Hackney Marshes parkrun

There’s something quite exciting about visiting a parkrun for the first time. The consistency of the parkrun model ensures that each event shares the same comforting familiarity yet it is always intriguing to discover the subtle variations that each has to offer. This could be a difference in size, terrain, route type or even simply the accents emerging from the masses. Regardless, these nuances are what give each event its identity and are precisely what makes parkrun tourism such an appealing prospect.

Last weekend I found myself visiting my brother in London and so, naturally, Vicki and I spent some time researching the local parkrun options. After much deliberation, we settled on Hackney Marshes. I had enjoyed hearing about this event on the ‘Running Commentary’ podcast (well worth a listen on a long run!) and fancied the sweeping, flat route through the woods that surround the mass of football pitches. Unfortunately, due to her injury, Vicki was unable to run this time so she contacted the event team and offered to volunteer as Timekeeper for the morning. She got a bit of a fright when she realised the size of the field but manage to keep her cool and record an accurate set of results (although she could definitely have stopped the watch a few seconds early for me!!)

The morning of the run was stunning; the sun was shining and the park was buzzing with runners, footballers, cricketers and dog walkers all taking advantage of the weather. I managed a quick warmup loop without getting lost (a bonus!) and then took my place on the start line. After a brief introduction from the Run Director we were off. The route winds gently away from the start on a long, flat path through the trees between the pitches and the River Lea and the shade was welcome as we made our way along the course. I took the lead and felt quite good as I hit the 2km point which was marked with a 180 degree turn. Heading back the way we had came, it was great to get some friendly shouts of encouragement from the runners coming the other way and the path was wide enough to accommodate traffic in both directions.

Shortly before reaching the ‘start line’ I found myself directed off on a side-path for a 250m detour before another 180 degree turn and a final push to the finish. I felt OK but the legs were definitely lacking the spring that they had enjoyed pre-marathon. Today would not be a day for PBs but certainly served as a good wake up call. I made my way through the finish funnel to the cheers of my 18 month old nephew and claimed the first finisher token in a time of 16:02. I was fairly pleased with the time as I knew I wouldn’t be in prime 5k shape having been focused on the marathon for the last 3 months, however it was a little annoying to be so close to 16minute mark and not dip under – there’s always something!

The morning was complete when I returned home to a fantastic bacon roll and mug of coffee before spending the day celebrating with family and swapping my trainers for my dancing shoes in Shoreditch that night. This was a great parkrun experience and it all comes back to the volunteers without whom these events would not be possible. Thank you!

Making Waves at the Troon 10k

After a brief but thorough downpour earlier in the afternoon, the skies cleared and the stage was set for a fast evening of running at the Troon 10k on Wednesday night. Among the eager runners lining the seafront stood several Runbetweeners, many of whom were anxiously preparing for their first 10k of the season. This was not an event that I would be participating in myself, instead I had the troublesome task of cheering from the sidelines and patiently awaiting the famous fish and chips while the runners got battered (sorry!) by the increasingly noticeable wind.

As we stood at the start line, I was amazed at the number of participants that this race attracts – I always forget the size of the event and it is a testament to the Troon Tortoises that it runs so smoothly every year. I did not realise until I was informed on the evening that members of the club are not allowed to enter the event themselves and are instead expected to assist in its running. It is on a separate night later in the week that the members then run the route themselves in a more private race after which they bestow upon themselves (quite rightly) the race day t-shirt. The impressive organisation of the Troon Tortoises was a stark contrast to the pre-race preparation of Kenny Taylor, who realised two minutes before the start of the race that he was wearing the wrong trainers and was forced to dash back to his bag, moving faster than Gillian Glass when a new race appears on the calendar!

Trainers switched, Kenny made it back to join the masses and moments later they were off. The runners weaved along the seafront as wave after wave they were released from their pens. A bold start from Michael Deason in the blue and yellow vest of Shettleston Harriers made his intentions clear and he led the charge with Richard Mair of Kilmarnock and David Millar of Irvine Running Club in pursuit. Hundreds of smiling faces followed the lead pack away from the sand and around the golf course as the wind guided them gently away from the start line.

The chief support squad of Vicki, Finola and I, made our way to a point at roughly 4miles where we would be able to see the runners pass before making our way back to the start. Here we watched as the lead group passed, with daylight between each of them, looking strong into the final stages. Many familiar faces passed by with runners from a vast number of local clubs making the effort to attend this event. Mark Porter of Bellahouston Harriers flew by on his way to smashing his PB shortly before Kenny came bounding around the corner on track for a fast time of his own. Following in Kenny’s wake were fellow Harriers Neil Nairn and Mikey Gowans who both went on to absolutely annihilate their own PBs – surely a great sign for both with Neil having recently run the London Marathon and Mikey closing in on his race in the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of the month.

Leading the charge for the Runbetweeners were Paul Burningham (running for Bella Harriers) and Jenny Brown. This was a huge race for both runners as Paul succeeded in dipping under 40minutes for the first time and Jenny managed to finish as 13th female on her debut over the distance in an impressive time of 43:22.

There were great performances all round from the Runbetweeners with a bucketload of PBs from Gillian Glass, Kirstin Campbell, Karen Rosling, June McLeod and Clare Taylor. Jacqueline Glass also put in a great performance and managed to equal her PB which suggests it’s only a matter of time before that barrier is crossed!

As the race drew to a close, the rain decided to make an appearance and we disappeared swiftly into the local chippy for a feed. Annoyingly, were too late for fish but we left with a steaming bag of chips in hand and made our way back home feeling pretty pleased with our little mid-week trip to the seaside!

Well done to everyone who took part and thank you to the members of the Troon Tortoises for putting on such a great event – The Runbetweeners will definitely be back!

The Road to Berlin: Week Four

Week Four: 31/07/17 – 06/08/17

Total Mileage: 53.7

Monday:         10x 1min on/1min off

Tuesday:         6M Recovery

Wednesday:  18M (10 Moderate)

Thursday:       6M Recovery

Friday:             8M Easy

Saturday:        REST

Sunday:           11M (7 Tempo) 

Reflections.

This week was spent pretty much entirely in Cyprus (I flew back to London on Saturday evening) which meant a slight shuffle of the sessions. I was worried about trying the do the Tempo run whilst away as I felt the heat would make it very difficult to hit the speed that I was aiming for. I therefore swapped this session with the long run which had been planned for the weekend. I also switched out Monday’s planned Hill Session as there were no hills available and so did a fast,flat interval session instead.

Monday was an a tough session in the morning heat and I definitely underestimated it. I got the session done but realised I would definitely need earlier starts from this point on. I also realised that I would need to ensure I had water for all of my runs. 

Tuesday was much more enjoyable as I was able to drop the pace and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Salt Lake.  This also gave me a chance to scout out the first section of a route for tomorrow’s longer run. Felt good and had to make a real effort to hold the pace back towards the end of the run.

Wednesday was a session which I had been dreading. It would mean being out in the heat for a long time and there was also the very real possibility of me getting lost! I decided to get up before the sunrise and head out at 5:30am.  I also decided to break the run into sections which would enable me to re-fill my water bottle. I set off for the first 5M section at an easy pace and made sure that I consumed a full bottle of Gatorade during this loop. I then re-filled my bottle with cold water during a quick pit stop and headed back out the door. I gave myself one more mile of easy running to get back into a rhythm before hitting the 10M at Moderate pace (6:30/mile). I felt great and succeeded in holding this pace for the duration as I completed a full loop of Larnaca’s Salt Lake and headed back along the seafront. This faster section was followed with a couple of easy miles to bring the total distance to 18M.

Thursday and Friday were a nice dip back down to gentler paces and I was able to soak up the sun with a little less pressure. I felt good although I had a little tightness in the left calf, leading to a slight ache in the shin, after the 8M Easy run on Friday. I’ve been slacking on the stretching/foam rolling while away so will make an effort to get back on with this!

After a rest day on Saturday and a flight back to London, I headed out for a Tempo run on Sunday. I got a lift up to Kenley  Aerodrome for the session as I figured this would be nice and flat and traffic-free. Unfortunately I didn’t consider how windy it would be and this made it very tough to hit my target splits. I missed the goal pace by a few seconds per mile but this still felt like a decent session. It was a relief to get through the run with no aches in the shin or calf.

This was a good week of training and it was nice to get everything done without it eating into the holiday too much. The change of scenery was fantastic and it was great to be running in the heat before cooling off in the sea and enjoying my ‘recovery’ wth a book on the beach.

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!

                            

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!