Motivation to Run

Last week I was fortunate enough to hear an after-dinner speech by the amazing Dame Kelly Holmes, at a work event no less. I have never heard anyone so inspiring, particularly with her ability to make herself seem normal and make everyone feel they have something to achieve. And, of course, I was a little bit excited to hear someone other than me talk about parkrun to some of my colleagues.

Did I mention yet that I met Kelly Holmes?

I headed back to my hotel feeling completely motivated. This was it. This time I am going to put the work in and finally beat my long standing parkrun PB (the saga of my long standing PB is a whole post in itself). My head was buzzing, and I found myself making notes of training ideas and blog posts to write. At midnight. This is not normal behaviour for someone who prizes sleep so much.

And then, as it does, reality hit. Two full-on days, on the back of a particularly busy few months, left me exhausted. And I don’t mean slightly tired. I mean having to stop at services to nap on the drive home. I mean stopping work in the middle of the next day to have another nap. I mean keeping fingers crossed the whole of the day after that the toddler will want plenty of calm activities (he didn’t, he’s a toddler after all).

But still, the positive light of Saturday morning was beckoning. Following a week volunteering we’d missed 2 parkrundays in a row, so we gave ourselves a couple of options. Plan A was for us to visit Torbay Velodrome parkrun, which would have been a new event to us. Plan B was for us to all head to somewhere local-ish like Killerton or Yeovil Montacute for me to do a repeat and get my p-index to 3 (again, a whole other blog post in that story), given Ben was thick with cold.

I woke up at 7:30 on Saturday. It was 7:45 before our little one got loud enough for me to realise what day it was. Ben was still sound asleep, and I hadn’t heard any noise from our daughter yet. So Plan C was formed. If I could get myself and our son ready in 15 minutes, I could get to Minehead and run it with the buggy (which was an extra option for increasing my p-index). Clearly, I was still a bit tired to think this was possible, as it took me approximately 10 minutes to persuade our son to leave his dummy in the cot. By which time our daughter was awake too.

So I resigned myself to Plan D – have a restful morning at home. I relayed this information to Ben at about 8:10 (he was still in bed, but it’s really hard to stay asleep once both kids are up). And about 10 minutes later he appeared downstairs and told me to get dressed and go to Longrun Meadow.

Plan E, it turned out, was exactly what I needed. Just running. Yes, touring would have been nice. But familiar faces, being able to focus on running without working out where to go, and the amazing puddles of home allowed me to run. I was never going to get an outstanding time, but actually it beat my expectations of where I would be. And I got to wear my shiny new 100 top for the first time (probably another post there too, actually). And did I mention there were puddles?!?

Lolly wears the 100 parkrun top, accessorised with trademark hairband barcode, and muddy Christmas leggings

So this was a step in the right direction. My first run that wasn’t a tourism parkrun or junior parkrun since the end of September. Now I just needed to get a run that wasn’t at parkrun at all. Of course, Sunday was a slump day. Everyone tired. Feeling a bit meh. It’s hard to start a new routine in those conditions.

And then onto today. Wow. I had an hour slot in the afternoon where I was actually free, and so I was determined to use it for an exercise DVD or something. My day fell apart with some very sad news, but I became more determined that I would get my time. Then I discovered I needed to head into town during that hour.

This is where running wins.

This is where running was a very practical option to get into town and back in the required time, while still getting my exercise in. Extending the 3/4 trip each way to 2 miles in, 1.1 back (I do love 5k at the moment).

But as soon as I set off, I knew I was running for so much more than that. I wasn’t running to help my body, I was running to help my head. The cruelest thing about feeling tired and down is that the thing that can help most is the hardest to do. What I needed was space and time to process my thoughts. I needed the consistent sound of my feet hitting the pavement. I needed the freedom.

Somewhere amongst goals, comparisons and training targets, I’d forgotten the real reason I run. Yes, some of those goals will always be a driver to improve (until I hit them of course), but the important thing is to get out there and enjoy the run. Because as tired as running can make me, life without running is way more tiring.

Brent Knoll: race report

I have previously taken part in the Brent Knoll Race in 2016, 2015 (when apparently I didn’t blog about it) and 2014. Last year I was injured, but went along anyway to take some photos and go to the Somerset Series presentation afterwards.

Due to illness, I’ve barely run since the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in mid-July, although I did manage to get around the Ash Excellent Eight in August. My monthly stats make some poor reading: I peaked at 131 miles in May, then was around 90 in each of June and July. Then… 29, 36, 18, 9. It’s not a great trend.

It’s been pretty rough: running is one of my main methods of stress relief, so without it, I’ve struggled. Particularly at a time when I’ve been feeling quite low anyway, because of being ill for such a long period. But: I generally seem to be much stronger now, so hopefully I’m through whatever it was, and can get back on with life.

Enough rambling about that – let me ramble about the race. Or at least the most direct pre-race. This is the final race of the Somerset Series. In order to qualify for the series, you have to complete eight of the participating races. I’d done seven. So, I resolved that I was doing this race, whether I could run, walk or crawl it. (Okay, slightly exaggeration possibly.) Given the aforementioned lack of mileage, it was clearly not going to be easy. For those not familiar with the race, it’s worth giving my 2014 report a read: it details it more than I’ll go into again. But I’ll let the Strava elevation plot give you an idea:

So… we got a bump coming up…

The basic race plan was to take it relatively easy, and just finish. So, obviously, I completely overcooked the first mile, cracking along at (quick-for-me-now) 7:16. I maintained much the same pace for the next half a mile. I then refer you to the above plot. I didn’t even try and run/jog/power-walk the hill. It was a trudge.

Trudging. (Credit: Neale Jarrett)

Let me tell you, I was loving it every bit as much as it looked. This is pretty much my favourite race. But it’s an awful one to attempt when unfit. And boy, am I unfit. Still, the first climb was managed without excessive drama (just excessive sulking). My pace dropped off completely from those around me after that exertion though; I started dropping back slowly through the field along the relative flat between climbs. The second climb acted as a leveller, with us all walking, before I dropped back further as we circumnavigated (well, nearly) the summit.

Finally! The descents! Those who know me will know that there is little in life I love more than a trail descent. I took this first one a little bit steady, as I was a bit unsure of how I’d manage, given my lack of recent running. I still managed to pass a few people on the way down, and make up for a fair bit of my previous rubbishness. Of course, once we were back on the flat, they all streamed back past me, but whatever.

On the second descent, I really let myself go, and perhaps for the only stage of the race, had a genuine smile on my face. Of course, once we were back on the flat, they all streamed back past me, but whatever! The rest of the race, about a mile-and-a-half, was just a slog to finish.

Lazy technique. (Credit: Daniel Anderson)

I was glad to finish, and not bothered at all about trying to put in a sprint finish. It was done, I’d completed my eighth race, and qualified for the series. Now it just remained to be seen if I had done enough to finish in the top ten? I’d been (based on points average) eighth coming into this race, but it all depended on how other people had improved compared to me.

While the race wasn’t a great experience for me, it was really good to get out and see the racing community. Being the end of season race, most of the familiar faces were there, and it was nice just to be immersed back into that. As well as that, both of my clubs, Running Forever and Minehead had good contingents at the race, so it was a nice, social occasion. Most importantly though (!) my attendance had paid off, and I finished ninth in the Series – another glass for the shelf!

Club swag!

So… what’s next? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to set down a foundation over the next few weeks, even if it’s just a couple of runs a week. After that, hopefully I can work on getting back up to pace. But first, I’ve got a cold to shift. [EYE ROLL]

parkrun tourism: Weymouth parkrun

Weymouth parkrun has been running since August 2013, just marginally longer than our home run of Longrun Meadow. As with most in the South West region, it’s been on our radar to do for a while. The course description describes part of the course as being on the grass, and with the buggy(ies) that has put us off in the wet, wintry months.

Lolly and I travelled to the run separately; I had been working in the area on Friday and stayed in a local B&B the night before, while she was coming over from Taunton with the children. As a result, at 8:29 we had a conversation on WhatsApp:

Lolly: Awake yet?
Me: Yup.
Me: Where are you?
Lolly: [Picture of car in car park]
Me: Where’s that?
Me: I tried to park in the College Car Park that the website recommends, but it seems to be closed?
Lolly: Oh
Lolly: I parked in the country park car park

An encouraging start. I set up both buggies, and walked through the college car park to the start area for the parkrun. In the Country Park car park. Oh.

So for some clarity on the parking: you can park in the Country Park car park, which is in fact where the run started and finished for us: but you have to pay: 50p for one hour, working up to £6 for all day. The College car park was eventually opened, and is free for the duration of the run. There were also toilets in the car park, although only one of them was open, causing a long queue, even early on.

Smile!

After a fair bit of faffing (it turned out that I hadn’t changed into running shoes, so I had to go back to the car) we lined up for the start. As usual, I managed to miss the first timers briefing, but Lolly gave me a synopsis: keep left for the out-and-back section, turnaround at the stone pineapple. (Which, for the record, I never noticed.) Apparently, it was a very good first timers briefing: they had a big, obvious, sign showing where it was, and it covered everything that a first timer might possibly need to know.

As noted, the start/finish area was unusually located in a car park. In general parkrun tries to avoid areas with traffic: the course map doesn’t show the car park being used, so I can only assume that this is a variation due to wetter weather, possibly. Starting at the back of the pack with the buggies, we couldn’t hear the pre-run briefing, but there were various bursts of applause – presumably for landmark runs and thanking the volunteers.

I started gently – so gently that the tail walkers went past me! This just meant that I had no one either side of me, and I could easily dart across to the side to ease my way through some of the crowds while we were still in the wide car park area. Thankfully, even when we entered Lodmoor Country Park, the path stayed wide initially – easily allowing four people to run abreast. There were a few bollards to avoid, and although there were grass verges at the sides for sections, they tended to be slightly sloped, and not ideal for the buggy to put a wheel onto. I eased my way along through the field as well as I could, targeting the buggy that I could see ahead. Me, competitive? No…

Into the Country Park.

We started off with a clockwise lap of the park, around both a pitch and putt golf course and a field with a miniature railway in. Another third of the lap, and this time we split off to head up the out-and-back section. By this stage, I’d managed to find a bit more free space, and had got in front of the other buggy (there were four in total). The terrain up this section varied quite considerably: initially it was quite nice, if a little narrow in places: roughly three people wide. This opened out onto a rough clearing that had some – well – craters in it, which had to be navigated quite carefully with the buggy. The path after this was tarmac and very nice to run on.

I noticed as we approached the turnaround point that the other buggy was getting quite close behind me – thankfully things cleared up a little in front of me at this point, and tipping the buggy back onto its rear wheels, I navigated the tight turns, to the call of “quick buggy coming through” from the marshal. Heading back, I more or less gave up on passing people as the path got congested with the mid-pack going in both directions. We weaved past a few runners, but for the most part, I was content to sit and hold position.

Until, that is, I noticed the other buggy closing in behind me again. Sigh – can’t I just have a nice jog to the finish? (I mean, obviously I could have just let him pass me and not worried about it. Apparently.) After passing the tail walker coming the other way, I was able to move out and pass people with a bit more freedom, before we finally reached the park once more. I had expected that we would turn right and head straight back, but it seemed that we were still too short for that to work, and so we turned left for another longer loop of the park. I pressed on, though without going crazy, working myself into some clear space for the finish. (I tend to prefer more space when I’m finishing with the buggy – it stops any silly accidents.)

Past the miniature railway station.

The finish funnel was pretty congested, so as soon as I’d picked up our finish token, I ducked out of the funnel and went back to watch Lolly finishing, before scanning when it got a bit quieter.

Overall, I enjoyed the course – it is nicely varied. I would say that it is pretty much completely flat, though there may be a very slight climb up to the turnaround point. But Strava reckons it was 22 feet, so, maybe not. Looking at the volunteer roster, it looks quite a labour intensive run; eight marshals, a lead bike, two funnel managers, two on finish tokens. There was certainly never any trouble finding where to go on the course!

Afterwards, it looked like a lot of the parkrunners were going back to the Lodmoor pub, a Brewers Fayre attached to the Premier Inn right by the start/finish. (There’s also another Premier Inn by the turnaround point, so both are pretty convenient for the run.) We opted to drive into town to visit Wetherspoons for a cheaper breakfast, before returning to the Country Park car park to visit Weymouth Sea Life Centre.

parkrun tourism: Teignmouth Promenade parkrun

Yes, we do still exist! It’s fair to say that the last few months have been a bit up and down. There’s been a few things I’d have loved to have written about but haven’t managed (my 100th parkrun, progress towards PB pace, on and off training plans, etc). But we’ve come to the conclusion that the best cure for all of this is more tourism. Cue Teignmouth Promenade parkrun.

Our eternal quest to conquer the South West region has suffered greatly from the amazing growth the region has experienced in the last couple of years. We’re still managing to hover at about 50% complete though, and are particularly targeting any that would make a good family trip. So something by the seaside works quite well.

Teignmouth Promenade parkrun started just over a month ago, and as the name suggests takes place on the promenade in Teignmouth. For those of you not familiar with Devon, it’s actually pronounced “Tin-muth”, so make sure you’re saying it correctly in your head! Like other promenade runs (hi Seaton, Minehead and Exmouth) this involves running out and back, in this case 3 times.

The course starts near the pier, goes along to the Yacht Club, back (past the pier) to near the lighthouse. One more complete loop, and then the last time you finish before the lighthouse end (roughly level with the start). Having read the description before we went, my main worry running with the buggy was the prospect of several 180 degree turns. As it turned out though, that wasn’t the tricky part.

Wrapped up warm with the buggies before the start

Ever so slightly chilly

We arrived and parked up in good time, and having set up both buggies we even had time to head to the toilets near the pier. Uncharacteristically for us, we were at the gathering point around quarter to 9. Enough time to worry about the number of clothes we were in (the horror of de-layering in cold wind before a run) and that the kids were in (why wouldn’t the little man keep his hat on?!).

At the Run Director’s call we made our way over to the sea-side of the promenade path, and then picked our way through the gathering crowd to get to the back, where we discovered we were 2 of 4 buggies taking part. After a little while, Ben, being significantly taller than me, noticed that the briefing had started. Unfortunately being at the back I didn’t hear a thing, which is a fairly common occurrence for buggy-runners.

The next thing I missed was the start, again with Ben commenting that people had started moving. And so we were off. And almost immediately stopped again as we crashed buggies. Slightly embarrassing, but there are far worse crashes for each of us to have! I had been expecting a standard flat prom-run, but very quickly there was a short-sharp up then down for the pier entrance. The path also zig-zagged a few times, which was slightly testing with a buggy in the initial crowd of people.

The path got narrow, and my next worry became how on earth this would work as an out-and-back, let alone once people started lapping as well. This was answered when runners started coming the other way – on a higher path to our left. The joining point for the two paths required a sharp turn, and my timing meant that there were 3 runners side-by-side going the other way when I had to make the turn. Note to self, practice sharp turns with the buggy!

Ben with buggy

Ben being way more relaxed about corners (from TP parkrun Facebook page)

There was then the expected 180 degree turn round the cone, which actually after the zig-zagging path didn’t seem all that bad. The (marginally) inland of the two paths was much better surface, albeit still with one zig-zag, and before I knew it we were rounding an ice-cream hut and passing the gathering area, where the finish funnel was set up. This just left a nice wide path near the lighthouse, an even wider turn round the end, and another easy path to get back to the start.

The second lap was much the same, with the added excitement of being lapped. It was pretty tricky on some of the narrower sections, having to run with one wheel consistently close to the wall, but the faster runners generally seemed appreciative of my efforts. As we passed the finish funnel for the second time I noticed how narrow it was, but hoped that (as is often the case) it would be wider by the time I finished.

Pushing buggy

Can we agree to ignore my posture, just this once?

The third lap was hard. I hadn’t run for 4 weeks, and I was pushing a buggy containing a 5 year old. Slowing down slightly also meant ending up in a bigger group of people, which meant more pressure to get the corners right! Despite being tired, and struggling to answer the many questions my daughter was asking, it didn’t go too badly and I was soon speeding up towards the finish. Which, by the way, was still the same width.

Finish token in hand, I carried on following the line of cones and was a bit confused not to find a barcode scanner. I asked a nearby marshal, who said they were in the Lemon Tree cafe and pointed me in the right direction. On the way I met up with Ben, and we decided to put the buggies in the car first. Because the barcode scanning was actually significantly further away than where we’d parked, as it involved crossing the road, walking past some shops, and then identifying the cafe by the line of people outside waiting to be scanned. As with Exeter Riverside, I imagine they will have a fair few tokens disappear as people fail to make it that far.

By the time we actually made it to the cafe to have our barcodes scanned it was fairly full, so we headed to an alternative nearby cafe (Coasters) instead – testing our children’s patience when we ordered just after a large group of South West Road Runners.

View of course from pier

Pier-ing at the course from a different angle

Afterwards we had a lovely hour or so admiring the sea view, visiting the section of pier that was open, and enjoying the amazing play park. Definitely a great one to take kids to.

While the route wasn’t entirely what I expected, it was still a very enjoyable run. Being by the sea was great, although it’s fair to say my passenger had more chance to admire the views than I did. Definitely a great location for an extended visit. I’d love to visit again when the event has had a bit more chance to bed down (and our daughter wants to go to the park again), but there are so many places left to visit that who knows!

parkrun tourism: Bideford parkrun

Bideford parkrun has been up and running since April 2016, and is up to event #125. We’ve been intending to do it almost the entire time since. Bideford is about an hour and a quarter drive for us, so is very reasonable as an out-and-back in a morning option. With Lolly’s parents over for the weekend (helping us out with a childcare emergency – thank you) we were free to roam. Unfortunately, the August Bank Holiday meant that the roads were likely to be awful, eliminating most of our options. After a short analysis of the remaining options, we chose Bideford – essentially as the one using the least amount of M5/A303!

Bideford is a town in North Devon that sits on the River Torridge (the name comes from ‘by the ford, rather than a ford of the river Bide). It’s closest other parkrun is Barnstaple, which we did in November 2015. The pair tend to double up for New Year’s Day. The course goes around Victoria Park and King George V playing fields, near the river.

The parkrun course is also marked as an England 3-2-1 route.

We arrived in plenty of time, and parked in the spacious pay and display (or Parkmobile) car park located right next to the park. With some time to kill, we had a wander around Victoria Park, getting a feel for the place. We were annoyed that we hadn’t brought the children, as there is an amazing play area in the park, along with a cafe, paddling pool, toilets, and well… all sorts!

Pre-run faffing and toilet stops done, we headed over for the new runner’s briefing. This was relatively short and to the point, explaining the course: three and a half laps. Basically, one loop of Victoria Park itself to start (the 0.5) and three full loops of Victoria Park and the King George V playing fields. Or, as the RD succinctly put it at the end: three times around the tree stump and four times past the toilets.

The main briefing was similarly routine; one runner on her 50th run, standards terms and conditions apply, let’s go! We were shepherded a short distance back towards the start, and after a little wait for some runners that were late, we were set on our way.

Four times past the toilets (and amazing playing area).

The half lap to start is entirely on tarmac paths skirting around the outskirts of Victoria Park. The event feels like it has a lot of marshals, giving great support on the way around. I can recall eight marshal locations, plus the mass of volunteers around the start/finish area. Not bad for such a small course. The paths are all a pretty good width, and the event tends to attract between 100 and 150 people (we had 133), so there isn’t too much issue with congestion.

After the first half lap, we passed the start line and headed right, going around a Children’s Centre, and into the playing fields. This involved switching off the tarmac paths onto the grass. I’d opted to wear road shoes, not having noticed the grass section during our wander around the park, but thankfully it was plenty solid enough that I didn’t regret my decision. Towards the end of the grass, the ground started to get a bit rutted. On the first lap lightly turned my ankle, but thankfully it didn’t bother me after a few strides. On the final lap, rather than continue back past the start line, we turned off early and headed down the grass for the finish.

Finish strong!

In advance, I always think that courses with three or more laps will be tough and dull, but I didn’t have an issue today at all. In fact, thinking back, I’m not sure I ever have. From a personal point of view, my run was quite disappointing. After a few weeks of not running, I struggled with the pace, and faded away after the first kilometre or so. Hopefully a couple of weeks of decent running will get me nicely back into shape.

As a parkrun, I’d say Bideford is good without being amazing. The park itself is lovely, and the volunteers were plentiful and supportive. Having done 35 different events now, it can be easy to start being snobbish about different courses, and I might have prejudged this course harshly because of that. I would have no complaints at all if this was my home run, and it benefits from being almost entirely pancake flat (just a small lump past the toilet block really).

The Barge Cafe.

Lolly had a fantastic run, setting her P2BPB (post-second-baby personal-best). We considered hanging around for second breakfast in the cafe (which is on a boat!) afterwards, but neither of us were feeling ready for food immediately, so we ended up stopping at Sainsbury’s cafe in Barnstaple on the way home for food instead. Victoria Park also hosts a junior parkrun, Torridge junior parkrun, and we’re already planning a weekend away to spend a Saturday in Bude (Tamar Lakes parkrun) and the Sunday in Bideford. Both because the park will be great for the kids, and because Bideford looks such a lovely place.

parkrun tourism: Street parkrun

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!

parkrun tourism: Exmouth parkrun

A bit of a #throwbackthursday post today to a parkrun that we visited back in May, but for one reason or another, we never got around to writing up at the time: Exmouth parkrun.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…

This was sort of unintentional parkrun tourism. Sort of. Exmouth parkrun was not our intended destination when we set out. Let me explain…

My in-laws were with us for the weekend, and so we decided to take the opportunity to get out and visit somewhere new. A look around, and we decided that Torbay Velopark took our fancy. It was a reasonable, but not silly, distance away, and it looked an interesting course.

We set off, a little bit late, but without too much concern. But, as we went, we noticed the traffic was a bit heavier than we’d accounted for (it was a bank holiday weekend). We kept going, though the sat nav estimated arrival time was starting to get a bit concerning. 8:55 might be an acceptable time to turn up to your home run, where you know what’s going on, but for touristing… it’s not ideal.

We passed Cullompton (and the turning for Killerton), and the traffic certainly didn’t seem to be easing. We had to make a decision soon: did we keep on going past Exeter to Torbay, or turn off early to either Exeter Riverside or Exmouth? We hadn’t really fancied Exmouth initially, as being a “road” course, it was one we could easily do with buggies. But, we were getting really touch-and-go for Torbay, and didn’t fancy repeating Exeter Riverside.

And so, we arrived in Exmouth with plenty of time. Which was handy, as we drove around the block a couple of times while I got confused about where we should park. In the end, we got it about right, parking on the prom, just metres from the start/finish. It’s paid parking, but I seem to recall that it was pretty reasonable, even taking into account the extra hour’s cost to fit in breakfast!

After popping to the toilets (very conveniently located) and faffing around for a while, I realised that I should probably head off for a warm-up jog. I headed off west along the Esplanade, knowing that the course mostly went the other direction. I knew I didn’t have too much time, but for some reason, I just kept on going, and ended up clocking up 1.1 miles. Which is perfectly reasonable, except when you get back to the start and find that everyone else is already gathered up ready to go!

Having missed the new runners briefing, and apparently the normal briefing too, I was initially slightly disorientated, and couldn’t work out which end of the pack I should integrate myself into. It soon became apparent when I paid attention, and I snuck myself into the side. Unfortunately, poor preparation meant that a few things weren’t quite ideal. Firstly, I was wearing my new inov-8 Parkclaws. These light trail shoes had seemed ideal for the mixed terrain of Torbay Velopark, but for the 100% pavement course of Exmouth, they were less ideal. Unfortunately, they were the only shoe I’d brought with me. Well, other than my Primark rip-off Vans, and well, no. Secondly, I was still in two layers from my warm-up, and couldn’t see anywhere obvious to leave the outer layer. Thankfully, it was just my ’50’ top over my apricot vest, so it wasn’t like I was in a thick hoodie, but still.

Anyway, without much further ado, we were off. And I had no idea where we were going. Normally, before any parkrun (or race, or training run) I intensely study the route, the elevation, any slow bits on Strava that might be because of mud etc. However, as I’d been expecting to go somewhere else, and had missed the run briefing to boot, I really had no idea. Sure, I knew it went along the seafront, and went mostly east, but a little bit west too. But I didn’t know how many laps it was, or whether it was the same lap each time, or, well, anything useful.

Actually, a very simple course!

On the other hand, it didn’t make a huge difference; I wasn’t going to finish first, so obviously I could just follow those ahead of me. That said, I was still caught a bit by surprise at the sharp hairpin bend we had to negotiate almost straight away! They had pacers when we were there, so I decided to tuck in behind the group that had formed around the 20 minute pacer, and just see how long I could settle in there before I lost them. Even holding back behind that pack, I was cracking along at a fair pace; around six minute miles for the first quarter of a mile; far quicker than the 6:25 needed.

About three quarters of a mile in, we were directed around to the right of the lifeboat station. I fully expected this to be a turnaround point, but no, we kept on going. It was quickly becoming apparent that this was in fact a single lap course. Out-and-back east, followed by a small out-and-back west. Which was a shame for my spare layer of clothing that I was now wearing wrapped around my hand – I’d hoped to throw it somewhere as we looped for a second lap. Damn this missing the briefing thing.

All the way to the end of the esplanade, about one and a quarter miles, and we turned around a nice large circle – none of this tight corner around a cone nonsense here! (That was later, at the other end.) Heading back, we were directed around the other side of the lifeboat station (right again, of course). Being near a pacer, there was still a nice little pack of us, which was helping me to keep with a pace I hadn’t really expected to maintain. In fact, Exmouth parkrun was a rarity for me – a fast paced run in which I ran perfect negative progression. After 2.4 miles, we re-passed the start/finish area, and I was  finally able to throw my spare layer of clothing at the RD (what else are they for, after all?) Unburdened, I headed off for the eastern spur of the run reinvigorated! Or something like that.

As I alluded to earlier, the turnaround point at this end was just a cone, but with the field spread out more than at the other end, it wasn’t an issue for me as a pinch point – had I been running with the buggy in the mid-field, it might have been a bit trickier. That turn comes at about 2.7 miles, so provides a nice mental point to start ramping things up a bit more for a quick finish. The course veers to the right to finish, but carries on a little further than the start line (this would have been nice to know in advance – if only I’d been around to hear any sort of briefing!!) I was chuffed with my time of 19:41, my second fastest parkrun ever!

Lolly did pretty well too, finishing in 29:27, her 10th different sub-30 parkrun course, also making it only the second course on which we had a sub-20/sub-30 pair. (Along with our home parkrun, Longrun Meadow.)

Not just a dull out and back… The wheel is more or less the start/finish area, which is a handy landmark on the run.

The course sounds a little dull; out and back along the prom. Similar to Seaton, but without the run on the pebble beach, and Minehead, but just one “lap”. In some ways, it is a bit dull. It’s flat, all pavement. But, of course, the views counteract that to an extent – Exmouth is a pretty bit of coast. It’s a much quicker course than Minehead, (Seaton is relatively slow because of the beach sections), but this might have a bit to do with the relative amount of wind at each. Despite having pretty big number when we were there (337), it didn’t feel too overcrowded, even with passing other runners on the prom.

After the run, the barcode scanning is (a little confusingly at first) in the cafe across the road from the finish. Although there were signs, I found them a bit unclear initially, and mostly worked it out by following other people! Of course, once we were in the cafe, it would have been rude not to stop for some breakfast too…

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.

My Snowdonia thoughts

A bit of time has passed now since the Snowdonia Trail Marathon. (Did I mention that I ran a marathon?) I wanted to post again to reflect on my thoughts about a few things. Overall, I did it. I did it in more or less the exact time that I estimated. So I can’t have too many qualms about the race really. But.. there are a few things that I’ve learnt from.

Training

So, again, I finished, and I finished in pretty much the time I predicted. But that doesn’t mean that my training was perfect. Or even adequate. I took a relatively laid-back approach to this training cycle. My focus was on two main things: mileage and elevation.

The latter I certainly achieved (compared to my previous efforts, at least). I opted for a two-pronged approach: I simply made an effort to target more hills in my runs, and run far less in central Taunton, and I joined Minehead Running Club for their Monday evening runs. The combined effect meant that by early July, shortly before my marathon, I had run just over 50,000 feet this year. In contrast, the most I’d ever run before *in a whole year* was 42,000 feet.

Courtesy of Veloviewer.

Mileage was generally less successful. I only ran one long run of 20 miles or more; and only three that were 15 miles or more. My weekly mileages were also pretty low. In the 12 weeks leading up to the race, my biggest week was 40.7 miles. In contrast, my biggest week for the Bristol Half Marathon was 45.9 miles. Accumulated across the whole 12 weeks, the difference is even more stark: 422 miles for the Bristol Half, compared to 301 miles for Snowdonia.

There were definitely reasons – I was ill twice during that training period for Snowdonia, and missed something like 15-20 days (not all of these were training days, of course). That probably works out to about 60-100 miles, a big part of the difference. Without those gaps, my training would have built on itself a bit better, and I would almost certainly have done longer long runs. Or at least, more of them. Races (as always) got in the way too. Doing a 10k, plus some added mileage isn’t too bad during training for a half, but it’s a pretty big dent for marathon training. If I’m serious about a marathon in the future, I probably need to curb my shorter distance racing habit a bit.

We also had a lot going on. Both me and Lolly have been busy and stressed at work, and we also have twice as many children to deal with now compared to during that Bristol Half training.

Could I have trained better? Yes, though it’s hard to account for illness. Do I really mind? No, this was all about completion, not time. But it’s still good to analyse it to see where improvements could come in the future.

Fuelling

This, in my opinion, is where I really let myself down. I don’t even know why it all went wrong. Well, no, I do. I got in my own head about it, and messed myself up.

I have quite a sensitive stomach / digestive system. Actually, that isn’t entirely true. For some reason, my head has too much influence over my stomach. I make myself feel ill – if I get it in my head that something smells funny and has gone off, then my stomach feels funny. Not because the food has actually gone off, but because my head makes my stomach worry about it. Or something like that. Because of this, I’d never used gels before this training cycle. I’d read so much about their possible effects on the digestive system that I thought it best to avoid them with my own.

I realised that running a marathon without anything would be stupid. Particularly this marathon. I am also something of a fussy eater, so most of the ‘natural’ alternatives don’t appeal to me. After a fair bit of research, I settled on trying the Torq gels. They were described as more of a ‘yoghurty’ texture and flavour, which sounded like something I could deal with. And I could. I used them in my training runs, and had absolutely no problems. I also tried having a peanut butter sandwich (too dry and claggy) and then settled on peanut butter and jam sandwiches instead.

My favourites: Apple Crumble, Raspberry Ripple.

So, for the race, I set off with (I think) seven gels, plus two slices of peanut and jam sandwich. My plan was to eat something roughly every 4.5 to 5 miles.

I had a gel at around 6 miles, and a sandwich at 11 miles. A further gel at 15 miles, and I was done for the race. I tried to have the other sandwich around mile 21, but by then I was struggling up Snowdon and was pretty dehydrated. I should have probably tried a gel instead, but as I say, I’d basically got in my own head by then. The distances don’t look too bad, but if I convert them into times, it tells a slightly different story. 1 hr 10, 1 hr 50, 2 hr 30, 4 hr 18. Yeah, not quite the same as 6, 11, 15, 21, huh?

A simple lesson to be learnt here – distances might be fine for flat road marathons where you would expect relatively even splits. But for gnarly trail marathons with mountains… not such a good idea. In future, I might try to base my fuelling on time, rather than distance. I also need to worry less about what everyone else is doing, and just focus on myself. Which is really bloody obvious, and yet still I suffered by it.

Hydration

For the most part, my hydration was pretty good. I carried a 500 ml bottle with me (this was part of the mandatory kit). For the majority of the race, this was plenty enough, in conjunction with the drinks stations themselves. However, for that four miles from Pen-y-Pass to the drinks station on the way down Snowdon it was not. Primarily because that four miles took me about 1 hr 45. Basically, as above, I just need to consider time gaps, rather than distance gaps. For most races, a 500 ml bottle plus refills would have sufficed, but for this one, I could have done with double that, if only for the big climb.

The mountain

Despite the sharp increase in the amount of elevation I clocked up during training, nothing could prepare me for Snowdon itself. A 1,300 ft climb up Corn Du in the snow in early February was the biggest single climb I did, while my “Exmoor Three Peaks” run totalled 3,300 ft, including Dunkery Beacon. Both impressive feats, but compared to a 2,800 ft climb over about four miles, they were small preparation. Especially after 18 miles of running. Simply put, the only thing that could have prepared me for climbing up Snowdon would have been climbing up Snowdon.

Would I like to go up Snowdon again sometime? Yes. Would I want to do it in a race? Maybe, but probably not. I run because I love running. Walking for four miles isn’t my idea of running. It was a great challenge etc etc, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t running. Would I do another race with over 5,500 ft of elevation? Sure. But it would need to be more spread out over the whole race, rather than concentrated on one big and one very, very big climb.

Marathon distance

I guess the biggest question is whether I would consider doing another marathon. Truth be told, I don’t know. The long runs were pretty tough on the family, and I really didn’t enjoy them that much. The race itself was hard, really hard. But then, I’ve heard it talked about as being the “toughest marathon in the United Kingdom”, so go figure. For the moment, I certainly want to focus on shorter distance stuff again. But… I do still have my deferred London Marathon place…

Hmmm…

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!