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.

Gratuitous Naked Photo Post

For those folk that enjoyed the tale of the early morning wake up call by the nearly naked runner, here’s a quick update to show you that she still hasn’t learned her lesson.

Naked Shakti

I was out of the house early this morning as I was volunteering at the running (RPTT). My plan was to do a minor sweep of the neighbourhood collecting food scraps for the allotment compost bins so I rang Shakti to make sure her bin was at the front of the house as I passed. She was still sleeping and I obviously flustered her a bit. As I passed by with the trailer I found her hovering on her doorstep, wrapped in a towel and pushing on her firmly shut door.

At least she had the foresight to take a towel with her this time, you never know, she may take the house key next time. I refused to hand over my spare key til I had taken photographic evidence. It’s a tough life having a friend with a blog – no privacy.

RPTT – 12th January

Having been accused, quite outrageously, of not actually doing any training, I thought I ought to set the record straight!

I went for a run. Today.

It wasn’t pretty but then these 5k time trials are not meant to pretty.

I would have been last, only the tail end canine – a fairly stout little scotty, was tripped up by a runner with a stitch and I managed to divert his attention with a strip of jerky and beat him over the line.

RPTT Update for 8th Dec 07

Here’s a quick post for completeness.

I may still be slacking on the posting front but I am at least back out there and running! I think this week marks the first time since the Great North Run that I have actually persuaded myself to go out of the door on a non-event related excuse. Yes, that means an actual training run, how novel.

Hyde Park route

I was away at a conference for most of last week, living it up in a central London hotel (ludicrous I know but then I wasn’t paying) and arranged to meet a colleague at 7am for a quick blast around Hyde Park. After much liquid networking the day/night before I wasn’t really on top form at the crack of dawn. I had been waking up every hour on the hour just to knock back a bottle of water but still had to de-fuzz my tongue when the alarm went off.

It was raining thankfully and I was able to run along with my mouth open and slowly rehydrate. I think we went a bit over 5k, I did have the garmin on but we got lost in the subway system at Marble Arch for quite some time and the GPS had long since given up the ghost by the time we resurfaced.

After that, me and my new found running legs made our way to the start of RPTT on Saturday morning. The Richmond Park Time Trial is quite different to the Bushy Park version, at BPTT you have runners mingling, stretching, jumping and generally warming up from about 8:30 onwards. At RPTT I’m always left wondering if they’ve switched the start line without telling me. With 5 mins to go the place is deserted until all of a sudden a bunch of lanky runners start swarming in from all directions.

Soaking RPTT Volunteers

I started at the rear (with the sweeper for company) and finished at the rear, recording my slowest time for the event so far – a clear sign that all that exam time slothfulness is still hanging around my hips, not for much longer though – I feel a flab assault brewing.

Most of the runners managed to finish up and clear off before the worst of the rain hit but I came round the final straight in a slow enough time to ensure that all the volunteers got a good soaking, that includes the first placed runner cum event photographer, Nigel Rothwell.

Just in case I wasn’t wet enough my bike decided to present me with a flat tyre so I had to walk home in the downpour.

Super fun.

RPTT – No 3

No pathetic excuses this week, I hopped out of bed at the first hint of a fake sunrise and cycled out to Richmond Park.


Another beautiful morning (captured by David Rowe) that could have been missed with a lazy lie in.

Funny start to todays time trial, even before we set off there was a brief battle for back of the pack placement. In the end I let a trio take up the rear knowing full well I’d secure my rightful place by the first bend.

It didn’t quite work out like that.

The organisers of RPTT have started putting a volunteer to bring up the rear (either on bike or foot), and this week the role fell to a very nice and chatty woman who was needing an easy day. I was really glad that the two women behind me were able to keep up the conversational duties, within 1 metre of starting running, conversation is knocked out of me as all higher functions shutdown in favour of the essentials, like breathing. Not wanting to seem too antisocial, I felt my best bet was to stay a step ahead.

This led me to pace myself against the next available runner (Penny), who after the first k got fed up of me heavy breathing down her neck and told me to pull alongside for a bit of company. I managed to maintain this position for another kilometer when the cord between us starting to stretch and then rather rapidly, it snapped. As I watched her drifting off towards the horizon I was left wondering what had happened – did she put her foot down or did I slowly start dying? I think the splits speak for themselves.

RPTT 3 Splits

As we all know, pacing prevents piss poor performance, but I haven’t quite grasped it yet!

Now I know I never walk, but blimey, I was tempted to stop and puke at km 3. I was winding down big time until I noticed in the distance that Penny appeared to be gaining on a couple of runners. This gave me a little evil spark, maybe I could gain on them too, after all 2 km is quite a long way to go if you’re already suffering. Clearly I had forgotten my own suffering.

I did actually catch them – when they stopped for shoelace tying duties, but they stormed ahead again after their breather and it turned out they weren’t even part of the time trial anyway. Deflated, I realised that the trio behind me were now nipping at my heels,  I could hear the conversation again and I didn’t want to lose it all in the final straight. Not that there is a straight in this route, its decidedly bendy and hilly. But hills are fine, provided you tackle them from the right direction and I took advantage of the last downward slope to put a bit more distance between us.

Finally crossed the line in 35:11 a mere 13 second improvement on my first run.

Sleep Running & Virtual Events

Strange morning on Saturday. I was running late for RPTT and found myself having to start the race long after everyone else had set off. On the first bend, alongside the road, I was dazzled by a thick blinding haze. I just had to stop, I couldn’t see a thing but I knew there were cars around me somewhere honking their horns in warning. In classic primary school literary styling I opened my eyes at this point, finding myself still in bed, blinded by the fake sunrise clock and with a growing awareness of the alarm that had been beeping for the last 30 mins.

Not a grand start to the weekend and as October seems to be a month of events with precious little training I can’t afford to miss organised runs this easily. I’ve had to resort to creating my own imaginary or virtual events just clock up a few miles over the autumn.

cape cod?

Sunday saw me completing the final 6 miles of the Cape Cod marathon in support of No Wetsuit Girl who was running the event on a rather heroic whim. I didn’t actually fly out to MA so I had to recreate my very own Cape Cod conditions here in Barnes. Cape Cod sounds like a wet and watery place and I wasn’t let down by the weather conditions here – how grim! I struggled my way around the Chiswick and Hammersmith Bridge loop of the Thames, contenting myself with the knowledge that NWG would be having a far tougher time than I was.

Seems I was wrong though – she had a stonking time of it, securing a pb and I’m sure a sense of invulnerability that will see her setting ever greater challenges for the future.

First Last

Richmond Park Time Trial

Finally the time trial bandwagon arrived in Richmond Park and I was there to “enjoy” the inaugural event. What a gorgeous day! Freezin, crisp, but absolutely beautiful, I’ve had to nick a couple of photos off the parkrun site to illustrate the morning and save me going all poetic. I think Paul S-H was the photographer for the day.

With only 42 runners in the field it was not too surprising that I found myself alone for most of the route. Still, when you run in a park this stunning, who needs company?


By all accounts this is a tough time trial and folk look to be recording times in the region of 40 secs + on their Bushy Park pb’s, although I imagine this gap will narrow as the route becomes more familiar. Its a hilly route but the scenery takes your mind off a lot of the pain, or at least thats what I felt after I’d finished – before I finished I’m sure I was cursing 5k time trials.

Anyway, back to the title of this post, whatdya know, I was last. Dead last. A first for me but I’m sure it will become a regular Saturday morning ocurrance for a while. It was all perfectly enjoyable as well, a whole load of the early finishers had hung around the end and gave me a good cheer over the finish line – thanks guys.

RPTT 1: 5 km, 0:35:24

As update to last weeks reccy, I can now post the “official” route map:

Richmond Park Time Trial at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: GPS Travel Community

RPTT Update T minus 48 Days

The launch date for the Richmond Park version of the weekly UK Time Trial has been set for the 13th October. The route details have been posted on the site and so today I thought I would go and do an early morning reccy.

The plan is to meet around Pembroke Lodge and start the run close to Richmond Gate, it then skirts around part of the Tamsin Trail and the path running along the edge of the main road to make a big (5 km) loop between Richmond and East Sheen gates. For convenience I started my run at East Sheen gate.

I’m fairly useless at getting my bearings in that park and despite having scrutinised the official route map for about 30 mins before setting off, I still wasn’t sure I knew where I was going. As it turns out, my GPS route looks pretty darn close to the one on the RPTT site so I’m happy.

This is going to make for one tough time trial! Its going to push my target of 30 mins for 5km back some way but it will be great training and I could always show up at Bushy Park for the occasional attempt at a pb.

Talking about Bushy Park – it’s the third anniversary of this fantastic (weekly, free) event on the 6th October. So if you fancy the idea of an early morning race followed by nibbles and champagne all before 10 am you should register online now and stick it in your diary!