Saturday, 27 April 2013

Winchester inaugural parkrun

A new parkrun in the area, or even not quite in the area, is always a good excuse to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  So when the long awaited Winchester parkrun announced that it was starting today I checked my diary (although what else I could possibly be doing on a Saturday morning I can't think) and made plans accordingly.   It was, in fact, open morning at my younger children's school but, as two of the children were happy to go along on their own, I decided that my presence was not required.

I roped in two friends, who blame me for their parkrun addiction, and we set off with my youngest boy.      After arriving and parking in the leisure centre car park we were soon catching up with runners we knew from other parkruns.  Basingstoke parkrun seemed to have dispatched a huge contingent of runners, many resplendent in Chineham Park Running Club shirts,  Frimley Lodge, Alice Holt, Newbury, Poole and Andover parkrun were also well represented.  There were probably many other parkruns represented, and some famous parkrun faces I didn't spot.

The route is flatter than a flat thing that has been throughly ironed, but it has over 40 corners!  Some of them are very tight, including a U-turn that could become 'interesting' in muddy weather.  As there are three laps this needs negotiating 3 times.  There are also 6 river crossings, willow trees, ducks and an awful lot of grass.  There is a weeny bit of tarmac, but the rest is grass playing fields all the way.  This had the effect of taking my back to my school days when we were made to run around the school fields.  There was a river crossing involved in that run too - we called it 'The Jordan' - and I hated running round those bloody fields!

I had intended to run with my boy, but a friend with a pushchair promised to keep an eye on him.  I was wearing layers as the weather was chilly and I had intended to jog slowly round, but there was no time to change, so after the pre-run briefing I set off.  Soon after the start I stopped to check that a boy who had tripped over was OK, I felt guilty about not running with my own boy - but he doesn't like running the whole 5k with me, and I don't really enjoy running quite as slowly as he does.  With all hope of a cracking time out of the window I carried on at a slightly gentler pace.  The marshals who directed us around the twisty course today were excellent, cheerful and encouraging, taking charge of stray jumpers (my son's) and just making the run much more enjoyable.

I crossed the line in 22mins 18seconds - I knew that something wasn't quite right!  I hadn't run anywhere near hard enough to clock that time, moments later I realised that the distance recorded on my Garmin was 2.9 miles so the course was a 5th of a mile short of the magic 3mile/5k.  What had happened?  It seems that the event director had moved the course markers slightly to accommodate the large field (280 runners) today.  This, amplified over 3 laps, meant that the distance overall was too short.  Some magic formula was applied to the results though and times were adjusted.  While it would be lovely to have recorded a 58 second 5k PB it would not have been a real PB and I'd always have known that!  My actual time went down as 24.13 - much more realistic given the pace I ran at!

After catching my breath, stripping off one of my layers and having a quick chat at the finish, I set off on another lap with the boy.  I quite like this warm down lap with him, I get to chat to other runners and encourage them on (and talk to some of the faster runners who are warming down too), my contrary child always manages to put on an impressive burst of speed as the finish funnel looms closer - despite having whinged about tired legs minutes beforehand!

After scanning of barcodes and retrieval of bags we made our way to the cafe at the sports centre for the most important bit of parkrun - coffee!  It never fails to amaze, or maybe that should be dismay, me that sports centre cafes provide such unhealthy food, and that chocolate vending machines are to be found at every corner.  Surely they should be promoting healthy eating rather than peddling high fat, processed food at every opportunity?  That said, the coffee was good and the company better!  I caught up briefly with old friends who used to run at Basingstoke and a runner I met at Abingdon last week.  I have met so many new friends through parkrun, and now regularly see an old friend (now she has given in to my relentless parkrun evangelism, accepting that the only way to get me to shut up about it was to turn up on a Saturday morning).  Plans were made for future parkrun jaunts.  Where will we go next week?  Who is going to the inaugural Queen Elizabeth parkrun?  Can we cope with the hills there after the flatness of Winchester?  Who knows where we'll end up - better watch this space to find out!

Thank you to all of the team who made today's run possible.  Here's to many more successful Winchester parkruns!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Possibly the prettiest parkrun on the planet!

We got up rather early to set out for my parkrun fix today.  Husbando was exhibiting at a book fair in Oxford, and I decided that a trip to Abingdon was in order.  As I needed to drop Husbando and books in Oxford at 7am we ended up leaving the house just before 6am.  Not a civilised time to be up and about on a Saturday morning.  When we left the house the temperature was just above freezing, so I set out in long running tights.  I did pack my trail shoes 'just in case' but didn't think to take shorts!

The last time I was in Abingdon was for the marathon.  I recognised bits of the town, but have to admit that it looked much nicer in the sunshine and when I wasn't contemplating running 26.2 miles!  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I'd been given idiot instructions to get to the right car park, and arrived with plenty of time to spare.  The first person I met as I read the instructions on the pay and display machine was my Facebook contact!   

I chatted to lots of friendly people, and we all remarked on how beautiful the weather was, how awful the events in Boston of earlier this week were, mutual friends we might know, tomorrow's London marathon and all the normal chit chat that runners talk about!

After the run briefing we observed a minute of silence out of respect for those who lost lives, family members or were injured in the bombing of the Boston marathon last Monday.  The odd Garmin beeped, which is probably quite fitting, but silence was observed by everyone.  I noticed a couple, not taking part in parkrun, who were walking their dog a short distance from where we were standing.  They paused and observed the silence too. 

And then we were off!  The course is pancake flat, but has quite a lot of sharp and/or narrow turns.  Running along the bank of the Thames in the sunshine was glorious.  As we thundered past a narrowboat I heard someone say 'there's millions of them!' Possibly not quite what they were expecting to see when they moored their boat on a quiet river bank the night before!  A large proportion of the course is on grass.  The going was firm, but quite uneven under foot.  I thought I'd just take it easy and see how I got on.  I am still nervous running on uneven ground, and my ankle still isn't really strong enough for me to really 'go for it' on such ground.  

We ran two laps of what is possibly the prettiest parkrun ever.  I say 'possibly' because I spent a lot of time looking down at my feet rather than at the scenery!  I really enjoyed my run, despite developing running tourettes as I tried to negotiate some twisty bits of the course and came into intimate contact with a hawthorn bush as I rounded a corner!  I chatted with lots of runners and was surprised with my finish time - 23.46 - and the fact that I finished 40th overall!  (5th lady, and 1st in my age category - woo hoo!)  For anyone who is interested you can see the Garmin thingy here!  I felt as though my third mile was much slower than the first two, and was quite happy with that as I have a long run planned tomorrow, but it seems it wasn't slower at all.  I even managed to overtake a few people as we approached the finish funnel.  

After scanning barcodes and getting my breath back I joined a steady trickle of runners making their way across the bridge to the market square.  Lots of Abingdon parkrunners enjoy their post run coffee at Java & Co!  A huge group congregated in the sunshine near the lovely Town Hall.  My interesting, non running related, fact of day is that on Royal occasions buns are thrown off the top of the Town Hall.  This last happened to celebrate the Jubilee last year.   It was lovely to sit drinking coffee and chatting in the sunshine, I think runners like talking about running almost as much as they like running!

I am so glad that I got up early, and am glad I added Abingdon to my parkrun tour.  Next week I'm off to the inaugural Winchester parkrun.  The boys are coming with me - they have missed their parkrun fix as they were away last week, and it wasn't practical for them to come with me today.  

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Old Deer parkrun

Check the spelling... 'Old Deer parkrun' is not an event organised just for aged runners!  Runners of all ages gathered at Old Deer Park today for the final run in the adidas BOOST tour.

Last week, at Pymmes parkrun, I was one of 14 runners, and to be fair Old Deer parkrun normally has between 30 and 40 runners.  This week, as you can see by the photo (thanks to Martin Yelling for getting a picture of me) was slightly different.  Adidas have been touring various parkruns over the last few week with their new Boost trainers and for the last run in the series something special had been planned!  I would name all the athletes who were there as part of the adidas team - but I will leave someone out by mistake and risk upsetting them.

I persuaded a friend, who normally runs at Alice Holt parkrun, to join me in today's outing.  Two of my partners in crime from last weekend were meeting me there, as I was taking two of my boys with me as well as a friend it made sense to take my own car.  Our final partner in crime was not allowed out to play as it was his younger son's first birthday party and naming ceremony this afternoon and his assistance was required closer to home*.

Soon after parking the car I was reminded that, despite having many thousands of registered runners, parkrun is a very friendly community.  I saw an Andover parkrunner (who I first met at Killerton parkrun) and said a very quick hello as we both looked for the nearest toilets!  After we crossed the A316 using the foot bridge (which thrilled the boys and terrified me) I bumped in to the best marathon support duo ever!  Hugs and squeals all round!  There were lots of people standing around in the sunshine.  It should be mentioned that sunshine has a novelty value this year.  Normally by the beginning of April most runners would be in shorts and vests/t-shirts.  This year they were still very much in the minority, but it was sunny and the sun did actually have some warmth in it!

After a run briefing that I have to admit to not really listening to as I was refereeing between my two boys we proceeded down to the start.  There were hundreds of us!  The only bit of the run brief that I had heard was that we were running two laps rather than the normal three.  The start saw us running up a very gentle slope for about a quarter of a mile, having spotted the finish funnel (which you couldn't really miss because it was huge!) I worked out that we would have to run up it 3 times in total, thankfully it was a very gentle slope!

The course was entirely on grass, the sort of grass that makes me very glad I gave up playing hockey!  It was hard packed, but ever so slightly uneven.  Just the sort of ground that I fell on last summer and injured my foot.  I was glad that I had worn my road shoes rather than my trail ones, as I think the cushioning was more useful than the grip of trail shoes given the mud free state of the route.  One gentleman had decided against shoes altogether, running barefoot.  The mother (aka worry wart) in me does hope that he didn't step in, or on, anything nasty!  The route, rich in 90ยบ turns, was well marshalled by cheerful and cheering volunteers.  Danny Norman, host of the parkrun show podcast, made my boys' day by recognising them as he carried out his marshalling duties.

I ran quite conservatively.  I almost matched my pace for the first 2 miles of Pymmes parkrun, but in the absence of a smack down between me and another runner I carried on chatting to fellow runners and failed to pick up the pace for the final mile.  I didn't think I'd run fast, because I don't like grass, but I do think I could have worked a bit harder!  I finished in 24min44secs.   After filtering through the finish funnel and collecting my token, I set off back around the course, clockwise this time running alongside the runners but in the opposite direction, to find the boys.  I shouted words of encouragement to people I knew, and to anyone who looked like they were about to give up.  I passed my older boy and ran on to find the younger one, meeting up with him about half a mile back down the route.  He graciously allowed me to carry his water bottle and tracksuit top and begged to borrow my sunglasses (knew I should have gone for a pink pair) and we jogged on to the end.

It was lovely to be able to stand around after the run, rather than dashing off to avoid frostbite/getting even more drenched!  And a lot of the 553 runners (a new attendance record) did stand around and wait.  Prizes were on offer - and runners seem to like prizes almost as much as they like running!  Prizes included adidas trainers and clothing, personal training plans from Liz Yelling, places in the Bupa 10,000m this year and the Silverstone Half and VLM Marathon for next year.   Although I wasn't among the lucky few we all had a very good morning, culminating in coffee and chat at the cafe in the adjacent sports' centre.  My boys had scampi and chips for breakfast and seemed to think that this was the high point of the day!

In addition to breaking the attendance records, I note from a brief perusal of the results page that both the male and female course records fell today too!  No doubt several new age graded records were set too - but it is Saturday evening and my head will explode if I look at too many numbers on a Saturday evening!

So what's next?  Well, a gauntlet was thrown down when my fellow Basingstoke parkrunner said 'You could do 5 different parkruns in 5 weeks if you tried a bit.'  Next week I'll be back 'home' at Basingstoke, I'm on report writing duty so that was an easy decision to make.  I have plans in place for the next two weeks, but I'm not going to commit them to pixels yet just in case I need to change my plans!

*The naming ceremony and first birthday party was lovely too!  I feel very honoured to have been invited!  I just need to remember to take the birthday present with me to the next parkrun!