We first met in December 2014. You were experienced and had enjoyed some of the best that the area had to offer. I’d had a few clumsy fumbles with parkrun and thought I knew what I was doing. Brash, I thought you’d be the ideal partner for me to show off what I was made of. You took me on, roughed me up, and tossed me back out again.
Spurned and embarrassed, I was quick to judge you harshly. Whenever anyone mentioned you, I was unkind, saying nasty things. I said that you had too many laps, that your corners were too sharp, too slow, too much of a drag on your momentum. I suggested that the entrance to Pizza Express was a gauntlet, that I; even I, had been lapped. The horror. As time went on, my memories of you got harder. The corners got sharper, the laps duller, and it was even your fault that it was a cold night.
For four years I avoided you. During this time, I got a bit more experience. Heck, let’s be honest, I got around a bit. I had a fairly regular thing going with the Yeovilton 5k (one lap, gentle corners…) for a while. I tried flat, bumpy, short, long, dirty, clean, the whole shebang.
So, four years more experienced, I came back. A bit more mature, a bit less cocky. And, well… you’re not so bad. Sure, you’ve got five laps. All the better for pacing myself, keeping myself under control. Yeah, some of the corners are quite sharp. But at least you don’t have any of those 180 degree out-and-back cones, so it’s easy enough to maintain momentum by taking a wider line. Pizza Express – I’m not sure if they even have any customers?!
Cap in hand, I have to say sorry. Sorry I judged you so harshly. Sorry I blamed my shortcomings on you. I had a good time; shall we do it again sometime?
This week was always going to be tough. Lolly was away from home for two nights, Tuesday and Wednesday, and also had her Coaching in Running Fitness course over the weekend, meaning that I had sole parental responsibility for the kids for a fair chunk of the week. Given that I’d built my mileage back quite quickly, this seemed like an ideal week to ease off a little bit and take a “recovery week”.
Tuesday: Seaton coast path
I had meant to get out for a run on Monday, but it just didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. Knowing that Lolly was leaving early Tuesday evening, this only left me with Tuesday, otherwise I’d have to wait until Thursday evening. Even on a lower-mileage week, that would be a bit late for my first run of the week!
This one really did push things fine. Work went on a bit longer than expected, but I managed to get changed and out for four miles out and back along the coast from Seaton. I didn’t really have time for anything more – sure, I could have squeezed an extra mile in if I’d stuck to the roads, but where’s the joy in that?! Conditions were pretty awful, the ground was really wet and slippery after the snow at the weekend, and it was lightly raining and misty, so visibility was bad too! The first and last kilometre of this run were on road, which might be part of the reason I managed a 9:08/mile average pace, though I’m honestly surprised to see that even my slowest mile was 9:42, which given the mud… I’m very happy with!
Friday: Five miles general aerobic
This was just one of those runs where things just didn’t feel quite right. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was. I had an ulcer on the edge of my tongue which was very painful, and I possibly hadn’t eaten or drunk as much as I should have done. It also affected my breathing slightly, so maybe I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Or maybe it was something else completely. But it just wasn’t great. I’d initially planned to go out at a decent pace, probably slightly sub-8:00/mile, and then push harder in the middle for a Strava segment effort. (Not for CR, which I’d have had no chance at, just because it was a good excuse for a ‘push’ in the middle of my run.
All those plans went out the window after the first mile; I’d just about managed 8:20, and thereafter continuing at around 9:10/mile felt tough enough. I still managed the five miles that I’d planned though, so no major issues.
Sunday: Seven miles ‘long’
Once Lolly was back from her course, I headed pretty much straight out for my last run of the week. Given that it was Sunday evening and we hadn’t had dinner yet, I couldn’t go too long, so I settled on “6 to 8 miles”. I hadn’t planned a route at all, so figured I’d just work it out as I went along. My first mile was the quickest, an 8:39, but after that I settled into the 8:50 to 9:05 range pretty comfortably. I ended up doing 7.11 miles, so pretty much smack in the middle of my target. Nothing too interesting about this run!
The week went more or less as I’d expected. With everything going on, it was tough to find much time to get out for runs, but I managed to do three, and I clocked up 16 miles, which is sufficient for a “recovery week” style plan. I’d have been happier if I’d been closer to 20 miles, but I can’t be silly about it.
Next week, the plan is to get the mileage back up towards 30 miles, and hopefully incorporate the Street 5k on Wednesday as a bit of a time-trial to see where I’m at. It is far from my favourite race, as a five-lapper with sharp right-angle bends, but I’m pretty eager to see how I’m doing.
So last week, I set myself a couple of targets to try and prevent myself from feeling so under pressure as I had done:
Get out for a run on a Monday or Tuesday.
Have a training plan coming into the week, rather than just making things up ad hoc.
I’ll approach these in reverse order: I did not have a training plan for the week; I pretty much just made things up ad hoc. Sure, I had some vague ideas about how I might manage to hit 25 miles for the week, but nothing specific. On the other hand, I did manage to get out for a run on Monday or Tuesday. So, mini-yay!
Tuesday: RFRC Trail Run
These days I probably run more with Minehead RC than with Running Forever RC, despite the latter being my first-claim club. So it was nice to be able to pop across town to catch up with some of my RFRC club-mates, and head out on a head-torch trail run. This is only the second completely night run that I’ve done with the club, but unlike when I do it alone (when it seems eerie and weird), I mostly just forget that it’s actually dark at all. The effect of group running is miraculous sometimes!
We headed out on a very muddy and slippery route that headed over Cotlake Hill, one of my favourite local routes. I had a few good chats with various people, and enjoyed the route, though I couldn’t have really told you where we were most of the time in the dark! We clocked up just under six miles in just over an hour, which is a pretty good pace for the group at night. For me, I wasn’t at all fussed about pace on the run, just getting some miles in early in the week: mission accomplished.
Thursday: 5.8 miles ‘steady’
This should really have been a gentler run, but with an amber weather warning in place for snow and ice, which was apparently due to come in at 17:00, I needed to get a wriggle on as I went out at quarter past four. This was a bit of a stupid run – not that I was running in an amber weather warning, but that I had decided to run out on country roads in the foothills of the Quantocks during an amber weather warning. It was lightly snowing as I ran, and had it been heavier, I could have been in a bit of trouble getting back, especially as I was just wearing road shoes. But anyway…
This was a pretty decent paced run. I covered the 5.8 miles at a pace of 8:10 per mile on average, with a couple of ‘grade adjusted paces’ of 7:47 and 7:22 for miles two and three. I can’t really complain about too much on this one; I felt pretty good.
Saturday: Killerton parkrun
I wrote about this in another blog post, but as usual, I’ll address my performance a bit more closely. Having not run at Killerton in over four years, I couldn’t really remember too much about the course (except that it was mostly off-road, and was a net-downhill). I shot off far too fast early on, but then settled in with a small group, which helped me to control my pace for pretty much the whole rest of the run. Despite the snow and ice, conditions weren’t too bad to run in. There were a few icy puddles to negotiate in a couple of sections of the course, but otherwise the weather had mostly firmed the ground up a little.
I never pushed myself too hard during the run, but I did stretch my legs a little bit more towards the end, managing to pass another runner in the last field, and then keep ahead as we approached the finish. I beat my previous time at Killerton by 16 seconds, and comparing my two Strava records, it looks like most of that was in the first kilometre; my splits for kilometres two, three and four are practically identical.
I was chuffed to equal my time from Penrose parkrun on New Year’s Day of 21:21. Penrose is pretty much a flat road course, so to achieve the same time off-road (even bearing in mind the net-downhill) is a good achievement.
After finishing the run, I headed around as part of a group of six for a cool down loop of the whole course again. The pace was a fair bit quicker than I would have run for a cool down, coming in at 7:44 per mile, but it was just nice to have company (and people who knew the route). The mileage was pretty necessary, as while I’d got out a couple of times in the week, I knew that I was a little behind target again.
Sunday: MRC Relay Leg One Recce
After running with organised recces of leg three (which I’m not running) and leg two (which I’m not running), and going out on my own for an out-and-back run of half of leg one, it was good to get a proper recce of the route done. I feel like I’ve got the second half of the route, which I’ve now run twice forwards and once backwards, settled pretty well. I want to run the first half, or at least the part getting out of Minehead, again if I can, just so that I’m confident on the day.
The run itself was done at a pretty chatty pace. Seven of us started, and we met Nigel about halfway along to take us up to eight. It was nice to get a bit of clarity on a couple of parts of the route, where people had gone different ways on different recces, but mostly just good to run and chat. We did 8.2 miles at a moving pace of 9:53 per mile (or 11:53 per mile overall), but as with the other group run earlier in the week, this wasn’t about the pace.
I was really pleased with this week overall. Two of the runs were very gentle paces, but that’s really not a problem at the moment. The other two both pushed the pace on a little bit more, particularly the parkrun, and show that I’m progressing. Running is starting to become a habit again.
Amazingly, this January has become my highest mileage January ever, just surpassing 2014. I ran over 90 miles, and feel like I should have done more. I think this shows two things: firstly, I’ve actually done pretty well and getting back running again, and should be able to press on nicely through February and March. Secondly, I’ve been putting myself under way too much pressure, feeling like I haven’t done enough. I need to seriously consider giving myself a bit more of a break: both mentally and physically. A recovery week is probably well needed before I introduce too much speed work.
Between Lolly and I, we have actually visited Killerton parkrun three times before. I did post about my first visit, way back in October 2014. Back then, I was in the infancy of my running; I’d run my first trail race a few months earlier, but was still very much a road runner. It was only the second event I’d ‘toured’ at, and I was very much a regular at Longrun Meadow at the time. In contrast, only six of my last twenty six parkruns (dating back to the start of 2018) have been at Longrun Meadow, and I’m predominantly a trail runner these days. With these things in mind, and the fact my previous post was more of a comparison between Longrun Meadow and Killerton, I thought it worth writing it up again.
Although Killerton is a parkrun that I’ve been meaning to get back to again for a while, it’s taken me 225 weeks to return. In fact, it only happened this week because of the snow. We had been scheduled to visit Severn Bridge parkrun: I was even on the volunteer roster as Run Report Writer. But then the snow and ice hit, and in a swathe of cancellations (particularly in the Bristol area) Severn Bridge was called off.
With Longrun Meadow also cancelled, it was time for Killerton to shine. They had announced on the Friday that they would almost certainly be on, so it only remained to get myself into gear and out in time to do it. Which nearly went all wrong – when I got in my car, after de-icing, my sat-nav suggested that I would arrive at Killerton at 8:58. Bugger. It would take longer than two minutes to change into my trail shoes and get to the start!
Well, after an entirely legal drive within the speed limits, it turned out that my sat nav just didn’t like small country roads (I’ve only had this car for five-and-a-half years, you’d have thought that I’d realise that by now.) I arrived at about 8:46. This left just about enough time for me to get my stuff sorted and head up to the start for the first-timers briefing. Sure, it technically wasn’t my first-time, but after 225 weeks, things get a bit rusty. There is space for 270 cars in the National Trust car park (free to members, no idea how much for anyone else, as we’re members.) Killerton are very open on their social media that car sharing is important, and they will literally turn any car after the 270th away. (They have a car park marshal with a tally counter.)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the weather, there were not that many first-timers or tourists of any description. As far as we could tell, I might well have ventured the furthest (Taunton to Killerton being a huge 29 miles), and there was only one person running their very first parkrun! It does have to be noted that I appeared to be in a distinct minority, with both my arms and legs bare. I was certainly a tad chilly at the start, but I was absolutely fine during the run, so I don’t have any regrets.
Both the first-timers and the main run briefing had warning about slippery sections on the course due to ice, but things weren’t too bad early on as we crossed a snowy field and then dropped down along woodland paths. I went off a little too fast through this first mile, enjoying the terrain. There are a few gates and cattle-grids along the route, but they are all marshalled and open during the run. (Except the cattle-grid, which is taped off!)
Shortly after the start of the second mile (towards the end of the second kilometre) the course winds around the edge of a field (though still on the woodland path) and starts to climb again. At this point we had our first real issue with snow or ice, with a short section of compacted snow on the uphill that was a little bit slippery, but nothing too serious. We continued on for another half mile through the woods before emerging onto farm-track. While this is probably normally an upgrade in terms of grip and pace, we now found ourselves playing ‘dodge the icy puddle’. I was running well inside the top-20, so few of the puddles had been broken up.
My memory gets a bit hazy as to exactly which order things came along this stretch, but things definitely got worse before they got better. We had a huge puddle to get through, which while not actually icy, was unavoidable and very, very cold. There was then (or possibly there had already been, whatever) a stretch with more mostly unbroken puddles: though bizarrely, my biggest concern was the marshal who was walking down to warn us to be careful!
Safely through all the ice, the course returned off-road into the large field to the south of Killerton House. During the summer, these are often filled with livestock (last time Lolly ran, the lead runners were having to weave through some quite rowdy cattle in the finishing straight!) There was nothing there today, and in the clear conditions, I could see all the way to the finish from a long way off. I slipped past one runner early on during this field, and had expected to gap him easily, as he seemed to be struggling, but he made me work all the way to the finish!
A time of 21:21 equalled my effort at Penrose parkrun on New Year’s Day, the quickest of the year for me. It’s worth bearing in mind that Killerton is a downhill course, finishing about 120 feet lower than it starts. After scanning my barcode, I overheard a couple of runners mention that they were going for another lap. I’d wanted to make sure I added a couple of miles onto this run, so I figured that I’d try and tag along. There ended up being a group of six of us heading around the course again, and I got a lovely commentary on the course and some of the runners and marshals from Gordon Seward, a very regular volunteer at Killerton (he’s been timekeeper over 40 times every year since the event started in 2011.)
I dropped off the group as we approached the finish for the second time, and stopped to chat to Kirk Shepherd, a fellow tourist and Longrun Meadow runner. We discussed the course and conditions for a while before he headed to the cafe and I headed home. (As Danny Norman told me last week, I’m a part-time tourist sometimes.)
Killerton is a lovely parkrun in a gorgeous location. There are toilets in the car park, and a National Trust cafe, which smelt delicious, between the scanning table and the car park. There’s generally a hose available by the toilets to hose down dirty shoes, and this week there was a bread stall set out by the car park! Lolly has often brought the children down during holidays as it’s a great place for them to run and explore, but I have to admit that I’ve never been myself outside of parkrun.
Hopefully it’ll be less than 225 weeks before I return again.
After only managing 14 miles and 16 miles in each of the previous two weeks because of a cold, I was pretty eager to get back up to the 25 mile figure that I have been carrying around in my head. I didn’t really have much planned for the week, other than a long day away from home on the Friday.
Wednesday: 7 miles along the Tarka Trail
I didn’t really manage to get myself going early in the week. Having run Thursday, Saturday, Sunday the previous week, I didn’t want to be out again on Monday, but I could really have done with a run on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage it while I was at work, and then the cold rain put me off at home. This then started to put the pressure onto me to get something done on Wednesday. Thankfully, I finished work early enough to be able to get out for a run while I was out and about. As I was working in Barnstaple, I opted to get along to the Tarka Trail. I had previously run part of this out-and-back from Barnstaple to Fremington, so this time I drove out to Fremington (about 15 minutes) and ran from there.
This section of the Tarka Trail is an old railway line, and as a result it’s pretty pancake flat. Across the whole 7.33 miles, Strava reckons I did 37 feet of climbing! The terrain is all very easy going too – in fact, I should have been wearing proper road shoes, rather than my inov-8 Parkclaws. That poor shoe choice meant that I had sore soles by the end of the run, but no real harm done. I was feeling pretty good on the run, and managed a pretty decent pace, averaging 8:04 per mile, and being pretty consistent throughout.
I enjoyed this run, and I enjoyed pushing on a little faster again than I’ve been recently. On the one hand though, I need to be careful to keep most of my runs at a gentler pace for a while, as I build back to base mileage, but on the other hand, I do need to start pushing myself.
This was also part of the coast path, and so works towards my very long-term goal of running the entire South West Coast Path. Yay.
Friday: Moors Valley Forest Trail
After not running again on Thursday, I was really feeling under pressure to run on Friday. My brother and his wife were coming to visit us, and I had a horrible day planned on Southampton and Ringwood, so I wasn’t sure whether I would manage anything. Thankfully, I managed to leave early, and the work wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, so I was able to sneak over to Moors Valley Country Park (much to the annoyance of Lolly), which is one of the best places to run.
I decided to head off in a different direction to my previous runs in the park, and explored the lakes and ‘forest trail’. The place never disappoints, and it was another lovely little run. Unfortunately, the emphasis was rather on the ‘little’. Having not planned the run, it ended up coming in at 3.2 miles, which was probably a little bit shorter than I would have liked in terms of accumulation for my weekly total. But… I did need to rush back, so I couldn’t really faff about adding more on.
Saturday: Henstridge Airfield parkrun
I’ve mostly written about this in another blog post, but for the purposes of my personal running, this wasn’t that significant. I ‘ran’ the 5 km with Lani at a pace of 14:16 per mile. Great for her, but not particularly relevant training for me. I had intended to head back out for a couple of miles immediately after, but didn’t. Enough said.
Sunday: 10 mile long run
It’s more or less the theme of the week, but I felt under real pressure to get the miles in on Sunday. It was also the theme of the week that I didn’t just knuckle down and get it done early. I didn’t end up going out until almost three in the afternoon.
But, in the end, it was a pretty positive run. I clocked up 10.6 miles on a variety of terrains, and ticked my ‘novelty’ box with a new area explored around Knapp. The combination of wet, muddy fields alongside a fair bit of road running meant my shoe choice was inevitably going to be wrong in at least one part of the run, but it was great to be able to get out on some decent trails without having to go for a drive. I always forget that I can actually do that! As you’d expect, my pace was a bit all over the place, but I averaged 8:53, which given how muddy some parts were, seems pretty quick for a long run.
Speaking of a long run, this was the first time since 15 July 2018 that I’ve run 10 miles or more. So that’s a nice little boost.
Okay, first up: I don’t want to put myself under this much pressure too many more times. As a result, I need to make two main changes going forwards:
Get out for a run on a Monday or Tuesday.
Have a training plan coming into the week, rather than just making things up ad hoc.
Other than that issue, the running I did this week was all pretty good. I ended up hitting 24.3 miles for the week (including the parkrun). In general, things were a little quicker than they have been so far. This is good and promising, but I do need to be careful not to overstretch myself and risk injury. The most important thing I can do is get running and keep running. Over the last five years I’ve not improve anywhere near as much as I would have liked, and the single most significant reason for this is a lack of consistent training due to injury and illness. I generally train well and train hard when I am training, but all to often, I’m not training at all.
Although we remain a fair distance off our eventual target of being South West Regionnaires, (that is, having done all the parkruns in the South West region), until the start of September, we had completed all of the parkruns in Somerset (the so-called Somer-Set, get it?) However, on 8 September, Henstridge Airfield parkrun started, which we soon discovered was actually in Somerset.
Ever since this discovery, Henstridge Airfield has been close to the top of our to-do list. But for varying reasons, it’s never quite been the top. This weekend we needed a quicker morning, as we had my brother and his wife staying in Taunton. Now, a sensible person would decide not to tour at all. Clearly though, that is not us. We did, however, make the concession of heading off to our NENYD:T (Nearest Event Not Yet Done: by Time). The logic was that a flying visit would see us finished and home again by 11. In theory.
A nice late start of half 7 wasn’t too taxing, and the drive was very simple following the postcode provided on the website, with the directions to help confirm things at the end. Even though we arrived at half 8, there were already a fair few cars in the car park (though not yet a car park marshal – he came a short time later). Having driven through Henstridge on the way, we were now made very aware of the ‘Airfield’ part, as there were two small aeroplanes parked just metres away from the car park.
We had plenty of time to use the toilet, set up the buggy and get over to the gather point by the café block. We spotted another runner with an Out N About Nipper Sport buggy, but hers was considerably cleaner than ours. It turns out that she was running with it for the first time, so I feel less bad about the state of ours now! I don’t know whether there wasn’t a first-timers briefing, or if we just contrived to miss it somehow, but we did hear the normal run briefing. Well, I say “we”. Lolly heard it, but apparently I zoned out, as once we started running, I realised that I had no idea what the course did at all. (There was a very good map by the café block, but apparently I missed this too. Fails all around for me.)
As our old running buggy is really starting to show its age, we are trying to transition over to having Lani run more than she goes in the buggy. As a result, this week our running configuration was Lolly + buggy, Ben + Lani. This had benefits for Lolly, who got both the better buggy (as usual) but also the lighter child (not as usual). At the start, Lani and I got ahead of Lolly initially, as it is always easier to get through a crowd without a buggy, but as things cleared up, Lolly passed us and started to ease her way ahead. Until, that is, Lani shouted “let’s catch Mummy”, and put on a sprint. Fearing for the long-term practicality of this plan, I urged caution, and we slowed back down. Five-year-olds are not known for their long-term thinking.
Although she eased back a little, there was no point in me slowing her down too much. For one thing, I need to let her enjoy the run, and for another, children’s bodies simply don’t work the same way as ours. The first kilometre clocked in at 7:43; roughly 36-minute pace, and definitely not indicative of how we’d finish! This first stretch, in fact, the first 3 kilometres (just under 2 miles) was along what was basically a poorly looked after tarmac (or maybe concrete) road covered in a thin layer of mud. With lots of puddles. Which Lani delighted in trying to push me into. Either that, or splash into them herself, with the aim of getting me wet. The marshals, incidentally, found this hilarious.
We went out-and-back along this road twice, which was honestly a little uninspiring. I understand that this a winter course that they’ve been forced to adopt due to flooding – the normal course involves a lot less repetition, and has a long loop next to the river. The one nice things with a double out-and-back is the amount of waving, cheering and high-fiving that can occur. Lani was getting lots of support along the way, which is always lovely. Lots of the marshals also had shakers and stuff to make more noise, which did help to give a run a nice friendly atmosphere.
After the road, we then had a different out-and-back, this time running basically around the edge of the airfield (emphasis on ‘field’) for half a mile each way. I can only imagine that Lolly was having a tough time of it. For some reason, we’d both brought road shoes with us. The field was soggy, slippy and very uneven. Lani was doing really well, and didn’t seem at all bothered by the mud. But she did, apparently, need the toilet. This slowed us down a little. Still, I’d rather have a few walking breaks than an accident to clean up! The support from other runners and the marshals continued to be brilliant, and as we approached the finish, Lolly was there to cheer us on too. As always, Lani managed to put in a sprint finish (and ‘beat’ Daddy) before we took part in a second sprint to the toilets!
As I mentioned above, my plan had very much been ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’, in order to get back to our guests. But Lani had other ideas. As we were coming out of the toilets, she was not subtle. “I can smell bacon. Can I have all-day breakfast?” My daughter is not one to be denied (okay, I’m a soft touch). (And I do like a cooked breakfast). I was amazed to see the café pretty much full: as Lolly will tell you, my memory is pretty awful, but I don’t remember seeing more people than that after a parkrun anywhere. The food was reasonably priced and pretty decent, and capped off a nice morning. We still didn’t stay for too long – we had a very brief chat with Danny Norman, uber-tourist and With Me Now podcast host, but really had to get back. The original plan to be back by 11 did slip a little bit… ten to 12, not too bad?
We would definitely like to come back in the summer and try out the normal course. Lani got a PB, and has declared it her favourite parkrun because she got to push Daddy into puddles.
Unsurprisingly, after picking up a cold last week, this was another slightly curtailed week. I didn’t manage to get out at all until Thursday, and I wasn’t sure what I would manage. Obviously, with this sort of week, any grand targets get thrown out of the window, and it’s just about doing what I can, and what feels like it isn’t stupid and likely to plunge me back into the depths of illness.
Oh, and you might notice that I’ve flipped back into miles. My attempts to convert to kilometres lasted two weeks, before I realised that I was having to reverse engineer everything into miles to figure out if it was the right pace / distance etc. It wasn’t worth it. I will still use kilometre distances and paces sometimes for 5k and 10k races and training, but by-and-large, I’m back to good old imperial.
Thursday: General aerobic
‘General aerobic’ is mostly just a posh way of saying ‘just a run’. It’s a pace generally between ‘steady-state’ running and ‘recovery’, but overlapping with each. Some people call these sort of runs ‘trash’ miles, but they do serve a specific purpose, particularly for me at the moment. They do not (normally) have a specific running benefit, but they do help to improve and maintain fitness. For me at the moment, building up my mileage and fitness, this is the main sort of run that I need to be doing. Tempo and speed work will come later, as will the long runs. I don’t need to be doing recovery runs as I’m not pushing myself hard enough to need that recovery time. Now, I just need to be out and running.
The run itself? A 2.7-mile effort around Taunton. I kept a pretty even pace, slowing slightly after my first mile to come in at 9:00 min/mile, which is relatively similar to most of my road running lately. While it’s fine for what I’m doing at the moment, I need to make sure that I ratchet things up once I’m up to distance and training properly: it would be so easy to settle into this pace.
Saturday: General aerobic (eventually)
Saturday was a weird day. We chose not to do any parkrun tourism so that we could focus on a few house chores. Lolly did manage to run a decent time at Burnham & Highbridge parkrun in the morning though. I was actually pretty motivated to get out and run a recce of my leg of the Minehead to Bishops Lydeard relay. In the last few weeks I’ve been out with the club doing some of the other legs, but I hadn’t actually run any of my own. But anyway, despite feeling pretty motivated to do it, I didn’t, and it started to get dark.
Thankfully, I did manage to get out (and not completely waste the day) for some miles around Taunton. I do struggle with these runs around town. When they are just ‘steady’, ‘general aerobic’ or ‘recovery’ runs, I find it hard to motivate myself. For a while now I’ve tried to run in new places to keep myself interested. That’s becoming increasingly hard around Taunton itself, but I incorporated a road that I’ve long meant to run on during this run; Hyde Lane, which goes past the rugby club. It was nothing particularly exciting, but it’s just nice to go somewhere different. If only for a mile!
Overall, this run ended up being six miles at an 8:48 min/mile pace.
Sunday: M2BL Leg One Recce
A day late (and a dollar short?) I managed to get myself out to try part of my relay route. As I was doing it on my own, I had to run it out-and-back, so didn’t fancy trying the whole 8.5-mile route for a 17-mile round trip! I drove up to Blue Anchor, where I parked on the seafront, before following my trusty OS Map App. I’d previously plotted my leg as a route, and downloaded the maps onto my phone so that they would work even if I had no phone signal. Thusly armed, I headed off into the unknown.
I was only half a mile into the run when I came across a pair of runners looking at their (paper) OS Map, along with their son on a bicycle. It turned out that they (the Shortens) were also running the route, and were trying to work out how to get through the farm. I (semi-)confidently led the way through, guided by my app. They suggested that I could run on, but I was in no hurry (sorry Lolly), so opted to stick with them for some company.
Through the farm, across the field, and we joined ‘Black Monkey Lane’. Which turned into a river. Okay, not so bad as the one that we had in leg three, but still – wet feet. Thanks Nigel! (Okay, it’s fun, I admit.) A bit of road, then some more fields to navigate, and then a long drag up the tricky Forche’s Lane to the changeover point. At this point the Shortens jumped into their car to head off, while I had the 3.9 miles to repeat in reverse.
More confident of the route (and running predominantly downhill) I was able to get along a bit quicker on the way back. This was a nice varied trail route, and one that I’d never have done if not for the relay. I want to try the route a couple more times before the day, and at least once do the whole lot in one go, but for a first run out, this was pretty good I think.
Given that I didn’t manage to get out at all until Thursday, getting 16 miles in was a decent achievement. It was a relief to finally recce my section of the relay. Hopefully, with my cold out of the way, I can build my mileage back over 25 miles next week. Beyond that, there’s little to comment on!
This week has been one of those weeks. Nothing has been really really bad. But lots of little things going not quite right, combined with feeling more tired every day, have made things generally a struggle. The one big positive in my week was starting a Couch to 5k group at my work, which is the sort of thing I’ve wanted to do for so long. The buzz afterwards made me determined to get out running myself, but sure enough being tired and feeling a bit meh ended up winning again.
So far this year we’ve managed a fair bit of parkrun tourism, and while it’s been fantastic it’s not always that good for our energy levels or domestic productivity. This, combined with our kids having a party invite for Saturday lunchtime, meant we reluctantly postponed our planned trip to Henstridge Airfield in favour of a more normal Saturday morning. Whatever one of those is. Naturally, this meant I had no motivation to actually get up and run. After confirming I didn’t want to go to Longrun Meadow (not feeling the puddles today), Ben told me to get my running kit on and head to Burnham.
Burnham and Highbridge parkrun is my second most-run event (after Longrun), and perhaps unsurprisingly my second closest (no prizes). We went to the inaugural back in 2015 (don’t go to those), and got what at the time was my second fastest time (27:12). Since then I’ve returned for my first fully run parkrun after our son was born (following a spell of run/walking), early last year to prove to myself how fast I could go (sub-30, it turned out), and later last year for a normal run.
Driving over I was thinking about the blog post I intended to write this afternoon. With it just being a normal run, I wouldn’t need to write about the run itself, and so instead could finally write my 2019 goals post, with my one key goal for the year and several sub-goals. With my indecision first thing, I was cutting the timing a bit tight and so the car park was already full, and I ended up parked way down a side road. As I got out the car I saw a text from one of my friend’s who’s in the Couch to 5k group, saying she’d just completed run 2. Talk about a much needed boost!
As I walked over towards the park, I could see that the runners were already gathered at the start and that the run brief in progress. However, the PA system was so good I could hear the run brief while waiting to cross the road. I heard that there were pacers, which meant when I reached the mass of runners I made sure to get further forward than the 30 bib. Because I swear 30 minute pacers are the hardest things to get past in all of parkrun.
The loud and clear PA system and countdown meant I started my watch bang on time. Being familiar with the course, I knew the start would be congested due to the narrower paths. But I also knew not to worry too much about this. I wasn’t able to weave around people as much as on my previous visit, as the grass to the side of the path was sodden, but I could still make up a bit of ground. I caught the 29 minute pacer near the play park. Thankfully he didn’t have too many followers, and so I got past relatively easily.
I started to wonder what I was doing, trying to make up so much pace when I haven’t been training lately. But then I remembered the text I’d received, and thought that if they’d managed to get themselves out to run then I should be able to put some effort in as well. I dialled in and as I reached the riverside path was fully focused on tracking down the 28 minute pacer. This is where goals start to snowball. I got the idea that maybe I could get a Burnham PB. But then I realised that 27:12 isn’t all that far off 26:49, my PSBPB (post-second baby personal best), and so maybe I could go for that instead?
The self-critical part of me was, of course, gleefully pointing out that I still had 2 miles in which to collapse, or at least drop off the pace entirely. But then something strange happened. I saw the 28 minute pacer… and then about 10 people ahead of him I saw the 26 minute pacer. Clearly one of them was in the wrong place. As I slowly caught up to the 28 bib I did some rough calculations from my watch, and determined that we were closer to 26. With that in mind, I made sure to overtake the 26 bib as well, and then gave myself the single goal of staying ahead of him the rest of the run. Which is funny, because of course if I achieved this goal I would have no idea how close or far behind me he was.
The esplanade section of the course is always a highlight. Sadly the tide was out, but the views were still good, the path was still solid and wide, and there was still the camaraderie of runners going in different directions. I even got to say hi to Al, one of our parkrun friends, when I saw him run past the opposite way. I realised while looping round and heading back down the other way that I was being a lot quieter than my usual cheering self. But I decided that actually sometimes it’s ok just to run for yourself instead of with the community.
As we headed back into the park I, somehow, still hadn’t completely collapsed. I felt pretty good considering how hard I was working myself. There were a few nervous watch checks as I tried to ignore the photographer, rounded the lake, and tried desperately to remember how far it was to the finish line. Approaching the line, the people in front of me came to a halt to allow plenty of space in the funnel. They were pretty understanding about my shout to keep moving…
Stopping my watch, collecting my token (position 100!), and walking all the way round to the scanning area was a bit of a daze. Had that really happened? I’m not properly in shape. I haven’t been training. There’s no way that can be right. I headed back to my car, and on the way home started to cry a little as the wave of emotion hit me. You see..
My Burnham and Highbridge parkrun PB was 27:12. And I beat that.
My post-second baby PB was 26:49. And I beat that.
But this, this was special. You see, 3 years, 3 months and 9 days ago I ran a time that has been etched into my brain ever since. 25:54. 3 years, 3 months and 9 days this has stood as a reminder of what I can do, but also a taunt of how I am not as good as I once was.
Because today didn’t need the clarifying as a course PB, or even as a PSBPB. Today I completed a parkrun in 25 minutes and 45 seconds, and I still can’t quite believe it.
Sure, it’s somewhat ruined my 2019 goals blog post, what with having completed my main goal for the year already. But the really nice thing is that I’m pretty sure it won’t be another 3 years, 3 months and 9 days until my next PB.
Last week, I discussed wanting to increase my mileage up to 40-50 km per week by the end of January. Typically then, this week I developed a cold. But, such is winter with two young children!
The week was disrupted somewhat as I was working away from home Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday, but as I’ve done before, I managed to work my way around it, and arranged to join the City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club for their Wednesday night club run.
Wednesday: 10 km with CoSARC
In fact, that Wednesday night run ended up being my first of the week. I’d intended to run on the Tuesday night, when I arrived at my Salisbury hotel, but I ended up getting in so late that I basically just ate and went to bed.
I arrived at the Five Rivers Leisure Centre with plenty of time to spare, and was impressed with the organisation – everyone had to sign in, and note down which group they were running with. There was a box to later tick to say you’d returned. This wasn’t something I’d come across before, but definitely seems like a very good idea.
I’d looked up beforehand, and decided to run with their group 6, doing roughly 6.5 miles (just over 10 km) at 9 min/mile. The joy of running with a group in a strange place is being able to simply run, rather than spend the entire time checking where you are, where you have to turn next, and generally just getting a bit stressed. Of course, it was somewhat typical that the first thing we did was run straight from the leisure centre to my hotel; one bit of road that I did know!
It was a nice run – I really don’t know the area well enough to be able to comment much on where we went, but I did notice when we ran through the park that hosts Salisbury parkrun, which we did way back in 2016. I ran mostly alone for the first half of our run, just listening to various conversations, before having a good natter for the second half of the run. Our pace was a smidgen faster than advertised, averaging 5:30 per kilometre (8:50 per mile) for 10.6 km.
Thank you very much to all involved with CoSARC for letting me run with you.
Thursday: General aerobic
When I got back on Thursday, I was more or less straight back out of the door for this run. It was a bit chilly, but I needed the miles. Nothing exciting, just a 7 km run around Taunton at a relatively steady pace; 5:30 per kilometre average again, with no single kilometre faster than 5:21 or slower than 5:40.
Saturday: Thornbury parkrun
I wrote a full report in another blog post, so as usual, I’ll just discuss my actual run. This was a tough course with a buggy. I took it relatively easy for the first lap, but was constantly easing my way through the field, having started at the back. There were obviously points where I was able to make better progress (downhill, on tarmac) and places where I made less (uphill, on grass, narrow bits). and so the pace bounced up and down a little bit throughout the run. I pretty much ran negative splits throughout though; especially if you consider the grade-adjusted pace: 5:35, 5:24, 5:06, 5:01, 4:56. A time of 26:25 with the buggy is nothing to be scoffed at; it’s quicker than I did Weymouth, Barnstaple, Plymvalley, Shepton Mallet or Exeter Riverside. And obviously quicker than Mount Edgcumbe!
My cold, which started to come through on Friday evening, nearly stopped us going to Thornbury parkrun: I’m bad enough in the mornings, and waking up with the start of a cold didn’t help. But I made the decision that if I was going to get a cold, I might as well run while i could, as it wasn’t going to make things much worse. I’m glad we did, especially as I then wasn’t able to run on Sunday due to being too thick with cold, and just plain wiped out. So for the week overall, I did 22.7 km, which was well under the 38.8 that I’d hit last week. Still, it was three decent runs, and I’m now up to five weeks of more regular running. Hopefully I can shake off the worst of this cold over the next couple of days, and get some more mileage in this week, but in all honesty, I’m not going to force things.
We’re on something of a parkrun streak at the moment: before this weekend we had done parkrun on each of the last six parkrundays (including Christmas and New Year). The last time I had done six parkrundays in a row was… February to April 2017. I could bore you with more stats, but suffice to say that parkrunning regularly hasn’t really been a thing for a while. With this in mind, I proposed to Lolly that we take a week off this weekend – at least, from touring. Then this happened.
Thornbury was one of many parkruns on our to do list that is predominantly on grass, and thus something of a lottery with the buggies in the winter (it also suffers from being up the M5, and therefore on the ‘avoid due to awful summer traffic’ list too). Thankfully, it stayed pretty dry this week, so we didn’t have any last minute panics. It was actually our NENYD (by driving time), and so we had a relatively friendly 7:30 departure time.
We used the recommended Castle Court car park, which was a doddle to find with the postcode provided on the website. The car park has both long- and short-stay areas, which are free for 12 or 2 hours respectively. I recommend the 12 hour option – breakfast in The Swan is worth it. [Oops, spoiler.] We did notice a potential problem in the car park though – the arrow pointing to the parkrun went through a narrow kissing gate. Which is… less than ideal with a buggy. Thankfully we managed to get alternative directions around to the park (back to the high street, a couple of hundred yards along, and then cut down a lane into the park). Phew.
Our first observations of the park were that it was, well, undulating. And generally… uneven. This might sound like I’ve basically said the same thing twice, but when you run with a buggy you soon learn the only thing worse than running up a hill is running along a hill, when your buggy wants to turn (or roll) sideways down the slope.
After a toilet break (ample toilets are located right by the start/finish) we were greeted by the chap who’d given us directions, and then it was time for the run briefing. During the briefing, the RD paused when he heard murmurs after saying there were no buggies or dogs. He followed the eyes of the crowd toward us. He paused a little longer. “It’s not really a buggy friendly course, but we’ll see how you get along.” I’m sure Lolly was about as enthused as I was.
The parkrun commences
After the usual inaudible start (seriously parkrun event teams, buy megaphones), we were off. The first, oh, 100 metres(?) was on tarmac before a sharp left onto the grass around a football pitch. Thankfully this was pretty flat and well looked after, and with the ground firm enough at the moment, it was still decent running. (I feel like I’m describing a racecourse; “the going was good to firm”). We then went along past Thornbury Town’s main pitch before things got a little bit more rugged. Passing through into the next field was a little bumpy with the buggy: comparing Open Street Map’s satellite images with those from Google suggest that this might be a relatively recent conversion to playing fields.
Going around another two football pitches (presumably youth pitches, as they are a little smaller) gets you most of the way back to the start, but only for half the lap. The route doesn’t quite kiss before looping around another field. This is the part where things start to get a little lumpy. (I should preface this by clarifying that a lot of what I might describe as “lumpy”, “hilly”, “a climb” etc might not be considered much of anything without a buggy, but with a buggy, these things get magnified.) Part of what makes this course feel so tough with a buggy is the number of 90° corners on grass – each time you lose pretty much any momentum you’ve built up, and simply getting the sufficient grip on the grass to wrest the buggy around (even in the relatively dry conditions) can be tricky. I found this especially the case on the way out of the third field, when we had a right-angle bend, up the hill. with a slight bump up onto the path.
Once on that path though, you’d done the toughest part of the lap. There was a little climbing left, but at least it was on a tarmac path, and then we went all the way around the top field, which was mostly downhill, enjoyed a little dip back on the path and crossed the start line. Rinse and repeat three times, and you’re done.
I’ll be honest – it’s not the most inspiring course I’ve ever run, especially when I’m visiting a week after doing Woolacombe Dunes. But parkrun isn’t about the course: if I’m totally honest, as predominately a trail runner these days, the majority of parkrun courses are a bit bland to me. What I think is far more important is the atmosphere. And while I related earlier that the RD had said it wasn’t a buggy friendly course, I can only half agree with him. The physical course is pretty unfriendly for buggies. In fact, as I went around one corner, I got so worried that my (pretty old now) buggy was going to fall apart that I started making plans for how I would finish if I had to abandon the buggy. (I mean, it wasn’t a complex plan to be fair – I would simply remove child from the buggy and walk with him to the finish.)
But the people; the marshals and fellow runners; they were extremely friendly. It might be partly because it’s a course that buggies are rarely seen at, but so many runners and volunteers took the time to cheer me on during the run, or step over at the end to congratulate me. I know it was the same for Lolly – she got a huge cheer when she finished, and received no end of encouragement throughout the run.
For me, that was the overwhelming takeaway from this run, the camaraderie. (Also, I avoided being lapped by about 6 seconds.) After the run, a group of us gathered together to try and recreate the 50 t-shirt photo.
Afterwards, the kids had a play in the playground, before I took both the buggies back to the car and then met Lolly and the kids at The Swan for breakfast. It was reasonably priced, and more to the point – HUGE!