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.

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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.

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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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Portobello parkrun…the tour continues!

It was my wife’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and she was delighted when I told her that I had organised a romantic evening through in Edinburgh. I informed her of the plan to go for a nice meal, enjoy a couple of fancy cocktails and then see the band who wrote our ‘first dance’ song as they were over from Nashville on tour! I was pretty chuffed with myself on this one and Vicki was over the moon with the plan – she was a little less impressed however when I also added that our hotel was conveniently close to a parkrun and that we would be trying it out the following morning! And so we found ourselves last night in Edinburgh, a couple of drinks deep and listening to ‘Striking Matches’ bringing a little taste of Tennessee to Scotland.

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Saturday morning and the familiar sound of the alarm echoed around the hotel room. I was pleased to note that the head felt pretty clear and I didn’t feel the final old-fashioned of Friday night had done too much damage. I unfurled my parkrun ’50’t-shirt and the trusty Adidas racers before necking a coffee and making the short drive across to Portobello parkrun.

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Upon arrival we were relieved to be able to park nice and quickly with no hassle whatsoever and the steady flow of lycra led us easily to the start line. The park itself is nice and flat with only a couple of small undulations. We were informed that the route is a simple three lap affair and that it would be “near-impossible to get lost”. I am happy to report that this is the case as if anyone can get lost on a new route (or even an old one!), it is me and yet I managed to navigate this park with no issues!  After a brief warm-up I said goodbye to Vicki and made my way to the front of the field.

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The atmosphere was nice and this parkrun had a less ‘formal’ feel to it. There was no jostling for position on the start line – in fact the majority of the runners seemed reluctant to line up alongside the two or three fellas who were toeing the line. After a quick thank you to the volunteers, we were off and enjoyed an immediate steady downhill section. The loop itself follows the outside of a pond and for the duration of its second half, runners can see those chasing after them. It became clear at the half way point that I would not be catching the leader and that, unless I managed to mess something up, I would probably not be caught by the man in third. This left me slightly in limbo as I found myself running along on my own. Knowing that I am not currently in ‘PB-Shape’ left me lacking in motivation and I feel I probably sat a little too comfortable for the majority of the run.

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I did enjoy the run and the route was a nice one. There were a couple of bottle necks which did cause a little difficulty on later laps however as I was trying to negotiate my way past other runners – the short section under the bridge was particularly awkward as the path is really only wide enough for two people side by side and, were you to try and pass, you would end up in the river! Nevertheless this was only a very short section and will have had a minimal impact on my actual finish time.

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Vicki meanwhile was enjoying the route and said that it managed to change her opinion of ‘multi-lap runs’. Prior to this parkrun she was adamant that she hated the idea of running the same loop several times however, upon completing this event, she told me that she had changed her mind. I think this may have been partly because she had a fantastic run and managed to secure a huge PB!

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We both really enjoyed the run and the marshalls were, as always, very friendly and helpful. We both said that we would like to return to try the event again and would recommend it to anyone looking for a change of scenery! All in all it was a fantastic start to the weekend and I spent my Saturday afternoon wandering aimlessly around Princes Street Gardens enjoying the bright blue skies and feel good factor that only a morning run can provide!

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Jack

parkrun tourism: Greenock

Having been unable to run properly in almost two months, I have been desperate to get back out to a parkrun. I have been struggling with a sore ankle for six weeks now and thus my running has been very restricted. Under the guidance of my physio, I have had a few weeks completely away from running in which I made the most of my local PureGym for some cross-training. This kept things ticking along but nothing quite made up for the freedom which can be felt by simply lacing up my trainers and disappearing into the night for a spontaneous jog. Over the last couple of weeks I have managed to sneak a few cheeky miles in without any real issues and so this week I decided to disappear under the radar and whisk myself off to Greenock for a parkrun. My theory was that I would be able to run my own race out along the promenade as there would be nobody there from my club and I would therefore be able to avoid getting stuck into a battle against one of my pals (I know what I can be like if someone gets up on my shoulder!). I didn’t tell anybody I would be running and instead I surreptitiously set my alarm before bed on Friday night and prepared myself for the 7:30am train to Greenock.

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Setting the alarm for an early Saturday start.

This morning I awoke with a buzz, knowing that I would be running ‘fast’ for the first time in weeks! I wolfed down my porridge, threw on my racing shorts and bounced out the door to catch my train. Once I had changed at Central, I had a 45 minute journey to enjoy which was filled with coffee and the latest copy of Runners’ World Magazine. When I arrived at Greenock West I was relieved to find that it was only a short, straightforward walk to the start of the parkrun. I made my way over and introduced myself to the race director who informed me that the first timers’ briefing would take place ten minutes later. This gave me just enough time for a nice warmup along the promenade which was glistening under one of the first blue skies of the year. My ankle felt great during my strides and I decided to push out from the start and see how things went. I had already told myself that I would ease up if things started to ache and had accepted that I would rather have a DNF at a parkrun than put myself out for another couple of weeks by doing something stupid.

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In-train entertainment

As the race director announced the start, I kicked away from the line and immediately felt the brakes come  on as the harsh wind battered me. I am sure the wind has been much worse at this particular parkrun – it is out along the esplanade after all – but in my slightly out of practice condition, I really felt its effects! I noticed my lack of fitness immediately and doubt started to creep in that I would be able to maintain any sort of pace for the duration. I had set my stall out early though and pure pride stopped me from slowing down. Reaching the far end of the esplanade came surprisingly quickly and gave me a bit of a boost – until I remembered that I would not simply be heading back to the start and would actually have to double back on myself again fairly soon. I also had a chance to view the other runners and was pleased to see that I had opened up a gap between myself and the two runners in second and third place.

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A pretty scenic parkrun!

By the time I reached the next turning point I had managed to relax into a fairly steady pace and actually felt much better. I faced the wind for the final time, knowing that once I reached the far cone again I would be turning to have the wind behind me. With this in mind, I felt a final boost and pushed on for the final straight. I crossed the line in a shade over 17 minutes which I was fairly pleased with. Deep down I had been hoping to post a sub 17 run however I figure I wasn’t far off – I will just have to return in a few weeks to set the record straight!

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I really enjoyed my morning of parkrun tourism. This took my total to 12 events visited and I will be looking to add to the tally further. This morning reminded me just how easy (and enjoyable!) it can be to jump on a train and try running somewhere new. Whether for further parkruns, or simply for finding new places to explore, I will definitely be heading out into the further reaches of Scotland over the coming months and lacing up my running shoes along the way. I had a great morning in Greenock and the parkrun team were fantastic. I will be back!

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That’ll do…for now!