Saturday, 22 March 2014


Husbando had a bookfair in London today.  I wanted an excuse to have a day off work, so I decided to go up with him and take the Fredster with us.  I planned a bit of parkrun tourism.  At Kingston parkrun's 4th birthday last weekend I chatted to (among other people) a regular from Richmond parkrun.  He sang the praises of Richmond Park so I decided that this would be our destination.

We set off at 6am.  Yes, 6am.  We had to drive into central London, unload a car full of books and then drive out to Richmond again.  I am not a morning person, so I tend to repeatedly check that I have everything I need: wallet, keys, jacket, change of clothes and shoes etc. etc.  I was feeling very smug with myself, and mentally rechecking the list when I was about 15 minutes from home only to spot a glaring omission! Our barcodes!  I had a quick search in the car as I have spares, but the only barcode I could find was for my oldest son.  Had I been on my own I think I would just have run without a barcode - but the Fredster is set on getting his 100 top as soon as possible, so we persuaded Husbando to drive us home, with him muttering about us making him late, so that I could grab the barcodes from where I had left them on my desk.

The journey into London, unloading the car and grabbing a quick cup of tea was straightforward, and Fredster and I piled back into the car to make our way to Richmond.  I plugged 'Richmond Park' into the sat nav and off we went.  We arrived in the park, driving through some rather splendid gates, in gorgeous sunshine - a perfect spring morning.  It was just after 8.30am and I spotted a sign for a car park straight away.  We parked up.  I asked a lady in running gear if she knew where parkrun started - she looked at me blankly.  No matter, we took of our sweat shirts and jogged off in what I worked out (from a map) was the right general direction.  A few minutes later I said "BARCODES"  I'd left them in the pocket of my sweatshirt which was in the car!

I told Fredster to stand by a tree and NOT TO MOVE AND NOT TO TALK TO ANYONE as I sprinted back to the car, I realised that the parkrun start was probably too far away from us for Fredster to get there and still have any energy to run 5k so I jumped in to the car and whizzed back to pick up F.    We drove along, avoiding kamikaze cyclists, looking for the start.  We found a car park, with lots of people in lycra and several 100 and 50 shirts walking out of it.  I drove around the car park, one eye on the clock and one eye desperately looking for a parking space.  There were no spaces, I drove round again just to make sure.

My stress levels were rising now.  I couldn't see anywhere to park, I didn't know the area at all, so had no idea where to look.  I thought about just giving up, but we'd arranged to meet a friend who was travelling up because I'd suggested it.  I decided to drop Freddy at the start and tell him to find out friend, and if he couldn't find her 'just run and I'll catch up with you!'  I drove out through a gate, and looked for on street parking.  Not easy, but I found one on a metre that allowed me an hour.  I locked the car, grabbed the barcodes and legged it the three quarters of a mile back to the park.  I haven't run that fast in a very long time!

Back in the park, the runners had moved from where they were assembling.  I could see where they had gone, and the volunteers pointed me in the right direction.  I assumed that they had started running from the run briefing point (as they do at Bushy) so carried on running like a think possessed and suddenly saw a mass of runners standing facing me (the run is an anti clockwise and I had set off in a clockwise direction).  I hadn't missed the start!  I even managed to find Fredster and his godmother and start my Garmin before the run was started.

The run is lovely.  A gentle downhill at the start, some amazing views over London, and a great chance to chat with a friend I don't see often enough.  I looked at my Garmin and realised we'd run over a mile without me really feeling that we'd got started, at around this point I heard my name called - and it was the gentleman I'd met at Kingston!  We ran and chatted for a bit and then I had to stop to sort out Fredster's laces!  He was wearing trail shoes with elastic laces and somehow he'd tangled them up!  

We ran and chatted, chatted and ran, talked to each other and to people who were running near us and got our dose of Vitamin D for the week.  I was gradually calming down from my pre parkrun stress fest!  Fredster enjoyed his run, investigating some very impressive tree trunks and pointing out deer poo - in the absence of any deer sightings!   We finished in about 34 minutes - 10 minutes slower than I ran solo at Kingston last week, but running with a 9 year old will do that!  One day he'll be faster than me.

While my friend and F waited to get all the barcodes scanned I jogged back to pick up my car, drove back into the park and found a space (right next to my friend's car) in the car park that was now a little emptier, and then jogging to Cafe Terra which is the post run coffee venue.   There were not many parkrunners at coffee, which was a shame, but this often seems to be the case when the cafe is not right next to the start/finish!

So, a mixed morning!  I could do without the stress of looking for parking places (and forgetting the blooming barcodes didn't help!) but the run itself is beautiful and the people we chatted with were all very friendly.  There are even loos right by the start, but I didn't have time to use them!  Next time I run at Richmond I hope to arrive in time to find a parking space, listen to the run briefing and then saunter to the start line!

I'm also going to order some more barcodes!  I think a set (there are 7 potential parkrunners in our family) in each car is a minimum requirement!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Walking with a John Wayne swagger....

Last year's Reading Half Marathon was a PB run for me in really grim weather, this year's run was rather different.  The weather forecast a few days ago said it would be sunny, yesterday we were promised rain, this morning I looked at the window and had no idea what the day would bring.  I got dressed, put, I thought, a pair of shorts in my bag so that I could change into them if I wanted to and set off to pick up a couple of people on the way.

Once again I had signed up for the VIP lounge, one of the major benefits of this is having proper loos, there are also freebies to be had!  Not just snacks, drinks and post race photos and massages but running clothes!  I am currently wearing my free Mizuno hoodie - lovely!  I decided I would be too hot in my long tights, and started to look for my running shorts, they were nowhere to be found.  One of the guys I drove over with had 2 spare pairs with him and said I could borrow a pair.  I don't wear 'flappy shorts' normally, but thought, what the heck - let's give them a whirl!

As we walked to the start I heard someone call my name - it was the lovely Ironmum who I'd met at the Bramley 20/10 a couple of weeks ago.  She was sensibly attired in the latest bin bag chic, whereas I was dressed for summer in shades! We ran together for the first 4 miles.  At about 500metres in I realised the shorts were a BIG MISTAKE.  Ironmum pointed out, helpfully, that I had over 12 miles to go!  I was running about 10 paces and then having to yank down the legs of the shorts where they were riding up.  Sadly I don't have a thigh gap - even at my skinniest I have never had one, so the combination of fabric rubbing agains my inner thighs and thighs rubbing against each other was deeply unpleasant.

I told Ironmum that she should run on, which made me a little sad as it was very pleasant to run and chat.  We'd both forgotten about the 'cheeky' hill at 2.5miles, but we'd made good time.  I had discovered however that if I ran at a certain, slightly slower pace, then the shorts didn't ride up quite so much and it wasn't fair to slow my new friend down!

I ran on, slowly, and kept my eyes peeled for people giving out Vaseline.  The blessed sight of a Red Cross man came at about 5 miles (on the University campus).  He offered to help my apply the Vaseline, but I declined.    I found that, so long as I reapplied Vaseline every time I saw someone with it by the side of the road it was just about bearable.  I settled into a comfortable pace, nothing that would set the World on fire but one that I could maintain comfortably.

The hill at 7 miles was less arduous than I remembered, probably because I wasn't going all out for a fast time.  The support was amazing.  The only stretch to the lack in support was the A33 back towards the Madjeski Stadium at about 11 miles.  This was a desolate road to run along, made even more miserable by a strong headwind.  It seems to take forever to get back to the Stadium where the race ends, including an out and back which at least had the advantage of being able to spot runners I knew and shout out to them.

At long last I passed the '1000m to go' sign.  It seemed an awful lot further than 1km, but eventually we were in the stadium and the finish was in sight.  This race was so crowded that even approaching the finish I was dodging around runners to try to get a clear line to the finish.   I crossed the line in 2hrs 02 mins and 21 seconds (10 minutes slower than last year).  Not a great time, but nice even splits and a pace that I could maintain for longer if necessary.

I saw Ironmum after the race - she'd had a much better run than me, and we shuffled through the throngs of runners to get our space blankets, medals and goodie bags before going our separate ways.  I went back to the VIP suite and met up with my friends before making our way back to the car before driving home.  I think it took us longer to get out of Reading and drive home than it had to run the race!

I am walking with a bit of a swagger now.  But the advantage of running slower is that I don't have any of the normal post race stiffness or aches and pains.  Thanks to all my friends for their support and encouragement - I'm sure we'll do it all again sometime soon!