Tuesday, 16 July 2013

"Dad-dee, weeee!" - A Buggy's Eye View of Kent's Longest Day

I have blogged before on the role my now 21 month old daughter Josie has played in motivating my parkrunning - specifically that "I didn't want to be a lumbering, overweight father who struggled to run and play with his daughter", and more on the story of Why I Run, told to Whitstable parkrun in August 2012, can be found HERE. However, not long after telling this story, a bargainous eBay buggy buy led to Josie taking a more active part in my parkrunning career when, a few days after my 41st birthday, and a month before Josie's 1st, we toed (or more accurately "wheeled") the line as a team for the first time at Whitstable parkrun, posting (just!) a sub-25 minute debut.

Josie has joined me on my weekly outing at Whitstable parkrun every few weeks since then, and at the end of April 2013 Josie and I completed our 10th parkrun together in a time that was pushing 23 minutes. For almost two months after that, though, Josie didn't join me on a Saturday morning (I think she might have been sulking because she found out that being pushed round ten times in a buggy didn't actually qualify her for the coveted Junior 10 parkrun shirt). So by mid July, 10 weeks of slacking meant that my little girl had some serious parkrun catching up to do. Then came... The Kent parkrun Longest Day!

I hadn’t thought seriously about doing The Longest Day because, while taking the first hour out of each Saturday for parkrun seems fair enough, I didn’t really think it was fair on my family to consume a whole Sunday, and the longest Sunday of the year at that, driving from run to run down the Kent coast. And then it turned out my wife had to work, so I wouldn’t be able to do The Longest Day anyway as it was a Daddy-in-Charge day. Returning from the regular Saturday morning parkrun the day before, I mentioned in passing to my wife that the next day was parkrun Longest Day, and she suggested I should buggy-run the Whitstable leg with Josie. Then an idea started to form… perhaps Josie and I could do a couple of the Kent Longest Day legs – we could go to the second Kent parkrun of the day at Maidstone at 11am, and then also do the Whitstable leg at 1pm. A nice day out for Daddy and Josie while Mummy was working.

So all packed up with buggy parkrun essentials – smoothie squeezies, raisins, Cheerios, a bit of Soreen and some water – Josie and I arrived at The Museum of Kent Life just ten minutes or so before the start of the Maidstone leg of the Kent Longest Day. Some slightly surprised faces greeted us, partly I suppose because I hadn’t been at the first leg at Shorne Woods in Dartford, but perhaps also because I was there with a buggy… for The Longest Day. I explained that Josie and I would see how it goes and that we would probably call it a day after the Whitstable leg.

While Whitstable parkrun has been going for some time, the other Kent parkruns are all relatively new, and so Josie and I would be first-timers. The Maidstone parkrun on the path along the River Soar was an absolute joy to run with Josie – “Boat! Bird! Boat! Dog!” came the commentary from Josie as we made our way along the tree-lined path. It was a path that was quite narrow and so we were grateful to both other parkrunners and casual walkers who graciously made way for us as we posted 23:20 for our first 5km of the day.

Josie loved the Maidstone run, and particularly the 20 minute play on the swings she managed to fit in as we waited for the rest of the field to finish, so she was more than happy in the car, slurping on a banana and apple smoothie squeezie, as we made our way to our “home” parkrun at Whitstable. The sun came out just as we arrived (as it always seems to do for Whitstable parkun, whatever the “ambient weather”) and so we scoffed a bit more of our stash to pass the time until the 1pm start. Running along the path at the top of the beach on the outward part of the first lap, Josie switched between making light work of her Cheerios and adding her newest word to her running commentary: “Water!..., Boat!, Dog!”, then we turned back up the hill and into the wind - Ouch! And, then we had to repeat it on the second lap – Ouch again! As a result, the Whitstable leg brought a somewhat slower 5km time of 24:04, but once across the line with a still shining sun, and a little girl now gleefully tucking into the homebaked cake that was being offered, it was clear that Josie at least wasn’t ready to call a halt to our Longest Day adventure just yet.

So we headed off to Margate for the next leg at 3pm. As we were to discover all too soon, despite being relatively flat Margate parkrun has a reputation as a bit of a windy course. Week-on-week the Margate parkrun reports prophesise about the glorious day when the wind will be still and PBs will be plentiful – The Longest Day was not that day! Josie pulled her buggy blanket over her head and buckled down as we posted a slower still time for our third 5km of the day of 24:35. Ploughing into the wind along the cliffs at Margate I made up my mind that enough was enough – three buggy parkruns in a day was a pretty creditable achievement, and there would be no disgrace in Josie and I heading home after this one. Josie, though, had other ideas, and stepped out of her buggy to deliver a rejuvenating motivational speech (see photo above) which, together with the promise that Pegwell Bay parkrun would be both sheltered and flat, saw us continue on our way to the final leg of the Kent Longest Day.

And so we arrived about half an hour before the 5pm start at the flat and sheltered promised land of Pegwell Bay Country Park. As we killed time before the start, Josie decided that the finish funnel (which consisted of some very attractive coloured discs) wasn’t where she would like it to be, and so set about re-placing it. She hadn’t finished this task when the time came once again to take to the buggy, and so she was a little dischuffed and had her first and only grizzle of the day as we made our way to the start. The grizzle didn’t last long, though, as it became clear that, despite my aching legs, Pegwell Bay was indeed flat and fast. Early feedback on the pace was provided about 1km into the course as Josie turned to look up at me with a huge smile and giggle and squealed: “Dad-dee, weeee!”. With that, the fatigue fell from my no longer failing legs, and we pushed on to our fastest 5km time of the day (just!) of 23:19.

Despite missing the first leg of Kent’s five-run Longest Day, Josie and I proudly took our place in the commemorative group photo at the end of a brilliant day out. I really can’t recommend enough to any parkrunners with little ones the joy of buggy parkrunning, something that is made possible by the welcoming nature of the parkrunning community and the real family feel at every parkrun. This was something that was magnified four-fold on The Longest Day, and perhaps unless someone tells us differently, we can claim 20km of buggy parkrunning at an average pace of 4:45 per km in one day as a parkrun record?

Twitter: @OtherMikeWeed
Blog: http://TheOtherMikeWeed.wordpress.com

2 comments:

  1. A great effort Mike. Sounds like a lot of fun.

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  2. Brilliant report and well done on all of those parkruns with a buggy and Josie!! I used to find it hard work just running 1 x 5k with a buggy!!

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