Graves parkrun – A little bit of tourism!

With Kenny off exploring Japan this weekend, I decided to do a little tourism of my own. Vicki and I made our way down to Sheffield to visit some family and enjoy a couple of days of drinking coffee and eating cake in a variety of cafes and tearooms. Throw in a parkrun and you have all the ingredients of a pretty successful mini-break!

Our initial plan had been to re-visit Sheffield Hallam parkrun as this is very close to where we would be staying. We were surprised however to discover that the event was cancelled this weekend due to a local festival taking place within Endcliffe Park and so we set our sights on Graves parkrun – a new event for us and an exciting (though hilly!) prospect.

Vicki and I were both planning to squeeze a few extra miles into our Saturday morning (Vicki was hoping to make this her long run while I was hoping for half a dozen easy miles before my long run tomorrow!) and so we set the alarm and Vicki set off solo at 7:30 while I grabbed myself a welcome cup of coffee and curled back under the duvet for an extra half hour in bed. As the clock struck 8 I popped out the front door and joined Vicki for the short, yet mountainous, run across town to Graves Park. We arrived at the park with about 15minutes to spare and my brother Tom joined us for the pre-run briefing before we took our places on the start line. The event was fairly busy, potentially due to the event cancellation at Hallam parkrun, and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that seems to be an ever-present aspect of the parkrun experience was in full flow. After a few words of advice and encouragement we were off.

My plan was to run 6 miles at approximately 7minute miling and so I took up a position which was fairly close to the front without being too near to the sharp end – I did not want to get carried away in a battle against someone which could potentially ruin my plan for the session.

The run begins with a long sweeping downhill section through a park with stunning views out over the surrounding countryside. It was fantastic to experience this without the pressure of racing and I enjoyed settling into a rhythm and taking it all in. A friendly shout from the marshal at the bottom of the hill directed us towards a narrow footpath through the farm and I found myself bounding along between fields full of slightly puzzled looking sheep. The pathway here was fairly narrow here but fortunately this was not a day when overtaking was a priority and I tucked in behind the runner in front of me who was keeping a nice steady pace. If I were returning to Graves in future and planning on racing this route, I would definitely make it a priority to go out hard and secure a place at the front before reaching this path as overtaking here would be near impossible.

After the narrow pathway things opened up again and we found ourselves snaking up through the fields and back out of the farm. We passed ponds and woodland before returning to the large open field in which we began. This meant a return up the hill, this time on grass, to the start line before he route retreated itself. Again, this hill is definitely one worth remembering if returning here for a fast race as it is a fair climb and the grass could be energy sapping underfoot. It is not a finish that I would like to be reaching neck and neck with a rival!

The second lap was very enjoyable as things had spread out a bit and I was happily plodding along in a steady rhythm, taking in the beautiful views of Graves Park and already thinking about the forthcoming breakfast of bacon and cream cheese bagels (an absolute belter of a post-run brekkie in my book). I crossed the finish line pretty much on the pace which I had planned and made me way back round the route to cheer on Vicki and Tom as they tackled the final hill. Barcodes were scanned, photos were taken and breakfast was organised. Tom and I jumped in the car home while Vicki ran back to squeeze in her final few miles down the epic hills which had been conquered earlier in the morning.

This was a a fantastic parkrun and definitely one worth experiencing if you find yourself in Sheffield. It is not as quick as the Hallam event but it is a beautiful park with plenty to see on the run. The hills are challenging without being nightmarish and the event is busy without being over-crowded. All in all, this was a very enjoyable morning of running – and the bagels were not bad either!

                            

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Beating the Drum…better late than never!

Well this is a bit late as I managed to delete my first write-up. Here goes the second attempt:
Last Saturday our Runbetweeners JogScotland group made the trip across the city to visit Drumchapel parkrun. Fifteen members of the group (plus the two handsome leaders) would be running the route and Finola would step up as a Marshal for the event. Meeting outside Run4it in order to organise lifts gave Kenny the perfect opportunity to explain just how tough the hills of Drumchapel would be. Kenny had run the route before however I hadn’t yet had the privilege and this gave him the perfect opportunity to wind me up with tales of mountains to be scaled. I decided to take his stories with a generous pinch of salt – after all, I have fallen victim to Kenny’s jokes before!
When we arrived at Drumchapel it was clear that this was a very friendly event – the smaller numbers definitely give it a fantastic atmosphere of community and appreciation. Our group all looked fantastic in their new Brooks running t-shirts and we were made to feel very welcome – even getting a special mention from Brian the Run Director! Chris was also pleased to get a shout for completing his 100th parkrun and the invitation of post-run cake was widely appreciated! 


After a short pre-run brief we were off. The route begins with a fairly sharp downhill path that twists and turns out of the woods. As I was filming the event on my GoPro, arm pinned to my side in order to maintain a steady shot, it was pretty tricky maintaining my balance on this winding section but I just about kept my footing! The downhill start serves as a nice introduction before the inevitable levelling out. The route then undulates slightly for a few hundred yards before the first real climb. This short-lived ascent is soon conquered however and then another nice downhill into the woods is on the cards. At this point in the run I concluded that the hills here ‘aren’t too bad actually’. 

Then we hit the big climb.

This was a much more notable ascent and it was at this point that I heard a familiar voice approaching from behind me. Kenny had caught up and we decided to run the remainder of the route together (I think he just wanted to get in the video!). Once we had reached the summit, things levelled out and made their way back to the start for the end of lap one.

Repeat.

Repeat again.


By the third lap the hills were taking their toll and I can see now why Drumchapel has a reputation as a tough course. The woodland location and trail underfoot however make this a picturesque and enjoyable run. The marshalls were fantastic (especially Finola obviously!) and the event was a nice change from the usual Glasgow parkruns that we find ourselves doing.


Post- run, the runners headed off to the cafe for well deserved coffee and cake while Kenny and I had to disappear to the Emirates for some JogScotland/SAMH Mental Health Awareness training. The Runbetweeners all did fantastically well on the challenging course and reported back that they’d enjoyed the change of scenery. I am sure many will be back to take on the hills again.

Special thanks to the volunteers at Drumchapel for putting on such a fantastic event and for making us all feel so welcome. We will definitely be recommending people head over and pay you a visit!

Running with an Olympic Legend!

Last Friday I finished work, jumped on the train and made my way down to Sheffield for my sister-in-law’s birthday. After a fantastic evening filled with food, drink and catching up,  I set my alarm for an early morning adventure at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Now I have actually done this parkrun before however last time I was sneaking out of my hotel on the morning of my brother’s wedding armed simply with a map and my barcode. This time I was a little better prepared and had the luxury of a lift and some company for my morning as my dad would be running also while my mum and brother watched on with a coffee.

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As we walked into the park things looked much busier than my last encounter here. On my run in December 2014 there had been just 354 people taking part, on this Saturday there were over 700. There had been rumours circulating that local hero and Olympic Gold Medalist Jessica Ennis would be taking part in her first parkrun on this very morning and it appeared that this prospect had drawn out a lot of runners! I was a little starstruck when I lined up alongside Jess on the startline but I managed to get a cheeky selfie before the run instructions began and she was great.

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As the countdown to the start began it became clear that this would be a congested start. The BBC had cameras on Jess as she lined up at the front and I think a lot of people were keen to get in the picture! After a few seconds we were away and it took me a while to find my stride. The initial section of the course involves a small loop before heading straight back up the path from which you have started. In these busy conditions it was a little tricky to maneuver through the crowds but eventually things opened up and we climbed the path through Endcliffe Park. The route follows a gentle slope up alongside a rive until eventually leaving the park. A sharp right turn then leads into a long steady downhill section on the pavement just outside the park itself. On my first lap it felt as though it took up to this point for my legs to really get going (possibly due to my poor warmup – I may have been slightly distracted by Jessica Ennis!) but the long downhill really gave me a chance to open up and get some pace going.

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At the bottom of the hill it was another short loop inside the park before heading back up the slope again. This time around I found that I was overtaking runners and gaining on the runner in front. I started to settle into my rhythm a little and began to feel strong. As I hit the top of the hill I turned right and prepared to push down the hill towards the finish but things were just a little crowded. The pavement was only really wide enough for two people side by side so it made it a little tricky to pass. I was able to pick up the pace a little but definitely had more in the tank.

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Coming into the finish again was very busy but the marshals were fantastic. The huge turnout made it a little awkward as the final mini-loop is very tight and it is a little difficult to get through the traffic to the finish funnel. The parkrun volunteers did a great job however of making this as clear as possible and, while it maybe cost me a few seconds, it was a great atmosphere and a lovely route.

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After the run I got chatting to a few people from other parkruns. Notably, Paul Sinton-Hewitt was taking part and made the time to have a chat with me about parkrun. I told him of my experiences on the core team at Rouken Glen junior parkrun and of my trip to Bushy park on Christmas morning. He was brilliant and had plenty to say about running in Glasgow and of his experiences with the community. I also had a good chat with a guy from Woodhouse Moor parkrun who was working his way round the Yorkshire events.

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All in all this was a great morning. My two Sheffield Hallam parkrun experiences have been fantastic and both stand out for different reasons. I wonder what will happen next time I am down…

Dunfermline parkrun

Last minute plan to head somewhere exotic for parkrun last Saturday with Dunfermline narrowly winning out over Ayr. Friday night selection criteria was for a parkrun we’d:

 

a. Not done before; and

b. Could get to without getting up stupidly early.

 

So we set off at 7-45 arriving at Pittencrieff Park shortly before 9am giving us the unusual (we’re never early) luxury of some sightseeing and route scouting in advance of the run. The park is full of plenty interesting things to see and was busy even at that early hour, not only with marshals setting out the course but with new year resolutioners arriving en mass for their military fitness class. This did give us a bit of a scare as we wrongly assumed that a mass warm up was perhaps part of the Dunfermline experience.

 

Trying not to stray too far from the start line we were glad to see that the course had an excellent looking cafe very close to the finish. What was immediately apparent however was that the hills were likely to rival Tollcross for severity, regularity and incline.

 

We headed, as we do on first time visits to make sure Jack doesn’t get lost, to the first timers briefing muster point and were given a warm welcome and a brief summary of the route. 3 laps of approximately 1 mile each and the promise of ‘the big hill’.

 

 

As usual I was far too close to The Boy for comfort in the first 100 metres (either he’s a slow starter or I’m an over-enthusistic starter) but by around the 400m mark he’d opened a gap with another runner which grew and grew with each twist and turn thereon. I tucked into a pack of 3 as we descended the hill to the bottom of the park giving a chance to open the legs in the opening 1km. The route then loops around with a steep slope (aka ‘the big hill’) of approximately 150m before flattening out again and running around some of the park’s main attractions.

 

Twisting over the next 300 metres you loop round and under a bridge with a short ascent before starting the next lap (a nicely positioned sign warns you to turn to the right on lap 3 for the finish – duly noted as I did not want to be running any reps on ‘the big hill’).

 

The next two laps saw me settle into a regular pace and work hard on the flat and downhill allowing for a small recovery on the uphill and I was pleased to finish in 20minutes dead in 4th position. I’ve tended to find that a first visit never results in a personally fast time as I like to suss out the route. The Boy got faster and faster crossing the line 1st in a good time considering he was ‘going to take it easy’.

 

Nice to talk to local runners at the end and hear about @13thrunner who has started her own blog to record her first steps into the world of running. Well done on your first parkrun.

 

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The only proof that we were in Dunfermline ‘running’

 

Thanks as always to marshals who did a great job of encouraging everyone with cowbells and hand clappers. Dunfermline seems to be an incredibly inclusive parkrun and the marshals gave every single runner and walker strong vocal encouragement. The post run scone in the cafe did not disappoint before we hit the car home. The upside of the long commute to this one was that it gave us plenty time to plan out many more daft challenges for 2017. Watch this space…

 

I think we’d both agree that Dunfermline was definitely worth a visit and actually much closer to Glasgow than either of us predicted (well not The Boy who described where he was to his wife on the phone as ‘I’m not sure where I am, oh hang on yes I am, I’m in outside Glasgow’).

The Runbetweeners Review 2016

At this time of year (well we’re a week late but most of you will be used to us being late by now) folks normally sit down, reflect on the previous 12 months and plan for the year ahead. It’s been a pretty phenomenal year running wise both on the track (and road, trail and hill) and off it with visits to old and new races near and far including some international excursions, the growth of our own running group and the launch of Rouken Glen Junior parkrun. A year of pb’s for both of us but what have been the highlights?

Between us we have raced a lot in the last year making it hard to narrow down the list to just 10. Therefore we went for 12 So here follows the countdown of our best 12 races from 2016.

Look out for next week’s blog post as we pick 12 races for 2017.

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  1. Springburn parkrun (Kenny) – 14th of May 2016

This one makes the list as I managed to break 19 minutes for the 5k for the first time in a shiny new pb of 18-47 (gaining qualification to the elite sub 19 minute pack at the Harriers). Jack, in the middle of a heavy training schedule, decided to pace on this one allowing me to shadow him around the two loop course. Running in a small pack is something that I’ve learned this year can be extremely effective in pursuit of personal best times. An added bonus on this one was gate-crashing Springburn’s 2nd birthday celebrations meaning there was cake aplenty at the finish.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/14/happy-birthday-springburn-parkrun/

    11. Polaroid Clydebank 10k (Jack) – 19th May 2017.

The Polaroid series has been a staple of my running calendar for the last few years and in 2016 I approached it in a slightly different way. In the past I had entered all four events but this year I decided to enter just one and to target it for a personal best. I was over the moon to break 33minutes for the first time here and this made it a highlight of the year for me!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/polaroid-clydebank-10k-2016/

  1.  Brian Goodwin 10k (Kenny) – 17th of June 2017

Another pb for me on a brilliant evening in Pollok Park. After dipping under 40 minutes for the first time at Troon a few weeks before, I was delighted to take a good chunk off  my 10k time finishing in 39-30. An annual event, the race is organised by our club – Bellahouston Harriers. Knowing I was pacing the Men’s 10k a couple of days later, I decided to take this one easy but felt good from the start and again used similar runners to pull me along. Moral of the story: if you are feeling in the zone just go for it. A two lap course, the route takes in many of the flatter parts of the park and Haggs Road. To top it off entry includes a beer and a burger. What more could you ask for?

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/brian-goodwin-10k-2/

     9. parkrun du Bois de Bolougne. (Jack) – 26th March 2017.

What better way to spend my birthday that by striding around a Parisian park – they even let me cross the line first (there’s no winning in parkrun, apparently). This was my first international parkrun and was followed with cake and champagne under the Eiffel Tower. An awesome day and a birthday I will never forget!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/a-parisian-parkrun/

  1. #Glasgowparkrunsmashup (Both) – 15th of April 2016

2016’s answer to the Clyde Trail this was the one that was meant to send us trending worldwide. Unfortunately while we were up before dawn the rest of the running world was asleep, uninterested or both. The idea was simple – run each of Glasgow’s 5 parkrun routes in one go arriving at Pollok in time for the 9-30 start. As usual planning a sensible route was almost the undoing of this challenge as we cycled between each of the parks. Much harder than anticipated when the idea was hatched over a beer or two – 15.5 miles of running, more on the bike and very little enthusiasm, interest or support for a daft idea making this everything a good runbetweeners challenge should be Surely still a record? parkrun UK we are still waiting on official notice…

https://twitter.com/search?q=glasgowparkrunsmashup&src=typd

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/17/glasgow-parkrun-smash-up/

     7. Bushy parkrun (Jack) – 25th December 2016

This Christmas I decided to head back to where it all began and took part in Bushy parkrun. Lining up alongside 1200 other parkrunners for a free 5k run on Christmas morning was incredible and the atmosphere was even better than I had expected. I will definitely be back!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/bushy-parkrun-a-christmas-cracker/

  1. Dunoon Ride and Run (Kenny) – 2nd of April 2016

A momentous day as I topped the podium at this event in my hometown. Put together by the team at No Fuss Events the concept of this one is to bring the cycling enduro concept to running. Basically there are four timed stages and you can walk / jog or sprint between each. A 5k out along the prom is stage 1. Stage 2 is a gentle uphill trail section of around a mile. Stage 3 is two laps of the ash track at the local stadium. The final stage is a trail and road downhill smash up finishing on the newly restored pier. Total times from all four stages are added together and the lowest time wins. Simple. In this case the winner was shocked – especially since I’d taken a wrong turn on the first 5k section. My first and likely only victory – hopefully the event never happens again and I can lay claim to the title for the rest of my running days!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/dunoon-ride-run/

     5. Tom Scott Memorial 10Miler (Jack) – 10th April 2016.

This was a favourite of mine in 2015 also. There is a huge field at this event and there is always an abundance of fast runners. This means that there is usually a good pack to run in. At this year’s event I felt great and managed to run with a brilliant group of good mates who were all hitting good levels at fitness at the same time. The result was a fantastic pack run with a train of Harriers and a big PB for myself.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/tom-scott-memorial-10miler/

  1. The SouthSide Six (SS6) Kenny – 6th of November 2016

One of our absolute favourite races of the year and a Glasgow institution. The only reason the SS6 is not at the top of the list is that it’s been there before. This year Jack gave the run a pass leaving me to join the others toeing the line in this challenging 16-mile course. For those who’ve not done the race before it’s a 6 park tour of the south side painfully climbing to the highest peak in the two hilliest collecting stickers along the way. A brutal finish up the stairs and slopes of Queens Park, this one is always worth it for the excellent feed alone. This route sells out quickly so register for facebook updates to ensure you don’t miss out in 2017.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/southside-six-2016-ss6/

     3. MOKrun 1/2 Marathon (Jack) – 29th May 2016.

Our third visit to the Mull of Kintyre and, despite not coming home with the trophy, we still loved the experience of the weekend. A friendly, well organised event with a fantastic route and a brilliant post-run Ceilidh. Magic.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/running-a-mok-in-campbeltown/

      2. TCS Amsterdam Marathon 2016 (Jack) – 16th October 2016.

After four months of focused training, I finally made my way over to Amsterdam in an attempt at a new pb. A brilliant weekend and my first international Marathon – I’m sure it wont be the last!

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/amsterdam-marathon-2016/
And the number 1 race of 2016 in our humble opinion….

  1. Kyles 10 Miles (Both) – 10th of September 2016

This was our second visit to the Kyles of Bute and this race did not disappoint. A challenging and hilly route the 10 mile distance is a good marker to test out speed endurance. Guaranteed good weather (we’ve been twice and it’s been sunny both times), unbelievable scenery, beer on tap at the end and a BBQ followed by a ceilidh in the evening. A cracking race; low key, excellently marshalled, reasonably priced and growing in popularity year on year. A worthy winner of the title of 2016 Runbetweeners Race of the Year.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/kyles-10-miles-2/

 

Finally, a short footnote to those races that didn’t quite go to plan in 2016. No prizes for guessing which race ends up in the number 1 slot. Bang goes the idea that the runbetweeners will ever make our fortune Stateside…

 

  1. Toward for a Tenner (Kenny) – 6th of August 2016

Before I go on – Jack won this race, it was brilliantly and cheerfully marshaled, well organised and positively reviewed by local and visiting runners. I’ll be going back in 2017 and this race offers excellent value relative to other similar half marathons.  The addition of a 10k race makes this an inclusive running festival. Any negative feedback that follows is down to my own race naivety. On a positive note I suppose you learn more from the nightmare races than the ones that go well but this was everything that could go wrong in one race for me.

Starting far too fast and thinking I was in much better shape than I was, I decided to launch an attack on a near 5 minute pb on this one. There is no excuse really as this is my neck of the woods therefore I should have anticipated the wind factor which made running out in the first half a much more demanding effort than it would otherwise have been. Struggling badly the group I was in gradually put some serious distance between me and them as a stream of runners gradually passed me with words of genuine encouragement.

 

However I couldn’t help but slow to a near standstill by mile 7 reaching a point of exhaustion usually associated with a heavy session of sprint intervals or hill reps. Burned out by half way I managed to drag myself home thanks to the support and encouragement of my friends from Dunoon Hill Runners who were out in force (plus the fact is was an out and back course and all my gear was back at the start line). The first race I’ve run/walked in a long time and a massive positive split on the second half of the race. Meeting a friend who suffered an underwear malfunction and was running pantless for the final miles perked my spirits at mile 10 giving me the last ounce of strength to jog home the final 3 miles. The closest I’ve come to DNF’ing yet.

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/toward-for-a-tenner/

  1. Nationals – Short Course X Country (Kenny) – 5th of November 2016

Not a bad run – in fact I ran pretty well. Also not down do my hatred for the terrain as I’ve enjoyed the x-country much more this year. Perhaps I’m developing a love for the grass and mud as I become more experienced, fitter or maybe it was just down to the fact the weather has been much better than equivalent events in 2015.

This had all the ingredients to be a good one – I’d been training well, top athletes such as Laura Muir were competing and the event was reasonably close by meaning we could get there early enough to see some of the top junior and female races.

However the choice of venue was a strange one. The route was a two lap, pancake flat circuit around a playing field. Single file around the park perimeter the route lacked imagination or the challenge you would normally associate with such a prestigious race in the Scottish Athletics’ calendar. As a result it didn’t get a look in on the blog. Shame.

The worst race of 2016 award goes to…

1. Sommer Sports Florida Clermont 5k (Jack) – July 2016

You will have heard me rant about this one before I am sure but what kind of race doesn’t set up the finish line! Having got up early on my honeymoon to go and race this 5k in Florida, I was loving leading the pack for the whole race. I built myself up a nice lead and kept running for the finish – only to find that the finish line wasn’t there yet! I kept running down the road until I realised there was a problem and when I turned back the finish line had been constructed behind me! Witnesses at the end of the race spoke to the organisers and it was decided that I would still get the trophy but an angry competitor (relegated to second place) kick up a fuss and I did not get it. The organisers then ignored my email (I know I got petty!) and refused to respond to my questions on Twitter. I’m going to stop writing about it now because it’s getting me angry again haha -for more info read the review 😉

https://therunbetweeners.wordpress.com/2016/07/23/there-is-no-finish-line/

 

 

Bushy parkrun: A Christmas Cracker!

Having hurt my ankle attempting to run to parkrun in Leamington last week, I took the entire week leading up to Christmas off running. The sudden removal of running from my life was a bit of a shock to the system and I was keen to get back into the swing of things. This year I am spending Christmas at my parents’ house just outside of Croydon and so decided to ease back into things with a bit of parkrun tourism – and where better to pay a Christmas visit than the place where it all began: Bushy parkrun.


Lining up before the run (not a race! 😉) it was clear that this would be an experience. 1262 people (including Santas, Elves and the odd turkey) made their way through the misty park to congregate at the start line and there was a powerful dose of Christmas spirit in the air! 


The sheer volume of runners definitely gave the event an added buzz; the start line must have been forty people wide and the crowds wound their way back across the park. I was not planning a fast one today but didn’t really want to get stuck right at the back so I took up a position three or four rows from the front – squashed tightly between a man in a turkey hat and a woman dressed as a Christmas Pudding!


As the starter announced “Go!”, the charge was on and chaos ensued for a couple of hundred yards as people jostled for position but things eventually spread themselves out as we hit the first bit of path and made our way across the park. I was a little worried about my ankle today and was only intending a slow jog round but the atmosphere swept me up. As the watch beeped to tell me I had actually run a fairly quick first mile I made an effort to slow things down and settled into a group. Fortunately my ankle felt ok so after a slower second mile I decided to see if I could make up a few places and started working my way up the field – I couldn’t let the guy in a full elf suit beat me!


Coming into the final section of the race I jumped out of my skin as a huge stag appeared just to the side of the path on which I was running! I then spotted the other seven or eight deer which were grazing just behind it. I couldn’t believe these huge animals were quite happily minding their own business so close to a path which had over a thousand people (many covered in jingle bells!) running along it. Amazing.


As I crossed the finish line I was surprised to see that I had managed to work my way up to fourth position. I was also pretty impressed (if somewhat confused) with the huge, twin funnel! Nevertheless, the funnel management was impeccable and it was clearly a well oiled machine! Dad also had a good run, crossing the line in a new course PB, and we made our way home for a full fry up before crashing on the sofa with a beer and Christmas TV. 


A huge thanks to all at Bushy parkrun for an awesome event, dad for the lift and mum for the breakfast  – is there a better way to start Christmas than parkrun?  

Happy Birthday Springburn parkrun

What a great morning for a run. Just in the door from Springburn parkrun which was celebrating it’s second birthday today. Seemed like a bumper crowd and the park was looking brilliant.

 

Always good to see familiar faces on a Saturday morning – one of the great things about parkrun and it was really interesting to talk to John S. of the Harriers before the start of the run. John was there training with his race walkng group and it was an eyeopener to learn a bit more about race walking. I’d always fancied my chances of glory in race walking but am now less convinced this would my sport of choice in pursuit of Olympic Gold as I was told the 50k winning time for a recent race walk was 3hrs 21mins. Quicker than I would have run it flat out 🙂

 

Onto the race and there was nice presentation for annual winners at the start. I’ve often wondered how parkrun points are awarded and worked out so it was good to see recognition for the speedy and committed.

 

The route has been changed slightly since my last official visit – starting at the pond (I didn’t even know Springburn had a big pond) before joining the usual route with the notorious steeplechase flooded section now removed. I wonder if this null and voids our recent glasgowparkrunsmashup given that we didn’t follow the official route. The Boy will be up for it again surely?

 

Anyway The Boy sacrificed his own run today to pace me round at a pb attempt. As with all elite athletes this was organised well in advance to allow professional preparation. Or rather we decided late last night after I’d been out for a heavy meal and couple of italian lagers 🙂  So target sub 19-24.

 

We ran side by side (very bromantic) throughout and I felt pretty comfortable to begin with, actually wondering if we were going too slowly. Up the first hill strong and round the back of the park until the mile marker beeped. I was shocked to see a 6 minute mile first split but glad to see my splits were now a sensible 6min30secs pace although this could lead to a nail biting finale on operation pb.

 

By now I was working hard and The Boy did well to keep quiet (he’s renowned for being a talker) and just drag me along. The second mile split was paced with pacing maths before the mile bleep brought me out of my puzzled trance. 6mins18secs leading to complex recalculations and a final mile spent completing even more complex time sums in my head.

 

Rounding the final bend The Boy shocked me by proclaiming we were on for a sub 19 if I pushed hard so I was delighted to cross the line in 18mins48 secs on my watch (18min46sec on his so I’ll wait for the official time).

 

Old PB 19-24 Victoria parkrun Spring 2014

New (unofficial) PB 18-48 Springburn parkrun Spring 2016

 

A proper parkrun smashup and delighted with it although in hindsight if I’d taken a bit less off I could have lived on gradual PBs for a few months.

 

Good to catch up briefly with race organisers at the end of the route who were prepping a delicious looking cake but had to fly off leaving The Boy to complete his own ‘proper training’ as I set off on a 5 mile recovery run home. Great company on the way back from Guiness World Record Marathon Holder – Harvey the Heart – to top off a successful morning.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/575431911

Glasgow parkrun smash up

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.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/548724211

 

 

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.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/548724252

 

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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.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/548724301

 

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.

 

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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.

 

https://www.strava.com/activities/548724349

 

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.

 

 

Challenge Complete!

 

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 🙂

 

A Parisian parkrun..

On Saturday my alarm exploded at a slightly earlier time than I am used to and I dragged myself out of bed for my first morning as a 29 year old man. It also happened to be my first morning in Paris and time for my first international parkrun! Vicki and I had decide to pop over to France for the weekend and I made the obvious connection that the perfect way to spend my birthday morning would be to complete the newly established ‘parkrun du Bois de Bolougne’. Vicki would be running with me and so we got ourselves ready and jumped on the metro to cross the city. We had a slight panic upon our arrival at the park when we realised that we only had a few minutes to find the start line and the park appeared much larger than we had realised. Fortunately however we managed to turn a corner and spot the run briefing coming to an end just in time for our arrival.IMG_0213

As you can see, it was not the largest of parkruns in the world (compared to the 400+ we normally run with at Pollok, it was tiny!) however it was great to be part of something new and the atmosphere was very friendly and welcoming. As we made our way to the start line I realised that I was not completely sure of the route and so made the decision to try and stick with somebody for the first lap in order to get my bearings. We lined and it was clear that the run was mainly being completed by tourists (the Run  Director later told me that they were working hard to attract more locals and that he hoped the run would gain momentum over the weeks).

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The start was announced and we sped off along a winding trail through the trees and I managed to tuck in behind the leader. It was a beautiful morning for a run and the park was fantastic for the event. I particularly enjoyed being part of the smaller group of runners and enjoying the community atmosphere. The course was well marshalled and all of the turnings were clearly marked which enable me to stride out a little once we had completed the first section of the course.

parkrun paris smile

As you can see from my face (above!), I really enjoyed the route. There were no climbs at all and it even seemed to feel slightly downhill for a large section. I think that this could definitely be a course with PB potential if being tackled as a ‘race’. I put in a bit of a burst for the final straight of the course and managed to cross the line in a fraction over 17mins. Whilst this was a fair bit away from a PB, I did feel happy with the time as I felt great for the duration of the race. It definitely gave me confidence that I will be back running close to my best pretty soon.

parkrun paris finish

The satisfaction which I felt at picking up the ‘1’ token on the morning of my birthday was tinged with a fraction of frustration however when the run director then informed me that I had only been a few seconds away from the course record! I was gutted! I would have loved to have been able to come home and brag about having that accolade however it was not to be and I will simply have to go back another time and have a second crack at it! The community spirit of the run continued after the finish line and it was great to see the majority of the runners hanging about for a post-run photo and a coffee at an outdoor cafe under the gaze of the Eiffel Tower.

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All in all this was a fantastic parkrun (and a great birthday!) and I would definitely recommend it to others when in Paris. The organisers were extremely helpful and offered me advice on travel to and from the park through their Facebook page on the night before the event. They were great to talk to over coffee after the run and had big ideas for parkrun in France. It would be great to see it take off over there in the same way that it has in the UK.

When I returned home from the weekend I managed to stick a quick ‘rate-your-run’ review on the Marathon Talk website and even got a mention on their podcast (taking my competition with Kenny to 2 mentions each!). I am convinced the inclusion of the review on the show was thanks mainly to the fact that it discussed Vicki’s fancy ‘Marathon Talk Buff’ which I bought her for her birthday and which was spotted by a couple of other Parisian parkrunners. I figured therefore that it would only be right to stick a picture of said ‘buff’ on here too for your own admiration. Enjoy! x

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