Author Archives: Lolly

Somerset (and surrounds) races in June 2018

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

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

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

Because parkrun birthdays mean celebration and cake

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting race kit ready

What does race kit look like again?

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

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

Turning at the end of Station Road

Ah yes, this is how races work

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

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

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

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

Running by the sea

I remember! You have to hop!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Friday 2017 photo

Good Friday 2017

Good Friday 2018 photo

Good Friday 2018

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

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

parkrun tourism: Minehead parkrun

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

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

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

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

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

Taken by Ben, from the comfort of the car.

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

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

Training Diary – w/c 11th September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday – Rest Day

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

Photo Credit: Kevin Dunn

Sunday – Rest Day

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

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

Buggy beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

Any excuse to stop and rest…

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

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

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

Confessions of a Run/Walker

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

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

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

The trick is to time running with going past photographers

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

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

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

Run/Walking makes for some pretty cool Pace Analysis charts

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

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

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

parkrun at home: Longrun Meadow

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

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

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

The barn really is easy to spot!

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

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

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

Starting out with friends

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

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

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

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

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

Strong enough to finish on one leg

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

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

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

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

Photo credits to Kevin Dunn, via Facebook.

parkrun tourism: Moors Valley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of space to rest

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

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

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

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

Let there be exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laying the Foundations

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

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

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

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

And, yes, I do always look tired.

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

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