Tag Archives: 5k

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016: Week 14 of 18

Really getting down to the business end now, and following last weeks marathon paced beasting I seem to be riding along on a crest of a wave…

Midweek

The first run of the week was another interval session. 8 miles with a set of 5 x 600m. Last week, my legs just couldn’t carry me through any sort of speed at all. Given Sunday’s performance I wasn’t massively confident going into this one. I didn’t feel up for it and felt pretty tired. But, the lengthy warm-up seemed to work, and blasted through the intervals like I’ve never been able to before…

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Average of 5:19m/m per interval. Now I only did 5 not the full 8 for a 5k session, and I’m not sure if I could have continued with any more, but lets so I could, that would equate to a 5k average of 16:31! Still a long way off that level though, ha ha!

Wednesday was a strange one. We had my grandfathers funeral in the morning, and the wake at about lunchtime and I ate a lot of food and had several pints. I did get a one hour nap in before my 11 mile medium-long run, but I felt the effects of it. It had some pauses, I felt really ill (probably drunk) and I really shouldn’t have gone out. But still, it was miles in the legs.

Thursday was a recovery 4 miles with a set of strides. Strides were decent but my legs were a bit knackered!

parkrunday – Poole parkrun

Jodie was off on a hen weekend and I was due another tune up race. I was originally going to do Blandford, but Simon was off to Poole so I thought I’d join him.

I’d not run Poole parkrun other than the day after New Years Day, when the conditions were awful. This time though, conditions were perfect. It’s already regarded as one of the fastest parkrun courses around, so fresh off the back of my PB, I thought I’d have a crack at an even faster time today and optimistically set my watch to pace me to 18:59. I figured with 20s leeway I may at least get another PB even if I didn’t dip under.

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We got there early, parked up at the far end of the lake and jogged in as a warm up. It was pretty cold first thing, though it did warm towards the end of the run. Conditions were absolutely perfect, not a hint of wind, dry, cool… After a run brief which was barely audible we headed to the start. It was back on the “main course” compared to last time. We were quite near the front and aside from a dog runner right near the front (why oh why…) we got away pretty cleanly. I immediately found a stride and rhythm I felt comfortable with, though looking at the watch it was a tad fast.

The first mile ticked over in 6.01 – my new fastest mile PB if nothing else! I knew I was working hard but was still hopeful I could sustain. As we rounded the lake the the first time we were at halfway. One of the great things about a fast 5k is that they don’t take long, so you can hold on! Mile 2 came and went in 6.09 which meant I was jsut and just on pace. It started getting tough and the back end of the lake was a bit of a blur the second time round. I had to take the racing line when we reached the road and by now I was clinging on.

As we tantalisingly reached the pavilion we still had a 400m loop of the cricket pitch to round… I looked at my watch and I was 1 second behind target pace. I kicked on a bit but felt like I kicked to soon – with 300 to go I felt like I wanted to be sick, but I clung on and somehow found another gear. As my watch ticked over for mile 3 in 6:08 it was on – close, but on! I was worried that I’d end up with 19:00 flat, or that my watch was mis reporting something, or the official time would be a bit behind so I gave it absolutely everything I had for the last 100 meters and crossed the line, stopping my watch without looking at it…

I heard someone say “well run” to me as I heaved in the funnel, I was ushered forwards and then I looked at the watch… 18:54! I’d done it! A 26 second PB, and the official result confirmed the time. I was absolutely chuffed as nuts and can’t believe that after a year of trying to break 20, I bunny hopped in the 19s and into the 18s!

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Simon also run a brilliant 18:28 which he was delighted with, only 18s off his PB at Blandford last year. We are on fire! It made for a very happy drive home!

Sunday

On Sunday a few club mates were running the local Sherborne 10k. I had to do 16 miles so I decided to run the race at an easy pace and then run home which was about the right distance.

Though it was a small, local race it was a lot of fun thanks to my club mates and the fact that we paced 3 members to PBS! I wrote the club race report about it here.

The remaining 10 miles were a bit of a slog, we got a bit lost and my new short shorts started chafing but the pace was decent and brought the average down.

The biggest challenge with this run was the weather – it was so bright and sunny! I was too hot by the end – that’ll teach me to wear long sleeves instead of a vest!

Summary

Well with that week out of the way it’s the last tough week ahead before tapering. A set of long intervals, a midweek long run, and my longest long run as time on feet (3.15 hours) resulting in my peak mileage week.

Just one more week… Just one more week..

Greater Manchester Marathon: Week 12 of 18

I can’t believe it’s week 12 already! With only 3 weeks left until I start tapering (based upon the date of writing – 4 weeks as of the first session of the week discussed below) now is when the “Race Preparation” mesocycle of training kicks in, trying to sharpen my aerobic gains into speed through Interval workouts and tune-up races.

Midweek

On Tuesday I had an Interval session to do. I hate doing intervals on my own, but at least it was a short session. 8 miles with 5 x 600 meter reps in the middle and 2 minute recoveries. I was in Coleshill this week, and funnily enough I did the same session here last year, so a good comparison! When I finished the run, I felt the reps were excellent and thought I was in good shape compared to last year, but the reps weren’t a lot faster at all – I’m not sure whether to be concerned or not!

5x600

Rep 2015 2016 Difference
1 2:11 2:15 +4
2 2:12 2:12 0
3 2:14 2:12 -2
4 2:11 2:09 -2
5 2:11 2:11 0
Ave 0!

So looking at the data I’m in exactly the same shape I was in last year! A bit frustrating really, and it made me question if a sub-20 5k was possible this week, as I wasn’t able to do it last year – the PB which still stands. On the plus side, I know my new Garmin is a bit more accurate than the old one thanks to the addition of GLONASS so the data doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

Wednesday’s 12 mile medium-long run was suitably hard considering the day’s session previous. Couple this with the fact I was in Coleshill I also needed to find my way to a slightly new route, in the dark. Despite a couple of pauses and some very VERY dark alleys and crossing a couple of motorways (on bridges of course) I got around unscathed thanks to my handy printed map! What made it extra nice was progressing through to sustain sub 8s for the last half of the run including some nice segment PRs. I was on fire!

Thankfully, Thursday  saw me run 5 miles recovery (Which my legs were grateful for) with a set of strides. I ran with Jodie and my strides were of good form if the pace was a little slow. Nothing I was concerned about though.

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On Saturday we went to the under threat Little Stoke parkrun. The full report can be read here.

To summarize, this was a tune up race according to my plan, so I went for it big style and delivered the goods! A 1 minute PB for 19:20!

Tactically it wasn’t quite perfect – my miles got progressively slower but I’m not sure how much of that was my fatigue versus having to weave around back markers in subsequent miles.

littlestoke race analysis

But sod it, I am bloody chuffed! I’m off to Blandford in 2 weeks which will be a bit less busy and no congestion, possibly a slightly faster course and single out and back. I wonder how close to 19 I can go?

Sunday

On Sunday I wanted to run 22 miles at a decent pace, somewhere around 8:15 pace which is target marathon pace + 15% ish. Thankfully Simon was doing similar. We met in the afternoon it was a lovely day and we just ate the miles up. After about half way I was starting to feel the pace and it got worse when we reached Ilchester Road for a long climb! Not nice to hit when you are 16 miles in!

We got to the top. Interestingly, despite us running it up together, Simon ran that segment 5 seconds faster than me! Its only a segment, but it got him 7th overall and me 10th overall! Hardly fair!!!

After about 17 miles, Si had to pause as he felt his knee twinge and wanted to take a short cut back. I carried on for another mile and then I felt my bum twinge. I needed the loo. Had to walk a bit for the cramp to pass then run towards the pub. After that my legs had seized a little making the last few miles a bit of a struggle, but that said, I managed to keep a pretty decent pace up. The last couple of miles I started cramping  little so needed to stretch out but otherwise a very successful long run.

22miler

I only have 1 more 22 miler to go, and that one will be slower so I spend 3:15 on my feet (8:45 pace).

Summary

A successful Interval session, a 5k PB and a successful 22 miler. What more could I ask for?

Next week will be a bit tougher with a marathon-pace long run, but that’s the last really tough one. 6 weeks til race day and I’m feeling good!

Run Report: Little Stoke parkrun

On parkrunday we visited another new parkrun to us, the under-threat from closure by the parish council, Little Stoke parkrun.

The council who are short sighted enough to think that the cost of a few loo rolls (Ok I’m sure its more complicated than that) outweighs the benefits of 300 of its local residents staying fit and active!

Ahem.

Anyway, we arrived with Nikkii and Steve and got the obligatory selfie.

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This was designed to be a tune-up race for me – yes I know parkrun is not a race, but what I intended was for it to be run at a race effort, all out, to see what shape I am in.

I’ve not run an all out 5k effort since August in Yeovilton, post honeymoon and well out of shape – mainly because of that very reason. I knew I wasn’t in PB form, what was the point?

So here we were in the exact same point in my training plan that I set my PB at Newbury last year. Could I finally go sub 20?

I treated it as a race, wore my club vest, did a proper warm up… the works. I had a time in mind and I set my watch for it. No rain, no wind. I felt ready.

The run briefing was excellent, and they warmly welcomed all tourists, but unusually we had to walk nearly half a lap to the start which actually meant we started a bit late. No big deal but as I wanted to start near the front I got there early and had to wait for everyone to catch up!

Without much fanfare, we were off. The course itself is a 3 and a half lapper, all tarmac but on some quite narrow paths. It is also pretty flat, though half the lap you are gradually moving (very slightly) uphill, so the second half is ever-so-slightly down. Its not too noticeable until the last lap when you realize you are blowing out of your ass at the farthest point of the course!

littlestoke map

The marshals around the course were excellent and very supportive, and of course there was always Nikkii making her voice very well heard! I’m sure whoever was running near me also got a boost from her yelling at me for going too slow!

The first lap and a half flew by and I was on pace for my target. Then I started catching some back markers. Despite the best efforts of the marshals and the briefing to keep them to the right, unfortunately they didn’t so it meant a lot of weaving for the rest of the run. It cost a few seconds but hey its parkrun, a run not a race!

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Mile 2 was bang on pace (Mile 1 was ahead) and mile 3 started getting tough, probably because I went too quick in mile 1. As I reached the “peak” of the gradual slope and started going a little downhill my legs turned to jelly and I had to really concentrate to hold it together. I was on target still. I dug my heels in. With a quarter of a lap to go I saw I was within 5 seconds of a time with an even nicer ring to it… I gave it one last effort and crossed the line, ready to collapse in P16.

My watch said 19:20. My target was 19:30 and my old PB was 20:22. A PB by over a minute! (The time was confirmed in the official results later).

littlestoke race analysis

I immediately lay on the floor to recover. Absolutely exhausted but utterly thrilled. Not only had I beaten my PB, I had SMASHED it. A guy from behind me thanked me for pacing him – happy to help but it was unintentional! The only person I was racing was myself, and I bloody won!

With a single lap/out and back course with no traffic, I wonder how close I can get to 19 minutes? I hope its not another year away.

The team at Little Stoke did an excellent job. Unfortunately we couldn’t stick around for coffee but if the council come down and see the joy in peoples eyes when they see friends, and achieve their personal goals, and they can see how important this is to the local and national community you would hope they could see no other option but to forget about their objection.

Thank you Little Stoke, long may you continue!

Plymvalley parkrun

We were in Plymouth for the weekend to take part in Hope24, a charity 24 hour running relay where I’d be running about 30 miles in 24 hours. So whats the best way to prepare for such an event? Rest?

No, it was parkrunday and the law dictates that on parkrunday we must go to parkrun!

Myself, Jodie and a bunch of other people from the event, many of them fellow Yeovil Town RRC club members, descended on Plymvalley parkrun, a National Trust parkrun in the Plymvalley woods.

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I led the troops, following my SatNav to get there, but when we arrived where it said we were meant to be, there was nothing there! it was just a narrow country road! I became a bit concerned that I had led our merry club convoy on a wild goose chase. We pulled over so we could strategise as I felt a bit lost.

Thankfully a car with a driver donned in hi-vis (A sure fire way to spot a runner) drove past, so we followed them. Turns out the carpark was literally 50 yards around the corner! Very glad we didn’t do a U turn!

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Before long we were gathered around for the first timers briefing. There were a LARGE proportion of first timers (Maybe 30?) probably about 50/50 split of parkrun newbies and parkrun tourists. This was a large proportion of the 124 runners. So quite a small event. I like the small events though, there is always a good community feel to them.

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We took in the run brief and listened to a description of the course… It was complicated. Basically its a figure of 8 with the start/finish being at the middle, but after completing the 8 you do a shorter version of the first loop. The first (South) loop was all on meadow/field.

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The terrain was rough, potted, puddley and quite uneasy underfoot. It was however very flat. The second (northern) loop took you out along a canal in the woods which was very pretty and on stony path. It was flat until the turn at the end where you climb a short steep hill before it levelled off along some road (Not sure how they got that through the risk assessment, unless the road is closed on Saturday mornings?) and you run level back parallel along the canal, with the canal below you. Then you dropped down back toward the start finish before a smaller loop of the fields.

Thankfully, the route was well signed and marshalled so you can just run from stake to stake and follow the guy in front of you!

plymvalley elevation

 

As we had Hope24, I took it very easy and was able to take in some of the very picturesque surroundings. It was undeniably a very beautiful parkrun, as all the NT ones I have visited are. Though there was no amazing National Trust cafe, there was a coffee wagon on site. I had no need for the toilet so I’m not sure if there was one or not, though I think not!

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Jodie and I cruised round in a little over 30 minutes in bright sunny weather. The above photo was taken by a friend, not a volunteer – I would never think to be so rude to a volunteer! I think everyone from our club who attended enjoyed it.

Scanning was a breeze under a bridge, though my token didn’t scan (One of the sticky replacements which are notorious for not scanning too well) so I was manually recorded.

Unfortunately we had to get back to the Hope24 site so we weren’t able to have the usual post run coffee and cake, that will have to wait until next time.

This was run 45 for me and my 19th different event, which means I am only 1 away from the “Most Events” page on the parkrun.org.uk website! Where shall I go next?!

Thanks to all the volunteers at Plymvalley for another brilliant parkrunday.

 

Reading parkrun

Looking at my training plan, I was down to run a ‘tune up race’ on Saturday, but as always I figured a parkrun (which is definitely NOT a race!) at race effort would be a suitable compromise. I had my eye on a sub 20 time, so started scouting around the Basingstoke area to find a flat, fast parkrun, ideally one we hadn’t visited before. I came across Reading which seemed to fit the bill, so Jodie, Lucy and I got in the car early to Thames Valley Park.

The last time I visited TVP was for a training course at the Microsoft campus some 6 years ago, and parking on the main road seemed very strange! But of course, TVP is mostly deserted on Saturday mornings save for a couple of hundred parkrunners. We almost parked in the canoe club car park, but thankfully we checked the website and heeded the warning not to park there.

As we were early we milled around and took a look at the area. One thing was for certain, this was definitely NOT a Tarmac course (which I was ribbed about by the other two…) which scuppered my sub 20 plans. This was confirmed in the excellent first timers briefing we attended as they covered the course in detail, and the usual parkrun instructions were delivered.

It was pretty nippy. About 5 degrees and a hint of wind meant when I took my hoody off it was COLD! But thankfully we were shortly gathered around for the run briefing along with the (personally estimated) 180 runners. During the run brief we celebrated a nice chaps 100th run and volunteer day! He had an amazing cap with ‘100’ tethered to it which was a nice touch.

During the brief, they put out a call for an additional barcode scanner for a ‘speedy’ runner. When no-one put their hands up I sheepishly said ‘I’m going for about 21 minutes, is that fast enough?’ They said yes and I got a good round of applause! I felt a bit uncomfortable, as I don’t really consider myself a ‘speedy runner’ and also feel a bit like I’m being arrogant by considering myself so… And I’m really not) Because of this I not only set myself a pedestal to fall from, but a target to go for as I knew 20 was not going to happen.

This earned me a lot of kudos from people both at the start line and at the finish while barcode scanning. People asked if I made my target, congratulated me, and thanked me for volunteering which was really lovely.

We lined up at the start and without too much fanfare, we were off. The course is a panhandle course, with two laps of the pan. That is, you run out 1km along the bank of the Thames on grassland, followed by two laps on stony (and today, muddy and wet) track around a nature reserve, before running back down the Thames to the finish, which was at the start.

As I made my way down the panhandle I was overtaken by a bunch of people who went off too quickly, but I was just finding my feet on slightly uneven, slippery grass. By the time I made it to the 1k mark I had settled into my rhythm before turning onto the footpath – which was wet mud caked and I nearly slipped over! The slippery section lasted about 400 meters before turning back on the loop toward the Thames.

As we reached the turn, marshal Chris was there shouting out our times as we ran past! I don’t know how he does it, but he was bang on for mine when I looked at my watch, and it’s a job he does every week!  This is the only marshal point on the course (which may seem to be a little light) but it is strategically positioned to not be too far from any point on the course.

On the second lap I lapped some runners, but I tried my best to encourage them on my way round. Hopefully I didn’t sound patronising as that was not how it was intended. We then turned back onto the towpath for the 700m sprint for home… And it seemed to DRAG, mainly because I was blowing pretty hard! Looking at my watch I knew I’d come close to my PB, but unfortunately I missed it by a couple of seconds (dammit!) and took token 14 before commencing barcode duty.

I managed to cock up the barcode scanning first time, scanning the barcodes in the wrong order, but other than that the process went fine, and it was great to be able to speak to the runners afterwards, basking in their own post run achievements. I even scanned the barcode of former jockey Richard Dunwoody, who had a good run himself!

It was nice chatting with the other volunteers after the run, but unfortunately we couldn’t stick around for coffee.

Lucy managed a terrific PB, and I would have done too if I had my trail shoes. But rest assured we will be back to settle the score, in better conditions.

Thank you Reading Parkrun for your tremendous hospitality!

Newport parkrun

On Friday we were lucky enough to go to a meeting of Event Directors and core teams in Newport. We had the fabulous opportunity to chat all things parkun, meet other event teams, share notes, learn all the latest goings on and find out what other people did at their events. It was a hugely interesting event and experience, and we event got to meet parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt.

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The event was truly inspirational. Listening to the HQ team talk so passionately about parkrun it really is abundantly clear that there is just nothing else like it in the world. So clearly uncompromisingly visioned (in a good way) it’s an honour to be a part of it.

As the event was in Newport, the HQ team were going to do Newport parkrun the day after. We stayed overnight to join them, along with a couple of other teams.

Newport parkrun is hosted at Tredegar House, in the west side of Newport. A National Trust property, we were sure the event was going to be just as special as our home run. We got there reasonably early on a cold, overcast day. It seemed to, like all other parkruns, take a little while to get busy, then all of a sudden with 5 minutes to go the masses descended!

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We attended the first timers briefing where we learned we were using the summer course for the first time this year – though I can promise you it did not feel like summer! We had a description of the course along with all the usual safety information and registration details.

The course started just in front of the house and runs out through the middle of the parkland down an oak avenue. Turn left at the end and begin a big lap, running through the courtyard in front of the house and along a lovely wooded river area. Cross the bridge and carry on round til you reach the top of the avenue again. Then repeat the lap. Just after the bridge on the second lap you turn left to go back down the way you came along the oak avenue for a good flat finish. The course is mostly flat with a few small inclines, but the challenge is that some areas are quite muddy!

newportcourse

 

The pre-run briefing was an inspirational affair. There were over 400 runners, and I was amazed how quiet and attentive everyone was. At our home run we get less than 200 and they are much nosier! A young lad who had knocked 20 minutes off his PB won the parkrunner of the month, and there were shoutouts for milestone runs and volunteers.

We were ushered toward the start, and with the number of people there it was a bit congested. Before we knew it, and with no fanfare at all, the run was started – I only realized it had because the people in front of me had started running!

I had no real intention of running this hard, thinking a decent tempo effort would have been fine. But I started quite far back and needed to do some overtaking – so I took a wide line. It didn’t take long until that plan was scuppered and I nearly had to hurdle a stream! Luckily I spotted it in time and managed to squeeze onto the bridge.

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I found myself getting quicker and quicker though and it turned into a bit of a progression run. This was in part because it was bloody cold and I wanted to warm up! The course lent itself brilliantly to support from spectators and they really were a warming (boom boom!) bunch. Particularly helpful on the second lap when I was blowing pretty hard! I continued to make progress and through the woods on the second lap I just overtook a chap as we came out to the home strecth. Not long after he tried to take me again, but I still had plenty in my legs and had a blistering finish sprint, with the last 0.1miles in sub 5m/m pace, which i was pretty pleased with!

It was a lovely run, though i wish I had tried a bit harder so I could have taken this bloke down, who finished 30 seconds ahead of me.

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That’s Tom Williams, parkrun UK MD and host of Marathon Talk, to which I am a devoted listener. He was the one doing all the talking on Friday night and I had a chat with him then, but we got to talk more in the post-funnel recovery. What a damn nice guy. An honour and privilege to meet him, keep up the brilliant work with both parkrun and MT.

Of course, with this being National Trust, there was a magnificent cafe. We managed to get in there reasonably early, but before long it was mental! They do a parkrun special – Bacon Sandwich and a Tea/Coffee for 3.75, and the bacon was delicious! We got to chat further with Meryl and Adrian from Pomphrey Hill in the cafe too, who were equally lovely (I think all parkrun people are lovely, it must be a prerequisite) and we were invited to visit any time and maybe to a parkrun westcountry meal in June.

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We even managed to speak with Event Director and Ambassador Chris Davies who takes care of parkrun in Wales and we chatted about how great the NT are as partners for parkrun, and extended an invite to come on down next time he is in the area. I hope he does so I can extend the same brilliant courtesy that we had from NWhat a lovelyewport.

Newport, we will be back when it’s drier for a good fast time!

Alice Holt parkrun

Looking at the weather forecast for this parkrunday it was clear the weather would be good, and we weren’t disappointed. We had the choice between 4 local, unvisited parkruns. My training plan called for a race pace effort, so I fancied a flat one. Unfortunately for me, Jodie was after her Jantastic ‘mountain goat’ badge. So we went to Alice Holt.

Much like the weather, we weren’t disappointed with our choice.

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We’d visited Alice Holt Forest before to do the ‘Go Ape’ attraction, but this was different. Last time the car park was rammed (we visited in half term) and there were people everywhere. We turned up today to an empty forest car park. (Incidentally, you have to pay for parking, so take a couple of quid or a debit card)

Alice Holt Forest is owned by the forestry commission, and the visitor centre and amenities were fantastic. The run’s center of operations was a ‘hut’ and some picnic benches. It really was a lovely setting. We chatted to some of the runners and volunteers, as I wasn’t sure if road shoes or trail shoes would be best. I was recommended trail shoes, and they were fine, but road shoes would have been fine too.

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The new runners briefing was the best I’ve experienced. The nice chap and his 2 young helpers eloquently and humorously explained about the course and the parkrun process (funnel, tokens, barcodes) with the aid of a couple of well timed props. He even warned us about the hill. It wasn’t a big enough warning!!

The main briefing was also well executed, and there were two young ladies running their fiftieth today, and one young lad running his 100th. Furthermore they are fundraising for a defibrillator, any donations welcome.

I had a strong feeling of ‘togetherness’ pre run, it really has a great community feel, and before long we were ushered to the start.

I was going for a ‘race effort’ so knew I’d be around the 21 minute mark so positioned myself quite near the front, but once the horn was sounded to start the run I wondered if I’d done the right thing as about 40 people sprinted past me! But time would prove that to be the wrong tactic…

The course itself is a 2 lapper, but on the second lap there is an additional loop of about a mile. It’s about 90% compact woodland trail, the rest being Tarmac. The run from the start is downhill for the first 700 meters or so, before climbing gradually back up toward the start. It’s the same downhill again the second time around, but half way around the second lap you hang a left for a large extra loop. Now the extra loop is about a mile long, but the first 500 meters are up a nice, big, long hill. Before a couple of right handlers, down the hill again to rejoin the original small lap, and an uphill section to the finish. They’ve had issues with people getting lost apparently- but God knows how, it’s extremely well signed, coned, and marshalled – you’d have to be not paying attention at all to get lost!

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So there I was heading down the first hill overtaken by dozens of runners. As we reached the bottom and looped back round, every slowed down, but I was able to maintain a better pace and kept it steady. The first lap and a half absolutely flew by and before I knew it I was at the turn for the extra loop and there weren’t many runners around at all! Then I looked up and saw the beast of a hill. I tried to power my way up it, but I was really blowing hard and slowed quite a lot. It levelled off and I was able to pick the pace up and I started catching a couple of people. Then there was another right turn back down the hill where I passed a couple more and picked up a good pace. Turning back left on the original circuit there was about 500m left, uphill. I found it really tough, but the chap just behind me passed me by a yard or so and said ‘come on, dig in’ – and I listened. When it levelled off before rounding the last corner I managed to just sneak ahead of him before crossing the finish line. After we had our tokens I thanked him for his encouragement, and he thanked me – I passed him at just the right time and towed him along to a PB

This was just one example of the excellent community spirit and friendliness I found at Alice Holt. I can’t speak highly enough of the marshals and volunteers who were brilliant.

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I ran a pleasing 21.07 and finished P5. Given the profile of the course, I reckon it’s worth a minute on a flat run!

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Jodie was taking it easy, but she experienced the same encouragement when she had a stitch and was struggling up the hill, as another friendly parkrunner boosted her on.

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We couldn’t stick around for a coffee and it’s the first time I’ve been disappointed not to be able to. It’s just got a good vibe. When we move to Hampshire we’ll be coming back a lot. It join’s my small list of ‘top parkruns’. Home, Lanhydrock, and now Alice Holt. (Yes I know all parkruns are equally awesome but these are my most awesome ones)

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Thank you to all the amazing volunteers and good luck with your defibrillator fundraising. Thank you for having us.

Frimley Lodge parkrun

This weeks parkrun tour took us to Frimley Green, a mere 25 minutes away from “home” and just a short trip up the M3.

At least it would have been a short trip if I hadn’t gone into the controflow lane, missed the exit and have to travel down 2 further exits to make a U turn and head back in the right direction! This, along with some roadworks directly at the front of the park (which were mentioned on Facebook) meant it was a bit touch and go, but we managed to make it to hear the last part of the “First timers briefing”. Unfortunately, we missed the most important part (Talking about the course and the specifics of the event) and only heard the part we already knew (About tokens and barcode scanning). Thankfully though they had this fantastic notice board containing all the information we needed to know! I think i may just steal this idea for Yeovil Montacute!

A nice touch, a board with all the information you need to know about the event
A nice touch, a board with all the information you need to know about the event

One piece of information,  is that if you are registered with a barcode then you are covered by parkrun insurance. This is slightly inaccurate – Regardless of your “Registered” status, if you are running or volunteering at a parkrun event you are covered by UKA insurance. Other than that it highlighted all the key points and was a great resource for the first timer.

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One point not quite accurate, but otherwise very useful info!

The weather was quite frankly miserable. Drizzly rain, overcast and windy. It didn’t stop the 350+ runners turning up in force though. I obviously didn’t pack for the weather…

Looking cool before the start (Literally - it was freezing!)
Looking cool before the start (Literally – it was freezing!)

Though Jodie didn’t seem to mind!

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The runners gathered together and before long the run briefing got started. The Run Director was brilliant, highlighting all the key runs for those running their 50th, 100th and other arbitrary numbers. He also sought any tourists, which there were a few. We did get a little applause for representing Yeovil Montacute!

A gathering of runners
A gathering of runners

I didn’t realise though (And being an avid parkrun show listener, I should have…) that this was Darren “496 runs” Wood’s home parkrun! I should have found him and met him, what a legend! I’m looking forward to the last show where Darren completes his 500th.

Before long we were sent to the start. It was a VERY congested start, and my positioning compared to my pace didn’t really help. There were so many people to weave around, but it was my own fault.

The course is a 2 lapper, starting with a half lap of a football pitch fields before running down a canal towpath before doubling back through some more playing fields, past a model railway, some more playing fields before rounding the toilet.changing block for lap 2/the finish.

Speaking of model railways, this is the second one I’ve run past along with Weymouth – I wonder how many more parkruns with model railways are out there?

Anyway, back to the course, I’m not a huge fan of laps around playing fields, but the canal and wooded sections were really lovely, and in spite of the playing fields the park is quite secluded in a nice picturesque setting. The first lap was tough, as I was doing a lot of weaving. I actually ran most of it on a separate track parallel to the main route in order to overtake. It was no shortcut though, with little slopes, branches to negotiate and muddy puddles to conquer. My road shoes didn’t have a huge amount of grip and would recommend trail shoes, even in the summer, as there is precious little tarmac for roadies to grip on.

One of the reasons we wanted to visit Frimley Lodge was to visit the home run of Graham Petrie, who died after taking part in a new year’s day parkrun double. Though I didn’t know Graham personally, he was a friend of my Dad. I knew Graham was a parkrunner due to his interactions with my Dad on Facebook, though I didn’t know where he ran. When I read about the tragic news and saw his name, my heart sank. I shared the news with my Dad, who had no idea. Sorry to have broken the news that way. But it goes to show what a small world it is and how parkrun brings people together. My Dad and Stepmum went to the funeral, and also visited the Frimley Lodge parkrun course, where they had heard he had a memorial. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find it, so I wanted to find it for them.

A lovey tribute to Graham Petrie
A lovey tribute to Graham Petrie

It was around halfway around the lap. It was nice to see runners touching the post as they run past in a mark of respect, and long may that continue. That, along with the presentation of a posthumous 100 club tee shirt seems quite a fitting tribute to someone who clearly loved parkrun – and seeing the runners pay homage, it seems clear that parkrun loved him too. Rest in peace, Graham.

Back to my run, I gradually picked up the pace a bit until I caught up with Jodie again and ran with her for a short time before kicking on again. This time it was much less congested and ran a much quicker second lap. Due to conditions the run wasn’t exactly quick for me – I was astonished to see the first finisher crossed the line in about 16 minutes. In dry conditions that would be about 30 seconds off that I reckon. The depth of the field was brilliant though, with a wide range of runners nailing impressive times!

After I crossed the line I stayed on to wait for Jodie, and this lady caught my eye. She was so encouraging and cheery, she reminded me of Nikkii back home. Every parkrun should have at least one! Brilliant encouragement!

The lady in the black 100 tee shirt wins my "Best supporter" award - magnificent encouragement on the finish straight!
The lady in the black 100 tee shirt wins my “Best supporter” award – magnificent encouragement on the finish straight!

Jodie made it to the end and I got this snap of her.

Faster than a speeding bullet!
Faster than a speeding bullet!

We couldn’t stick around for Coffee as we had to get back for a family party, but it was a pleasure to run at Frimley Lodge. Parking was plentiful, there were toilets and changing rooms and the cafe was onsite.

We will certainly be back, though probably in a summer month to run faster times! Thankyou of course to all the magnificent voluncheers that made it possible.

We’re in the same area next week too, Rushmoor or Alice Holt await – can anyone recommend which to do first? The other will be done in a few weeks!

Event photos, taken from the Frimley Lodge facebook page, courtesy of Chris Peddle.

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Newbury parkrun

As we are spending the next several weekends in Basingstoke, we have the opportunity to do some more parkrun tourism. Looking at the options, we found Newbury was most local (good), flat (good) and a one lapper (good)! So our choice was made. Newbury was my 14th different event, and 37th overall parkrun.

We turned up good and early (as I like to), and the sat nav directed us to a trading estate on the outskirts of Newbury. Greenham Common, where the run takes place, was at the very back of this estate, and if it weren’t for the excellent signage, could have been an absolute nightmare to a parkrun tourist!

Interestingly, future father in law used to work at Greenham Common when he was in the army, it used to be an army base and is dotted with nuclear bunkers!

Anyway, full marks to the early volunteers who helped us find our way and parked us efficiently.

The start was a short walk away, but we followed the mass of runners to find “Run HQ” and it was the “Keep it simple” philosophy personified. A piece of tarp for bags, and a couple of tables for barcode registration. Perfect parkrun!

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It was freezing cold, though a very sunny day, very good conditions for running. The briefing was short and sweet, and interestingly they used the term “race” a lot here. Just a pet peeve of mine perhaps, but interesting to see how other events handle things. Before long we were off. Thankfully I positioned myself toward the front as I was hunting a PB, as there were a LOT of people and only a relatively narrow track.

The route is predominantly stony track, and is a single lap course which is basically flat. You run out on the path for 500 meters before taking a left to cross the disused airstrip, which was a bit manky and muddy. Once crossed, take a right on the track and follow the track all the way, looping back to the finish. It was well marked by cones, but very little in the way of marshals, which may be a concern to some. If there is an incident at the far corner of the course, it would take a very long time to relay that back to the start, but maybe thats just my risk averse nature!

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One of the disadvantages of single lappers can be a lack of crowd “support” and this had some of the same. There were some supportive dog walkers and social runners, but it wasn’t quite the same as Yeovil Montacute or Basingstoke. The finish straight was excellently attended and superb encouragement from the gathered “masses”.

The route was a bit wet from previous days rain, but I quite like puddles – I go through the middle whilst others take the effort to go to the sides – makes it easier to pass people and makes my run a little shorter than theirs!

Although the course is flat, the last kilometer has a very slight incline, which, when coupled up with the blustery headwind made it a tough finish – must go back in the summer! When looking at my splits I can see my pace drop off despite my heart rate continuing to rise, which affected my time a bit.

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There were some very friendly runners here too. Even on the run I was getting tips and advice from people, or just one chap in particular who advised me to tuck in and avoid the wind. Very nice of him to let me draft him!

My run went very well until the last KM. I was targetting a sub 20 for a 40 second PB, but with the last KM being so tough I missed out. On the plus side, I still managed a 19s all time 5k PB (20:22)! The sub-20 will just have to wait.

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Jodie and Lucy joined me on tour, and despite neither registering a PB they found it an enjoyable run, and it was nice to hear from them that they struggled with the last section too, made me think it wasn’t just me being a wuss!

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Barcode registration was a doddle as always and the volunteers at the finish area first class. Unfortunately we had to get back so couldn’t stick around for a post-run coffee, but we’ll definitely be back in the summer! Thank you Newbury parkrun 🙂

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Southwick Country parkrun

Having had to cancel this weeks Yeovil Montacute parkrun due to high winds, Jodie and I, along with her visiting friend headed off to Southwick Country Park to run their run. It was the closest local event and the Event Director there is also our Ambassador.

It took about an hour and the weather was a it drizzly, but it was unseasonably mild at around 13 degrees – not that you could tell with the gusty wind whipping around us!

We arrived at about 8.30 with plenty of parking and it was easy and obvious to find the start and finish, the volunteer hi-vis and registration tent in the field by the entrance. On entering the park we saw this amazing statue! Constructed by local parkrunners it was presented on the very first Southwick Country parkrun and holds pride of place. Sadly, one of those who made it died recently, and the team paid their respects to him last week.

"Spirit of the oarkrunner" and Ambassador Sean Price
“Spirit of the parkrunner” and Ambassador Sean Price

The start/finish area was already bustling with runners and volunteers, who were busily putting together the makeshift funnel. Usually its on the grass, but it was too squidgy today. The backup plan is to use cones on the concrete but they kept getting blown away! The creative solution was 2 volunteers holding a piece of tape – not sure if there is a predefined volunteer role for “Human Cone”!

Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_010Meanwhile we took the opportunity to get a Southwick selfie!

Southwick Selfie!
Southwick Selfie!

Before long we were called to the start – about a 300 yard walk from the funnel area. We left our bags next to this tent – unfortunately shortly after this photo the wind got the better of it and it took a group of volunteers to grab it! I saw it stuffed under a fence after the run!

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There were plenty of people gathering up on the start. As paths are narrow, everyone was snaked up at the start and the team had to call people in closer to do the run briefing, during which I had a special “shout out” which was very kind and a small ripple of applause!

Run BriefingMatt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_012 Matt's Nokia Lumia 930_20150110_011The run briefing covered everything we needed to know, including the course description. 2 and 3/4 laps (Anticlockwise), and we had to pass the “Spirit of the parkrunner” statue twice. If you passed it a third time, you’ve missed the funnel!

The course was hard compact trail. Perfectly adequate to wear road shoes, but in the wet conditions trail shoes may have been a better choice, though not by much. The course was quite puddly – which I love! I don’t know why, but when you’re running a wet course people around you tend to run at the side and try and avoid getting their feet damp – that opens up nice big overtaking gaps, so I run through the middle and the water keeps you cool!

Another nice touch was that they have permanent marker posts, indicating the start, finish, and each kilometre. They are carved into short stump type posts, perfectly fitting with the aesthetic of the park and ideal for anyone wanting to have a freedom run.

My run was meant to be part of a 4mile recovery jog, but after the first half a mile I was enjoying myself too much and picked up the pace to finish at about my threshold pace, with a negative spit for every km I think! I finished in 25th place in 22:15. It was my 34th run across 13 different parkrun events. I thanked all the volunteers on the way round, and if you don’t – I recommend you do! Without them you couldn’t run, and on a multi lap course theres no excuse not to say thankyou to each marshal at least once.

Afterwards we went to the cafe, which also had toilets. You can use the toilets ahead of the run, but only if you come back and use the cafe afterwards, which is very fair! It was very busy and clearly enjoyed by parkrunners – it was standing room only!

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They had an amazing selection of cakes on display, did a fantastic looking cooked breakfast and was all very good value. The other nice thing about the cafe is that it supports a local charity for adults with learning disabilities – another brilliant example of how parkrun supports local communities.

We hit the road shortly afterwards, whilst this nice lady was sorting the tokens. We had a lovely time, and will be back in the summer to have a crack in the dry!

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 UPDATE: “Official” photos from Southwick Country parkrun’s Flickr Group.

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