An early start yesterday morning for our first running challenge in a while. 5am alarms as The Boy and I headed out to attempt all four Glasgow parkruns in one go. This one has been on the list for a while but various commitments mean it has taken longer to get to than planned. Thankfully despite the early start we got a great day for it setting off as others were making their merry way home from a livelier Friday night out than either of us.
Sunrise over the Clyde – en route to Victoria Park
parkrun has obviously featured heavily in the press this week so it was good to get out yesterday and show a bit of solidarity with the parkrun community. For those who don’t know what parkrun is all about – in a nutshell it is a free, weekly timed 5km run / jog / walk organised by volunteers in parks all across the world. Free being the important word this week as one of the events in England fights attempts to bring in a charge for the use of their local park.
Anyway back to the plan which was to use the bikes to get between each of Glasgow’s four parkruns and run each route culminating at our local parkrun (Pollok) in time for the 9-30am start. In relation to some of our other challenges this one seemed reasonably straightforward. Perhaps even a more pedestrian and enjoyable morning lay ahead particularly since my best attempts to persuade The Boy that we should be running between each Park were thwarted – he wasn’t up for the full 31 miles and in hindsight I’m glad he reigned me in for once 🙂
Planning done we were facing about 22 miles of cycling and 12.4 miles of running. In terms of our own training and fitness at the moment this would be ok for both, perhaps maybe a bit too comfortable for us so we had to make it a bit more of a challenge – Royal Flush! If you’ve never heard of a royal flush in running circles it’s a term coined by the guys at Marathon Talk (running podcast). Royal Flushing is when you try to do each interval (mile / km / 5km) in succession quicker than the last. This certainly added a layer to the challenge.
Stop 1 – Victoria Park
So after a 7 mile pre-dawn ride from the south side to stop number 1 we set off reasonably slowly just before 6am in the largely abandoned Victoria Park with the sun popping up above the horizon. Some (MarathonTalkers) may call this type of start sandbagging – a form of cheating where you deliberately go off too slow to make later miles easier. I like to think of it as experienced tactical move given what was to come 🙂 Anyway on to parkrun #1.
A relative newcomer to the Glasgow parkrun circuit Victoria was for a long time my local route and where I hold my current pb. It has become a much larger event in the last couple of years which is testament to the organisers and volunteers. This route comprises 3 laps of the park including the pond (with some bad ass swans who positioned themselves menacingly across the path on lap two) and fossil grove. A recent addition has been a Sunday Junior parkrun at Victoria, a first for Glasgow.
After what seemed like an eternity locking up the bikes, adjusting kit, updating the twitter feed (#glasgowparkrunsmashup – I’m assuming this was trending worldwide as our legion of fans set the alarm clocks to monitor the challenge) and watching The Boy try to set up his fancy gopro/selfie stick combo it was good to be running as we settled into a nice groove and reasonable pace. The Boy only went the wrong way once during the second lap – it’s like getting lost on a running track 🙂 – and we crossed the line in 25:33. 1/4 done.
Transition to Stage 2 and Arriving at Springburn Park
We spent far too long mucking about at the end of run 1 (more on this later) and getting lost on the cycle over to Sprinburn Park which was much more of a climb than I had remembered. The sun was now high in the sky though and the early frost on the paths was thawing out removing lingering doubts that some of the events may actually be cancelled.
The Boy and I have only been to Springburn parkrun a couple of times. A little smaller than the others it is no less of an event with enthusiastic and welcoming organisers. I think The Boy still holds the course record too. Two and a half laps with some undulation there is a really nice woodland section in this one. It was around about now that we realised we’d made the mistake of starting with the fastest parkrun in the city followed by the second fastest – and we were meant to be getting quicker. The Royal Flush was in danger and we realised for the first time that we hadn’t quite set aside the time that would be required for a leisurely tour of Glasgow’s parkruns.
The Boy was mucking about with his young folk technology at the start of this one with his selfie stick / go pro combo so I headed off on my own. I kept glancing back to see him catching me but there was no sight during the first two laps and I was panicking that he’d done a Jack and got himself lost. Thinking about doing extra laps this early in the challenge wasn’t a great thought. So it was a welcome relief to see him sprinting up behind me as we neared the final two turns into the home straight.
This one was definitely quicker in the legs as we warmed up into the challenge. 22:32 on the watch. 2/4 done. The sandbagging had gone badly wrong at this stage.
Event Number 3 – Tollcross parkrun
The downhill transition on the bike to Tollcross was a welcome break for the legs but by this point we realised we’d be cutting it dangerously fine to get to the fourth and final event in time for 9-30am (this is when parkruns traditionally start in Scotland and we wanted to complete the challenge with the masses). We definitely picked up the pace on the bike arriving at Tollcross at about 8-25am just as the run director and volunteers were arriving to lay out the course for their own event at 9-30am.
Bike lock up and transition now down to a fine art we were moving before long this time around. Tollcross gives a different experience again complimenting the other routes in the city and is definitely worth a visit. I’d rate it as the trickiest and slowest course. This one is a two lapper with two steep climbs on each lap. The Royal Flush on legs that were getting more and more tired was a concern so The Boy took the lead on pacing.
Although we’ve both volunteered running this one you realise how much you take the volunteers for granted and they gave great support as we ran about like a couple of loon balls who’d turned up to the party an hour early. All over the country people are giving up their time to give the rest of us a run.
Anyway after the usual struggle due to the elevation on this one we ended up in need of a bit of a sprint finish (on the grass) to dip across the line in 22:26 preserving the Royal Flush attempt by 6 seconds. 3/4 done.
Sadly the cake table (the main reason you want to be visiting Tollcross parkrun) was just getting set up as we packed the bags and jumped on the bikes for the final transition. We had about 7 miles to cross the city back to the southside and it was approaching 8-55am. It was touch and go but some off road cycling and weaving in and out of the traffic got us into Pollok and locking up the bikes with a couple of minutes to spare. It was great to catch up with some of the Mondaynighters on the start line at Pollok.
Pollok parkrun – Arriving in the Middle of the Briefing
For those who don’t know Pollok is the original and largest Glasgow parkrun which takes place in Pollok Park. Navigating your way close to the front of the field is important if you are after a quick pace given the number of runners participating so we just had enough time to slot in reasonably near the front of the pack. We spotted a few Bellahouston Harriers and I could see Jack was torn between race mode which would have meant getting off the go pro and backpack and stripping down to the vest and racing shorts but the cycling and three previous 5k efforts alongside the early start had definitely taken their toll on the legs.
Thankfully it was pacer week and after about 600 metres The Boy and I tucked just in behind the 22 minute pacer. I think we were both feeling it during the first 1.5k and by this stage I was considering sacking the Royal Flush idea and just dropping back and finishing the challenge but the legs loosened off as we approached the first of the two climbs in Pollok (again a two lap course) and we closed the small gap on the pacer and the large group chasing pbs. Dropping down off the hill and onto the second lap we stretched out the legs a little before moving up the field to ensure the Royal Flush element was met.
We finished less than a minute longer my overall Pollok pb so I am wondering whether a more rigorous warm up is required in future weeks. 21:23. 4/4 done and challenge complete.
So too was the Royal Flush – surely worth a mention on next week’s Marathon Talk? – and despite a bit of sandbagging at the start it was a decent effort considering the duration of the challenge and the naivety of doing the easiest routes earlier in the morning.
A fun challenge despite the fact that everyone else seemed to think it was a bit bonkers – always a measure of a good run for us I think. To top it all off we gatecrashed a hen weekend kicking off their celebrations with a bit of parkrun tourism before heading into the cafe to refuel.
Basking in the glory of our achievements it was great to look around the cafe and see so many faces we knew from races / parkrun / the Harriers and our Monday night group. To us this is what parkrun is really all about – bringing people of all abilities together to promote both physical and mental wellbeing. Long many it continue and long may it be free.
Thanks as always to the volunteers who make it all possible.
Kenny and Jack
ps – as a small side note all the rides were negative split pace too. Double Royal Flush 🙂