Sunday, 27 November 2016

On accidental first marathons and irresponsible dog owners.

Okay, so who was taking bets on me falling over during today's race?  Who had a side bet that it would happen within the first mile and involve man's best friend?  If you had money on this you'd have made out like a bandit today!  We were pootling along at a nice easy pace, a lady I know was about 20' ahead of us and I heard her say a cheery 'good morning' to a walker with a dog on a lead.  We didn't hear a reply.  As we approached I said 'good morning' and Husbando that there were about 100 runners coming along.  No reply, we thought nothing of it and ran on around a corner, Husbando a few paces behind me.  Next thing I know the dog is running around my ankles - he'd been let off his lead.  I had two choices, stop quickly or drop kick the dog over the hedge and into the field.  I chose to stop quickly and in doing so ended up twisting my knee and falling over.  I thought that this was end-ex for me - it was that stabbing, sick making pain that could be really nasty.  Lots of runners stopped to see how I was as I stood, crying and swearing, by the side of the path.  The dog owner walked off without a backward glance.

I walked a while, then tried a gentle jog, it actually hurt slightly less to run than to walk, so I knew I would make it to the end of the first lap, but decided that a marathon was out of the question.  I was greatly cheered when I spotted a fire engine, and firemen!  I finished the first lap, swearing all the way and casting aspersions about the size of the dog walker's genitalia (which seemed to amuse a fellow runner and blogger from irunoffroad greatly!) and ate a handful of painkillers when I got to the aid station.  The painkillers, along with industrial quantities of sweets, seemed to do the trick and I set off for an experimental second lap.  Husbando was brilliant, staying with me rather than running on, we settled into a steady pace, where we could chat quite happily.  We passed the dog owner again, I called him a rude name under my breath and felt a bit better.  Later on lap 2 we ran into the firemen again - and they blew their horn at me!  Husbando made smutty comments about hoses and horns - he obviously wasn't working hard enough!

We decided that 3 laps (about 14 miles) would be enough.  Husbando had run 16.4 miles at Timelord on the Thames on Wednesday, my knee was hurting, 14 miles is a respectable distance for a Sunday.  But, we got to the aid station and start finish area, changed shoes (and in Husbando's case applied Compeed blister plasters) and thought, 'What the heck, let's do one more!'  After you've faffed at the aid station for a few minutes, eaten sugar laden treats, drunk full fat coke and when you know that the first few hundred metres are downhill it is very easy to go on.  And boy did we faff at the aid stations!  Husbando stopped his Garmin whenever we were stuffing our faces, I left mine running - over the course of the race we spent 30 minutes not running!  This is testament to the friendliness of the race organisers, the support of other runners (Husbando is very grateful for the Compeed) and my greediness when faced with a box of Haribos!

At the end of lap 3 we didn't ring the bell, we'd decided to see how we felt after a wee rest.  On the 4th lap we pretty much decided that we were going to run 6 laps (28 miles).  This would be Husbando's first marathon.  He hadn't even begun his marathon training programme, and I hadn't run a marathon since September.  We really were not respecting the distance!  Towards the end of lap 5 I heard words that I never thought I'd hear 'I'm struggling to keep up with you!' I switched us to a 9min run/1 min walk strategy, although I blatantly ignored it if we were on a downhill when we should be walking!  We hit 26.2 miles in 4hrs 43 (or 4hrs 20 actual moving time) and celebrated with a hug and a 2 minute walk break before resuming our plod to the finish.

The course was gently undulating, running around Staunton Country Park in Havant - only 1,500' of elevation over the entire marathon, but the little hill at the end of each lap got steeper and steeper!  We had walked up it on lap 5, but ran it on the last lap - just to show the hill who was boss!

We rang the bell and collected our medals and hugs from the race director.  My knee had got to the stage where it hurt so much it no longer hurt... well - that's what I was telling myself as we hobbled back to the car!  Husbando had just run his first marathon and I am very proud of him!  It is the first time I have run an entire race with someone else - and we didn't kill each other!

Huge thanks to the organisers and the support of all the runners today.  If you haven't done an On The Whistle event BOOK ONE NOW - you'll have to be quick though as they sell out quickly!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

250th parkrun

I heard about parkrun over 6 years ago, but didn't consider going along for at least 6 months because, although I'd been running for a couple of years, I did not consider myself to be 'a runner!'  I didn't want to be the slow one, plodding around at the back with everyone else tapping their feet as they waited for me to finish.  I can't remember what happened to make me change my mind but, on 21st May 2011, I took the plunge and found myself, barcode in hand, in War Memorial Park with a load of strangers.  This was A BIG STEP for me.  I am quite uncomfortable in situations that are new and that involve lots of people I don't know.  I need not have worried.  Everyone was very friendly and I wasn't last.  It was the first time I had ever run a timed 5k and I surprised myself by being able to finish in just under 25 minutes.  I ran, got my barcode scanned and drove home.

But I came back the next week and did it again.  By July, I was turning up almost every Saturday and had probably turned into something of a parkrun bore, telling everyone I could about this amazing parkrun thing.  I volunteered a few times, which was good as it meant that I got to know some of the other regulars - this meant I had enough confidence to brave going along for the post run coffee.  This involved meeting more and more parkrunners, and hearing about (and subsequently entering) lots of races I would not have even have heard of without parkrun.  

It is quite amazing how quickly parkrun became such a integral part of my life, and how many of my friends seem to have decided that it is easier to go to parkrun than to listen to me extol its virtues!  I've visited 51 different parkruns, mainly because they were near where I happened to be on a Saturday morning, and made loads of new friends.  Obviously I've missed a few Saturdays when I've been involved in Saturday races, have had to work on Saturday or been injured, and several runs have been given up in exchange for volunteering at parkrun, but in the main, if it was 9am on a Saturday, I was to be found in a park getting ready for a 5k!

Which brings me to this morning.  Although my 'home run' is Basingstoke, Husbando struggles to get to that venue as he has to work on Saturday. Alice Holt he can do and make it to work afterwards.  Alice Holt also has a lovely large gazebo for setting out cakes, a cafe and nice loos, and I was involved (a little bit!) in setting it up four years ago - so I decided that it would be the venue for my 250th parkrun.  I set up an 'event' on Facebook and sent out some invitations, thinking that a few people might be interested in coming along, especially if I bribed them with cake and fizz!  A friend I'd met via parkrun sent me a message saying that he was coming along and coincidently running his 100th parkrun - so double the celebration!  I stayed up late baking and icing cakes and arrived at Alice Holt fairly early.  As I laid out the cakes I saw a constant stream of familiar faces emerging from the mist - people I hadn't seen for ages and ages and who had travelled for miles and miles just to run 5k with me!  Some people hadn't even come to run - they'd just got out of bed early on a very chilly Saturday morning to come and watch the rest of us run!

Having run 249 parkruns without ever having forgotten a barcode, my 250th nearly had to be delayed - I realised that my barcodes were not in my pocket (I keep all 7 on a treasury tag and they have vanished).  Panic stations ensued!  Could I get home and back and still run?  Could I ask Husbando to give up his run and go home and print out spares?  Would he know how to do that without a tutorial?  Then I remembered that I am a parkrunner, and a parkrunner always has spare barcodes somewhere in every car.  Crisis averted with a mad dash to the car and a rummage round to find a tatty ziplock bag which had the required barcodes.

After setting a new Alice Holt PB last week, and with a 6 hour challenge tomorrow, I knew that I wasn't going to set any records today.  And I wanted to enjoy my run, not end up gasping for every drop of oxygen I could find at the end of the run.  Husbando and I had a nice, chatty run.  It felt so much easier than last week, but I was 44 seconds slower.  

It was wonderful to chat to so many people afterwards, I am really touched that so many people came to help me celebrate.  I really do love my parkrun family.  Huge thanks to PSH, whose love child parkrun is, to all the event directors, run directors and volunteers who make the many, many parkruns across the globe happen every week.  I'll see you in a park (somewhere) next parkrun day!  

P.S.  Is it wrong that I am wondering if the second 250 parkruns will take more or less time to achieve than the first? 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Feeling our age!

Husbando and I went for a run this evening.  Nothing unusual in that, I hear you say, but bear with me.

This morning Husbando went to a local sports shop to spend a voucher he'd been given for his birthday, while he was there he found out that the shop was having a 'try on evening' for Hoka trail shoes and Silva head torches.  They were planning a trail run in a local wood that I've wanted to explore for some time now - so it was a no brainer really.

We pitched up at the shop and got ourselves kitted out.  Husbando had brand new Hoka's that he got this morning, and I had a pair already, so really we were just road (trail?) testing the head torches and getting to try out a new route.  It was evident that we were, er, quite a bit older than any of the other runners!  Husbando's sweat shirt was older than any of the other runners!  And at 31 years old I think that the sweat shirt had at least 5 years on most of them.

Once kitted up off we set in the rain.  About a kilometre on the road and then into the woods.   It was very muddy.  I do like a muddy run (but please don't tell anyone that) but I like to take it steady and this was not an option.  The pace was much faster than I would normally attempt in the dark on a trail.  We averaged 9.14min/mile including stopping to regroup, cross roads etc. etc. And it was tough - I didn't love the Silva head torch, it was very light weight but it wasn't as bright as my current torch.  I couldn't help thinking that if one of these youngsters fell we'd be talking green stick fracture whereas if Husbando or I fell we'd probably need an air ambulance and months of rehab!   There was no chatting this evening - just concentrating on keeping up and keeping upright and we really felt as though we'd worked hard when we got back onto the road.  What was interesting was that, back on the road Husbando and I automatically picked up the pace overtaking much of the rest of the group.

We enjoyed our run, it is good to do something different from time to time, and trail running at this pace is different enough for me,  but I think I'll be back on the slopes of Queen Elizabeth Country Park next Wednesday - I like to be able to chat while running!