parkrun tourism packing list

by Lolly

There’s a list picture that often does the rounds on social media, with the things runners have to take to parkrun (their barcode) vs the things the core team have to take (lots and lots of stuff). The idea being that given the long list of things required to make a parkrun happen, asking a runner to take a barcode along is pretty reasonable.

While technically true, and a good point to make, it is slightly amusing given how long it always takes us to get stuff ready to go out to parkrun. And how often we forget to take something vital. So with that in mind, here is the list of stuff we (should) pack when we go parkrun touring.

Running buggy/ies

Pretty essential. Just one if Lani is definitely going to run. Two if she definitely isn’t or isn’t sure. As the item that the car is packed around, we’ve always remembered this one.

Buggy rain covers

Fairly critical if it’s raining, windy, or even just plain cold. These have been left behind on too many occasions. Special mention to the time we took the wrong rain cover for the buggy we had.

Mobile phones

Used for so many things. Double checking the post code and directions. Playing music in the car to keep the kids happy. Using Google Maps when we don’t trust the car sat nav. Answering any questions about the course that pop up on the way. Taking photos. Always remembered, but we have occasionally had to charge in the car.

Garmins

Kind of obvious here. We’re fairly good at remembering these, but have forgotten on occasion.

Ventolin inhaler

So a responsible asthmatic should carry their reliever inhaler at all times. Particularly when exercising. Sadly I don’t seem to be that responsible, so I need to work on that.

Correct type of running shoes

Ideally taking a spare just in case of last minute change of plan. We’ve definitely had a few misses on this one lately.

Runners waiting for parkrun to start
I spy with my little eye… road shoes on a hybrid course
Nappy changing bag

Kind of self-explanatory when you have a toddler. Probably the single most forgotten item on this list, which has lead to a fair few leaking nappies by the time we arrive back home.

Nappies and wipes

Yeah, we took an empty changing bag one time…

Water bottles

Between travelling and running there’s a lot of need for water. We rarely take enough for everyone, which leads to a lot of groggy Saturday afternoons.

Snacks

Depending on timing this could be for before the run as well as after. As with water, we should take more.

Money

For car parking, cafe, and post-parkrun adventures. We usually remember some form of money, but don’t always remember to check we have change.

Tissues

Between the four of us, someone almost always has at least a bit of a cold. Bizarrely, even though this is something we could keep in the car (or the elusive changing bag) all the time, we rarely have them.

Contact lenses

Running wearing glasses is just not as comfortable, and is a pain when it rains. Usually put them in before leaving the house, but sometimes take them with us for longer drives. Or sometimes just forget.

Running gloves

When it’s cold, buggy running without gloves is pretty painful. I should know, I’ve done it when I’ve forgotten to pack them. Now I’ve (finally) worked out to store my gloves in the buggy pockets.

Suitable layers for the kids

Again, particularly when it’s cold. Remembering that a kid sat in a buggy is not going to warm up when running is pretty important. We find puddle suits good for blocking both wind and rain. That said, we’ve had a fair few times when we could have done with taking more layers.

Child in running buggy wearing parents' jumpers
Possibly we had to supplement her layers with our jumpers…
Wellies

Essential if you’re taking kids out in the rain, or anywhere with decent exploring potential. Also pretty useful if you’re buggy running through muddy puddles on Christmas Day and you don’t want your son’s shoes to get covered. Or they would have been, anyway.

Bib and kids cutlery

To make post-parkrun breakfast that little bit easier. I think we’ve remembered these once.

Change of clothes

If we’re going somewhere after and don’t want to be in our running kit. We’re fairly good at remembering this when required, but typically miss at least one item.

Oh, and of course…

Our barcodes

The only thing we actually double check before getting in the car (looking at this list, maybe we should check other stuff too). Even if Lani is intending to go in the buggy we still take hers. We haven’t yet forgotten to take our barcodes with us on tour, which I’m extremely grateful for.
I did once commit the parental cardinal sin of not taking Lani’s barcode to junior parkrun. Having spent the whole event dreading the attitude I would get all day, she cheerfully met me at my marshal point at the end and announced that the people had written her name down. The parkrun purist in me was mortified, but the rest of me was so so so thankful.


Special mention to hoodies, which we usually wear before and after running. Not something that we have to remember to pack, as we wear them when we head out the door. They are something we have to remember to bring home though. Which we sort of failed to do the first time we went to Minehead.

So there we have it, our list of things to take. Or probably our list. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m pretty forgetful, and so there’s probably something else I’ve forgotten to mention…

3 things from last week

by Lolly
Being ill sucks

I had a pretty bad cold, which by the time we did Southwick Country parkrun meant that even running with Lani wiped me out. The cold started to get quite chesty, so I did the only sensible thing for an asthmatic – keep on top of inhalers and don’t run. Which was pretty painful for last week as we were in Center Parcs, which is one of my favourite ever places to run. But ultimately worth it, as I recovered pretty quickly considering how bad my lungs felt at one stage.

Step counts (or lack there of)

I always do a lot of walking at Center Parcs, and last week was no exception. Particularly given the lack of running, and the fact that our toddler mostly only slept when in the back carrier. I used to have a Garmin Vivoactive for tracking my steps, but after 3 years of service the strap broke at the end of last year. Ever since I’ve been putting off the decision of what to replace it with. Last week that really annoyed me, as I would have loved to see my step count for some of the days. So now I need to actually decide. Do I get a new simple fitness tracker watch? Do I get a fitness tracker watch I can use GPS with as well? Or do I go all out and replace my Garmin Forerunner 220 with something that does everything? Any comment suggestions much appreciated!

Running where you love

Happily my reluctant resting meant that my lungs had just about recovered in time for me to run on Thursday evening – our last night of holiday. I thought up a route with some of my favourite paths in, and headed out for 2 and a half of the most enjoyable miles I’ve run in quite a while. It was such an enjoyable experience that, when we decided it would just be me running parkrun on Saturday, I chose to go to Killerton. The trees were totally worth it. Hopefully I can keep getting enough runs in places I love that I can motivate myself to keep training.

This path is genuinely one of my favourite things about Center Parcs. Which is probably a bit weird…

Butleigh MT 10k: race report

by Ben

I previously ran this race in both 2017 and 2018, and described the course in the 2018 report, so I won’t go into too much detail again.

After starting my Somerset Series campaign last weekend at the BHAM Trail 10k, it was a back-to-back week of racing, with the Butleigh multi-terrain race coming the following weekend. In between, we had a week at Center Parcs, which was a lovely family holiday, but I’m not all that convinced that the nice meals out and the various activities were all that conducive to race preparation!

As I hadn’t signed up in advance, I arrived suitably early in order to register on the day. And by “suitably early”, I really mean far too early! It was basically just me and the marshals for about quarter of an hour. Registration (once it opened) was nice and straight-forward, and I was soon back in the car listening to a podcast while I waited for other people to arrive. Namely, Matt B, who was bringing my new club vest. A midweek transfer from Running Forever RC to Minehead RC had gone through somewhat quicker than I was expecting!

I’ll admit, pulling on the blue vest of Minehead felt pretty odd after five years of the red and white of Running Forever. (The vest is also a little too big, which is unfortunate. Maybe a hot wash or two?) Still, part of the reason that I made the switch was borne out at the race: there was one other Running Forever member, someone that I don’t know that well, compared to a group of seven of us from Minehead.

I’m lacking in club stash. (And yes, this was a post-race photo that I’ve included pre-race.)
Race

Given my cold, I opted to take it pretty easy from the outset; though my splits don’t make it appear that way. I ran an almost identically paced first mile as in each of the last two years, but bear in mind that it was so much firmer this year. So while my time might have been about the same, the amount of effort required for that time was far less. In fact, over the first four miles, I was nearly 45 seconds quicker than last year. My final two miles brought me back to almost exact parity. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I let runners flow past me early on, content to run my own race. Unsurprisingly, because of the conditions, I ran a huge PB on the ‘Up to Reynolds Way’ Strava segment. In previous years, this has been a quagmire of a field, but this year, it was completely solid, resulting in a 26-second improvement. Despite this, it was one of the sections I struggled with; anything uphill meant that I slipped back. I soon found that while I could ‘cruise’ without too much issue, pushing that little bit harder just wasn’t possible, my chest didn’t allow me to step up that extra gear.

Looping around the first field. The t-shirt was possibly a bit of a mistake, but I was worried that if my run was quite slow, I might get cold.

I held pace through the middle section of the race, a combination of descents and flat fields, but the second, long, climb was a real struggle. I slipped back a few positions early on, and could hear more footsteps further up. I glanced back and saw a few runners behind me, but somehow I managed to only let one through. By this stage, around four and a half miles in, with around two to go (another long “10k”), my competitive instincts were straining. Although I was limited by my chest, I was no longer just taking it easy. I was pushing as much as I felt I could, trying to keep hold of positions if I could. I went past a runner that I’d been keeping pace with for a little bit, but then let a Langport runner through. I tried to match pace with the Langport runner, and found that I could do well enough. As the course dropped down out of the woods, I flew back past him again, but not for long, as he overtook me on the subsequent flat.

From there on, the final three-quarters of a mile, things stood pretty equal. The Langport runner eased away from me, while Verity (a fellow Minehead runner) was closing in behind me. I ended up beating her by a couple of seconds, but had the race gone on for another 50 metres, I wouldn’t have had much of a chance!

I need to work out the race number alignment thing…

The results haven’t been posted yet, so I don’t know what position I finished in. I normally wouldn’t have raced with a cold like this, but given that Lolly and I both want to complete the Somerset Series this year, we can’t really afford to miss too many. My position isn’t going to be amazing, but it’s a pretty small field, so hopefully it won’t have done too much damage. Importantly, that’s two races under my belt already, with another couple hopefully coming in May.

  • Did I enjoy this race? Today: not really, it wasn’t much of a “race” for me.
  • Would I do this race again? Yes. This was the third year in a row, and I can’t see any reason I won’t be back next year.
  • What’s next? The Wambrook Waddle on 12 May, which I raced in 2016 and 2017, and Lolly ran in 2015. Lolly has the Glastonbury 10k the week before, which she ran in 2015, and I ran in 2016. (She better get training!)

BHAM Trail 10k: race report

by Ben

The BHAM Trail 10k was a new one in the Somerset Series for this year. They had held their first event in 2018, but it had passed me by (and, who am I kidding, if it’s not in the Somerset Series, I’m not really interested!) BHAM Runners are based in Bower Hinton, Ash and Martock on the Somerset Levels. The Somerset Series already has two races in close proximity, the Ash Excellent Eight, and the Town Tree Trail 10k. The Tin Tin Ten, which is sadly no longer running, used to be just a couple of miles away too.

I hadn’t done a great deal of research before the race, but I did have a quick look at a Strava summary from someone that ran it last year, and discovered that while it was mostly flat (which is to be expected on the Levels) it did start with a downhill, and correspondingly finished uphill. Even so, it totalled less than 250 feet of elevation, so nothing too concerning there. Beyond that, I didn’t really know what to expect.

As usual, I’ll get my excuses in early. I’d been running well this year, building back towards full running fitness, which culminated with my 20:00 at the Street 5k in February. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter I fell over while running on the Quantocks. Then I got shingles. Then I got the diarrhoea and vomiting bug. Happy times. I ended up missing around five weeks of training, and have only had two weeks back so far.

Race day

Parking was a military operation; we were neatly squeezed into a little trading estate. It was a short walk from there to Bower Hinton Farm, which served as the Race HQ. It was a little disappointing that there only appeared to be one porta-loo (plus a porta-urinal). The pre-race instructions had mentioned that there were toilets at the car park, but when I asked the car park marshals, they directed me to the farm.

Timings meant that I ended up missing my warm-up, which was a little unfortunate, but ultimately, I’m not in the kind of form where it’s going to make much of a difference. (The link between warming up and injury reduction is inconclusive, but the links with improved performance are far more apparent.) The children’s race was ran at 9:30, before the adult race (due to start at 10:10) which meant that the race briefing for the 10k doubled up as the prize ceremony for the children’s races, which was a nice touch to make sure that the children got a good crowd. Awarding children model grenades was less suitable, I felt. I get the obvious link between a grenade and the cartoon BHAM! explosion logo that the club use, but while it is fine for the main 10k, it felt inappropriate for the children. But hey, call me Generation Snowflake.

Race

With the race briefing complete, we bimbled over to the start line. It quickly became apparent that there weren’t that many of the typical front-runners. This wasn’t too surprising, as the race was held on the same day as the Taunton Half Marathon. Despite my expectations of struggling somewhat, I lined up in the second row from the front, and with little fanfare, we were set off.

Burnham’s Matt Powell was chuffed with a front-row start! Credit: Derek McCoy

After a short and relatively inconsequential climb, we dropped downhill for the first half mile of the race, and I mostly just let myself off the leash to have fun. The initial back-and-forth position changes went on as we worked ourselves out, but I quickly shuffled into tenth. A top-ten finish would be great, but I didn’t much fancy my chances of holding onto it. The early stages of the race involved a number of narrow muddy paths which were pretty slippery after the recent rain, and I could hear the footsteps closing in behind me as we navigated them. The narrowness of the paths meant that the runners behind couldn’t pass me, and I gained a bit more ground as we crossed a couple of stiles shortly after.

The stiles marked the beginning of the more traditional fare for a race on the Levels; running around the edges of fields. With this came plenty of room for passing, and it wasn’t long before I’d dropped a couple more positions into twelfth. At this stage, around a mile-and-three-quarters in, I was worried that the rest of the race might be a slow progression of other runners easing past me, but despite regular and frequent glances over my shoulder, I seemed to be holding onto twelfth okay.

I need a shave. Credit: Derek McCoy

After the early mud, most of the rest of the course was relatively firm through the fields. At around the three-mile mark, we came out onto the road for a few hundred metres before turning off, back into another field. That was the only significant road section of the race; another couple lasted less than a hundred metres each. The field after was perhaps the toughest section of the race. It was horribly uneven and leg-sapping: I can only imagine how much worse it would have been with a bit more rain!

More fields, more stiles, all good stuff. The aid station (which was somewhere during all this, I really can’t remember where), was dubbed the ‘Claire Station’ as all the volunteers there were named Claire. I didn’t take a drink; I was struggling a little, but water wasn’t going to do much! The only significant climbs of the race were both at the end; a climb up to a residential area on the edge of Bower Hinton at just over five-and-a-half miles, which wasn’t too bad, and then another at about six-and-a-quarter miles, which was.

Yes, six-and-a-quarter miles. This was a long 10k. So long in fact that it was closer to 11k! I had continued to glance over my shoulder, but the expected rush of runners passing me hadn’t happened. Until that last hill. Nicknamed ‘Cripple Hill’, it certainly had the expected effect on me. After managing to run the lower section, I ground to a walk soon after the cheering spectators. I felt nauseous, faint, all the great stuff. It felt like I was walking forever; a pair of runners went past me, and then a third just as I got back up to a jog. I managed to drag a sprint finish out of the reserves to get myself back into fourteenth at the end.

Flying feet during my brief sprint to regain 14th. Credit: the Burke family

A nice medal and goody bag awaited at the finish. A couple of biscuits, a bag of Haribo and a drinks bottle, along with a good quality medal made this race great value at £12. The good value continued at the cake stall: two cakes for 50p, plus a hot drink for the same again – bargain! We hung around long enough for Matt B to receive his bronze grenade for third place. It turns out that if you press the lever, it beeped and made an exploding noise!

Overall, I summarised this race on my Instagram post: “Harder than it should have been today, but to be honest, that’s just the difference between where my head thinks I should be, and where my fitness currently is. Nice course, but leg-sapping terrain in parts. Can’t complain at 14th overall, 13th male. Somerset Series campaign started.

  • Did I enjoy this race? Yes.
  • Would I do this race again? Absolutely.
  • What’s next? The Butleigh MT 10k next Sunday, which I ran in both 2017 and 2018.

parkrun tourism: Southwick Country parkrun

by Lolly

In our list of South West parkruns ordered by travel time from home (yes, we have one of those), certain events are marked out with how far they are from other key locations. For example, for anything in Cornwall we’ve recorded the travel time from Ben’s parents’ house. Southwick Country parkrun is noted as being local to Center Parcs, and so has been an obvious choice to tick off 3 times previously. Only on one holiday Ben was injured, on another we left so early we ended up going to Melksham instead, and on another we just wanted a lie in. So trip number 4 to Longleat Center Parcs it was…

Southwick Country parkrun is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in Southwick Country Park near Trowbridge in Wiltshire. Amusingly, in the very short journey there we travelled from Wiltshire into Somerset and back into Wiltshire, reminiscent of our slightly longer journey to Henstridge Airfield. We were able to park in the free car park, although grabbed one of the last spaces. As we assembled the buggy we could hear a 5 minute warning for the first timers’ briefing, which is always reassuring that you’re in the right place.

Sure enough, entering the park revealed a mass of runners assembling in a buzz of activity, and I had fun playing ‘spot the Tikiboos’. I knew from the course page that it was an almost 3 lap anti-clockwise course (Lani asked on the way there, I haven’t suddenly become organised), but the first timers’ briefing provided the clarification that you run past the statue twice and then finish next lap. The briefing also dished out ‘Top Tourist’ bibs to the two tourists who’d travelled furthest (needless to say, not us by a long way).

One day we will learn to take a decent start-line selfie…

Following a call to head to the start, we followed the crowd along the path. Quite a way along, as the start is actually a third of a mile along from the gathering/finish area. On arrival there was a call to be quiet for the briefing. Sadly, other than the odd spot of clapping, this was the only reason I was aware a briefing was taking place, as with no PA system (unlike at the gathering area) there was no chance of hearing from the back. As is traditional, I became aware that we’d started once I saw movement up ahead.

I was running with Lani again, and so Ben quickly sped past us with the buggy. The surface was pretty similar to Longrun Meadow – in fact there were quite a few similarities in terms of event feeling – and so I had to remind Lani to watch her footing with loose gravel. We quickly reached the first marshal, as the path turned the corner to be surrounded by trees. There were a few small paths off to the side on this section, but every time there was a nice obvious ‘straight on’ arrow to make the route clear.

After a pretty glimpse of some water, the path opened out to round some fields. A couple of the corners had mud on the inside, and unfortunately Lani took a tumble at one point. Luckily between me holding one hand and her breaking her fall with the other she was absolutely fine, and to the surprise of most around us got straight up and carried on running. She was definitely more cautious on that section after that though!

Definitely lap 1, as I was still cold enough to wear Ben’s hoodie

Another sweep round a field took us to the hill. Well, incline really. At the top was a cheery marshal and a cheery photographer – both very much appreciated when running with a 5 year old. Once at the top you get a clear view on the nice downhill stretch that takes you to the finish, or in this case down to start a full lap. At the bottom was the landmark statue, and yet more cheery marshals (so many fantastic marshals).

Statue!

At this stage all the route was familiar, having walked the section of path before the start. By this point we were being lapped pretty continuously, but happily the path was wide enough all the way round and the runners were friendly. We got a fair few shout outs for our leggings, which always goes down well. Unsurprisingly Lani started to get a bit tired, and so the stretches of walking increased a little.

Ben lapped us on the sweeping bends before the incline. This meant that by the time we reached the top of the hill I could see him parked up at the side near the bottom, giving Lani a much-needed boost in the form of a high five. The final lap was a little slower, but also a little easier as we didn’t have to make way for people lapping us (just the odd overtaker). Full credit to the marshals who were still just as supportive. And massive credit to the photographer, who was still there when we got to him on our last lap – so many photographers sadly disappear before everyone finishes.

Love the determination so much!

Just after the photographer, right at the top of the hill, was our personal cheering and high five squad. This just left the downhill to finish. One fantastic thing about our daughter is that, no matter how tired she is, she’s always up for a downhill sprint finish. All the volunteers around the finish area were great, and barcode scanning was pretty obvious in the field. Once scanned in, the four of us headed to the car to ditch the buggy.

Sibling high five!

We all headed to the packed-out cafe, managing to find a table in the outbuilding area. Thankfully there were toasted teacakes on offer, as Lani had already declared that was what she wanted. Ben opted for cooked breakfast, and I went for flapjack – something for everyone to enjoy before we headed back to enjoy the rest of our holiday.

Southwick Country parkrun feels very much a community event, and is very enjoyable for it. The atmosphere was so friendly, and it was definitely a positive addition to our day. And the array of high-quality photos means it will be even easier to look back on with a smile. I’m sure we’ll be back here at some stage, although next holiday we may just venture a little further afield…

3 things from last week

by Lolly
Couch to 5k graduation

Saturday was the graduation parkrun for my work couch to 5k group! Their hard work paid off, and all three had smiles on their faces at the end. Having 3 runners with very different paces was a bit of a logistical challenge. In the end the fastest ran with a friend, I ran with the middle runner until near the finish, then darted back to join the third. Honestly one of my proudest ever parkruns. And seeing the amount of effort they put in is making me want to kick myself into gear with training.

Home runs

I really enjoyed having a home parkrun weekend. All 4 of us walked to Longrun Meadow parkrun on Saturday for the graduation run (I ran and the others were cheering spectators). Then on Sunday we drove over for Lani and I to run junior (with the others cheering again). With most of our parkruns being on tour, and Lani preferring Heavitree juniors in winter, it’s been a long time since we had the local familiarity both days.

Your pace or mine?

I went running 5 times last week. Once was with our running club’s Beginners group (also running the half mile there and back), once was with my work group, once was parkrun and once was junior parkun. Other than the mile around club and the dart back at parkrun, my 3.5 mile run when I was off work last Monday was the only time I ran at my own pace. I am really really enjoying helping people discover a love of running, but definitely need to make more of an effort to run for me as well.

parkrun tourism: Haldon Forest parkrun

by Lolly

It’s not often that we consciously wait for a specific parkrun location to start up. Most of the time we’re wishing they would stop appearing so that we actually have some chance of catching up! But we’d been hearing rumours about Haldon Forest parkrun starting for ages, and the idea of a Forestry Commission parkrun so close to home sounded fantastic.

Haldon Forest parkrun, as the name suggests, is in Haldon Forest, which is around 15 minutes drive South-West of Exeter. The event started on 23rd February 2019, and so we intended to go visit the following week. Unfortunately Ben was ill that week. And then our son was ill the week after. And then I had day 3 of my CiRF course. Having not made it to a new-to-us event since Henstridge Airfield at the end of January, it was therefore with an air of desperation that we headed down to week 5 of Haldon Forest.

Uncharacteristically, we left a few minutes earlier than planned, and the 40 minute drive was really straightforward. It’s a pay and display car park, which thankfully you can pay by card for if you go to the Ranger’s Office (we might have forgotten change). While Ben set the buggy up, I took the kids off to the toilets – or to be precise the row of portaloos opposite the cafe.

Getting to the start requires heading out the path back near the car park entrance, across the road, and then along another path. Definitely somewhere to allow yourself a little extra time to arrive. The excitement of being in a forest started to bubble, and the kids had a little explore while we waited for the briefing.

Who would choose to stand still and wait when there’s a forest to explore?

The run briefing was an all-in-one, which isn’t uncommon for newer events with lots of newbies and visitors. The run director stood up on a bank and had a megaphone, so was both visible and audible which always helps. The course was described to us as one small lap and one big lap, and there was also mention of a steep hill. Happily, Ben had the buggy and so I wasn’t too concerned.

The route starts on a nice wide compacted trail path, that soon starts descending with a sweeping turn. The trees sloping off to our right were a pretty impressive backdrop, and it really felt like setting out on an adventure. We continued on the same path until just over half a mile in, where we met a cheery marshal who pointed us up another path. Up being the operative word, as it’s a short sharp climb on looser terrain. One of those times I was grateful of having a 5 year old as an excuse to walk.

At the top of the hill was another marshal, and one of my favourite little sections as the path twisted through the trees. This section was also part of the Zog trail (although I assume in reverse), which gave a few extra things for us to spot. Shortly after a tree ‘tunnel’, the trees opened out and stunning views appeared, including across to what I assume is the sea. As we re-entered the forest, the first runners started to lap us. The path was a little uneven and twisted downhill, but Lani suggested we should stick to running on the left in case people needed to get past. Clearly parkrun etiquette starts at a young age!

The bottom of the hill saw the end of the short lap, with the faster runners heading right to the finish and us heading left to start the big lap. At this stage we were 1.2 miles in, which threw me a little as in my head short laps are less than a mile for some reason. The lap was the same, albeit slower due to tired 5 year old, until the cheery marshal, who this time directed us to continue further along the main path.

After another third of a mile of being asked if every tiny path was the one we needed to take, we got to the marshals for the turn off. This hill path was wider and better surface than the first, but it was also much longer. Good thing the setting was so beautiful. At the top there was a slight downhill, although this didn’t register as much as the large number of dogs that were with us on the path at this point – it got a bit crazy.

Soon enough though we rejoined the first lap and found ourselves back by the Zog signs. We admired the views again (I’m kicking myself for not getting my phone out to take photos), and as we re-entered the forest got a cheer and high five from the other half of our touring party. Once back down the hill, we turned right to top up the 3 miles to 5k, and headed across the finish line.

The winner of ‘best face’ is pretty clear here.

After chatting a little at the finish, we walked back to the road and then past the car park to by the cafe again. Barcode scanning was well signed, and there was also someone by the scanners handing out information sheets on how to volunteer and the roles available. I think this is a great idea to raise awareness, although you obviously need to be careful to make it clear that volunteering is still voluntary.

By the time we were back the cafe was packed out. This didn’t make a difference for us, however, as we had to head straight back to Taunton to meet some family we hadn’t seen for far too long. If we’d had more time we would definitely have stayed for some food and to go out exploring.

Overall it’s fair to say we all loved this parkrun, and are definitely planning to go back when the opportunity arises. We did get a comment from one of the volunteers at the finish that it’s not good for children to run this one frequently due to the compacted nature of most of the surface, but given the variety Lani is exposed to it isn’t too much of an issue for us.

Very much a happy return to touring.

An apology to the Street 5k

by Ben

Dear the Street 5k,

We first met in December 2014. You were experienced and had enjoyed some of the best that the area had to offer. I’d had a few clumsy fumbles with parkrun and thought I knew what I was doing. Brash, I thought you’d be the ideal partner for me to show off what I was made of. You took me on, roughed me up, and tossed me back out again.

Spurned and embarrassed, I was quick to judge you harshly. Whenever anyone mentioned you, I was unkind, saying nasty things. I said that you had too many laps, that your corners were too sharp, too slow, too much of a drag on your momentum. I suggested that the entrance to Pizza Express was a gauntlet, that I; even I, had been lapped. The horror. As time went on, my memories of you got harder. The corners got sharper, the laps duller, and it was even your fault that it was a cold night.

For four years I avoided you. During this time, I got a bit more experience. Heck, let’s be honest, I got around a bit. I had a fairly regular thing going with the Yeovilton 5k (one lap, gentle corners…) for a while. I tried flat, bumpy, short, long, dirty, clean, the whole shebang.

Around, and around, and around, and around, and around.

So, four years more experienced, I came back. A bit more mature, a bit less cocky. And, well… you’re not so bad. Sure, you’ve got five laps. All the better for pacing myself, keeping myself under control. Yeah, some of the corners are quite sharp. But at least you don’t have any of those 180 degree out-and-back cones, so it’s easy enough to maintain momentum by taking a wider line. Pizza Express – I’m not sure if they even have any customers?!

Cap in hand, I have to say sorry. Sorry I judged you so harshly. Sorry I blamed my shortcomings on you. I had a good time; shall we do it again sometime?

Yours,

Ben

Ben’s training diary: w/c 4 February 2019

by Ben

This week was always going to be tough. Lolly was away from home for two nights, Tuesday and Wednesday, and also had her Coaching in Running Fitness course over the weekend, meaning that I had sole parental responsibility for the kids for a fair chunk of the week. Given that I’d built my mileage back quite quickly, this seemed like an ideal week to ease off a little bit and take a “recovery week”.

Tuesday: Seaton coast path

I had meant to get out for a run on Monday, but it just didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. Knowing that Lolly was leaving early Tuesday evening, this only left me with Tuesday, otherwise I’d have to wait until Thursday evening. Even on a lower-mileage week, that would be a bit late for my first run of the week!

This one really did push things fine. Work went on a bit longer than expected, but I managed to get changed and out for four miles out and back along the coast from Seaton. I didn’t really have time for anything more – sure, I could have squeezed an extra mile in if I’d stuck to the roads, but where’s the joy in that?! Conditions were pretty awful, the ground was really wet and slippery after the snow at the weekend, and it was lightly raining and misty, so visibility was bad too! The first and last kilometre of this run were on road, which might be part of the reason I managed a 9:08/mile average pace, though I’m honestly surprised to see that even my slowest mile was 9:42, which given the mud… I’m very happy with!

The views were… well, actually, the views weren’t.
Friday: Five miles general aerobic

This was just one of those runs where things just didn’t feel quite right. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was. I had an ulcer on the edge of my tongue which was very painful, and I possibly hadn’t eaten or drunk as much as I should have done. It also affected my breathing slightly, so maybe I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Or maybe it was something else completely. But it just wasn’t great. I’d initially planned to go out at a decent pace, probably slightly sub-8:00/mile, and then push harder in the middle for a Strava segment effort. (Not for CR, which I’d have had no chance at, just because it was a good excuse for a ‘push’ in the middle of my run.

All those plans went out the window after the first mile; I’d just about managed 8:20, and thereafter continuing at around 9:10/mile felt tough enough. I still managed the five miles that I’d planned though, so no major issues.

Sunday: Seven miles ‘long’

Once Lolly was back from her course, I headed pretty much straight out for my last run of the week. Given that it was Sunday evening and we hadn’t had dinner yet, I couldn’t go too long, so I settled on “6 to 8 miles”. I hadn’t planned a route at all, so figured I’d just work it out as I went along. My first mile was the quickest, an 8:39, but after that I settled into the 8:50 to 9:05 range pretty comfortably. I ended up doing 7.11 miles, so pretty much smack in the middle of my target. Nothing too interesting about this run!

Weekly summary

The week went more or less as I’d expected. With everything going on, it was tough to find much time to get out for runs, but I managed to do three, and I clocked up 16 miles, which is sufficient for a “recovery week” style plan. I’d have been happier if I’d been closer to 20 miles, but I can’t be silly about it.

Next week, the plan is to get the mileage back up towards 30 miles, and hopefully incorporate the Street 5k on Wednesday as a bit of a time-trial to see where I’m at. It is far from my favourite race, as a five-lapper with sharp right-angle bends, but I’m pretty eager to see how I’m doing.

Ben’s training diary: w/c 28 January 2019

by Ben

So last week, I set myself a couple of targets to try and prevent myself from feeling so under pressure as I had done:

  • Get out for a run on a Monday or Tuesday.
  • Have a training plan coming into the week, rather than just making things up ad hoc.

I’ll approach these in reverse order: I did not have a training plan for the week; I pretty much just made things up ad hoc. Sure, I had some vague ideas about how I might manage to hit 25 miles for the week, but nothing specific. On the other hand, I did manage to get out for a run on Monday or Tuesday. So, mini-yay!

Tuesday: RFRC Trail Run

These days I probably run more with Minehead RC than with Running Forever RC, despite the latter being my first-claim club. So it was nice to be able to pop across town to catch up with some of my RFRC club-mates, and head out on a head-torch trail run. This is only the second completely night run that I’ve done with the club, but unlike when I do it alone (when it seems eerie and weird), I mostly just forget that it’s actually dark at all. The effect of group running is miraculous sometimes!

A handsome bunch!

We headed out on a very muddy and slippery route that headed over Cotlake Hill, one of my favourite local routes. I had a few good chats with various people, and enjoyed the route, though I couldn’t have really told you where we were most of the time in the dark! We clocked up just under six miles in just over an hour, which is a pretty good pace for the group at night. For me, I wasn’t at all fussed about pace on the run, just getting some miles in early in the week: mission accomplished.

Thursday: 5.8 miles ‘steady’

This should really have been a gentler run, but with an amber weather warning in place for snow and ice, which was apparently due to come in at 17:00, I needed to get a wriggle on as I went out at quarter past four. This was a bit of a stupid run – not that I was running in an amber weather warning, but that I had decided to run out on country roads in the foothills of the Quantocks during an amber weather warning. It was lightly snowing as I ran, and had it been heavier, I could have been in a bit of trouble getting back, especially as I was just wearing road shoes. But anyway…

This was a pretty decent paced run. I covered the 5.8 miles at a pace of 8:10 per mile on average, with a couple of ‘grade adjusted paces’ of 7:47 and 7:22 for miles two and three. I can’t really complain about too much on this one; I felt pretty good.

Saturday: Killerton parkrun

I wrote about this in another blog post, but as usual, I’ll address my performance a bit more closely. Having not run at Killerton in over four years, I couldn’t really remember too much about the course (except that it was mostly off-road, and was a net-downhill). I shot off far too fast early on, but then settled in with a small group, which helped me to control my pace for pretty much the whole rest of the run. Despite the snow and ice, conditions weren’t too bad to run in. There were a few icy puddles to negotiate in a couple of sections of the course, but otherwise the weather had mostly firmed the ground up a little.

A sprinkling of snow remained, though it was a bit more than that in a couple of places!

I never pushed myself too hard during the run, but I did stretch my legs a little bit more towards the end, managing to pass another runner in the last field, and then keep ahead as we approached the finish. I beat my previous time at Killerton by 16 seconds, and comparing my two Strava records, it looks like most of that was in the first kilometre; my splits for kilometres two, three and four are practically identical.

I was chuffed to equal my time from Penrose parkrun on New Year’s Day of 21:21. Penrose is pretty much a flat road course, so to achieve the same time off-road (even bearing in mind the net-downhill) is a good achievement.

After finishing the run, I headed around as part of a group of six for a cool down loop of the whole course again. The pace was a fair bit quicker than I would have run for a cool down, coming in at 7:44 per mile, but it was just nice to have company (and people who knew the route). The mileage was pretty necessary, as while I’d got out a couple of times in the week, I knew that I was a little behind target again.

Sunday: MRC Relay Leg One Recce

After running with organised recces of leg three (which I’m not running) and leg two (which I’m not running), and going out on my own for an out-and-back run of half of leg one, it was good to get a proper recce of the route done. I feel like I’ve got the second half of the route, which I’ve now run twice forwards and once backwards, settled pretty well. I want to run the first half, or at least the part getting out of Minehead, again if I can, just so that I’m confident on the day.

See: eight of us.

The run itself was done at a pretty chatty pace. Seven of us started, and we met Nigel about halfway along to take us up to eight. It was nice to get a bit of clarity on a couple of parts of the route, where people had gone different ways on different recces, but mostly just good to run and chat. We did 8.2 miles at a moving pace of 9:53 per mile (or 11:53 per mile overall), but as with the other group run earlier in the week, this wasn’t about the pace.

Weekly summary

I was really pleased with this week overall. Two of the runs were very gentle paces, but that’s really not a problem at the moment. The other two both pushed the pace on a little bit more, particularly the parkrun, and show that I’m progressing. Running is starting to become a habit again.

Amazingly, this January has become my highest mileage January ever, just surpassing 2014. I ran over 90 miles, and feel like I should have done more. I think this shows two things: firstly, I’ve actually done pretty well and getting back running again, and should be able to press on nicely through February and March. Secondly, I’ve been putting myself under way too much pressure, feeling like I haven’t done enough. I need to seriously consider giving myself a bit more of a break: both mentally and physically. A recovery week is probably well needed before I introduce too much speed work.