Saturday, 25 August 2018

The parkrun without a park.

As a rule I don't travel just to do a parkrun, but as with most rules there are exceptions!    This morning was one of those exceptions.  Severn Bridge parkrun is a relative newcomer to the parkrun family, this morning was only its third running.  Husbando and I decided that, having been home for all of 4 days, we needed a break, so booked a hotel in Bristol and drove down early on Friday afternoon - which is when, stuck in traffic on the M4, we remembered that it was Bank Holiday weekend.  Never mind.  We were excited enough by the prospect of running across the Severn Bridge to make the traffic worthwhile.    The Severn-Wye Bridge is an elegant suspension bridge that crosses both the Severn and the Wye (the clue's in the name!).  It was opened by the Queen on 8th September 1966 (just 18 days before Husbando was born) having taken three and a half years to build and costing £8,000,000 (the bridge, not Husbando - he took the standard 9 months to construct, but has probably cost a lot more over his lifetime).  For 30 years the bridge carried the M4 motorway, but when the newer Price of Wales Bridge was opened in 1996 (to carry the M4) the motorway was renamed the M48.  You can see the newer bridge from the old one - which makes me think that a run taking in both bridges would be rather lovely!    The Severn Bridge was granted Grade 1 listed status in 1999 - there can't be many parkruns where you run on a Grade 1 listed structure!  

The parkrun itself starts in Monmouthshire and the route is an out and back over the bridge.  Whilst running you cross the national border into England, and take in the counties of Gloucestershire and Avon, before turning around and heading back into Wales and finishing in a tunnel! 

As we drove to the carpark (in a local football club car park) I thought I spotted a familiar face, and then as we pulled into the carpark we saw a load of Basingstoke parkrunners getting out of their cars! The parkrun world is very small!  The run briefing was excellent - lots of pertinent information, but sadly I had to use my 'teacher voice' to ask people to be quiet as the noise levels were loud and exacerbated by the echos in the tunnel.   I haven't had to do that in a long time - I apologise to anyone I deafened!  Several people asked if I was teacher!  How did they guess?  Husbando said that they'd probably been able to hear me over the bridge in England!

We made our way up a path onto the bridge and assembled at the start.  I didn't realise how far back I was starting until I saw this photo (taken by Ian Nelson), so was in for a slow start as I weaved my way around other runners.  Once I found a little bit of space I thought I was running quite well, but my Garmin was telling me I was running at 10min/mile pace - I've done a fair few miles this week, but I didn't think I was as tired as my legs were telling me, so I pushed harder.  Nothing, the Garmin kept telling me I was running at around 10min/mile pace.  There was very little I could do but carry on running, when I hit one mile my Garmin decided to work properly and told me that I'd run the first mile in a smidge over 8 mins!  That felt a little more like it!  The outward leg is ever so slightly up hill, nothing to strenuous but enough to make you look forward to the return leg!  
The views are stunning!  We definitely wanted to run this one in good weather and we weren't disappointed this morning, even so there was a definite breeze to run into on the way back!  The finish is back in the tunnel, which seemed a very long way from the bridge by that point!  The echoes make for a great finish and will have the added bonus of keeping a lot of the volunteers warm and dry in inclement weather.  I do feel for the marshal at the turn around point in the winter - I hope there are some pennies in the budget for hand warmers for whoever has that role!  The volunteers were friendly and welcoming coping brilliantly with the 308 runners (a record attendance for this new event) and ensuring we all had a great run.  The event team had the added complication of one of the scanners failing - a fact that was evident from the huge number of 'unknown' runners initially listed in the results.  I was such a runner, but the event team dealt with it quickly and efficiently, and I was honest and claimed the position I had achieved (92nd and 25mins 07seconds) rather than claiming a much faster time!  

Barcode scanning
After the run we walked back to the football club where tea, coffee and bacon rolls were on sale.  We had a quick chat with friends, posed for a 'tourist photo' and had a cup of tea before carrying on with the rest of our day.  A perfect parkrun morning!  Huge thanks to the volunteers - I had a great time.  

Basingstoke on tour!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Hasenheide parkrun - with the only hill in Berlin!

 We bumped into our first fellow tourists in the lobby of our hotel, they were on their way to breakfast and then a simple underground trip to Hasenheide, we decided to run/walk the three miles.  We have a limited amount of time in Berlin and I didn't want to spend too much time underground!  Berlin is very flat and we were looking forward to a welcome change from our regular Alice Holt hills.

As we entered the park we noted that it wasn't quite a pancake flat as the rest of Berlin, but the undulations were gradual.
Rose garden
We found the start location - always a good start and had few photos taken.  I love the 'visitors whiteboard'!  There are loos (basic - but they are there) and a large covered area with benches where you can leave your kit.

The park has some interesting associations, one of which I will mention later, but it was where the German gymnastic movement, headed by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn began when he opened to first gymnasium in Prussia - there is a monument to him by the north entrance to the park.  It is still popular with athletes today - there are a state park, a roller hockey court and baseball courts, there are wide open spaces for informal games of football.  I also spotted a small zoo and a dog exercise area along with a rose garden.  The park's name originates from 1678 and its use as a rabbit warren where the Great Elector came to hunt poor little fluffy bunnies.  It fell into disrepair/disuse but was rebuild for the Olympic Games by the National Socialists in 1936.

The run briefing started shortly before 9am, splitting into an English and a German version.  Most of the runners seemed to be tourists, but probably a quarter were locals.  I won't lie, the course sounded incredibly complicated (even though I'd looked at the map on the course page of the parkrun site) so I decided to just follow whoever was in front of me and hope for the best.  There was also mention of a hill!  On the start line a man asked me where my 'normal' parkrun was - turns out he thought he recognised me from Basingstoke - but wasn't sure because he hadn't seen me for ages, which is my fault because I've been running at Alice Holt or gadding about all over the country.

The course, not as complicated as it sounded is 2 and a bit laps of the park.  The 'and a bit' is the interesting bit!  Most/all of the course is on tarmac or hardpacked gravel, and has some very gentle slopes.  There were lots of other people using the park - walking dogs, cycling, running but not parkrunning (why?) the marshals warned where positioned at key points to ensure that we were all safe and didn't go the wrong way!

Part way through the second lap you get to do the 'and a bit' park!  We were told that this was up the hill.  It was quite interesting in that you run up the hill, go round it at the top and rejoin the main path before you left it (if that makes sense).  But what makes the hill really interesting (and which I only found out later when I thought about writing this blog) is its history.  It is a man made hill.  It is a 69 meter high 'pile of rubble' called Rixdorfe Höhe which was made from 700,000m2of rubble from the Second World War.  It is now landscaped, but it was build as a memorial to the 'debris women' but Katherine Szelinski-Singer in 1955 and commemorates the cleaning up work that was done, primarily by women, after the war.

That hill is short, but steep!  I had no idea how long it was going to go on for as it winds around in such a way that you can't see the top until you get there, so I didn't push it too hard!  I was happy with my time (25.40) and position, 5th woman and 1st in my age category.  After we'd had our bar codes scanned we pootled off to Cafe Blume, just outside the park to wait for it to open (at 10am) for coffee.  Several tables inside were reserved for parkrun and it was lovely to chat to other tourists from the UK and get to know the locals.  The coffee there was good and the cakes, especially the cheese cakes, looked awesome.

Thank you to all the volunteers for an excellent parkrun!  

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Oh what a carry on!

Another epic medal!
Up early this morning, after a thoroughly enjoyable evening meeting up with school friends yesterday - hard to believe it is 30 years since we took our A'levels and set out to conquer the World!  Getting up early on a Sunday is never fun, but until a race director decides to start organising races on my doorstep it is just a fact of life!  We were on our way to Walton on Thames for another of Rik/Phoenix Running's events.  The concept is simple, six hours to run as many or as few laps as you feel like running to get an awesome bit of bling.  Today's race was 'Carry On Up The Tow Path' and a fair number of runners had decided that, blazing hot temperatures not withstanding, fancy dress would be a great idea.  Hats off to them!  An extra layer of polyester, not to mention one gentleman dressed as Spartacus complete with plastic armour and a helmet, wouldn't have been my first choice today!

While we waited to start I chatted with other runners, you see a lot of 'repeat offenders' at these events which means that there is always a friendly face and someone to talk to.  I had a clear aim in mind, given the state of my toe (still broken) and the fact I've done very little training and because Husbando and our friend were running a half marathon, a half marathon was as far as I was planning to go.  I had decided, given the temperature to run/walk (9mins/1min) from the start.  

The tow path is lovely and flat, with a mixture of shade and blazing sunshine with the occasional and very welcome light breeze.  I forgot to take my first walk break!  The rules are quite strict - if you forget a break you have to carry on until the next one is scheduled.  This is primarily because it keeps the maths nice and simple.  Lots of people think that running laps is boring but in reality the idea of running laps is far worse than actually doing it.  You get to talk to lots of people, you know exactly when you are going to get your next bit of shade and exactly how long it is to the aid station.  I tend to spend my first lap looking at the ground underfoot (to make sure I don't fall over) and after that it is a case of just keeping going - I try to find something different to pay attention to on each lap (counting boats for example) but invariably I get distracted and forget.  

Husbando - relaxing after the race
Today it was really hot out there.  The towpath was quite busy, with lots of cyclists going up and down as well as rowers on the water and people picking blackberries.  There were dogs and small children to avoid tripping over - plenty to watch to take one's mind off running!  The aid station was kept busy supplying us all with water and snacks and we were given our wrist bands (1 for each completed lap) but an Egyptian goddess!   Husbando was running and chatting with a maths teacher, my friend was running well (on track to get a massive half marathon PB), the sun was shining and everything was going well.  If we hadn't all agreed on a half I'd have been tempted to keep going.   Husbando was the first half finisher, I was the first woman half marathon finisher and our friend smashed her previous time by 13 minutes!  Once all three of us had finished and collected our bling, grabbed yet more water and handful of sweeties (for some of us) we made our way back to the car - which always seems to have been moved further away during the race - and a quick stop for something to eat on the way home.  

Thank you, as ever, to Rik and his amazing team of marshals for putting on another great event.  I know we'll be back for more soon.... hopefully I'll be back to running marathons again soon!