less than a mile to jog to the start of the relatively new Clapham Common parkrun.   The start was easy to spot - myriad lycra clad people milling around and chatting - including some familiar faces from Basingstoke parkrun and others I have met while at various other events.

Clapham Common may be a newish parkrun but it has very quickly developed a strong following - there were so many people!  The weather was perfect and we lined up at the start.  It is a fairly narrow start and, to aid an orderly start, there were volunteers holding up finish times - so that we could position ourselves with similarly speedy runners.  Knowing that my preferred running style is to go off as fast as I can and see how long I can last, I started near the 22 minute sign.  Even with this organisation it took a while to cross the line.  The course is a two lapper around the Common, it is mainly on footpaths,  there are some areas where there are tree roots to avoid.  I can imagine it will become quite muddy in places in the winter.

Husbando and I had got separated between the run brief and the start (I think he went to find the loos) so he started some way behind me.  That didn't last long though - I soon heard him and we chatted for a while before he ran on ahead of me.  I was aiming for around 25 minutes, I really didn't want to push it too hard on my dodgy knee and, if I'm totally honest, I'd had a few alcoholic beverages the night before and was feeling a little below par!  But running felt good this morning, the Common is almost as flat as a pancake and the weather was perfect.   At the end of the first mile I thought 'Hmm, that was a bit fast... Oh well, let's just see if I can keep going.' And I did.  Although I did stop, along with other runners to allow a lorry to cross the path.  The second lap was easier because it was less crowded at the narrow points, and the approach to the finish funnel was slightly downhill - so good for a fast finish, although I did have to stop a couple of paces short of the finish as the funnel was absolutely rammed full of runners!

213 people finished ahead of me, amazingly I was first in my age category which supports my impression that Clapham Common parkrunners are on the young side.  At my 69th different parkrun I ran 5k in 23mins 39seconds and achieved an age grading of 69%.  This is my 4th fastest parkrun ever, and my fastest time for years.  It is a real boost  to run well for a change - running around home can be very demoralising as there are so many hills!

We didn't have time to go for coffee afterwards - as we had to get back to the hotel to try to sort out our soggy room, which was a shame but I suppose that it will give me an excuse to return in the future.  It is an area of London I know very little about.  I lived, briefly, just down the road in Tooting Bec, but Clapham was just a couple of stops on the Northern Line that I passed by without thinking.  Husbando has more of a connection with the area - he was a resident at Halliday Hall (or was that Holiday Hall?) for two years in the 1980s.  Halliday Hall was a hall of residence for King's College London located on Clapham Common South Side, but has since been sold, pulled down and redeveloped.  I managed to find a photo - but not many more details.    Husbando declares that, in his day, the Common was a no go area after dark, something that former MP Ron Davis might have done well to take into consideration!  These days the common boasts 3 ponds and a band stand - I saw the band stand as we ran past it twice, but failed to spot the ponds!

Thank you to all the volunteers for their enthusiastic support, I loved my unexpected visit to Clapham Common - dead easy to get to, fast, flat and friendly!  Thank you!