Saturday, 23 February 2013

Playing away!

Husbando and I are just back from a couple of days in Cambridge.  Husbando was there for a book fair, I was along for the ride!  I took a mountain of marking with me and spent a fair amount of time incarcerated in my room at the Premier Inn trying to make a dent in it.  It wasn't all work though.  We had a bit of free time.  On our first afternoon we braved the cold weather  to go for a run.  The absence of hills makes a change from home, but provides no shelter from the bitter easterly wind.  Whilst running alongside the side of the guided bus route we spotted a memorial in the middle of a field.  The lichen was too thick to read the engravings, and the receptionist at the Premier Inn looked blank when I asked her.  I was forced to resort to Facebook in search of more details.  

It turns out that it is a memorial to Elizabeth Woodcock.  It marks the spot where, in February 1799, she was trapped in a snow drift for 8 days.  She had been returning from the market and her previous stop had been at a local inn, where she had filled up her flask with brandy.  She was thrown from her horse during the journey, and befuddled by alcohol, she was unable to remount.  She took shelter under a hawthorn hedge and was covered by a snow drift.  It took 8 days for her to be discovered, still alive, under the snow.  Sadly she didn't survive long, she died on 24th July 1799, aged 43.  On her burial notice it is written 'She was in a state of intoxication when she was lost.  Her death was accelerated (to say the least) but spirituous liquors afterwards taken, procured by the donations of various visitors.'  

Saturday means parkrun day - even if I am far from home.  Friday night should see me tucked into bed early after a wholesome meal.  Going out to The Phoenix for the best Chinese meal I have had in ages was not going to be conducive to that!  And at the first sniff of gin and tonic my resolution not to drink flew out of the window!  My glass was never empty, so I can't have had more than a glass of wine can I?  Great to catch up with people over a lovely meal, even if I did feel a bit 'tired' this morning!

The lovely people of Cambridge parkrun made me feel very welcome.  It is always interesting to visit different parkruns.  The basic concept is the same everywhere - a free, 5k run against the clock - but every parkrun is slightly different!  Cambridge has a very organised start, with signs telling you where to stand based on your anticipated finish time.  I duly went to stand with the runners hoping to finish in about 25 - 26 minutes.  I seem to have missed most of the run briefing, but figured that so long as I followed the person in front I'd be fine!  

The course is in one small clockwise lap followed by 2 larger anticlockwise laps.  It is flatter than a flat thing that has been professionally ironed.  What it lacks in undulation it makes up for in twistiness!  I can honestly say that for most of the time I had no idea where I was.  I was hoping to run a fast (for me) time, but I got boxed in with the runners I started with, and for the first 2 laps I was surrounded and found it very hard to get past the other runners on the narrow paths.  I resigned myself to a slow time, thinking I was on for between 26 and 27 minutes.  The marshals were great, one of them called out times to runners he knew as the passed him.  This would have been great, but I had no idea where he was in relation to the distance left to run!  The finish is a deceptively long way away!  I know that it is at the end of 5k, but being a lapped race you pass the finish before you go to the finish, if you see what I mean.  I'd seen the turn of for the finish funnel on a previous lap, clocked a sign a bit further back saying 'Finish 400m' and in my mind I was going to veer off to the left and and be in the funnel.  Ha!  Not so!  The finish seemed to be ages away for a very long time!  I'd managed to pick up the pace on the final lap, finally managing to get a bit of space around me to run properly and I'd overtaken 25 people on my last lap and carried on accelerating to the finish funnel, crossing the line in 25mins 16seconds.  Not a great time for such a flat course, but at least I can improve on it when I get to go back!  

Next time I think I will ignore the suggested starting areas, and start nearer the front and go like stink from the start and hold on for as long as I can.  The cafe in Milton Country Park served an excellent cup of coffee and I chatted to some local parkrunners, where my pink trail shoes were something of a talking point.  It was great to get warm again having run through snow flurries!  

While I was 'playing away' great things were happening at my home parkrun of Basingstoke.  Nearly a quarter of the runners achieved new PBs and the course record, that has stood since July 2009 was smashed!  19 seconds were taken off the record to set the new one of 15mins 33 seconds!  I'll be back in Basingstoke next Saturday aiming to get a few seconds closer to my PB!


  1. excellent blog today! loved the flatter than a flat thing line.. :)

  2. And I loved the flatter than a flat thing parkrun.

  3. I was told that I'd listened to too many parkrun shows as my course description was very Danny-esque. I don't think my writing style has changed since I started listening to the show - but who knows?