Saturday, 10 March 2012

I love it when a plan comes together!

Thirteen months ago I set my last PB of 17:49 and won my one and only parkrun (to date). At the time that was a massive PB, by 25 seconds, only achieved by the lure of that first place finish.

To be totally honest I thought it would be a very long time before I could challenge that time again. As it turned out I got fairly close a couple of times before my injury troubles started about a year ago.

First there was an innocuous hamstring strain, then re-injury. A period of recovery followed, only for a calf injury to really start my injury woes. That calf injury stay with me on and off from April to November, with a few sessions of physio providing only temporary relief.

I'm not sure which magic mathematically figure "ump" is, but when (in November) the calf strain occurred for the umpteenth time I had really had enough of it!

My next period of physio worked wonders as we decided that this time the recovery had to be slow and steady, rather than my normal rush back to full pace.

I left it a month before jogging. My first parkrun back was a walk/jog in over 38 minutes. I was as pleased to get through that run as I have been with some flat out runs! The next was 26 minutes, then a couple around 23 minutes. Honestly this was taking it very sensibly for me.

That took me to the turn of the year and the formulation of my plan to get back towards me best. I planned to do the 10km Regency Run in Leamington in mid April and everything was planned to get there at or near my best.

The plan was to try to improve slowly, knocking 20 seconds off each week, or whatever felt comfortable on the day, but never pushing myself. Just see how it felt with no risk of injury. Staying in the injury risk-free safety zone.

I ran 23 minutes again at the start of January. Then a bit over 21. A bigger step than planned but all felt fine. Next I broke 20 minutes, then 19:21 and then a sub 19. These were consecutive parkruns and I realise this was quick progress, but every run I felt stronger and the calf felt fine.

I knew I couldn't maintain that kind of progress any longer, only to be proved wrong with another 34 seconds knocked off at my last parkrun two weeks ago, finishing in 18:18. Wow, I'm back I thought!

So to today. I had run 6 parkruns this year, each faster than the one before. Today I knew it would be hard, to say the least, to keep that run going. I would have taken a one second improvement for sure.

So what I want to know is, how on earth did I take another 32 seconds off the previous parkrun time, breaking my old PB in the process to record a new PB of 17:46? How us that in any way possible?

I may have to go into that in a bit more detail in another post, as this one is long enough, I'm sure you'll agree.

To finish, I have to say that the PB is great, even if totally unexpected, but the best thing of all is that the calf didn't give me any trouble at all and I think I can fairly safely say that that bout of injury is behind me now. I'm also ready for my 10km a month early and I couldn't be happier about that!

Friday, 9 March 2012

In praise of inaugural parkruns

Two* new parkruns start this week: Guildford and Walsall.

If you're near** either of them, I recommend popping along.

Not only will you become a little bit of history*** but you will be on your way to joining a very special***** parkrun community, the parkrunners on the most events table.

Just be warned: collecting (inaugural) parkruns can be addictive!

*in the UK
**in the UK
***"I was there at the very first Walsall/Guildford**** parkrun"
****Delete as applicable
*****The views expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the views of parkrun.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Newcatle & gateshead parkruns

We're pretty fortunate here in the North East to have five great parkrun events, with a sixth hopefully in Whitley Bay.  I started out running parkrun events with the first ever Sunderland parkrun, and as more events have come on board I've managed to do 'firsts' at each of Durham, Newcastle and now Gateshead.  Each of the runs is unique and challenging in it's own way - Sunderland has a drag up hill to the finish, the Town Moor is generally windy as hell, Durham has so great off-road sections (and insects - was stung by a bee in the second event!), and now we have Gateshead's Saltwell park - three times up the same hill could be very challenging.

I prefer a bit of a visual approach to describing things (seeing that I'm an illustrator) so I've done a couple of pics which kind of sum up both Newcastle and Gateshead parkruns.  I'll be sure to do Sunderland and Durham pics when I get the chance.

The gist of this post I guess is to say, you can come visit the North East's parkruns and get a real variation in races.  The town moor can be bleak in the winter, but it's got a kind of dramatic beauty to it, especially when it's hoying it down and the rain is lashing horizontally.  Saltwell is a very grand Victorian park, with loads of stuff for kids or non-runners to do while the runners slog it round the boating lake and up the hill a few times.

You'll also get a real warm welcome from the locals, whether it's the Mackem's or Geordies or the folks of Durham, the North East is teaming with friendly people who want to get out and run.

Happy running!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A parkrun for PC Rathband

By rights, none of us should recognise the name PC David Rathband. He should just be another Newcastle police officer doing his job, known only to his family and friends. But some tense days on Tyneside and a mad man with a shotgun changed all that. And then this week, for whatever reason, it all became too much and PC Rathband took his own life.

What you might not know about PC Rathband is that he was also a runner. He ran the Great North Run to raise awareness of the Blue Lamp Foundation, the charity he supported. And he came and ran Newcastle parkrun with his running buddy and guide runner Kerry a couple of times.

So this Saturday I knew there was to be a moment of remembrance and a minute’s silence in tribute to one of our parkrun clan. I was asked to help marshal a turn, just before the gate and the 4k marker. It meant I missed the start and the tributes as I was setting out markers and getting ready for the runners.

But it did put me in a great spot to take some photographs, whilst making sure everyone followed the right course. 
Darren Rathband running Newcastle parkrun in memory of his brother PC David Rathband
Darren Rathband running Newcastle parkrun in memory of his brother PC David Rathband

I got a good few smiles and waves as I shouted out encouragement to the runners coming through. And I spotted a couple of the Blue Lamp Foundation supporters in their T-shirts and gave them an encouraging shout.

But I did a double take as I saw a group of runners coming through. There was Kerry, hand in hand, just as she had run with PC Rathband with another runner who was his double.

I didn’t know at that point that it was his twin brother, Darren, who had come from Australia to take part in the parkrun, but the resemblance was unmistakable. It was one of those moments when I wasn’t sure whether to put the camera down or to carry on shooting, but I got a cheery wave as they went past.

I know from personal experience the power that running has to heal emotional hurts, to draw out strengths and to forge a shared experience of togetherness. I hope PC Rathband’s friends and family felt some of that on Saturday.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Newby Huddersfield parkrunner

 So here goes: blogging, the psychoanalysis of the 21st century. I’ve almost reached 34 without having bared my soul on the internet (ok, maybe a few facebook rants and that dire attempt at a self-sales pitch on an internet dating site) and without doing much exercise.

I’ve never been into fitness that much. Like most teenagers, PE lessons were spent smoking cigs behind the prefabs. In my early twenties I had a ‘fit’ boyfriend who lured me towards the ways of the Runners, but I soon lost interest after we decided to part company (well, yes he dumped me).

I’ve always been slim, therefore in the majority of people’s minds: healthy. However, after popping out a couple of kids and stuffing in plenty of cake, junk food and basically anything from the ‘this is not just food’ M&S range, I found myself at the beginning of 2012 in need of a healthy boot up the bum.
So my good friend Debs and I decided we should take up running. More accurately, slow jogging. Our aim was the Saturday morning Parkrun (a phenomenon I’d never heard of). We started mid-January with a few painful and self-conscious 1.5 mile runs. Trying to commit to at least two runs per week.

We stuck to it and after 8 weeks we braved the Huddersfield Parkrun.

Still self-conscious and slightly embarrassed by the lady in baggy white shorts and rabbit ears; we acted like the cool kids during lovely-Kerry’s first timer speech: yeah right, run there, do that, etc. We then, as cool kids do, went to the back of the class, only to find the bunny lady again!
Then we were off; we lolloped our way around Greenhead Park, commenting on the new fixtures and fittings like a pair of tourists. Only when we were lapped by the duck pond (obviously not by the duck pond) did we realize that we maybe should stop chatting.  We finished in a respectable 31 minutes (seconds don’t matter on your first run), proud of ourselves and very impressed by the friendly aspect of the event.
After collecting the kids, having a shower and my Mum phoning to say how proud she was that I’d just ran 5k; I got my first results email! At this point an unknown feeling arose: a competitive streak kicked in. All I could think about was my next run. How could I improve my time, run faster, get a Garmin, mapmyrun … anything! I was like an addict.

The next week (my second run), I had to make it around in less than 30 minutes! Feeling a lot less embarrassed and more at ease with the running community, I put all my efforts into getting around the park quicker than the week before. After losing the 26 minute pacer-bunny (I’m sure he was quicker than 26 minutes) overtaking Brett and his amazing 5 year old son (the 35 minute pacers), I made it in 28:48. Post-run coffee was spent chatting to other runners about how friendly and encouraging everyone is.

So to conclude my ‘Kerry inspired ramble’, we reached our aim to do the Huddersfield Parkrun and met some lovely people. The next step for this newby runner is to do the Parkrun in 25 minutes, Sport Relief, volunteer to help out, Warrior Dash, Leeds 10k  (and so much more)…  and save up for that Garmin (mapmyrun is on my phone, with my all important running stats).

And now ...  seconds do matter!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

parkrun Games Makers

Just an idle thought... I wonder how many of the 'parkrun' community are Olympic/Paralympic Games Makers at the various O/P sites?  And for that matter how many parkrunners who live close by one or other of the sites and could offer a bed for a night or two or three...

As I said, just a thought.

My own 'Games Maker' site is Portland/Weymouth for both Olympics and Paralympics... and it is unlikely we have any of our community there.  The nearest parkrun is Poole in one direction and Killerton in the other!

Rog Rowe

After the parkrun

Our runner has finished and gone home to the promise of bacon butties and mugs of tea where he peels of his socks, balls them up and lobs them in the general direction of the washing machine.
He busies himself trying not to check his texts to see if it was indeed a PB, well after all, its the first time he's managed to pass that big hairy bloke who really should know better than to wear such tiny shorts and through gritted teeth raced towards the finish like the cayote after a small plump roadrunner.

I load up the car, adding this week's discarded items to the growing collection of 'lost property' and head home to process the event.
A short drive later I drag the 'box of tricks' into the house to be greeted by the garish sounds of Spongebob Squarepants and a small child in pyjamas guzzling down whichever sugar laden cereal they've been peddling on Nickelodeon that week.

Realising that my hopes of seeing whether the celebrity of choice on this week's Saturday Kitchen actually gets to eat his heavenly dish of choice or a sauteed pile of tentacles are futile, I open the box and delicately remove the laptop, timer, scanner and tangled web of cables.
The laptop is switched on and I go off to wrestle the only mouse with a working scroll wheel from the sweaty palm of my teenage son who is busy trying to dismember some poor pixilated monster.
Returning to my chair, I gently liberate the holy timer of parkrun from the bag like a precious artifact. I must explain the pressure of this operation as within that box of electonics are all the hopes, wishes, sweat and toil of our parkrunner.

The files are transferred from the scanner and timer onto the laptop where the Godfather of parkrun and his amazing team have created the most amazing web page which magically transforms all those numbers into names, positions and most important times.
At this point it can all go very right or very wrong as you try to make sense of where runners crossed the finish line twice, only actually completed 2 laps or ducked out of the funnel into the bushes to relieve themselves of the 15 pints of Carling consumed the night before.
Now here's where the miracle happens, I press the finish button and all the results are sent off to hq. I like to think of hq as a secret underground bunker, the team sit poised, wearing telephone headsets as electronic files ping in from all over the world, illuminating little orange lights on a huge wall mounted map as each event sends its results.

Our parkrunner is now fed, watered and desperately trying to find something to pass the time without resorting to household chores until his PB dreams are confirmed, meanwhile the busy beavers at hq are inundated with event results, phone wires hum with activity and the map is now glowing from all the light bulbs. Machines whir, numbers are crunched and panicked race directors are wimpering down the phone about that niggling little error.
I turn my attention to the volunteer rota and try to look amused when a small chocolatey hand shoves a drawing of a horse having a poo at me amidst howls of laughter.

It's now time to sort out the position tokens so it's antibacterial cloth to the ready and trying to hold kittens at bay as I sort them into piles of ten and wonder what the heck number 62 did to get the token in THAT state! Once in order it's back onto the string, making a mental note of which ones are now missing and need replacements printing out that week.

And then I'm done, breakfast time at last! I relax into the chair momentarily before a large tabby cat jumps onto my knee and demands food- there really is no rest for the wicked!
Our parkrunner is just thinking that he's going to have to give in and get on with the washing up when 'bing' the text arrives and he punches the air, celebrating his 20 second PB before vowing to beat the hairy bloke once again next weekend.
... Linda xx

Inspirational Slogans

Recently I have found it entertaining to post photos of things I have found funny on the Huddersfield parkrun Facebook page!

It probably means that I…….

  1. need a life
  2. need to spend less time on the internet
  3. need to get a life
  4. need a different sense of humour
  5. need to get a new life
  6. need to sleep more
  7. or some or all of the above… decide?
The following is for your ‘amusement’ this cold and cloudy Sunday morning!

Probably only funny if you are a girl…..actually no, this would work if you were a boy too!

Mildly motivational medal #1

Mildly motivational medal #2

Husband found this is not the best thing to say just after I had run……save this one for when the other half actually looks good!  Or award it to yourselves every morning!

For the Garmin obsessed!

For those in denial about being a runners…..or for those that are actually being chased by hungry dogs!

We have all been there!

If you have actually said this…….put your hand up!

Only works if there is a runner behind you ;-(

That’s all folks…..I have got to go and cook Sunday lunch…..feel free to pop in for a roast potato if you are passing.