Author Archives: Lolly

parkrun tourism: Street

For the list-orientated type, parkrun tourism is a veritable treasure trove of opportunities. We’ve mentioned in the past our (very) long-term goal of becoming South West regionnaires (that’s every parkrun in the South West region), but along the way there are different counties to complete. When we did Shepton Mallet back in January it completed our Somer-set, but with a parkrun collection you’re never complete for long.

Street parkrun started in May 2018, and became the 3rd parkrun to feature on Longrun Meadow‘s “Other parkruns nearby” list. We’ve had it on our to-do list ever since, but it’s risen in priority since the start of the summer holidays as it requires neither the M5 or the A303 for us to get there. After 2 failed attempts (kids poorly, adults poorly), this weekend we were extra determined to make it.

Uncharacteristically, we actually left a few minutes earlier than planned. 5 minutes into the drive we realised my Garmin was still on charge and so we went back to get it and ended up running a more familiar 5 minutes late. Street parkrun takes place in the playing fields of Strode College Sports Centre. We were initially unsure if the sat nav had taken us the right way, but happily saw the familiar collection of running kit at the other end of the car park.

First running buggy assembled, I took it (and our son) over to the start, hoping to catch at least a bit of the first timers’ briefing, while Ben stayed with Lani as she decided whether to run or go in the buggy. I found the briefing on the other side of the playing courts, and typically was too late to get much course information. The safety warning at the end for rutted ground was pretty crucial though, particularly with a buggy.

Backdrop of run

Apparently there was a view of a well-known landmark. I genuinely didn’t notice.

Handily, at the end of the briefing someone said hello to me – it turned out that Al who we know from Longrun Meadow was also visiting that day. He confirmed that the course was 3 laps of fields. Just as I was starting to get worried about timing, Ben and Lani appeared having made the decision of no buggy.

Everyone moved the short distance to the start, which was a reasonably wide area on the grass. The briefing covered the usual basics, with more emphasis on being careful with the ground conditions. The start was a nice clear air-horn sound, which meant it was easily audible at the back of the pack. Not that the back was very far away, thanks to the wide starting patch.

And so we were off and dodging obstacles. At least that’s what it felt like, with the usual shuffling of people finding position combined with a few sports-related fixings. I was happily surprised with how good the surface was underfoot, and more importantly for me under-wheel. We were quickly at our first 90 degree turn to go along the top of the field, and despite fears to the contrary I found enough width amongst everyone to swing round.

The course sounds pretty awful on paper. Round two sides of one field. Through a gap to the next field. Round 2 and a half sides of the field. Out and back in the middle of the field. Round the other 1 and a half sides of the field. Back through the gap. Round remaining 2 sides of first field. Do this again twice, then straight on to finish. See?  Really not appealing.

Course route

A map from my Strava. Because my route description could use some work.

Strangely, though, it works. One of the beauties of visiting different parkrun locations is you see the wide variety of ways that you can do 5k. Running with the buggy I found that the many turns broke it up into manageable sections. There was a slight gradient, and so for one side in each field I could relax a little as the buggy gained a bit of downhill momentum. It was a welcome let-off, as the rutted grass was otherwise relentless.

The back-and-forth nature of the course made it a very sociable event. It was easy for me to keep track of where Ben and Lani were, with having several reference points. There were also a surprisingly large number of marshals, with one at pretty much every turn. I don’t know if they will reduce the number slightly as the event beds in more, or if it’s felt the number is right. The marshals were very encouraging, several with jingle bells, and also helpful in pointing out the worst of the terrain.

Inevitably on a 3 lap course, I was lapped reasonably early on. I tried to stick obviously to one side, as I was a bit worried about the width in places. It all worked ok though, with one runner passing me on the narrowest bit with no issues. And I didn’t even take anyone out while going round the corners.

Running with buggy

At least he’s too young to ask if we’re nearly there yet

As is my standard, I’d saved a little for a faster finish. Unfortunately there was someone relatively close in front of me, and it became clear that if I kept going I would either hit them or the route markers, so I didn’t go as fast as I could have. The finish funnel was a little on the narrow side for a buggy, but wider than it first appeared.

I collected my finish token, and had a chat with the volunteers about my barcode placement (I keep it on an extra hairband in my hair). After a quick chat with Al, I headed to the car to pick up Lani’s barcode wristband, which had been left there in all the indecision. The ease of pushing the buggy across the playing courts instead of the grass added an extra spring to my step.

All that was then left to do was chat to some more people near the finish, cheer people in, and wait to watch Ben and Lani finish. Which they did 4 minutes faster than the previous time Lani had done a 5k parkrun.

Photo of Lani and Ben

Determined finisher

For most of the year there is a cafe in the sports centre, but it was closed due the summer holidays. The other sports facilities were still available, including free to use showers. Unsurprisingly, though, we were in need of post-run refreshments. So we headed over to Clarks Village for food and shoe shopping.

Street parkrun was a pleasant surprise for me, and a good reminder that the paper description doesn’t mean everything. The community feel was particularly good for such a young parkrun. I’d be interested to see how the fields cope over the winter, and was definitely pleased that we went in such good conditions. We could well be back to this one though… probably the next time the kids grow out of their shoes!

Training Diary: 16-29 July

As seems to be typical for me, I don’t have any running goals at the moment. Well, technically, there are a couple of things I’d like to achieve, but they aren’t anything I’m specifically working towards. As Ben keeps telling me, the most important thing right now is to actually run. And I’m hoping that keeping a training diary will help motivate me to do that.

16 – 22 July

Wednesday – RFRC Club Run

I’m pretty sure that the last time I went on a normal club run it was 2015. I went with the combined groups 7 & 8 and hung out at the back in a sweeper-type role. There was a bit of stop/starting on the way out of town, and then some run/walking after one member of the group pulled a muscle, so not my fastest run. But it was nice to run and not need to remember a route. It was also the first time since the Easter Festival 10k that I’d run for an hour, so definite psychological boost.

Saturday – Longrun Meadow parkrun

The ‘getting out of bed’ part of running on a Saturday morning is rarely an issue for me, as I have two playful alarm clocks for that. Mostly it’s making sure that I’m motivated to go out that’s been my downfall of late. Still, I made it out in enough time to walk there, which always helps loosen my legs a bit. It was reasonably cool at the start, but quickly warmed up. Despite that, my gradual improvement in fitness gave me my fastest time on the new course, and a nerve-wracking wait for my result of 29:59.

Sunday – Junior parkrun & Quantocks

Probably the most regular running I do at the moment is the 2k of junior parkrun with my daughter. Often we also have my son in the buggy as well, but this week Ben was around to spectate. The main aim of this particular run is to make running as enjoyable as possible.

Afterwards, we drove up to Lydeard Hill car park. Ben took the kids for a walk and I went for a run to Wills Neck and back. I was really tired so it was tough going, but definitely nice to be running somewhere other than the middle of Taunton. On the way back to the car park I took a detour to try out some different paths, which was fun to be able to do. I always have to be wary of pushing myself too hard when I’m tired, but just under 3 miles turned out to be a pretty good compromise.

23 – 29 July

Oh, there isn’t a day sub-header. Yes, after a week of actually running, a week of no running followed. Illness is the nemesis of all runners. In my case, though, it’s generally other people getting ill that’s the issue, as it steals both my energy and motivation. The main thing is making sure I bounce back. Again.

Somerset (and surrounds) races in August 2018

Races and other running events in Somerset and surrounding area in August 2018.

This is a reference list of events we are aware of, not a list of recommendations. We have no affiliation with any event listed.

Races in Somerset and surrounds
  • 1st August – Haselbury Trail
    Crewkene Running Club’s 10k multi-terrain race around North Perrott, near Crewkerne
    Website
  • 4th August – Mendip Marauder
    Albion Running’s 30 mile and 50 mile multi-terrain races along the Mendip Way
    Website
  • 5th August – Totnes 10k
    Teignbridge Trotters’ 10 road race in Totnes
    Website
  • 7th August – Run Exe Summer 5k
    City Runs’ 5k road race in Exwick, Exeter
    Website
  • 8th August – Yeovilton Summer 5k Series
    Yeovil Town RRC’s road 5k in Yeovilton
    Website
  • 10th August – Forest Flyer
    Dawlish Coasters’ 5 mile multi-terrain race in Haldon Forest, near Exeter
    Website
  • 11th August – Summer Sessions (day 1)
    White Star Running’s multi-terrain 8 hour race near Dorchester
    Website
  • 12th August – Summer Sessions (day 2)
    White Star Running’s 5 mile and 10 mile multi-terrain races near Dorchester
    Website
  • 12th August – Salisbury 54321
    Half marathon, marathon and 10k multi-terrain races around Salisbury
    Website
  • 17th August – GWR Towpath Series Race 4
    Great Western Runners’ 10k towpath race from Ashton Gate, Bristol
    Website
  • 19th August – Two Tunnels 5k, 10k, half, marathon & 50k
    Relish Running Races’s tarmac 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon and 50k races in Bath
    Website
  • 26th August – Battle of Sedgemoor 10k
    Langport Runners’ road 10k near Langport
    Website
  • 26th August – Severn Bridge Half Marathon & 10k
    Half marathon and 10k road races over the Severn bridge (on closed motorway)
    Website
  • 27th August – Baltonsborough Road Races
    5 mile road race and fun runs around Baltonsborough, near Glastonbury
    Website
South West parkrun anniversaries

Because parkrun birthdays mean celebration and cake

 

Know an event that we’ve missed? Comment below, or Tweet us!

Somerset (and surrounds) races in July 2018

Races and other running events in Somerset and surrounding area in July 2018.

This is a reference list of events we are aware of, not a list of recommendations. We have no affiliation with any event listed.

Races in Somerset and surrounds
  • 1st July – Quantock Beast
    Quantock Harriers’ 5.7 mile multi terrain race around Fyne Court, Broomfield
    Website
  • 1st July – Bristol Race for Life 5k & 10k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k and 10k multi-terrain charity runs in The Downs, Bristol
    Website (5k), Website (10k)
  • 3rd July – Summer sunset 5 mile
    Aspire Running Events’ 5 mile multi-terrain race in Corston, Bath (event 2)
    Website
  • 3rd July – Run Exe Summer 5k
    City Runs’ 5k road race in Exwick, Exeter
    Part of the Run Exe Summer Series
    Website
  • 6th July – GWR Towpath Series Race 3
    Great Western Runners’ 10k towpath race from Ashton Gate, Bristol
    Website
  • 7th July – Ham & Lyme 100k/50k
    Albion Running’s 100k and 50k multi-terrain races between Ham Hill Country Park, Somerset and Lyme Regis, Dorset
    Website
  • 7th July – Cider Frolic
    White Star Running’s solo or team marathon (6km segments) in Blandford Forum, Dorset
    Website
  • 8th July – Two Tunnels 5k, 10k & half
    Relish Running Races’s tarmac 5k, 10k and half marathon races in Bath
    Website
  • 8th July – Bath Race for Life 5k & 10k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k and 10k multi-terrain charity runs in Bath
    Website (5k), Website (10k)
  • 11th July – Yeovilton Summer 5k Series
    Yeovil Town RRC’s road 5k in Yeovilton
    Website
  • 15th July – Frome Half Marathon (& 5k & 10k)
    Half marathon, 5k and 10k road races in Frome
    Website
  • 15th July – Taunton Race for Life 5k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k multi-terrain charity run in Taunton
    Website
  • 21st July – Bath Running Festival Omnium
    Relish Running Races’ combined sprint, obstacle, middle distance and endurance challenge in Bath
    Website
  • 21st July – Exeter Pretty Muddy 5k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k obstacle run in Exeter
    Website
  • 22nd July – Brean Down Challenge 5k/10k
    Aspire Running Events’ 5k and 10k multi-terrain races up Brean Down
    Website
  • 22nd July – Bath Running Festival trail races
    Relish Running Races’ 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon multi-terrain races
    Website
  • 22nd July – Dalwood 10kish
    Roughly 10k multi-terrain run around Dalwood, Axminster, Devon
    Website
  • 22nd July – Exeter Race for Life 5k & 10k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k and 10k multi-terrain charity runs in Exeter
    Website (5k), Website (10k)
  • 27th July – Kennet & Avon Canal 145 mile race
    Non-stop tow path race from Bristol to London
    Website
  • 28th July – Dorset Invader marathon
    White Star running’s multi-terrain marathon race in Blandford Forum, Dorset
    Website
  • 29th July – Seaview 17
    Minehead Running Club’s coast path run to Minehead
    Website
  • 29th July – Dorset Invader half marathon
    White Star running’s multi-terrain half marathon race in Blandford Forum, Dorset
    Website
South West parkrun anniversaries

Because parkrun birthdays mean celebration and cake

  • 28th July
    Blandford, 4th birthday (Website)
    Stonehouse, 2nd birthday (Website)

 

Know an event that we’ve missed? Comment below, or Tweet us!

Somerset (and surrounds) races in June 2018

Races and other running events in Somerset and surrounding area in June 2018.

This is a reference list of events we are aware of, not a list of recommendations. We have no affiliation with any event listed.

Races in Somerset and surrounds
  • 2nd June – Rainbow Run Bristol
    Children’s Hospice South West’s 5k colour run at Blaise Castle, Bristol
    Website
  • 3rd June – Crewkerne 10k
    Crewkerne Running Club’s 10k road race in Crewkerne
    Part of the Somerset Series
    Website, Blog posts from 2015 and 2017
  • 3rd June – Run the River 7.5k/15k
    Aspire Running Events’ 7.5k and 15k multi terrain races in Corston, Bath
    Website
  • 5th June – Run Exe Summer 5k
    City Runs’ 5k road race in Exwick, Exeter
    Part of the Run Exe Summer Series
    Website
  • 9th June – Rainbow Run Exeter
    Children’s Hospice South West’s 5k colour run at Westpoint, Exeter
    Website
  • 10th June – The Piddle Wood Plod
    Hydro Harriers’ 10k multi terrain race in the Piddle Wood, Taunton
    Part of the Somerset Series
    Facebook page
  • 10th June – Chew Valley 10k
    10k road race in Chew Valley
    Website, Blog post from 2014
  • 10th June – Yeovil Marathon & Heron Half Marathon
    Yeovil Town Road Running Club’s marathon and half marathon road races in Yeovil
    Website
  • 13th June – Yeovilton 5k
    Yeovil Town Road Running Club’s 5k road race in Yeovilton
    Part of the Yeovilton 5k summer series
    Website
  • 15th June – Run Exe Relays
    City Runs’ 4 x 4k team relay at Exwick Playing Fields, Exeter
    Website
  • 16th June – The Maverick inov-8 X Series Exmoor
    Maverick’s 15k, 21k and 42k multi-terrain races from Lynton, Devon
    Website
  • 16th June – The Conquest of Avalon
    Albion Runnings’ 30 mile and 10 mile multi-terrain races
    Website
  • 17th June – Martock 10k
    Immortal Sport’s 10k road race in Martock
    Website
  • 17th June – Race for Life Yeovil 5k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k multi-terrain run in Yeovil
    Website
  • 19th June – Summer sunset 5 mile
    Aspire Running Events’ 5 mile multi-terrain race in Corston, Bath
    Website
  • 20th June – Race for Life Weston-Super-Mare 5k
    Cancer Research UK’s 5k multi-terrain (including beach!) run in Weston-super-Mare
    Website
  • 23rd June – Cheddar Gorge Challenge Omnium
    Relish Running Races’ combined sprint, hill climb, middle distance and endurance challenge in Cheddar Gorge
    Website
  • 24th June – Cheddar Gorge Challenge
    Relish Running Races’ 6k, 10k, half marathon and marathon multi-terrain races in Cheddar Gorge
    Website
  • 23rd June – Giants Head Marathon & Sydling Hill Race 10k
    White Star Running’s hilly, multi-terrain marathon and 10k races in Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset
    Website
  • 24th June – Torbay Half Marathon
    Half marathon road race in Torbay
    Website
  • 30th June – Race for Life Bristol Pretty Muddy 5k
    Cancer Research UK’s muddy obstacle 5k run in Bristol
    Website
South West parkrun anniversaries

Because parkrun birthdays mean celebration and cake

 

Know an event that we’ve missed? Comment below, or Tweet us!

Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running 10k (2018): race report

Surprise! A race report that’s not from Ben. Well, not much of a surprise if you read Ben’s training update a few weeks ago, but still. It’s a bit of an understatement to say I haven’t been racing lately. My last race was in fact the Stoke Stampede, way back in December 2015. Rest assured, though, that not everything has changed. I mean, it’s taken me the best part of 4 weeks to write this one up.

I picked the Isle of Man Easter Festival of Running to be my race return way back near the start of 2017, while still pregnant. I’d never run it before (although Ben had in both 2014 and 2015), the route is right near my parents’ house, and the timing worked at just under a year after my due date. While I entered other races (although ultimately gave up my place for both), this was always my target.

The question being, then, what was my target? The first, and most important, target that I set myself was to finish the race with a smile on my face. I’d love to say I was happy to leave it at that, but like many runners I wanted a time goal. The obvious goal was to beat my time from the British 10k, which was my first post-natal race last time round. But my dream was to under an hour.

A month before the race, I headed to Burnham and Highbridge parkrun for a benchmark 5k. Clinging to my dream, despite all my training indicating I wasn’t fast enough, to me sub-30 was crucial. I crossed the line in 28:44.

But then it all went wrong. Between low energy levels (I’ve been on and off iron tablets for anaemia) and bad weather (snow in Taunton? seriously?) my next run wasn’t until 3 weeks later at Minehead parkrun. By the time I made it to the Isle of Man my confidence was low. And by the morning of the race (which is in the evening) I was also tired and unsure if I’d even take part.

Getting race kit ready

What does race kit look like again?

Happily for this post, I did indeed decide to take part. Ben walked me down to by the start, where the feeling of being part of a race instead of on the sidelines felt surreal. After the customary queue for the ladies loos, I had a chat to a few people before handing Ben my outer layers. The atmosphere at the start was great, which helped relieve a few nerves.

I’d mentally broken the race down into 5 parts: Port Erin, connecting roads, coast, climbing and home stretch. The course starts by heading out and then all the way back along the prom, before climbing up to the upper prom and through the village. I’d practised this section a few days before and was pleasantly surprised how much quicker it seemed to go with other runners and a supportive crowd.

Turning at the end of Station Road

Ah yes, this is how races work

Despite vaguely targeting my British 10k time, I decided to only look at my watch at each mile beep. Having felt run down earlier in the day, I was wary of pushing myself too hard. Mile 1’s pace of 9:42 was not only significantly faster than expected, it was only fractionally slower than 1 hour pace. Not great for my chances of thinking straight about my fitness levels!

Heading out of Port Erin, I started the section I’d written off as ‘filler’ miles. Once actually running, though, I realised how I would normally go out of my way to run along ‘country’ roads like these. (Ok, it’s technically an A road, but it was still nice). Around this point I found myself running near someone else with Tikiboo leggings, which was a nice extra focus. My watch beeped to tell me that mile 2 had been almost identical to mile 1.

I took the turn onto what can definitely be described as a country road, and started to get excited. As well as being a generally nice road to run on, glimpses of the sea started to appear. Yes, the race had started by the sea in Port Erin, but this was the bit I was really looking forward to.

As I crossed over to the pavement by the sea, I told myself to just enjoy the views. I’m kind of surprised I didn’t get a cricked neck from all the time I spent looking to the left. The weather was just perfect for lighting up the coastline. The route continues along the coast path as it splits from the road, and shortly after this was the 5k clock. I passed this at somewhere around 29:40; my second fastest 5k of the year and on a much tougher course. The only niggle being that I had another 5k to go. With a teeny tiny hill.

Running by the sea

I remember! You have to hop!

Happily, before that hill was more coast path. And a drinks station. More neck cricking commenced, as I ran past Port St May beach. The metal bridge-path known as The Catwalk followed. Perhaps strangely, this is one of my favourite places to run. Whether it was fatigue or simply enjoying the view, my pace for mile 4 had slipped. With the climb up still to come, there was realistically no chance that I would finish in under an hour. This realisation actually calmed the last nerves I had and steadied me for the effort.

The climb up through Port St Mary and out the other side lasts for just under a mile. To start with, the incline is reasonably gradual, as the route follows the high street. I was definitely starting to get tired, but kept plodding along. The turn off onto the back road to Port Erin brings the steepest part of the climb. It’s a section of road I know well, and an early decision to walk the very top as it rounded the corner was probably the only reason I kept running until then.

With the bulk of ascent completed, it was time to settle into a tired rhythm. The beep for 5 miles brought with it a new determination. My pace for the mile had been 10:50, but my overall pace was still just around 10 minute/miles. New race goal set.

At the perfect time for a motivation boost, my family were just along the road. A power-up high five from my daughter (a junior parkrun staple) set me nicely on my way to the end of the road. Turning the corner it all went downhill. Literally. Which is pretty nice 5 and a half miles into a 10k. Sadly I’m not all that confident at letting momentum take control of my running, but I managed to let go a little.

Back on the prom things were a bit chaotic. Nice evening weather on a bank holiday weekend had brought a fair few people out. And faster runners (which, let’s face it, most of the field were compared to me) were running up and down the road on cool downs. It was a bit of an obstacle course trying to get through.

Passing the start, there was just a small incline before the finish was in sight. I’d promised myself that I’d push for a fast finish even if no one was in sight. As it happens, I managed an overtake just before the end. The perfect finish to a very enjoyable and well organised race.

Good Friday 2017 photo

Good Friday 2017

Good Friday 2018 photo

Good Friday 2018

For the vast majority of us, running is all about personal achievement. And so in that spirit, I present my 10k time of 1:01:34 (9:54 min/mile). My personal best 10k as a mum-of-two, and my personal best returning-to-racing 10k.

And I finished the race with a smile on my face.

parkrun tourism: Minehead parkrun

I don’t have the best record at actually writing blog posts lately. My last 2 parkrun tourism posts are part-finished drafts (one of which I’m still hoping to finish, the other I’m hoping to re-visit soon), and the many ups and downs my running has taken over the last few months have been left undescribed. Minehead parkrun, though, I’m determined to write up now. If for no other reason than we didn’t write it up last time.

When planning our weekend of running, the idea of combining me doing a parkrun and Ben getting an interesting long run from the same location seemed a winner. Minehead was therefore an obvious choice. As the weekend approach, the weather saw our local Longrun Meadow advertised as a splash run for diehards only, and I began to worry about stormy winds.

Minehead parkrun is based on the prom at, you guessed it, Minehead. This was actually my second visit, as we went in the summer of 2016 not long after it had started. The event was plagued with teething issues, which we decided made a write up unfair, so I was keen to see how things were doing now.

The run is entirely based on the tarmac prom, and the route differs slightly to my first visit. Starting at the clock tower you head West (which due to the coast shape is also North in places) for about a third of a mile. The turn around point is a small path loop, so feels very natural. You then run back past the start and on for another quarter mile, before turning round a cone on a wide path. Back to the start, the route then repeats in full and then finishes with just the first out and back. So 2 full laps and 1 half laps up and down the prom.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Particularly on nice easy tarmac. Well, half of it was pretty easy. It was just the small matter of an Easterly wind. You know, on the coast. Running East into an East wind is not the easiest thing. What makes it even better is when there is sand on the path ready to be blown in your face. From speaking to one of the local runners, part of the reason for the course alteration was to reduce the distance running by the sand, so I am at least thankful for that!

Taken by Ben, from the comfort of the car.

This was a bit of a strange run for me personally. My last run had been 3 weeks previously at Burnham, when I’d gone all out to aim for (and manage to beat!) a target time. With no training in between and tough conditions it was never going to be perfect. But I’m really pleased to have averaged 10 minute miles. And the advantage of returning somewhere that I last visited 2 months pregnant is that I got my first course PB since New Year’s Day 2016.

I’ll be honest, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this run. The course is much improved for the small tweak, and though for me it will never match the scenery of Seaton it is definitely a more accessible prom event. The pre-run briefing was spot on, particularly in the conditions. And the volunteers were absolute legends, particularly the marshal at the turn around point who was somehow still smiling and cheering in the wind. Minehead parkrun has definitely made the leap to my recommend list.

Training Diary – w/c 11th September

Seeing as Ben is injured at the moment (again), he hasn’t been writing his usual training log updates. So I thought I would step in instead.

My ‘training’ situation is obviously a little different at the moment, as I’m looking to re-build all-round strength as well as get fitness back. In theory I’ve been working towards being able to run the Taunton 10k, but energy levels and split priorities mean that the base work just hasn’t been there.

In the interests of transparency, I should also point out that this was pretty much the best a week of exercise has ever gone for me.

Monday – Ballet Fit Class
Regular class for me that has been great for building strength. For this week we particularly focused on leg extensions (which I’m, uh, not great at) and back extensions (which, surprisingly, I’m not terrible at).

Tuesday – 1.6 mile run & Pole Class
So there will be a few raised eyebrows at this, but I’ve been doing a beginners’ Pole course for the last few weeks. I’ve never known anything to work every part of your body quite like this. I was pretty wiped and so Ben suggested I should head over early and go for a short run before hand to help me wake up. The wind and the rain (and probably the running) certainly did help and meant that I was at least semi-awake for the class. Notable bits of the class were learning single-climb squats (which I very much felt after) and slipping slightly while trying out a spin (which left a lovely line of bruises down my leg).

Wednesday – Rest Day
By which I mean I left my sofa for about 2 hours total. Considering I have a 5 month old at home with me, this is quite a feat I feel.

Thursday – 1.7 mile buggy run
Or, as I called it on Strava, “Tired buggy run”. Tired was definitely the theme for the week (or year). As I mentioned in my post about buggy running, I’m finding it pretty hard going. But it’s absolutely worth it for being able to get a bit of a run in.

Friday – Rest Day

Saturday – parkrun (2017 best)
We’d talked earlier in the week about me possibly doing parkrun somewhere we could then go out for the day, but when it got to Friday evening we were way too tired (there’s that word again). Waking up on Saturday I had a little strop about not wanting to trudge round Longrun Meadow, but got over myself and decided to go anyway. As I went to get my shoes out I realised it had rained during the week, so put my trail shoes on and crossed absolutely everything that there might be good puddles.
I was not disappointed. Barely a minute into the run I saw runners part in front of me, and a smile hit my face as I splashed right through the middle. Congestion is really not a thing when you’re surrounded by dodgers. Regular puddles gave me lots of little targets to aim for, which really helped with keeping going. I ran the whole thing, and got my fastest parkrun time since before I got pregnant. I really really do love puddles.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dunn

Sunday – Rest Day

I’d hoped to get out for a few miles, but for various reasons it just didn’t happen.

So there you have it, a snapshot of my week. Well, the bits that involve exercise at least. The balance of 2 classes and 3 runs is what I’m aiming for (albeit slightly more targeted runs), and so hopefully there will be more weeks like this in the near future.

Buggy beginnings

One of the things I’ve been asked most since I started back at parkrun is when we’ll be buggy-parkrunning with our son. And every time I’ve given the answer that buggy running is not recommended until the baby is 6 months old.

The observant among you will have spotted that he is not going to be 6 months old for another few weeks, and yet here I am writing about buggies. So let me explain.

Last week, I really wanted to go for a run. My legs just felt in need of a stretch out. It had been over a week since my last outing and, with the way our schedule was looking, it could easily be over a week until I would next get the chance. Ben suggested going out with the buggy while our daughter was at nursery, and although I was initially reluctant it made sense.

Every single health professional that has ever seen our son has commented on how strong he is. Being able to support his own head is really not an issue. We already own a running buggy (ok, we have 2) and so it’s not like I’d be running with him in a lightweight stroller. My pace and distance are hardly record-breaking at the moment, so that would make for a gentle starting point. And I was in complete control of the terrain (aka boring wide paths near my house).

And so it was that I strapped him in and tentatively set off. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. My core and shoulders were still aching from an exercise class earlier in the week, and it had been a really really long time since I last ran with a buggy. But in a way that made it mentally easier. It was always going to be tricky, and so I just had to do what I could.

Any excuse to stop and rest…

I wasn’t sure how our son would react, seeing as he’s hardly been in a pushchair at all, but, true to form, he happily fell asleep. Result! Despite finding it hard going (and going uphill on a bridge near impossible) I enjoyed it. And running downhill with a buggy is great for stride length and pattern.

Like starting anything, it’s great to have something to build on. I went out again this week and got slightly further, and my intention is to make it a regular event to build up my strength. While I certainly wouldn’t consider anything like Mount Edgcumbe with a baby this young (although I’m sure Ben would consider the lighter buggy), a reasonably-surfaced parkrun should be fine in the near future.

For now, though, I’m just enjoying the freedom feeling of being able to get out the house and run.

Confessions of a Run/Walker

I realise it’s not very PC, what with running being all-inclusive and everything, but I’ve always hated run/walkers. More specifically, people that run/walk in organised events. Because what people do in their training doesn’t really impact me.

Mostly, this has stemmed from several very negative experiences during both races and parkrun, at times that I’ve been busting a gut to keep running. There was the Christmas Cracker 10k, when two girls abruptly slowed just in front of me on the narrow pavement. And the most notable experience of it from parkrun was of two people actually using me as a target. So they ran until they overtook me, and then immediately slowed to a walk.

Looking at it like that, what actually annoyed me wasn’t the fact that people were run/walking, it’s that they weren’t very considerate of other runners. And let’s face it, there are inconsiderate runners in all shapes and sizes. I have also had a tendency to look down on people run/walking. But as is often said, don’t judge what you don’t know.

The trick is to time running with going past photographers

There are a few flavours of run/walking, but all consist of intentionally running for a bit, then walking for a bit, and repeating. The duration could be determined by time, distance, or feel. If you’ve followed my return to running so far, you’ll know that run/walking has been a staple for me. I’ve chosen to go with the time option, as it’s simple and easy to moderate. If I ran by feel there would be a definite danger of feeling the need to walk too often, and every time a hill appeared.

Run-walking is a great way of gaining fitness. The shorter spells allow you to run at a faster pace, and the walking gives enough time to recover while keeping everything moving just enough. In fact, if you keep the walking at a decent pace then it’s possible to have a very respectable overall pace. When I first returned to running, I saw it as a necessary evil. A hoop I would have to jump through to start getting some distance in, before quickly moving on to ‘proper’ running. And there was no way on earth I would dream of run/walking at an organised event.

Except, of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to run at Moors Valley (and then Mile End and then Longrun Meadow…). Which gave a great opportunity to prove to myself that it IS possible to run/walk considerately. And so, I made sure to stick to the edges of the path to keep out the way. Just as you would in a car, I check behind me before speeding up or slowing down. If there’s someone close by that is likely to be impacted, I let them know that I’m about to change pace. My Garmin gives a 5 second beep warning, which is plenty of time. There was one occasion at Mile End when I was just overtaking someone as the beeps started, so I dropped back a little early. Common sense really.

Run/Walking makes for some pretty cool Pace Analysis charts

And yet I still view run/walking as an inferior activity. There was one evening that I went out for a slightly longer loop than I’d done previously. As I went round, there were mixed emotions. I was pleased to be making progress, but disappointed to be only run/walking. But as I neared the end, I realised what Ben would put in one of his training updates for that run:
Speed work: 10 x 3mins @ target pace with 1 min recovery
Hmm, that sounds a little different.

I’m managing to run a bit further now, but despite my initial intentions I think run/walking might be part of my plans for a little while longer. It won’t be every run, and it won’t be forever, but it still very definitely has a place as I build back up. And I hope that when the days of recovery become a distant memory I still remember that run/walkers aren’t just slacking off, and that it really is a valid way to run.

But if anyone suddenly stops or slows right in front of me, I still reserve the right to grumble.