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!

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!

                            

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…

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/

 

 

Amsterdam Marathon 2016

Having secured myself a satisfying personal best at the London Marathon back in 2015 (read about it here!), I made the decision to skip the 2016 event in order to focus on my first ever autumn marathon. The theory behind this was twofold: firstly, it would enable me to develop some speed over shorter distances by focusing on my 5k and 10k racing through the spring, and also that it would enable me to complete a substantial part of my marathon build up during the summer holidays when I would have more time to train and recover. It was incredibly frustrating therefore when I fell victim to a series of minor injuries in the early stages of 2016. Despite these setbacks, I was able to start my marathon training block 12 weeks ago upon the return from my holiday in Florida.

The training went about as well as I could have hoped. I had to be cautious building up the miles each week in order to avoid aggravating my earlier injuries but I also had to be prepared to take some risks or I would stand no chance of hitting the sort of times that I was hoping to achieve. This fine balance was one which I would obsess over and each week I made careful notes in my training diary of any slight niggles or concerns that arose in every session.

I was incredibly fortunate to have a very knowledgeable training partner in Colin Thomas for this undertaking. Colin has a marathon PB of 2:33 and was recently back from a training block in Kenya where he had spent time talking to some of the most successful marathon coaches in the world. Colin also gave me feedback on my gait along with some exercises to help improve my running and help me to avoid injury. We trained together as frequently as possible over the months leading up to the race and I felt my running improving dramatically every week. We both had similar goals for this race and having somebody to train with on the long, hard sessions was invaluable. I also benefited from the detailed feedback and advice offered by Matt Brown who helped me understand a lot of the theory behind the sessions which I was undertaking. It was thanks largely to these sessions that I found myself sitting in my hotel in Amsterdam the night before the race with a belly full of pasta and a feeling of confidence that I was in the best shape of my life.

5:30am. The alarm screeched across the hotel room – I had taken no chances with the volume control – and I was immediately alert. During my training I had experienced a few issues with stitches and had decided that I needed to allow a little longer between the start of the race and breakfast. After a moment of sheer panic, during which I thought we had no kettle in the room (Vicki did not appreciate being woken up to help me fix this!), I realised I could get boiling water from the Nespresso machine and was able to prepare my trusted pre-race fuel of porridge to go with the slightly squashed banana that had traveled in my suitcase from Glasgow in case I couldn’t find one in Amsterdam! I washed the whole lot down with an espresso and began sipping my bottle of Isostar. The entire operation was completed by 6am and I then found myself in the slightly awkward situation of having a couple of hours to kill without waking Vicki. A little stretching and yet another read through of the race instructions filled some of this time before I gave up and tried in vain to get a little more sleep.

Leaving the hotel as the rest of the city slept, I made my way to Colin’s hotel so that we could travel to the start together. Our train was filled with the smell of deep heat and the sound of nervous voices, whispering away in a hundred languages, as the morning commuters tried coming to terms with the challenge that awaited them. We poured off the train and into the area surrounding the Olympic Stadium. Our race would begin on the track itself under the gaze of a stadium filled with supporters. Once we had squeezed through the entrance and found ourselves on the start line the atmosphere was fantastic – although the very narrow start line meant that the crowding was a little uncomfortable. A few minutes to warm up and we were ready to go.

The start of the race was a tricky one: 17000 people all trying to run on an 8 lane running track is never going to be easy. Nevertheless, we made our way out of the stadium and away from the city. I found myself settled early on into a small group of about half a dozen runners that included Colin and also our former club mate Stuart Macdougall. We hit a steady pace and began counting down the miles.

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The first section of the race was fairly uneventful and to be honest I can’t remember any of the course itself. At the 11km mark we were greeted with a cheer from Vicki and Leigh which perked us up a bit and then things returned to normal  until we hit the canal path a few miles further in. This was a section which I had been warned could be very lonely as there would be no spectators and the route would be highly monotonous. I was very lucky to be running in a group with friends as there was some good banter as we made our way along here which helped keep us ticking along.

We hit the halfway point in about 76 minutes and I felt fantastic. The pace was manageable and I felt strong. I was a little annoyed however that my drinks bottles – which the organisers had offered to place out on the course for me – had not materialised. I am not sure how this happened but neither of my bottles ended up being where they were supposed to be so I had to make do with the little paper cups of water. This made things a little tricky as trying to drink from a paper cup whilst running at speed is not a skill which I have mastered! Nevermind- I would just have to get round quickly!

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During the second half of the race our group broke up a little and Colin and I found ourselves a little isolated. It was great to see the girls again on a couple more occasions to break up the route and provide a little more motivation however aside from these moments of support the route was very quiet. As we entered the final 10km we were running on our own and the crowd was non-existent. It was about this time that my calves began to suffer. I felt a tightness come into both calves which was not enough to force me to stop but definitely gave me something to think about. The fear of not finishing started to creep in and I started to let the pace slip a little. Colin was also beginning to suffer and was experiencing bad cramps in his leg. With a couple of km to go, he told me that the cramp was causing him issues and that I should push on for the final stretch.

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As I came into the Olympic Stadium I managed to put on a bit of a burst and overtook a competitor on the final bend. I crossed the line in an official time of 2:34:13 – a 3.5 minute personal best. Whilst it was not quite as quick as I had been hoping for, I was pleased to secure a big PB and was delighted to discover that I placed 49th overall and was the 3rd Brit. It was nice to finish in the stadium but we were quickly shepherded out again and I thought it was bizarre that we were not able to get any water at the finish line. There would be no water available until we had left the stadium and reached the larger area outside.

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After the race I enjoyed my first beer in months along with a fantastic portion of fish and chips! Vicki and I spent the following day exploring the city (although mainly by boat due to my sore legs!) and eating lots of amazing food! I am pleased to have made a step forward with my marathon time and had a great weekend but I don’t think I would rush back for this particular race. The route itself was pretty uninspiring and the lack of crowd support was definitely noticeable. Whilst it was undeniably very flat, there were also very narrow elements to the route and lots of sharp bends which makes me think that it is not as fast as other courses might be. I would not have enjoyed this marathon as much as I did had I not been running in a pack containing my mates.

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I have only been home a few days but already plans are forming for the next one. Possibly London 2017? Maybe Berlin? Either way, I am looking forward to getting back down to Bella and putting in some training with the rest of the club. Besides- I’ve got cross country to deal with first!

There is no finish line…

It has been a few weeks now since I got home from Florida and most of you will have already heard me ranting about my experiences at the Clermont 5k. Having finally calmed down sufficiently, I thought I should write a quick blog update about the event!

I’ll be the first to admit that I took a backseat with the planning of my honeymoon. Vicki, being an experienced holidaymaker in Orlando, had a far better idea of what to see and do whilst there and so made the vast majority of the plans for the fortnight. There was however one thing that I really wanted to experience during the trip: an American parkrun. So it was that we found ourselves packing our new ‘Pollok parkrun’ t-shirts and looking forward to a Saturday morning excursion to Clermont parkrun.

On the Thursday night we decided to check the parkrun Facebook page and were horrified to discover that it was cancelled! Instead there would be a 5k race taking place in the park (as well as a triathlon, a duathlon and a ‘dip and dash’ race)! Fortunately, there were still spaces available in the 5k and so Vicki and I both signed up (begrudgingly paying the $70 it cost us as a pair!).

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Saturday morning arrived and, unsurprisingly, it was hot. We jumped in the car at 6am for the drive out to Clermont and were both really excited about the race. When we arrived at our destination, we were both really impressed. The race would take place around a beautiful lake and there were thousands of people taking part in the variety of events which were being held. Perhaps living up to an  American stereotype, it became clear very quickly that this would be a big event with plenty of support, competitions and music creating an incredible pre-race atmosphere. I was also a little excited to test out my shiny new racing flats!

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As I lined up on the start line I did find it a little peculiar that we were asked to line up either side of the road as the duathlon would be starting shortly before our event and the participants would be running directly towards us. When a gap in the duathletes emerged, we were quickly shuffled back into the centre of the road and given the signal to go. The slightly chaotic start (running against the tide of duathletes) should have been a clue that the logistics of this race were a little unusual, but I paid this little attention and instead focused on gaining an early lead.

As I rounded the halfway mark and headed for home I was delighted to see that I had managed to build up a lead of about a minute. Foolishly, I started to think about how awesome it would be to win a race whilst on holiday – what a story that would be to bring home to the lads! I was lapping up the fantastic support and cheers from the other runners as I pushed on and before I knew it I was back at the start.

As I entered the home straight, I realised that it could not be far to the finish. Panicked, I started to shout to the crowds and marshalls for directions – my Garmin was screaming at me that 5k was pretty much over. The crowds responded by directing me further along the main path and eventually I found myself running alongside triathletes who had just emerged from the water – it was a bit of a shock when I noticed them all jumping onto their bikes and pedalling away from me! At this point I stopped and asked another marshall where the finish was for the 5k.

I had gone too far.

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As I turned and started heading back along my route, I heard the tannoy announce that the winner of the 5k was coming into the final straight. But surely that was me?! I ran back to the announcer to find out what had happened. To this moment I am still not completely sure how it happened, but I have been told that the finish line was not actually erected until 17 minutes into the race – almost a minute after I had finished! The race organisers explained that, as so many people had seen me pass the finish area in first position, they would award me first place and present me the trophy.

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Happy enough, I watched  Vicki finish the race and we gathered under the shelter with our complimentary food and drinks to await the presentation. As the prizes were distributed, I was gutted when my name was not called for first place and I was told by those runners standing with me that I should enquire as to what had happened. A little awkwardly, I approached the lady handing out the prizes and asked if my name was on the list. At this point the runner who was clutching first place declared that I could not be the winner as I did not have an official chip-time. My argument that there were no chip-mats down when I finished did not seem sufficient and his refusal to accept that he had not won the race meant that I had no choice but to leave empty handed. The organisers seemed in conflict about who the rightful winner was but, unfortunately, I came away with nothing but my free sleeveless t-shirt and a participation medal.

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Overall, I had a really enjoyable day and the race could have been fantastic had it not been for a few organisational issues at the end and a couple of very rude competitors. It was reassuring when many other runners approached me after the race to shake my hand and tell me that they disagreed with the decision of the organisers. Whilst the buzz and atmosphere at the event were fantastic, I believe the basics were overlooked – perhaps a focus on creating a spectacle, rather than a good ‘race’were what caused this event to suffer. Then again – maybe I am just bitter!

Everything was made better with pancakes…

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