Sewerby parkrun – A View from the Back

Finding my new local parkrun last week gave me a renewed vigour to chase down my first milestone t-shirt. As this weekend we were away oop North, visiting my parents, it seemed the ideal time to try a bit of parkrun tourism and join Sewerby parkrun.

My home town has had its own parkrun since 2011, so is long overdue a visit.

I joined the relatively small running contingent just in front of the steps to Sewerby Hall, and listened intently as the lead marshall warned us about the cliff edge and the adverse direction of the wind. No time to worry about that for too long as the runners around me seemed to have heard a silent call to arms and were off.

I joined them. Slowly.

Sewerby parkrun turned out to be a fantastic course. It starts gently downward along the tarmac cliff top path and then turns at about 1.5km to head back up along the cliff edge on a slightly less reliable surface with the wind in your face, trying in a relatively uncommitted fashion to push you back and right, over the edge of the cliff.

I had my low point in this stretch but it is also a truly beautiful view, one of the best from experience of 5 different parkrun events.

Sewerby parkrun – a view from the back #parkrun #sewerbyparkrun

A photo posted by ? @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

At the top of the cliff we then take a muddy off-road detour around the cricket pitch. I had a little chat with a marshall here, who joined me for a short jog. He reminded me that while it seemed windy today, it was actually a glorious day and this course could get much, much worse.

I bet it could. That wind could get menacing in the blink of an eye.

Off the cliff top now and back into Sewerby Park where we toured the grounds and circled the woods on a squidgy bark-topped surface.

In and out of the walled gardens and its on to the home straight. A very short home straight which I like as you only need to muster a 50m sprint. In the old days, Bushy Park used to have a 1km home straight and that used to kill me – I had no idea when to put the hammer down.

Anyway, back to Sewerby parkrun. My mum and dad were at the finish to cheer me on to almost last place and my mum actually joined me for the final sprint.

I’m afraid I forgot to tell her not to cross the finish line, partly because I had no extra breath for talking, and I’m afraid we caused a little confusion with the timing – sorry about that.

All in all, Sewerby parkrun is a fantastically varied course with supportive runners and Marshalls. You need good grippy shoes and have to work hard not to stop for the many scenic photo opportunities. It’s definitely one to recommend but beware of the forecast. This is a route where you will experience weather in its full glory, as Charlie_Z_Brown illustrates:

Three Cheers for Tooting parkrun

I was alerted this week to a new parkrun at Tooting Bec. I’m grateful to blog7t for passing on this great news. I’ve been hoping quietly for a parkrun to appear on my doorstep for about 6 years now. Although I had earmarked Mitcham Common as my preferred location, Tooting Common is still only 15 mins away and will do nicely.  

It seems that there is a more vocal and active contingent working away to bring parkrun to the nation, or Wandsworth (@parkrun4wands) at least, and to those involved I am very thankful. 

The run itself is a 3 lap course which caused me some pre-run anxiety. I had always avoided 2 loop parkrun events for fear of being lapped by the entire field until I tried Roundshaw parkrun and realised my calculations were dodgy and that lapping is not a common occurrence. 3 laps is a bit different though and I was passed by at least two thirds of the field and some particularly nippy folks would have lapped me twice. 

  
Turns out that’s no bad thing though, for brief moments you are running in amongst the front runners and it feels as though their grace and speed rub off, if only a little. 

The last lap is admittedly painful. I started the 3rd loop as the sub-30 minuters peeled off for their final sprint. That’s quite tough to know the finish is just yards away when you have one more lonely, isolated lap to go. 

Still, it’s a pancake flat course, the runners are friendly and the many volunteers were super supportive. 

I’m very happy with my new local parkrun! Now I have no excuses not to target that elusive 50 t-shirt that I’ve been chasing for at least 10 years. Only 26 more to go. 

Roundshaw parkrun

Sometime after my 3rd failed ultra, I smartened up and decided to re-focus my efforts on less lofty goals. Shorter goals.

I have therefore embarked on a program designed to drag my 5k time back to a value I might be prepared to publish on the blog.

Roundshaw parkrun

This is week 2 and my second parkrun and so far the program is not working. We’ve just tried out our local run at Roundshaw Downs and I managed to record my worst ever time for a parkrun event. I will not be sharing my time.

Roundshaw parkrun has been going for a few years but it is still a fairly small event, run on an undulating course of mostly grass and a bit of trail through woodland. It has a striking view over Croydon to the London skyline.

I found the course to be a bit of a struggle, it could have been last nights curry or the near bottle of wine that accompanied it but I do need a better excuse than “undulating course” to explain my pitiful performance.

It is some consolation that having coincided a new event with my worst ever performance I managed to get both a PW and a PB for the same run.

Bushy parkrun 10th Anniversary

IMG_5969.JPGWe set off in a massive, diverse crowd. I was initially worried that I may trample on the toddler stood in front of me but that soon turned to concern that I might not actually be able to keep up with her.

That set the tone. I battled it out with the youth and the elderly and pretty much lost to each one. I comforted myself by the thought that one lad whizzing past me was at least 37 years younger than me. The fact that made him about 6 years old shouldn’t really matter.

With a record turn out of 1705 runners, the finish funnel was a challenge even from the perspective of a straggler. We soon made it out the other end though and met our favourite Surrey Housewife who was characteristically spotted with 3 glasses of champers.

It was absolutely lovely to share in the Bushy parkrun 10th anniversary. I was introduced to the institution back in Feb 2007 where I came 195th out of 196. I credit the wonderfully inclusive community with turning around my health and social well being, so very happy birthday parkrun.

Happy Birthday parkrun

A Soggy First for Janathon Day 4

The alarm went off at 6.30 this morning so we could get across London for Lynn’s first parkrun. It needn’t have bothered, I’d been laying awake for hours listening to the rain drumming on the velux and the bin lid bouncing around the garden.

If we hadn’t arranged to meet Suzan at Bushy Park I can shamefully confirm that we would have stayed in bed and failed Janathon.

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But we had planned a meet up, so at 8.55 we were hovering round the start line trying to get close enough to the bodies in front to afford a little protection from the driving rain. At 9, on the dot, the starting horn sounded and the rain stopped.

We hadn’t spotted Suzan in amongst the 567 starters so Lynn and I set off down the long straight and focused on staying upright for the duration of the course

Lynn was quite interested in our positioning within the crowd, obviously keen not to be last in her first event. It’s best not to worry about these thing in the first heady km, there is much more ebb and flo later in the race as pacing plans begin to unravel. We were however, very close to the back and could survey the slips and slides of the runners ahead of us.

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As we started the 2nd km I spotted a rather dishevelled 250 club member hugging a tree. As we got closer I realised it was Suzan, covered head to toe in mud, having come a cropper in the mud fest.

Despite being bruised and bloody she picked up our pace and talked us around the course. I’m not much of a conversationalist when I’m out on a run. My heart rate hovers about 2 beats below my theoretical maximum and that doesn’t leave room for non essential activities like talking, it barely copes with breathing. That left Lynn and Suzan to natter away while I tried not collapse.

With 1k left to run, Suzan started to push Lynn. I didn’t have anything left in reserve but I didn’t want Lynn to finish her first event with enough breath to natter across the finish line. Luckily Suzan, even in her injured state, has a killer competitive attitude. I could see them picking runners off one by one. If the field hadn’t been quite so slippery I’m sure the race for the line would have been worthy of chariots of fire. My final straight was much closer to dancers on ice.

Sophisticated Ladies Run for Bolly

Back in 2007, at my first Bushy Park Run I was introduced to two women who exposed me to the joys of sophisticated running. I’ve never been a stranger to the pleasure of a post run Stella but these two raised the bar with their post run champagne and canapes.

Surrey Housewives run for Bolly

When you get invited to a Surrey Housewife (SHS) event, I strongly recommend you make an effort to attend – even if it involves a disturbingly early start and a gruelling run.

SHS 250Today’s event was the Bushy parkrun. A quick scan through my running logs reveals that I have attended the sum total of 19 parkruns over the last 6 years.

Today’s event was not about my 19th run but Suzan and Carol’s 250th parkrun.

Thats 250 5k’s each and 250 missed lie ins.

An amazing 1006 other runners joined them for the run and were rewarded at the end with a celebratory glass of fizz and a cream bun. I was a teeny bit slow for the cream bun stall but I’ll settle for champagne any day.

Congratulations Carol and Suzan – and don’t think I didn’t notice the pre-race cocktail, I reckon I could be persuaded to add that to my usual run routine.

Best Laid Plans

While a number of Janathoners were embarking on their first park runs (jogblog and femmerun), and others were trying new park runs (Travelling Hopefully), I’m afraid to admit I was still lying in bed. I was awake enough to witness the pre-parkrun hubbub on twitter but not sufficiently awake to do anything about it. By the time I stirred into action it was 11:30 and we were close to missing the first badminton match of the year.

We speed marched down to the Brixton Rec, rubbing sleep from our eyes and clutching our brand new Xmas rackets.

On the court I stripped down to my court gear, and released my pro racket from its sheath, only to discover a great big security tag slap bang in the middle of the strings. Nothing screams Looter like a security tag in the middle of Brixton.

We went home dejected, with one speed walk and one sulky walk notched up for Janathon.

20130112-233141.jpgThings were looking up though as Sports Direct decided we looked honest enough to release the tag without a receipt and we popped into the local retro junk store to find the worlds best seed/map drawer which will revolutionise my allotment life.

I was so inspired by my bargain find that we managed to squeeze in a trip to the gym to rattle off a 5k on the treadmill. Hardly a scenic parkrun but it gives me an excuse for a beer so who’s complaining?

Today’s stout was a can of Murphys complete with widget in the can. It gave a perfect creamy head and an interesting bubble action so its a shame the taste is rather flat and nondescript.

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A Return to Richmond parkrun

It’s always easier to pose questions than offer solutions.

Despite my last post pondering the training options that might see me recover PB potential in the remaining 3 weeks before GNR, I’ve somehow managed to spend the entire week on my backside – not a single run has been taken.

In search of last minute inspiration I’ve taken to listening to unplayed episodes of the Marathon Talk podcast and yesterday found myself totally inspired by the ancient episode 21 – parkrun edition. A quick check of the parkrun website revealed that it had been more than 4.5 years since my last parkrun. It felt confessional and I needed to make amends.

This morning I headed out to the now distant but familiar haunt of Richmond Park and reacquainted myself with the marvel of parkrun. There have been a few changes over the years but at its essence it remains a joyful institution for runners – free, Saturday morning, timed runs, manned by volunteers across the length and breadth of the land.

Richmond parkrun has grown in popularity and the swollen ranks offer a bit of protection for the back of the pack runner. I normally feel abandoned within minutes of the start of a race but after overtaking a few small running children I found myself part of a long yet continuous line of huffing runners and a few straining dogs.

I was trying to make the most of the first half’s descent so marked a runner who seemed to have a consistent but stretching pace ahead of me. I tucked in behind her until it felt a bit rude and then pulled alongside her for a failed overtaking manoeuvre. We ended up chatting for a couple of k before the hill got bad and the puffing a little too loud for pleasantries. I pulled away at the crest and much to my joy managed to wind in a few other runners on my way towards the finish.

I was way off PB standard but felt my competitive instinct was left satiated by the end.

The parkrun barcode from ICEtags managed an appearance at long last and I can confirm it worked like a dream.

If you’re only going to run once a week I’m afraid to say that a 5k parkrun does not cut the half marathon training mustard. After a little rest to fully evaporate I reassembled my trammel for an additional 10k jog around the park, trying my hardest to maintain a 3 hr half marathon target pace.

I’m pretty tired now but you can’t beat that parkrun, Saturday afternoon, smugness. Must be time for a Stella soon.

Natural Navigation in Ever Decreasing Circles

I’ve been watching Sue Perkins, Alison Steadman and that other fella trying to cross the UK without recourse to a nifty Garmin navigator or even an oldey worldy compass thing.

They got on to their hands and knees to examine the differential drying of poo sides, scanned the horizon for the tell-tale sweep of exposed trees but mostly they’ve spun round in circles saying “is that East, North, South or West?”.

I was in Mitcham Common yesterday – my personal Bermuda triangle. For some reason I step into the gorse and become immediately disoriented. Still, I am an adventurer, so I ignore my personal wrist link to at least 3 satellites and ask for directions from the trees.

The natural navigation wisdom informs me that the prevailing wind direction in the UK is South Westerly (wind comes from the SW), so the sweep over of the trees foliage is in the opposite direction, ie NE. Had I stuck to this piece of evidence and run on I would have been fine but I always look for corroboration where there is only contradiction. Moss grows on the north side of trees but if the sweep over was accurate the Mitcham Common mosses prefer a southerly aspect, and the destination Croydon buses appeared to be headed East. I started spinning in circles and despite being less than 5 mins from my car I was best described as lost.

I was particularly keen to define the run by the cardinal points as I was trying to do a recce of London’s next official parkrun and was building up the race description in my head. I keep meaning to try a parkrun in my new locale but it occurred to me this weekend that it would be far better if parkrun came to me, so I set about trying to define the perfect 5km route around Mitcham Common.

I think I’ve found one – a lovely cross-country route hugging the wooded edge of the common for a loop and a half before cutting across the scrub and past the Seven Islands pond to finish. Just don’t ask me for directions.

I need to find a race organiser now and a way to appease the Mitcham Common conservators who may not be too keen on the idea of hordes of Saturday morning joggers.

It would be mighty convenient though.

Done a Runner

Suzan and Carol the two founder members of the Surrey Housewives Set (SHS) have been relentlessly running the Bushy Park 5k time trial over the last 2.5 years and this Saturday they finally reached the 100 runs milestone.

500 kilometres ticked off (each) by the grim determination to get out of bed at the crack of dawn almost every Saturday. Pushing themselves through just about the worst running distance ever invented.

I think I’ve been equally relentless in my avoidance of these painful little runs recently but I dragged the non-runner out of bed this Saturday so we could celebrate the grand achievement from the side lines.

I don’t think I’ve won over a convert to the cause, the whole event was rather a strange spectacle, 450 runners turning up at 8:55 to run around the park and then shoot off again after about 30 minutes of painful sweating. You really could be forgiven for wondering why anyone would do it, from our vantage point at the 4k mark, no one appeared to be enjoying themselves and there were quite a few concerning retching noises from within the pack.

Of course runners, know why they do it and even though I was glad I didn’t pack my running shoes, part of me hankered after that smug post run satisfaction and now I’m half tempted to set the alarm early for the occasional Saturday to come.

After a quick congratulatory pat on the back I felt the swarm of the sweaty crowd and shot off out of the car park.

When the photos came out I wasn’t all that popular with the NR who discovered she’d been dragged from her sleep to attend the strange event and then yanked away just as the champagne and buns made an appearance.