Author Archives: Lolly

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.

parkrun at home: Longrun Meadow

The time had come for something both familiar and a little bit new – running at my home parkrun of Longrun Meadow. I’d last run there on Christmas Eve, splashing in every puddle on the course before starting my running maternity leave. As it happens, that was the last day that the old anti-clockwise course was used. Hence the new-to-me part.

Longrun Meadow parkrun is based in Taunton, in a green area that you may be able to guess the name of. Taunton has excellent travel links and so the parkrun is easy to get to. For us, the journey is typically a mile’s walk along the river. Today we were running a little late though (shocking how that happens with 2 small children!) and drove over. There’s parking available by Castle School, and quite a few people also park at Tesco. It’s also an easy cycle and doable walk from either the train station or the middle of town.

Once you enter the meadow from either Castle School direction or French Weir park it’s pretty obvious where you’re heading, due to the very visible Oak Barn. Those requiring pre-run facilities should head to the COACH building in French Weir park. Hoodies and water bottles are typically left on the various tables and benches in the barn.

The barn really is easy to spot!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t hear much of the run briefing today. There’s no megaphone and so you have to make sure to stand very close in to the barn to hear. A combination of handing over children to Ben, and chatting to club friend Eliza, meant that I was too far back. Still, it was pretty obvious when we needed to make our way to the start line. Something that I have only seen at Longrun Meadow, which may throw regular tourists a little, is that the first timers’ briefing is held AFTER the main briefing, once returning runners have been sent to the start.

There are two routes to the cycle path start – one follows the path and one cuts across the grass. If you’re at the faster end, cut across the grass otherwise you’ll get stuck too far back. I obviously opted for following the path. As with most path starts, those towards the back are a little distance from the start line, but as long as you’re in roughly the right place it’s fine. I was very pleased to hear the air horn that marked the start (so many starts can’t be heard at the back) and we were quickly off.

Other than the disorientation of going the ‘wrong’ way, the first thing I noticed was that I’d started my watch as a normal run, rather than the 3 min run/1 min walk workout I was supposed to select. My immediate thought was that this was a sign I should run the whole thing. Very quickly followed by remembering I am trying to re-build my body, not nuke it. So manual intervals it would have to be.

Starting out with friends

After the short section on tarmac (during which I waved to Ben and the children), the surface changes to the gravel path surface that makes up most of the course. We slowed dramatically to go over a narrow bridge (which is currently missing a fence on one side and so I’m guessing this was slower than normal). Soon after, there’s a quick dodge left and then right through some big gates. These are open first lap to avoid another bottleneck point.

The path then opens up a bit for a nice straight section, at the end of which you turn left and the surface changes to bark. Congestion struck again here as the usable space was only about 2 people wide, and a few times I found myself behind a pair running together. The annoying thing with run/walking is that you can sometimes struggle to overtake the same people on multiple occasions. The surface changes back to the gravel path but the width stays pretty similar for the other 2.5 sides of the square that take you almost back to the end of the straight bit.

A left turn takes you onto the beginning of a more twisty-turny section, and my favourite bit of the course. This is the bit most prone to puddles! There were a few good ones today, but sadly I was wearing my road shoes (the rest of the course was in good condition) and so didn’t splash. The path opens back up a little and then, after a bridge by a hedge, you suddenly find yourself back near the barn.

Excited that I hadn’t been lapped, I made my way through the best supported section (as basically everyone that isn’t a marshal is hanging round the barn area). A very small up takes you back onto the tarmac cycle path to start lap 2. Which is much the same as lap 1, but less congested and finishes earlier.

I was unsure how I’d find the 3/1 run/walk, but it went pretty well. I was careful not to push too hard and so managed to keep enough in the tank for a faster finish, which is a very satisfying way to end a parkrun.

Strong enough to finish on one leg

After getting my finishing token I was at the back of a big queue, as the funnel continues for most of the way to the barcode scanners. I opted to duck out of this to get water, although one well-meaning volunteer did tell me I should stay in order (which, if you haven’t got your finish token yet, you really must). After rehydrating and chatting to a few people, Lani helped me get scanned and then insisted we head off to the swings (apparently she’d been asking for quite some time…).

The adjacent French Weir park has great playparks for children big and small, and we also paid a visit to The Weir cafe in COACH for some much-needed refreshment.

This has been the weirdest parkrun post for me to write, as it’s completely different talking about an event I’ve run 45 times and attended many more. For example, I know that some Run Directors aren’t hampered by the lack of megaphone. I know that I preferred the course the old way round, but I also know that the congestion used to be horrendous. When you visit different parkruns you get a snapshot of how they are on that day for your pace. Over time you inevitably start comparing your home event to the best bits of all the others you’ve visited.

But I’m lucky that my home event has an interesting enough course, and a dedicated core team that really believe in it. I’m also lucky to live in the heart of a region with truly beautiful and varied events to visit. The question is, where to next?

Photo credits to Kevin Dunn, via Facebook.

parkrun tourism: Moors Valley

When my parents asked if we wanted to join them on their New Forest holiday, the first thing we did was to research the area. By which I mean look at parkrun options in the area. Their chosen location was only 5 miles from Brockenhurst parkrun, but somewhere else caught my eye. In our quest to (slowly) conquer the South West, there are a few events left that would take us over 2 hours to get to from home. Even though we were staying in the South East, one of those far-flung events was a mere 15 miles away.

And so it was that after our first night of holiday we found ourselves heading back into the South West to Moors Valley Country Park. Slightly out of the habit of parkrun tourism, the journey mostly consisted of panicking about whether we’d got everything, whether we’d be on time, and whether we’d find the start easily. And for me there was also the tiny detail of not having run 5k since Christmas Eve.

Moors Valley parkrun is set in a country park jointly run by the local council and the Forestry Commission. There is ample car parking (apparently most of the visitors aren’t there before 9) and if you leave before 10.30 then it only costs £1. As ever, we immediately saw plenty of running kit and soon located some hi-viz and the start. After a quick detour to the Visitor Centre for toilets, Ben headed off on his warm up.

The new runners’ briefing was possibly the best I’ve been to yet. A big map of the course was held up so that descriptions about pinch points and possible hazards actually had context. There was enough time to grab a drink and tell spectating family where the finish was before the run briefing. Milestone and birthday celebration hats were lent out, which I always think is a nice touch.

Despite the briefing being right near the start, there was enough room to re-arrange into the right order. Or at least there was for me, but then I was heading towards the back. I selected a run/walk workout on my Garmin ready for the start and tried not to get far too excited that I was actually lining up ready for a parkrun.

Despite being surrounded, the Gruffalo’s Child was still not scared.

The route starts by going past the Gruffalo sculptures, which is always a good start to any activity, before turning to head down the main path. A decent width, solid (but not tarmac) path with trees on either side is a major component in my ideal parkrun. Needless to say I enjoyed this part, even with the slight gradual climb. The nice thing with not going for a time was that I was able to take a look around and enjoy the scenery.

After half a mile on that path, we turned left for more of the same. We passed what looked like some amazing play structures, and I thought we should head back that way after the run. As we made our way round, the picturesque paths continued. My only issue was that I managed to land weirdly on a loose stone and slightly turned my ankle, but thankfully it was just uncomfortable.

Shortly before the 2 mile mark was the landmark I’d been waiting for – the start of the out-and-back section. In a race, out-and-back just to make up the distance is quite annoying. In a parkrun I don’t mind it so much as long as it’s a sensible length (this one was). The higher percentage of friendly runners makes seeing people going the other way a positive experience. Still, I was glad to reach the end of it and know that I was getting somewhere.

The terrain changes slightly at this point, as narrower paths wind through trees and the surface changes to tarmac. There started to be more visible signs that we were working our way round and then across the golf course. Just as I was starting to doubt myself on how things were going, I saw on the path something that I think every parkrun should have – a 4k marker.

Shortly after, Ben appeared from further ahead on the course (having finished, located a drink, had a rest, and started his cool down) to join me for the end. The final section of the course winds around the lake (which Ben could see before I could, due to my travel-size nature). It really opens up, and you can see the finish and the paths leading to it. As Ben peeled off to avoid going near the funnel, I happily discovered that my run/walk strategy had left me with just enough to speed up for the finish.

Plenty of space to rest

The finish area is by a big open grass area (popular later in the day for picnics and barbecues) and also by one of the stations for the miniature railway. Barcode scanners were slightly further along the path, but very visible. I also liked the fact that there were pots for tokens by the side of the path as you left that area. Anything that reduces the chance of accidental souvenirs!

We headed round to the cafe, where our supporters were sheltering (I seem to have neglected to mention there was drizzle for most of the run). It was really nice to see so many parkrun people staying around afterwards – and with the selection of food available it’s easy to see why.

As I said to some of the core team afterwards, I would love for that to be my home parkrun. The balance of the course is one that I would happily repeat. Looking at their Facebook page, I did notice that Moors Valley often have to appeal for volunteers, so if you live in the area then please consider helping them out.

In terms of a parkrun to visit while on holiday, this couldn’t have been better. After food we headed out for a walk and found that the play structures were as good as they’d looked (there’s a whole Play Trail). There was also the tree top trail, miniature railway and brilliant playgrounds. We ended up staying for much longer than anticipated, and actually went back later in the holiday. Which is surely proof that a bit of parkrun tourism is good for you.

Let there be exercise

Starting out exercising is never an easy task. You need to find energy you aren’t used to spending. You need to find time you normally fill in other ways. And, for the vast majority of us, you need to accept that you won’t be very good at it to start with.

I’d made various comments about doing stretches or looking at post-natal exercise videos, but nothing was actually happening. Earmarking time and energy for yourself is not something that comes naturally to many mums with young children. The only thing for it, therefore, was to book myself onto a class where the time was committed and it would be harder to back out at the last minute.

Next decision – what sort of class to go for? Specific post-natal classes have the benefit of everything being tailored to what I currently need, and with specialist knowledge of potential issues. On the other hand, the buggy fitness class I’d done last time round no longer exists, and I also needed something in my week to be about me and not about being a mum. The ideal situation would be if the instructor at my favourite friendly exercise studio had completed her pre- and post-natal exercise instruction course. Which she has. Love it when a plan comes together.

And so it was that I found myself returning to Studio 22. I say returning – the Studio had actually moved location since I’d been last. The first thing I was asked was about my post-natal check (which I’d had just a few days before) and anything that might impact the exercises I was able to do. If you’re joining any exercise class post-natally and you aren’t asked about birth complications or how many weeks it’s been then you may want to consider going elsewhere until later in your recovery.

My chosen class of Ballet Fit has been a brilliant way back into exercise. It’s low impact, so I haven’t been worried about my joints. It helps with toning and strength. And it’s helping to re-build my virtually non-existent core. But most importantly it’s fun, which makes me want to exercise more.

There has been a fair bit of adjustment to make it work. Eating and drinking enough during the day is pretty crucial, as I’m less in control of my energy levels lately. There’s also the impact afterwards of tiredness and sore muscles. More than once, my leg aches have started while sat on the floor at a baby group the following morning, and getting up is just a little more tricky.

So exercise successfully started, but the big cloud of running was still looming over me. When people asked me I talked about my body not being ready, about possible joint pain, and about wanting to ease myself back in. But as I got closer to 12 weeks post-natal a bigger factor started to show. I was scared.

Scared of injuring myself. Scared of accidentally pushing too hard. Scared of how difficult it would be. Scared of the challenge of starting again. Even, weirdly, scared that I wouldn’t like it anymore.

With anything that you’re putting off for the wrong reasons, it’s handy to have a motivational deadline. In my case, an upcoming opportunity for child-free parkrun tourism. And so my Garmin was switched back on, my running shoes were dusted off, and Ben kicked me out the door. 1 mile of 1 minute running 1 minute walking. Not a lot really, but wow it felt good.

There’s a long way to go in my journey of post-natal recovery, but I’m really happy that I’ve made a start.

Laying the Foundations

It’s fair to say that I didn’t enjoy the end of pregnancy. The exhaustion, aches and uncertainty really got to me. Still, everyone assured me that I looked like I would give birth early… Or at least earlier than the first time (2 days over)… You can imagine how grumpy I was for the 7 days after the due date before things kicked off. Many apologies and thanks to those who had to put up with me in that time.

Still, at least things managed to start off by themselves the night before I was booked in for a stretch and sweep (if you don’t know what that is, retain your ignorance and just know I was pleased to skip it). The next morning, after much hysteria and entonox, we had a healthy baby boy. And my body felt completely and utterly drained.

So my road to physical recovery started with plenty of food and drink, and grabbing bits of sleep whenever I could. The sleep part being significantly harder when you live with a newborn baby. Structured exercise felt like a lifetime away.

One of the best decisions I made near the end of pregnancy was to buy a stretchy wrap. This has proved invaluable in being able to get stuff done, and look after a small child, while a baby is happily asleep. His love for being tucked up in the wrap has also meant getting out for a walk is really easy. Making the effort to walk places, or to just go for a wander along the river or canal, has been a big boost both physically and mentally.

And, yes, I do always look tired.

In terms of formal exercise, the only thing I’ve made an effort with so far is pelvic floor exercises. If I don’t get that right then I can say goodbye to any high impact exercise in future. I’m also starting to do some gentle postnatal core exercises. Because it currently feels like I have zero core muscles.

And the plan for the future? Well I’m starting to get a little more sleep now (I hope that doesn’t jinx it) which should make it easier to go for longer and more purposeful walks. I also want to set some time aside for postnatal yoga to help me strengthen up. While part of me would love to try running already, I know that I’m not strong enough yet and it just wouldn’t be worth it. I can’t expect my body to get back to racing PBs if I don’t get the foundations right first.

The Truth about Running in Pregnancy

As I mentioned a few months ago, running during pregnancy is a completely new thing to me.  And so, like most things, I’ve just done what felt right.  There have been the people who’ve thought I was crazy for keeping running.  There have been the people who run half marathons at 7 months pregnant faster than I could normally.  But I’m not any of those people, I’m me.

But there are some truths about running that I think are as universal as anything can be when it comes to pregnancy.

It’s tiring
This is kind of obvious in a way, because everything is more tiring when you’re pregnant.  But the difference has been really noticeable to me.  Not just how I’ve felt when running either.  Afternoon naps after parkrun became pretty much essential to function normally.

You need more support
This is both moral and physical support.  Moral support from friends and family in your decision to keep running.  Physical support in the form of a decent sports bra (even more important than normal) and some form of bump band.

Your pelvic floor is your friend
It’s hard to overplay quite how wrecked your pelvic floor is after pregnancy.  One of the biggest struggles women have in post-natal exercise is re-strengthening this crucial muscle so that high impact activities like running are even an option.  And running during a second pregnancy made it very noticeable if I’d been skimping on my exercises.  So do the exercises.

Running photos are even more attractive than normal

It’s important to know when to stop
Sure, the dream is to keep going as long as you can.  Lose as few weeks of fitness as possible.  But given every runner is different and every pregnancy is different, it’s not much of a stretch to realise that there is no ‘normal’ time to call it a day.  What’s important is to keep listening to your body and recognise when you need to stop, before you push things too far.

For me, the time to stop appeared a week earlier than I’d hoped.  Like most parkrun tourists, we had plans to see in the New Year with a parkrun double.  That seemed like the perfect way to sign off for running maternity leave.  My body had different ideas though, and my recovery time after parkrun on Christmas Eve told me it was time to call it a day.

To me, running in pregnancy mostly consisted of running a slow parkrun every week that I could.  I would have loved to have done more, but it’s a break from running not a retirement.  And until then, there’s plenty of volunteering and spectating to be done.

Being a parkrun tourist

In some ways it’s really easy to define parkrun tourism – running a parkrun other than your home event.  In some ways it’s a bit more complicated, and (sadly) divisive, than that.

There are several types of tourism:

  1. While on holiday, looking up and attending a nearby event.
  2. Attending a neighbouring event because they’re doing something special or your home one is cancelled.
  3. Travelling further for no other reason than to attend a different event.
  4. Planning an entire trip away to attend a different event.

It’s pretty safe to call ourselves tourists – completing 25 different events when you live in the heart of the South West region and have a toddler is not something that happens by accident.  With a short-term goal for the year of making the Most Events table (20 events) and a long-term goal of becoming South West regionnaires (completing the whole region), 2016 saw us shift up a gear in our tourism efforts.

Making a day of it

So what does being a parkun tourist mean for us?

Early starts
We’re fortunate that during the week our alarm is set for 6:45.  We’ve (just) managed to make it to our home parkrun getting up at 8:25.  For some of our tourism trips the alarm has been set for 6:00, and even then it’s been a push to get out the house on time to allow for toilet stops en-route (because, toddler and pregnant woman).

Barcode paranoia
The golden rule of parkrun: don’t forget your barcode.  And if you’ve travelled specifically to tick off another event it would kind of suck to not get a result.  We have the plastic barcode tags, and keep one stored in as many running kit pockets as we can (they go through the wash, it’s brilliant).  Even still, we check that we’ve got them approximately every 5 minutes while getting ready to leave.  And for trips away barcodes are second on our packing list (a friendly local might print a barcode for us at a push, they can’t print a toddler’s much-loved toy).

Variety
Choosing different events to attend means getting to experience a variety of courses.  While I enjoy Longrun Meadow (particularly with puddles), it’s sometimes nice to run a fast tarmac course, or completely off-road.  To see countryside or the sea.  Or even get some hills in.  Every event is different.

Getting to know the locals

Spending more time together
Saturday mornings at the end of a long week can be wash-out zones, and it’s easy to spend the time relaxing separately.  Travelling for parkrun changes that.  For starters, there’s the entire journey there and back where there’s nothing to do but (gasp) talk to each other and compare thoughts on radio features.  But, strangely, with parkrun then taking up most of the morning we’re also more likely to visit a playpark or head to a cafe together as well.

A massive community
A common accusation pointed at parkrun tourists is that we have missed one of the main points of parkrun: community-building.  For me it couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, I have gained a lot from my home parkrun’s community and really appreciate seeing familiar faces any time I’m there.  But travelling around makes you realise quite how big the parkrun community is, and you get to meet new people to share your mutual love of parkrun with.  Whether it’s talking to volunteers, meeting up with fellow tourists, or just chatting to the person you happen to run next to, it really doesn’t matter which parkrun you’re at.

As for those types of tourism I mentioned, perhaps unsurprisingly we’ve done all 4.  We haven’t gone to the extreme of flying somewhere just to visit a different event.  Yet.  There’s still time.

parkrun tourism: Salisbury

In our rough ‘plan’ of serial tourism, event 24 was pencilled in as Southwick Country Park.  We’ve been to the area before and so are happy with the terrain for a week we need buggy tourism.  It’s a reasonable distance away though, and the day before the intended trip we were feeling plain tired.  Tourism seemed so unappealling.  So we did the natural thing and opted to go for a parkrun even further from home.

Salisbury parkrun was chosen not for its hour and a half drive but for its social potential.  We’d seen on Facebook that someone would be joining the Cowell Club (100 different events) there that weekend.  Driving 10 minutes further each way to chat to some fellow tourists seemed well worth it.

On arrival at Churchill Gardens, which has its own car park, the venue failed its first test.  Due to some vandalism the toilets were disgusting.  However, that’s not something that will be the case every week, and there are alternative toilets in the retail park down the road.  We made our way towards the start area (aka followed everyone else) and spotted various bits of path that were clearly part of the course.

The winter course at Salisbury is 4 laps entirely on tarmac paths.  This didn’t seem particularly enticing, but then we’d been pleasantly surprised the last time we’d done a 4 lap course (Skipton).  The new runners’ briefing confirmed that the most difficult part would be, in fact, keeping count of laps.

No wonder I get dodgy ankles

The route starts on a nice straight section, and then essentially follows the path around the edge of the park.  With a multi-lap course the role of marshals is even more important – if one is grumpy then the impact is multiplied.  Happily the marshals at Salisbury were cheery, and most of them were equipped with plastic hand clappers to help save their actual hands.

Laps 2 to 4 take a slightly different (read longer) route near the start, taking in more of the park’s interior.  That and, you know, making up the distance.  The park itself was nice enough to look at, with just about enough features to keep track of where you were in the lap.

Being lapped was inevitable.  In fact, the first few finishers lapped me twice.  It was pretty chaotic at times with so many people on different laps, and also demoralising each time a pacer lapped past.  On a practical level, two 25 minute pacers running side-by-side also created an extra bit of congestion.

One of them noticed the camera near the end…

This was quite a sociable run for me.  I spent part of the first lap talking to a lovely lady running with her twins in a buggy.  Then for the latter half of the final lap I chatted to the 40 minute pacer – a lovely guy who it turns out is a fellow tourist.

Near the end of lap 4 the course peels off to finish inside the loop.  Support at the finish line was pretty good.  Salisbury pride themselves on being an inclusive parkrun – they have quite a few walkers and have also had a run/walk pacer.  This means that slower runners feel less like the course is being taken down behind them.

I actually ran with people!

After a celebratory glass of bubbly (for Ben, not me) with the other tourists, we headed over to the nearby Starbucks.  We were happy to discover that they offer a discount for parkrunners, and also that the social atmosphere continued post-run.  I’m pretty sure it’s the longest we’ve ever stayed behind talking to people after a parkrun.  And the second longest that we’ve spent driving back home…