Posts Tagged With: Run with Karen

Realising the Riches of Richmond Park with a Recreational Recovery Run

Digested Read: in saying so, I may be officially outing my inner bumpkin, rather than channeling my lurking London metropolitan hipster, but I have to say, whilst Richmond Park is an impressive location for running certainly, it’s pretty busy out there and for me doesn’t quite give off an off road vibe.  Spectacular in its way, but no glorious isolation. Also, those aren’t hills.

So this was the third day of running wonders on our Run With Karen weekend.  Which focused on running. Can you see what’s she’s done there?  It’s not subliminal marketing maybe, but it is fairly easy to grasp the gist of what’s on offer, and all the better for that.  Anyways, a gaggle of Smiley Paces women had consequently descended on London with Day One – cavorting in the footsteps of Olympians for a track session; Day Two – hobnobbing with parkrun Royalty at Bushy parkrun and finally, Day Three – today,* romping round Richmond Park for a gentle recovery run.  Hurrah!

*I say ‘today’ but actually I’m writing this up a bit later, so go on sue me.  However, I like to keep my posts in correct chronological order or my brain might implode, so the posted date above will reflect the inner truth of the date written, if not the actual outward truth. Fair enough, my blog I can do what I like!

By the way – this might amuse you – I’ve just been doing a bit of idle Googling (is there any other sort of Googling I wonder, or is that tautology?) Anyway, I was looking for a gym near to where I live, as I was nursing a brief fantasy that I might do cross training indoors in inclement weather to help out with my marathon training strategy which is current at a stand still due to ice, snow and absence of any running routine. So I typed ‘gym’ into the search engine, as you do, only I didn’t!  I typed ‘gyn’ by accident. The things is, that you know how if you make an obvious typo it will usually make some sensible suggestion as to what you were actually looking for, or sometimes out of sheer contrariness it will insist that you must have made a typo when ‘No, I really was looking for… whatever’.  Well, on this occassion, my search engine clearly thought my request was fair enough, and I got loads of hits for gynaecological services but a stone’s throw from my current dwelling place.  That’s fair enough, it is a legitimate search of course, but I’d have been so much happier if it hadn’t twigged I was after a gym it had assumed I was in need of a gin palace instead.  Just saying.  Maybe it’s the impact of Dry January, you aren’t even allowed to dream of alcohol until the end of the month.  I wouldn’t have minded, but it took me an alarmingly long time to work out what had gone wrong.  ‘Oh, my! Gyms have certainly diversified their offer since last time I looked‘ I was thinking, for a bit longer than should have been strictly necessary…

Call me super-conventional, but I thought I’d go with the gin images rather than the gyn ones.  You can do your own Googling if you really feel the need.

Anyway, back to the serious business of running. Today was the final day of our running sojourn. We were happy but tired after running on the track on the Friday, running Bushy parkrun on the Saturday and running the gauntlet of our unsleepable beds on the Friday and Saturday nights. Weary, but cheery, we then gathered on Sunday morning, to head off in convoy to Richmond Park and a gentle and inclusive recovery run.  Loooooooooooong and slooooooooooooooooooooooow.

There was a bit of angsty decision making, what to wear what to bring.  The major crisis was first thing when a number of us were trying to secure breakfast porridge and none of us could work out how to operate the microwave.  It was not intuitive. Eventually a teacher who does a lot of supply came to our aid. She’s seen more microwaves in her career than you can shake a stick at, and nothing stumped her.  Have a feeling she might be handy with photocopiers and maybe even fax machines, but I didn’t like to press her on that, seemed unfair as it was her weekend break away as well.

There was some  confusion about where to meet, and who was to travel with whom, but eventually we piled into separate cars and pulled off together. As we were driving down the road outside our house, we saw a little trio of road runners, pounding the pavement with some speed.  One immediately did a spectacular face plant tripping over I have no idea what.  We considered stopping, as it looked bad, but his mates seemed to have everything under control and the cars we were following were in danger of disappearing from sight, so we continued on our way, freshly reminded of the inherent risks of running wherever you do it. I’d expect to be wary of taking a tumble off road, or at night, but in morning daylight on a road run, that’s really unlucky.  Mind you, I did have a next door neighbour once, who broke his ankle whilst out on a job because he jumped sideways to get out of the way of a blind person out with a guide dog.  Does it make me a bad person that the irony of this scenario made me laugh.  I did drive him to hospital though, so I can’t be a wholly bad person.  Can I?

We sped off through Twickenham – I did wonder if the lead car was actually tyring to shake us off rather than pave the way – and weaved through Kingston, before arriving at one of the Richmond Park carparks.

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I think we were at the Pembroke Lodge car park.  Not overly sure. What I am sure about though, is that there were some handy loos, maps and a little coffee hut for later on.  The loos did have a flintstones-esque look to them, but that hasn’t come out in the photos.  So I’ve just got some random, rather dull shots of random people standing around outside the toilet block.  Oh well, since I went to all that trouble to take them, would seem a shame not to share…

Granted, we weren’t massively early, it was maye 9.00 ish by the time we got htere, bit later even, but the car park was already pretty busy. On the way in to the park I was struck by the number of cyclists, runners and walkers already out and about with their Sunday morning constitutionals well under way. The place was heaving.  We were able to park, but it was filling up. This was not a ‘let’s get away from it all’ rendezvous point, it was going to be busy.

We split into groups, speedier runners tearing ahead, I hung at the back with the slow and steadies, always a good place to be.  The plan was to keep it simple, and just do a loop of the park which is around 7 miles ish I think.  Quick team consultation, and then off we went, separating into separate running pods pretty organically.

Perhaps because of this choice, we ended up on the more manicured trails which also lend themselves to bikers, people with push chairs, and every other runner in a 100 mile vicinity, I found the route ridiculously busy.  In Sheffield, if you run off-road you will see people of course, but you don’t generally have to duck out of each others way, and mostly you either will actually  know them, or broadly recognised them from one of the parkruns or running clubs so people always swap greetings, even if only a semi-strangulated smile, but often it’s words of encouragement or a full on gossip with paused watches before you head off again.  In Richmond, I found the running experience very different.  It’s not that it’s unfriendly per se, just that you couldn’t possibly greet every runner when there are thousands of you, and I suppose locals have become immune to seeing such numbers of other runners out and about so are familiar with the dodging each other etiquette.  I did find it a bit intimidating in parts, faster runners shoving you aside as they overtook (not all of them of course, but more than one), or thundering towards you with an expectation you’ll dodge into the ditch to avoid them.  Mostly stony faced and not acknowledging others, like people on a tube train, trying to create the illusion of  having their own personal space by an effort of superhuman will, and ignoring everyone else around them, even when if their nose is rammed into their armpit.  If I choose not to see it isn’t there.  Like ostriches with their heads in the sand.  But that isn’t true people.  Same here, you can try to ignore and will away your surroundings all you like, but that’s got to be stressful, and surely you shut out the joy of seeing deer and parakeets, even Smilies on tour for heaven’s sake!  I can understand a Richmond Park runner wanting to run like an ostrich for sure, but to ignore what’s in front of them like ostriches don’t?  Well that’s nonsensical. Just saying.

Perhaps, you get used to it, and it becomes the new normal, but honestly, I wouldn’t want to, I may be a country bumpkin but Iwill freely admit that I muh prefer the solitary peak district trails, social runners and the glory of breathing in the landscape as you romp out and about.  The hills just add interest and texture to a run.  You’ll never hear me complain about them when out running. Granted, that is only because when negotiating them I am too breathless to utter anything at all, but that just further demonstrates the technical truth in what I am claiming.

On the plus side, Richmond Park is absolutely gorgeous.  Lovely mature trees, and plenty of deer lurking in the bracken.

richmond running

Quite early on we paused for a deer in the bracken shot.  This clearly required a lot of posing, and trying to mimic their camouflage.   Can you spot the Smilies desporting themselves in this shot.  Spookily good at feigning antlers are we not!  Amazing!

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As this was relatively early in our run, and the novelty of seeing deer was quite powerful, we were able to briefly muster ourselves to allow for a group shot, before everyone sped off on the relative merry ways.

richmond team photo

My we are collectively gorgeous are we not?

As we went round, our local guides pointed out local landmarks.  Who knew the famous Priory Rehab Clinic adjoined the park.  There were certain spots where you got an amazing view across the London skyline, but my camera couldn’t capture that.  The proximity to famous buildings is impressive though, and it was fun passing over the Thames en route to get there.  You sort of have to be there to appreciate it.  My photos are, I know, pretty uninspiring.

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Not to worry, here is one from the Richmond Park website, view of St Paul’s cathedral from Henry’s Mound – ironically a view I didn’t consciously see, but it sort of illustrates a point all the same, in terms of the potential for panoramic London views if you but take the time to pause and look on in wonder.  Oh, and it’s a different time of year too.  And different weather, but essentially identical to the vista we enjoyed today (ish).

St pauls cathedral from henrys mound

So off we yomped.  Each person finding their own comfort zone. This wasn’t to be a fast one, but a genuine recreational, conversational, recovery one.  That was lucky, as so very much to talk about.

Fortuitously, I happened to end up with a fellow London Marathoner for 2018, who had also run last year (both charity places, not that lucky with the ballot in case you were wondering). Best of all, I don’t think she’ll mind me saying I saw a kindred spirit in her in terms of her approach to running. Relatively new to it all, looking to complete not speed round and wanting to enjoy the experience.  Obviously, it became my mission to essentially separate her from the rest of the group, groom her with cheery chit-chat and then download all her knowledge so I could shameless mine her training experiences and use them for my own ends.  That seems fair. I don’t think she minded.  I quickly secured her as my new best friend forever and virtual marathon training buddy.  Job done. Seriously though, it made me feel so much better.  To date, the people I know who are running the marathon are very much more experienced than me, and/or much fleeter of foot.  In my head I know they have different goals, aspirations and potential, but in my heart it’s so hard not to compare myself to them and feel my confidence ebb away as I fall so short by comparison.  It was heartening to talk to someone who has successfully nailed the London marathon with a walk run strategy.

We ran and walked and talked as we romped round Richmond.  There were some cultural differences though.  Two particularly struck me.  One was how whenever traffic cleared, my running buddies had a tendency to gravitate back onto the road, or harder surfaces, I always favour mud.  The other thing which was a moment of absolute revelation for me. Was the different perspective on hills.  My yomping buddies were in favour of a walk/run strategy, which suits me just fine, I feel I can go all day like that.  Anyway, we got to a bit where we were walking, and then our guide suggested it was a good part to run, as actually there was a steep hill coming up ahead, where we’d bound to want to revert to walking up.  I ended up jogging on ahead, and jogged, and jogged, and it was fine, couldn’t see a hill though.  I was ascending a bit of a gentle incline, and when I got to the top, I hit a literal cross roads with cars, and had to stop as I didn’t know which way to go.  I paused, and looked behind me.  I could see my running buddies walking up behind me.

surely not a hill

Then it dawned on me ‘ooooooooooooh, that was what Londoners think of as a hill!’  Barely registered as an undulation by Sheffield standards.  As I am a relative newcomer to Sheffield – not yet a decade – I can still be taken by surprise by how steep our hills are.  When I first moved to Sheffield I’d stand looking up the hill I had to climb to get to my flat and feel like crying.  It might as well have been the moon.  And as for the gradients of driveways where it was considered appropriate to park a car – well, they were eye-popping!  No wonder cars lose control on Sheffield streets in the snow as this dashcam footage illustrates all too scarily!

Nevertheless, it seems I have unconsciously absorbed a new reality. A new understanding of just how much gradient is required before a hill is worthy of the name.  It was strange, and sort of symbolic.  I hadn’t realised I’d become so habituated to a particular terrain for off-road running.  In my own way, I’ve come to love our Sheffield Hills.  Perhaps they will help me with my training too, they are unavoidable out and about, and surely will bring a bit of added strength training to my running repertoire, whether I want it or not.

So thing I learnt along the way about the London Marathon.

  • The marathon is in fact doable.  Probably.  Hard, but doable.  Even for me.  Others have got round from a lower base point than even I am at now, and with a lot less insider information and help to get them to the start.
  • I need to think about my walk run strategy.  In the peaks, we have so many hills I just pause to walk up them and then run on the flatter bits.  I never consciously plan this, it just evolves.  The London route is a lot flatter.  Maybe I need to prepare for this in a more strategic way.  One person I know listens to music and her strategy is to walk one song, run the next.  I don’t run with music though and don’t really want to.  My new best friend ran for five minutes, walked for one – or thereabouts.  That way, she always knew a break was coming, and she could sustain five minutes running.  It got her round.  I need to think about that, time to up my attention to my TomTom which I basically use as a post run recording device, rather than for real-time feedback en route.
  • You can enjoy it, and the finish photos from the slow and steadier runners make it look like they had a lot more fun out there than some of the grey-faced collapsed speedier types who gave it their all, but then spent the aftermath in a blur of dehydrated, sugar low collapse.  I’d like to still have enough in me to bear the weight of my London Bling round my neck, and remain standing for that finish photo.  Eek, I wonder if it will ever really come to pass.

To illustrate the point, compare and contrast these finish photos and consider for a moment which category you think might suit my running style best.

Quite so.  In my world, running should be fun.  I don’t want to be one of those people you come across now and again who pronounce ‘running a marathon killed running for me’, all burnt out, angry and disillusioned.  I’d like to be able to look back on the achievement and – even if only fleetingly – be able to remind myself that I am capable of more than I realise, as are we all.  Not to say it won’t be hard, but I don’t want it to break me.  Where’s the fun in that?  Not even type 2 fun, not even close!  Also, now I have secured the finish picture, I can always photoshop my face onto it post the 2018 marathon if I don’t make it across the finish line.  Granted, I’ll have to change my name by deed poll to ‘Noreen’ for it to appear authentic, but I consider that to be but a small price to pay for such photographic glories.

Here is me with my new best friend. She was a legend. You have really helped to inspire and motivate me. I can’t wait to be there and share the London experience with you in April. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  Just think, our next photo together could yet be with us posed wearing the bling!  How exciting is that!

my best friend

Although I was claiming her as my new best friend, in honesty, I’m not sure she actually had a vacancy. That can happen sometimes can’t it.  Not to worry, I am happy to share.  Also, it might be that I bagsied quite a few new best friends along the way this weekend, just spoilt for choice I guess, with so many lovely generous runners around Lots of us buddied up in various ways with our new London running friends, so plenty of permutations on running together in Richmond park friendship photos.  Here are but some:

You can just feel the love oozing out.

Other sights to behold including undercarriage of aircraft overhead and horse riders.  The aircrafts are much more noticeable in Bushy park and on the Twickenham track to be fair, but you are very conscious of planes in general moving around this part of greater London.  I take for granted the total absence of aircraft where I live.  When I was growing up I used to spend a lot of time in Bushy Park, and I remember the sonic boom as concorde passed overhead. Giddy times.  That was exciting back then, now I’m glad to be free of aircraft noise.  Even so, flight is pretty remarkable.  I’m still somewhat sceptical as to how it’s possible, even though the evidence suggests it really truly is.   I say that, and then I remember didn’t one of the last Concorde planes actually crash in France somewhere.  Oh dear.  Not quite the way for an iconic aircraft to bow out is it.  Sad to think about, but a great deal sadder for the people who died in a fireball and never got to go on their cruise either.  Insult to injury.  I hope they didn’t know what was happening, makes me shudder.

That’s all a bit heavy, sorry about that.  Back to the joys of recreational running!  Where was I.  Oh yes, we had fun.  Somehow or other, we ended up back where we started pretty much at the same time.  Those at the front must have added on an extra bit, and we at the rear may possibly have taken a few short cuts en route to ensure we made it to the cafe in time for the bulk latte order.  Thanks cheetah buddy for treating us all. An expensive round!

At the conclusion of our run, some did stretching, some did not.  I choose to be a woman of mystery, so will not reveal in which category fell I.  You can’t stretch and take a selfie shot at the same time, so the absence of any photographic evidence proves nothing.

So there you go, Richmond Running Romp concluded.  We were happy runners, and it was a majestic setting with fine company.  however, whilst I loved my new best friends forever London running buddies, I did find the park congestion and busyness pretty overwhelming.  It seems I love the loneliness of the peak moors more than I knew.  I’m so grateful too that we can take on long runs without resorting to three laps of a London park, however lovely, and however handy its proximity to both the Priory and the Royal Ballet School at White Lodge!

For those of you who are interested in such things, here is the Strava map showing our run round in the footsteps of over-excited Fenton. The dog who got even more excited at seeing deer than we Smilies did.  We did almost exactly 6 miles. 5.96 according to my TomTom

richmond park strava run

And that dear reader, was the end of our London running weekend sojourn. A fine way to finish it all off too, it was grand out, and a royal park is just the thing for a Sunday morning rump.

It is possible Fenton ran a lot further than our 6 miles, certainly a lot faster, as he disappeared over the ‘hill’ chasing deer.  Not bad for a labrador.  This incident is not funny of course, not funny at all.  Not really, but sometimes you can’t help yourself.

It’s wrong to laugh, but then again, if we don’t laugh at the human condition and our ineptitude in the face of forces beyond our control, we surrender to tragedy.  What kind of life is that?  In the spirit of laughing in the face of horrors too great to comprehend, I’d like to conclude with a random, potentially life enhancing, but not running related, fact:

Did you know Donald Trump hates and is terrified of Sharks?.  You didn’t?  Well, just a thought.  If you are shallow enough to want to indulge in a bit of needling you might think of donating to a shark conservation marine life charity such as the shark trust as a little act of protest.  Just saying, I’m thinking it might help me at least feel a little less powerless in a crumbling world.  I can’t think why this fact isn’t included in the list of top ten reasons to love sharks.

the-eights-orders-of-sharks

See, you can learn something new every day!  Not necessarily something useful, but possibly something pleasing if you just choose to keep your curiosity alive.

So stay curious.  Happy running, and don’t forget to look around and marvel at the world around you.  Choose to dull your senses and you might suffer the collatoral damage of dulling your whole life.  Too high a price to pay, surely.

More trite truisms are available, hang on, let me see if I can find a motivational running meme to push you over the edge.

Found one!  This should do the trick:

be awesome

Don’t try to thank me.

Really.  Don’t.

 

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

Categories: off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Smilies hanging out at Bushy parkrun, the epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon. Running with the stars!

Digested read: Thirteenth of Jan – lucky for some.  Smiley Paces on tour to Bushy parkrun.  The epicentre of the parkrun phenomenon, where it all began, under the mighty oak. Awesome. It just goes to show dear reader, that dreams really can come true!  In the interests of accuracy, I feel I should also remind you that it is also true you must sometimes be careful what you wish for, because things don’t always happen quite as you planned, but on this day all was well.  Hurrah!

ADVISORY WARNING: I don’t do concise, and this post could be a bit of a time vampire so read on at your own risk, it’s not compulsory.  I recommend coffee or wine as an accompaniement, and maybe an energy gel if that’s more your thing and you can safely ingest without heaving. Enjoy, or not, really it’s up to you.

Look at this magnificent tree!  Witness to the birth of parkrun, imagine that?  And what else it must have seen unfold before it over the last few hundred years.  Iconic indeed.  I wonder if it is the most photographed tree in Bushy Park?  Could be….

Bushy parkrun The Tree

The parkrun logo is uncannily similar, almost indistinguishable in fact:

campervan cookies

Clever. That’s a campervan cookie by the way.  Limited edition.

Anyways, sooooooooooooooo much to tell you about this particular parkrun day, my head might actually burst as I try to organise the memories.  It’s sort of like defragmenting my brain I think, putting it down in a blog post.  I’m back in Sheffield.  A whole week has passed. I’m actually trapped in my house because of snow and ice, and it seems incredible that just this time last week I was on the post run high only ever experienced by those who have been privileged enough to parkrun/walk/jog on such hallowed ground.  A week later, and parkruns all across Sheffield have been cancelled due to snow and ice.  Cue lots of comedy near death experiences trying to get to said runs on black ice, even though I knew in my heart of hearts they’d have to cancel.  Oh well, nothing ventured eh, and that’s another story entirely…

Suffice to say all the stories about Bushy parkrun are true.  The park has unicorns in abundance.   An arch of rainbows guide you through the finish funnel, and smiling marshals a-plenty cheer you round. Add in to this giddy mix the exotic parakeets, and impressive deer – some with gargantuan antlers that make them too look like mythical beasts – and you can see why setting foot in this Royal Park on parkrun day can indeed feel like entering a parallel universe, our very own wonderland.  If you come from Ireland, the organising team at Bushy parkrun will even make you edible shamrocks and Irish themed cupcakes.  FACT.

Point of information, the unicorns are quite shy so you sometimes only catch a vanishing glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye, and the rainbows are often tricky to make out through the emotional veil of tears that may obscure your view in the finish funnel. But just because you can’t quite see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Keep the faith!  Also, unicorns can deliver some surprises on meeting.  Whether this disappoints or pleases you I can’t say.  Did you now they fart glitter and crap rainbow icecream?  It’s no wonder they find toilet humour completely hilarious, but that isn’t what you expect from what seems outwardly at least, to be majestic and other worldly is it now?

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Even so, I’m surprised they stooped (or should that be ‘pooped’) to product endorsement for toilet accessories, but I suppose you have to make a living somehow. How otherwise do you account for those actors who did the original ‘we washed half of his hair in head and shoulders…‘ adverts for head and shoulders, and now find themselves forever immortalised raining down dandruff in close up.  Makes me shudder.  Other anti dandruff products are available, with equally crushing photos to accompany them. I’d say the unicorns had a better agent to be honest.

Still, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s start at the beginning shall we?  So I was back on marathon training today, inasmuch as I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that running when fatigued (within certain limits) is a good way to habituate yourself to the mental challenge of pushing through when you aren’t feeling the love at a marathon.  I am told that this can often kick in around mile 17, which is pleasing, because normally I find I’ve completely fallen out of love with running after about 100 yards, so that could well be an improvement on my general running mood.  Anyway, the upshot of this philosophy, is that, a sleepless night at our Twickenham student house was just the thing to keep me on the programme.  Oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about? Well basically, I was here with some buddies from my Smiley Paces Sheffield based Women’s Running Club on a running weekend organised by Run with Karen.  We had a session on the track on the friday before and a long run in Richmond Park on the Sunday following, but clearly the visit to the spiritual home of parkrun was always going to be the highlight.  I say we were all Smilies, well some of us were, but we had other welcome running buddies along with us too. Londoners and others from further afield who’d joined the weekend of running fun. For the purposes of this blog post I think we can safely say all were either actual Sheffield Smilies or honorary Smilies by association, which amounts to the same thing.  Hurrah!

For the record though, even though I was probably too excited to sleep anyway, the plastic mattresses in the student accommodation were not cool, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.  Just a bit of feedback for our host venue, maybe they were also not the ideal choice for a group of largely peri and actually menopausal women. There is a skill set for sleeping on these things that I have yet to acquire. The slidy nature of them means that if you have any part of your body in contact with the sheet whilst moving your position the entire made-bed construct disassembled as duvet goes in one direction and sheet in another.  the only way to avoid this is to become airborne pre any such adjustment, but this requires violent moves likely to put your back out, comedic value and cross training possibly yes, but compatible with a good nights sleep no.

In other news, on top of the sleep deprivation, I was also really stiff today which was a shocker as the track session was only about 4 miles. This either shows how effectively you can work out on a track, or shows that trying to run with ‘good form’ for extended periods is catastrophic.  Purists may argue this shows how terrible my running form usually is, since evidently making an effort to run in unfamiliar ‘good form’ sprint clearly nigh on crippled me.  An inevitable and totally forseeable consequence of being required to use muscles that I have never previously found need to call upon during my half century plus years of existence.  Personally, I prefer to think it shows there is some merit in loping along, and for my own preservation it was to be a loping gait that would be in evidence as I romped round Bushy parkrun …. unless I happened to spot a photographer or something, clearly that requires any runner to adopt their own variant of the ‘photographers pose’ whereby you either pull a ridiculous face or ape perfect running form for the microsecond of the shot.  However, I’ve done a fair few runs at Bushy parkrun now – though not with a mass of other Smilies before – and not ever seen a photographer out on the course, so that tends not to be an issue.  Plenty of atmospheric shots though. Check out the Bushy parkrun Flickr account if you are ever incapacitated for many months and want to pass the hours, days, weeks and months fantasizing about this parkrun paradise.  20,000+ and counting. That’s a lot of photos.

bushy parkrun flickr

On the plus side, I wasn’t alone in finding my limbs weren’t at their best and the night had been spent entirely devoid of sleep. Giddy with excitement, we cavorted and guffawed as only a collective gathering of Smilies can.  Then we trotted out to the front gate of the Twickenham campus of St Mary’s University where we were staying…

look where we are

Here we were honoured to be met by parkrun royalty times two.  Not only parkrun founder Mr P S-H himself but also, the power behind the throne and one of the original volunteers without whom parkrun would never have continued as it has, the lovely Jo S-H. How exciting!

Smilies and parkrun royalty

I’d love to say we were all nonchalant and blasé about the whole thing, but we weren’t.  I certainly wasn’t.  I was completely starstruck, again.  Not so starstruck that we didn’t manage to nab a group photo.  So that was the main thing.   However, the unexpected highlight was that Mr S-H asked for me by name!  I know, how amazing is that!? Granted, this was nothing to do with my own intrinsic merits, because they are known to be negligible, it was entirely because of my genetic association to Elisabeth, the landmark honorary parkrun marshal who happens to be my mum! For months now she has cheered on runners at her spot on the Bushy parkrun route which is at the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park.  She is a legend in her own right.  Generally speaking I don’t approve of nepotism, but then I’ve never had the chance to benefit from it before.  Turns out i’m quite fickle with respect to my moral compass.  I’ll take glory by association.  happy to step up and milk it.  Wouldn’t you?

We were on a deadline though, as we all had to get to Bushy park in time for awf. Plus, I wanted to meet up with the lovely other Paul, Paul Killick, who’d set in motion a magnificent train of events that led to my mum getting lots of extra christmas cards, with his ‘meet Elisabeth‘ Facebook post.  Long story.

meet Elisabeth

The original Paul, honestly, gets confusing, you’d think it would be a lot easier if everyone had the same name, but it turns out that’s not so.  Anyway, founder Paul, he made to set off at a fair old sprint, deliberately going extra fast to see our reaction. We had originally talked about jogging down to the start, but that was the night before. With the reality of stiff joints that plan was rapidly abandoned.  Our reaction was three-fold.  Firstly, we did laugh appreciatively.  Secondly, no-one was going to be duped into unnecessarily running anywhere at this stage, even with Mr S-H (well, we’d got our photos now, so job done), limbs aching too much and we had to save ourselves for parkrun. Thirdly, on my part at least, ‘oh my he can shift‘.  I hadn’t realised he was so super fast.  Maybe it’s partly to do with having extra long legs, or maybe the South Africa connection, or maybe he just wanted to escape from us?  Surely not? Who’d ever want to ditch a load of Smilies?  He ran like something with very long legs that might run very fast across the plains of Africa.  Giraffes have long legs, but I’m not sure they can run all that fast and elegantly.  My experience suggests giraffes have limitations as running buddies.

Antelope maybe?  Oh for goodness sake. I don’t know!  Stop hassling me about my african animal analogies, pick your own, let’s get back on topic.

Point is we got our celebrity meet and greet, and then headed off through Teddington to Bushy park.  It was nippier than I’d expected, so we walked briskly. Smilies and non-smilies sharing running and life tales as we did so. I love hearing people’s stories. Every one of us has many to tell.  Inspirational stuff.

We arrived into the park to find a dark and dank day, but the park is always glorious.   It was exciting to see it through new eyes as well.  First time in the park for some, and it is I suppose huge and unexpected if you haven’t been there before.

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I was relieved to spot Paul 2, (other Pauls are available) quite easily.  There aren’t that many 500 parkrun milestone tees around, plus it helped that the two Pauls knew each other anyway.  I’m afraid (only not really) that there followed an enormous amount of gratuitous posing for photos in all possible permutations of Pauls/ Smilies/ me and Pauls/ Smiletastic Smilies (Smiley sub-group) and so on.  In our defence, I don’t think we are the only parkrunners ever to have seized a photo opportunity at Bushy parkrun.  Also, no regrets.  Enjoy:

I was a bit giddy with all the excitement to be honest.  I wondered if I was a bit too huggy what with being so hyped.  The weird thing is, I don’t think I’m an especially tactile person.  Generally speaking I like my personal space, I will edge away  from others when sat at cafe tables lest their elbows intrude on my brunch plate. However, parkrun seems to unleash my inner huggyness.  I love everyone at parkrun, they are all my best friends forever, and I think that affection is entirely genuine, I’m so grateful to the community that is parkrun, and Founder Paul for setting it up and other Paul for being so lovely to my mum.  Even though we haven’t met before I feel like I know them because of the common parkrun thread.  It restores your faith in humankind. There really are more good people in the world than not.  Within parkrun at least, all seems well with the world….

Even though we were all a bit giddy, we weren’t so giddy with excitement that we couldn’t see a Smiletastic opportunity when it presented itself.  For those of you that haven’t been concentrating, Smiletastic is a winter running challenge amongst we Smiley Paces. Points are awarded for actual running related activities within teams, but also for ‘smiletastic spirit‘.   As we were a cross team alliance of Smiletastic Smilies on this London running weekend, we decided to go for a cross team shot.  I love this photo, and not only because it did indeed deliver some Smiletastic bonus points!  Gotta love a Smiley!

Bushy parkrun smiletastic smiles

Pleasingly, after we had been photographed in all possible combinations, a nearby runner, also a parkrun tourist quizzed me about who we all were, so that a fun.   I only wish I’d anticipated this question so I could have come up with a better cover story.  Oh well, next time.  Bushy parkrun runs like a well oiled machine, not just the logistics of it all, but maintaining a community feel, and producing a weekly run report so everyone stays informed and involved.  So we learned we Smilies and are visit were to be a feature in that week’s Bushy parkrun report – 13 Jan 18.  How exciting is that!  It is only a matter of time before Smiley Paces goes viral in its own right… granted, our visit of what was by comparison just a handful of Smilies at about 12 or so of us, was superseded the following week by a contingent of 100 visitors from Tralee parkrun, but I’m sure all parkrun tourists are made equally welcome. Thank you Bushy parkrunners all, for the warmth of your welcome.  Just shows, everyone’s a winner at Bushy parkrun.

Despite all being winners, I needed to fit in my precautionary pee.  Fortunately, there are loos a-plenty at Bushy park.   I jogged off to the toilet block, leaving fellow smilies still trying to capture their elusive perfect selfies.  Good work people, good work.

Despite the normally ample amount of toilet cubicles. The queue was long, very long.  I put this down to maybe a larger than usual parkrun turn out because of  New Year’s Resolutions being put into action.  However, this queue wasn’t moving.  On the plus side, I got to meet a woman who it turned out had been at the second ever parkrun, and so had bagged a 15th finisher place at Bushy parkrun. This pleased me greatly. I felt I really was mingling with the stars.  Now 15th finisher at parkrun would have a time between 17 or 18 minutes.  That’s super speedy.   I felt this merited a selfie, if only to while the time whilst waiting for the queue to move.  Check me out, hobnobbing with even more parkrun celebrities.  That’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in the company of top twenty finishers anywhere, let alone at Bushy parkrun!

worth a selfie

Eventually, it became apparent that the long and slowly moving loo queue was due to some large-scale catastrophe within the toilet block. Almost every cubicle was out of action, but not due to broken loos as such, but due to all the doors being off their hinges.  Whether this was due to wanton vandalism or interrupted maintenance I have no idea. What I do know, is that as the clock was ticking fast, and we were all conscious of parkrunners gathering at the start line, a sort of free-thinking collective action came about.  Women threw inhibitions into orbit and soon each cubicle loo had a parkrunner in situ, pulling a Paula caring little who saw what. To be fair, we were all women, we’ve all seen it all before, and anyway, each of us was far too preoccupied with taking up our own squat opportunities to care one iota what anyone else was up to.  It was quite liberating really, all these  women in free flow and why not.  It is hardly a shocking or unknown revelation that women (and people even) in general do pee in general, but parkrunners in particular need a precautionary pre-parkrun pee.  All the same, it did have a comedic element.  The unicorns would have loved it (see toilet humour appreciation reference above).  Is it wrong that it briefly gave me a flash back to the more depressing and shocking sight of seeing women standing displaying their goods in the narrow windows of the red-light district of Amsterdam. I’m inclined to think that the toilet block cubicles of Bushy park were more of a niche area of interest, and anyway this was no shop window, just doing the necessary…

All this broken doors shenanigans delayed me getting to the start.  I rushed across, and the briefing was already underway, the lead bike off ahead.  (Photos stolen courtesy of Bushy parkrun)

The start line is truly amazing.  It’s huge, and wide.  A guy was balancing half way up a tree to observe the field, I wondered if he might be armed with a loudspeaker to help parkrunners hear the briefing, but I couldn’t tell.  Maybe he was just stuck up there actually, now I come to think of it.  Hope he’s managed to get down now.  Anyway, it was inspiring to see so very many people, gathered together for this amazing, yet intrinsically ridiculous undertaking.  I didn’t label my photos all that well, so some might be mixed up, but these are basically all capturing the parkrun start line, some more re-imagined than others, granted… 🙂

In amongst the mass of people, I felt very luck to happen upon a little trio of Smilies, but I was too late for any in the starting throng line up shots.  Here’s one someone else took earlier though. They are looking suitably excited and shiny eyed with eager anticipation don’t you think!  Well, I say shiny-eyed, bit manic would be more accurate, but you get the general idea.  Bushy parkrun was a bit overwhelming, it was bound to test our ability to use facial expressions to convey euphoria to the very limit, maybe slightly over-cooked here, but great shot all the same people.

startline selfie

All too soon, the shout went up and were off.  A veritable stampede across the ant hills as 1300 plus runners head out on their 5k circuit.  Considering how many runners there are, it is a pretty polite start.  By the time the path narrows, runners have strung out, and as it’s a single lap course you don’t have to worry about being lapped.  A rare joy for me!

You probably can’t tell by looking at me when I’m running, but I do love taking part in parkrun.  Overhearing conversations.  Some are sharing running stories, others catching up on gossip, some updating others on quite personal stuff.  People look out for each other too. I didn’t witness this myself, but one of my fellow Smilies said as she was running she commented out loud that her hands were freezing, and another runner immediately offered her the use of her gloves.  She was really impressed and touched, to be so trusted that she’d get them back.  I maybe shouldn’t have pointed out it was probably partly because she’d identified that this Smiley could be outrun, also we are quite distinctive. None of this is to take away from the selfless offer though. Love parkrunners!

I was excited about seeing my mum.  I’d nipped round to see her the night before to make sure she was tooled up with a Smiley placard, and she’d had all her parkrun kit carefully laid out.  She doesn’t have a barcode, but if she did, she’d not forget it! #dfyb.  I’d briefed everyone I’d seen to shout hello as they passed, but as I was approaching her corner, I couldn’t see any Smilies. Catastrophe!  Then, just as I was losing hope, a gaggle of them appeared out of the mist.  No idea how they came to be running behind me, that never happens, must have been an anomaly in the line up at the start.  I have never rarely been so over-joyed to see my running buddies!

We descended en masse.  Of course we had to capture the moment, although afterwards I did wonder if I’d been quite fair to interrupt my fellow Smilies run as we paused for (blurry) photos.  Still, this picture rivals that of us with Mr S-H himself, here we had another example of parkrun royalty but this time one proactively endorsing Smiley Paces. That could be argued to trump our other example of association with parkrun celebrity, though not in the Donald sense, obviously, that would be horrid.

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It was very grand to get some Smiley shots and witness some shouts and high fives being proffered as other runners streamed by.

I felt quite emotional. Sleep deprivation has a lot to answer for.  As I ran on, the other Smilies now streamed ahead.  I overheard new conversations about my mum.  Other runners commenting on how amazing it was she is there week in week out, and being just generally lovely.  It’s hard being in Sheffield with her in Teddington, I find it immensely reassuring to know that from parkrun there is this outpouring of goodwill towards her.

I loped onwards, in my own inimitable way.  Thanking the marshals as I passed.

Eventually, the finish came into sight.  Other runners that had already finished were cheering others in.  I saw Paul S-H who called out that he’d managed to exchange a high-five with my mum en route.  It would be fun one day to observe her from a hide as she marshals, and count the interactions she has on a typical parkrun day.  Tricky to co-ordinate though.

 

Into the funnel – which as anyone who has been to Bushy parkrun will report are a thing of wonder.  More chatting – I found myself between two bushy parkrun regulars, one explained how first time her son offered my mum a high-five she had tried to shake his hand, I was able to tell her that since then she’s had training in this skill and is most adept at it, which was readily acknowledged. The other told me she and her friends refer to her at this spot as their ‘half point highlight‘ which I though grand.  I’d love to be the highlight of someone’s parkrun!  I felt a glow of reflected glory.  Maybe I should print out a load of photos of her, and get her to sign them, I could bestow them on any worthy beneficiaries at will.  Of course there’s always a risk they’d end up on Ebay, like the black market in Blue Peter badges, but I like to think parkrunners are an honourable lot, and would treasure such an artefact as beyond price. Did you know that one blue peter presenter had their badge rescinded for taking cocaine?  Richard Bacon had to actually hand it back!  The shame.  That would never have happened in John Noakes’ day!

So through the finish tunnel, and back into the arms of chilly but still smiling smilies.

 

Obviously, no parkrun would be complete without a companionable post parkrun brunch.  We decided against the Pheasantry cafe, since lovely as it is, it would be just too crowded, instead we were heading back to campus.  However, I took a Smiley detour to check in with my mum.  More photos:

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Then a romp back to the St Mary’s campus canteen, for a pretty impressive brunch. Good value, though I can’t lie, I was gutted there were no veggie sausages today.  Or the next day, seemingly it’s always a case of veggie sausages either yesterday or tomorrow.  Sad but true.  Still, it wasn’t the venue or the food particularly that bonded us.  It was our Bushy parkrun adventure.

You will have to take my word for it that we were a lot cheerier than this photo makes us look.  Smiley Paces club membership is conditional on being able to smile at all times, but with genuine cheer, unlike the ironically named cheerleader troupes who often have smiles that appear to be quite forced.

We were also very taken with the rotating tray clearing system.  I’ve rarely been so excited since I first encountered the famous Sheffield Arts Tower paternoster lift.  Technology eh?  Amazing! As if we hadn’t encountered more than enough wonder for one day!

Some might think Smilies are all too easily amused.  I prefer to think it just goes to show we can see the wonder in the world all around us!

Oh, and just so you know, Smiley Paces got star billing in the Bushy parkrun run report for 13th January 2018.  Well I say Smiley Paces, really I mean my mum did, but she does officially endorse our club, so that amounts to the same thing!  And no, it isn’t elder abuse to get your nearing 90-year-old parent to brandish a sign supporting your running club, just to be really clear there.  Nepotism possibly, but nothing worse than that!

Bushy parkrun 13 jan 2018 Elisabeth supports Smileys

So there you go. That was our Smiley pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun done and dusted.  We had a lovely time thank you for asking.  Would recommend. But you know what, the really, honestly and truly fantastic thing about parkrun, is that even if you can’t get to Bushy Park, you can recreate the parkrun magic anywhere there’s a parkrun. Currently that means across 17 parkrun countries all over the world.  Nearly 500 different events in the UK alone – probably more if you factor in junior parkrun, which you should, because that’s even more hilarious hard though that is to believe – and as of today (22 Jan 2018, I lied in the date published field above) 1,348 separate locations.

parkrun participation jan 2018

Just wow.

So thank you parkrunners in general and Bushy parkrunners in particular.   Everyone who takes part in whatever capacity makes it so.  If you have already embraced parkrun, yay, go you, happy parkrunning til next time.

If you haven’t?  Well, you are lucky indeed, because you have yet to discover one of the wonders of the world, and if you just give it a try, it will open up a whole new world of community loveliness that might be life enriching and at the very least, will put a smile on your face and increase your brunching opportunities henceforth. Got to be worth a punt, surely.

Go on. What’s the worst….*

Sign up to parkrun here, remember, fear of missing out is a terrible thing.

*…. the worst is that parkrun is a sort of gateway drug for not just other running activities, but community engagement, volunteering and a move from life in black and white to living life in glorious technicolor.  You wont mind though, that’s the funny thing.  Go on. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

 

For all my parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Bushy parkrun related posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

 

 

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting on track – in the footsteps of Olympians. Smiley Paces on tour to Twickenham

Digested read: a guffaw of Smiley Paces went on tour to Twickenham for a weekend of running related coaching and fun. We spent Friday night running round in circles at the Mo Farah athletics track.  I found out that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t a fly on the wall documentary after all.  I was allowed to wear a fleece for some of it. There were photo opportunities.  I now think track sessions are potentially fun, but very disorienting.  Wouldn’t say never again, but don’t think I’ll be heading off to train at one on my own.

mofo track

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out essentially. That’s what keeps me engaged in running, and as a consequence of that, signing up to do unlikely and possibly unwise running-related activities, just so I can tag along with fellow Smilies and get glory by association with some awesome women who are also awesomely good runners, which is why our strap line acronym is FGR (work it out people.)

Last weekend was a case in point. I found myself on a London-based running weekend, organised by fellow Smiley and running coach Run With Karen.

For those of you with the misfortune not to come from Sheffield and not to engage in running related exploits, Smiley Paces us a Sheffield based women’s running group.  A group I feel genuinely privileged to be a part of. It is an inclusive, supportive and hilarious guffaw of brilliant women, with members ranging from the ‘recreational runners’ like me, who yomp round at the back with a perpetual feeling of disbelief that they have found themselves out there running because of some dreadful misunderstanding, to GB triathletes, A-class fell runners and everything in between.  It isn’t only the activity of running that brings us together, in some ways over time that has become for me almost incidental, albeit it is the glue that sticks us all together.  For me Smiley Paces is also an endless fountain of life affirming smiley support and solidarity that give you hope for the world, as well as,  – in my case at least – the startling revelation that running can be fun.  Who knew?  What’s more,  you don’t have to be an elite athlete to enjoy it. Even if statistically some of that fun will inevitably be ‘Type 2 Fun‘ and therefore only identifiable after the event when safely back home tucked up on the sofa under a duvet.  Anyway, the essential point is, hanging out with other Smilies is always fun, even if sometimes of the type 2 variant, and so when news breaks of the possibility of  a Smiley adventure whether that is a mass exodus to the Lake District for a running weekend at the Lakeland trails or rocking up at a fellow Smilies milestone parkrun we do all like to join in.

It actually started with a cautious question from Karen on our Smiley Paces Facebook page back in September:

I am thinking about putting on a training weekend for those doing a spring marathon or half marathon (or any road event really) in early January but it would be down in Twickenham staying at St Marys University which is where Mo Farah used to train and has a brilliant athletics track. It is also a short jog from Bushy Park, home of the first ever parkrun – so you’d have the chance for some parkrun tourism on the Saturday morning. Would be a good way to kick off training in the new year too. So would include a track session on the Friday evening, parkrun on Saturday morning, perhaps a yoga for runners class, technique session and some classes around training and programmes for marathon and half marathon …. Then long-ish guided run Sunday morning in Richmond Park (tailorable based on pace and distance).

An offer like this is akin to bringing a tray of oven-fresh brownies to any Smiley gathering.  Heads turned, interest was stirred and enthusiasm for the idea conveyed.  So it evolved to:

London running weekend outline

Back to my earlier stated FOMO, and fast forward to the inevitable.  It was Friday 12th January, and there I was in Twickenham, surrounded by an assortment of Smiley buddies plus some lovely London locals drawn in for the occassion and from further afield but darn south, a virtual coachee who was using the weekend to finally meet her distance coach and bag some quality running miles into the bargain (hello new friends).

After a not-too-bad-considering-I-dont-really-like-driving-all-that-much trip down, we rocked up at our accommodation for the weekend. The Waldegrave Park house was a stunning building, beautifully warm, with huge spacious rooms.

our humble abode 33 waldegrave

So first impressions were good.  We we were yet to encounter the comedy beds with which we were supposed to tussle in order to achieve sleep.  These featured plastic coated mattresses which were both super-conductors of heat AND super slidey to the point that teflon coating has nothing on them.  Basically, designed to be entirely incompatible with so much as a sniff of slumber.   For the record, I don’t think any one of us survived the night with the sheets and the person remaining in situ… clearly, sleeping on these beds requires a specialist and minority skill set none of us possessed.  Nevertheless, with the sleeping challenge still to come, we were all bright-eyed and optimistic in the early evening as we gathered at the athletics track just behind the residence in which we were staying.

This wasn’t just any old athletics track though. This was the Mo Farah Athletics track.  Astonishingly, despite his obvious disadvantage in not being a member of Smiley Paces, Mo Farah is really a jolly good runner.  Like me, and many other Smilies, he appreciates his running bling.  In that respect we are practically identical.

Another thing me and Mo have in common, is that we are both doing the London Marathon this year.  (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH).  And also, the focus on marathon running is a relatively new departure for both of us.  We’d be perfect running mates.   As one of the attractions this weekend was that it might help to kick-start marathon training for those among us who are wanting to do one in 2018 I was a bit surprised to find that Mo himself wasn’t joining us for the track session, even though the actual track is named after him!  I think maybe he was a bit intimidated by the prospect of being faced by so many awesome Smilies all at once.  I do get that, I was intimidated at the thought of joining a running club, or even going to parkrun before I did it, but once done it’s fine. More than fine it’s brilliant!  You just have to get over it and take the plunge.  It’s lovely once you’re in… you never look back. Which coincidentally is also good advice when running.  Look where you are going, worry about what’s ahead not what’s behind and all will be well.  I think he’d have enjoyed hanging out with us. Maybe next time.  We could have shared anti-chafing tips. Did I mention I’ve finally caved in and bought some body glide?  Vaseline can only do so much for so long it seems.  I got the blue one though, I can’t bring myself to get the pink, and I think the only difference is one is scented. Can you guess which.  The other is made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails , so not really vegan friendly to be honest, but needs must…

what the hell

So we arrived at the track.  Did I mention we were brimming over with enthusiasm?  No? That’s because we generally weren’t. It was freezing, it was dark, it was cold.  I for one had no idea what to expect, but feared being required to sprint and therefore getting injured.  I’m also more of an off-road ‘runner’ (I use the term loosely) and so although I was game to give it a go I wasn’t overly keen on the running round in circles aspect of it all.

Apprehension aside, we chattered cheerily as we assembled.  It is/was quite cool to be on a flood lit track. It does make you feel instantly like a pro.  Go us!

track session on fire

As we stepped onto the track, my first impression was slight disappointment that the surface wasn’t actually super springy.  I think maybe with hindsight my expectations weren’t entirely realistic.  The surface is forgiving, but not actually bouncy all the way along like you are running on those jumping stilts.  Oh well, I’ll just have to buy a pair of those to experience that degree of bounding another time. Did you know that pro-jump stilts can enable you to jump 6ft high and to run 25mph+.  I’m surprised I’ve not thought of getting hold of some of those before quite frankly. What could possibly go wrong?

Once I got over the initial shock of finding we weren’t going to be bounding round a giant size trampoline, there was some better news.  Two lots of it to be precise. Good news one, we were encouraged to keep our fleeces on during the warm up.  Result!  Good news two, we were expected to chat to each other for the first part of the session, to avoid heading off too fast.  Now, I’m never guilty of the latter point, but happy to go along with the chit-chat option.  We Smilies always have loads to catch up on when we rendezvous, plus, on this occasion there was the extra enrichment and potential offered up by new running buddies a-plenty. A few of whom were also doing, or had done, the London marathon. Great opportunity for me to stalk them, and then groom them into downloading all their skills and experiences for me so I can learn from them. Things were looking up.

So we did some general ‘gentle jogging’ round the track.  I got disoriented immediately.   I have zero idea of how people who regularly do track work keep count of how far they have travelled.  I mean, we had someone to direct us, but I couldn’t imagine doing this session on my own, helpful as it was.

The next part of the session involved various running drills.  It’s always interesting doing these.  On a serious note, I rarely think about my running technique unless someone actually makes me, or I espy a particularly horrific running photo where my twisted torso and earthbound running style are hard to ignore.  It definitely makes a difference if I consciously improve my form, not only to speed, I am genuinely unconcerned about that, but also, and more importantly to injury prevention.  Some of the drills were familiar from the Accelerate woodrun sessions in Ecclesall Woods  (guilt, not been for ages, note to self go back and soon), others were completely new.  Although we only did the various drills for short bursts, it was surprising how strenuous they were.  I suppose that demonstrates how rarely I run with good form.  Sad but true.

I enjoyed some unfamiliar running drills too.  Some were to illustrate the impact of poor form alongside others to try to get us to experience the feel of flow when you are doing it right.  So for example, if you run with a stiff frame (firm core I think more technically expressed) it is actually more energy-efficient and easier than if you are all floppy.  It was good to demonstrate this, but honestly, I was quite smug on this point as I already knew all about this because of sheep.

ewe northumberland black face

True story, My great-aunt Elisabeth ran a Northumbrian sheep farm all on her own well into her eighties and who could still vault a 5 bar gate aged 70.  When I was little, we used to go on family holidays staying at a nearby cottage, and join her to ‘help’ with the August sheep dipping.  This was back in the days when the poor creatures were pushed into a long trench of foul-smelling liquid organophosphates and had their heads submerged by being pushed down under the mustard coloured effluent with a big curved stick, or by my rubber-clothed covered aunt standing alongside the trough shoving them under by hand.  I so wish I had some original photos of that time, but worry not, this is what google images are for, it honestly truly looked like this still in 1970s Northumberland.

Unsurprisingly, the sheep tried to resist. Now, the young sheep would spring about stiff and rigid trying to get away, but the stiff frames made it easy to grab hold of them and manoeuvre them into the trough. The experienced older ewes on the other hand had it all sussed. They would lie down and make themselves go completely limp, talk about dead weight. They were almost immoveable.  Little did I know back then, that this experience of dipping sheep would be an asset to my running theory arsenal.  Just shows, you never do quite know when some random bit of knowledge might come in handy.  It’s only a matter of time before I am called upon to once again use a slide rule.  It’s a shame I can’t remember how….

My personal favourite was when we had to try running with our arms pointing straight ahead hands locked like holding a pretend weapon.  The point being you can’t really run like this, so demonstrating the importance of good arm technique when running too.  I struggled with this one a bit more, because whilst the lived experience suggests that this is true and straight arms aren’t an effective way to cover the ground at speed,  this was nevertheless a big surprise to me because it was clearly never a problem for Charlie’s Angels. It just goes to show you shouldnt believe everything you see on TV, even if it is a documentary.

charlies-angels-r5-fb

So this track session malarkey was turning out way better than expected.  I got to keep wearing my fleece, it was both informative and entertaining, there was times for a laugh and a chit-chat between the drills. Excellent.  Most pleasing.  I was wearing my new shoes – did I mention I also got some new running shoes?  This is my other concession to marathon training, the first being body glide.  I like my Brooks ghost road shoes, but fear if I use them for training they will wear out just at the point I need them for the actual marathon –  hence I’ve invested in another pair so I can rotate them.  Also, this new pair is wide fitting and half a size smaller, so I think they’ll be better than my original size 5s where I went up a size to get the width. Thank you nice Frontrunner people for attending to my every whim whilst I was trying on lots and lots of shoes and agonising over their fit for ages.  Just think of the job satisfaction you’ll get when I’ve finally run a marathon in them and you can out yourselves as the folk who helped equip me.  I expect I’ll be the runner who goes viral for ‘being plucky’ as I’m still crawling round the route trying to finish a week later.  Imagine the glory of being aligned with that!  You’re welcome.

Anyway, so that bit was all grand, I was feeling quite confident that I had this nailed, applying my all.  Rookie error people.  It then became apparent astonishingly, all these drills were just the prelude to our actual running session not the entirety of it!  Phew, that was a worry.  Further trials followed.  We then had to finish of the first part of the session with a series of squats.  All well and good in theory, but not being allowed to hold on the fence whilst executing them was a bit of a blow.  I mean we were allowed to sort of ‘finger tip touch’ for balance purposes of course, but personally I’d have favoured the full white knuckled grab on technique.  Shame.

Next came various actual running sessions, that were good at the time, but frankly a bit of a blur now I’m trying to recall them a few days later.  It’s snowed since then, and I’ve come home to a leak in the ceiling, plus I always try to erase running memories quite quickly after the event in case I start to recall how very hard it was at the time and it dawns on me that running isn’t always intrinsically fun after all.

I have strava though!  Look, this is what I got up to:

round and round the track we go

Astonishingly, nearly 4 miles of track running.  I was amazed.  It didn’t feel that much.  Well, not until the next morning when I could hardly move, but that’s another story.

So, I think the next bit was we had to run two and a half laps of the track running as if at your 10k pace for 1000 metres.  Now I struggle with this, as all the evidence suggests I really have only one running pace, and I don’t differentiate between how I run whether it’s 5k, 10k or 12.12 miles, I just pootle about as best I can, and put on a show of sprinting if there is a photographer’s lens bearing down on me.  I blinked with incomprehension, as our leader clarified that this meant if you usually ran a  60 min 10k then this should take 6 minutes, and went on to expand adding ‘so this might take some of you 6 minutes,  some of you will take just 5 or 4.5′ blah de blah.   I was panicking inwardly as for me the numbers most definitely needed to be counting upwards in the other direction.  I’ve never done a sub one hour 10k in my life.  Not even close.  I think honestly, this is what I find both intimidating, and potentially helpful about the track, you do feel under surveillance, and in my case, that pushes me to do more, run faster than I would normally do. I am almost invariably the slowest runner in any pack, this becomes very evident over a short distance when all the other runner have completed a their session minutes ahead of you.  I felt my confidence making a run for it, which was ironic, as it was me that was more in need of the running tour de force…

Off we went.  An assistant stood at the mid-point to cheer us on and presumably scoop us off the track were we to fall over, whilst our official coach was at the end, shouting our finish times so we could gauge how closely we kept to our intended pace. The results were quite interesting, as without exception, we’d all run way faster than we’d be able to maintain over a 10k. Even me. Suggesting, annoyingly, that maybe I do have another pace within me after all. Curses.  I think I got away with it though, attributing my being so significantly fleeter of foot than I imagined to my transformation in running form as a result of all the insightful drills we’d just been doing.   I think sycophancy is a good way to blag things on such occasions, not a technique to be over-used, but one to have in reserve for emergencies such as these.  I think being on a flat surface probably helped, but it is true I had absolutely no idea how fast or far I was going.  I think the idea is that it is helpful to learn to ‘feel’ your pace, and we were supposed to be at threshold, so able to maintain it for relatively extended periods.

So then we had to do the exercise all over again, only slower.  It’s nice being instructed to take it easy.  As I was the slowbie of the group, I had the slightly surreal experience of running alone on the track at one stage, under the floodlights.  It was weird, I did sort of like it in a ‘well this is novel’ sort of way.  The even terrain and surface means you don’t have to think at all, you can just get in a rhythm, and I imagine that for them as want to disconnect from their surroundings and enter a trance like state that could be almost therapeutic.  On balance though one thing I learned over the weekend is that I really do run to get out in the peaks, and feel hyper alert to my surroundings, track running seems to me by contrast to be potentially a form or meditation.

 

Anyway, ’twas all good and interesting.  I did learn a lot, but I think track will remain a novelty feature in my running regime rather than a regular fixture.  Yep, I would do it again, but I’m not going to rush to find where the nearest track to me in Sheffield is.  We ended the session with a sort of tag relay.  We were in threes,  spread around the track, and you ran to your team-mate, tagged them and they ran to the next, but I was a bit unclear about when it ended, and were it not for someone shouting out to me that I could stop now I might have ended up running to infinity and beyond. This would have been terrible, as apart from anything else it would have led to my missing out on Bushy parkrun and hobnobbing with parkrun royalty the following day.  I shudder to think of how awful that would have been.

We finished with some stretches. Some undertook these with more enthusiasm and rigour than others.  Then we had to do lots of posing in front of The Mo Farah Sign, which was hilarious.  It was pointed out that possibly doing so in dark was not the best plan as our coach did laughingly point out we could come back and do it all in daylight tomorrow, but where would be the fun in that?  Plus, Smilies aren’t great at delayed gratification. That’s why it’s easy to get us to sign up to races in the heat of a moment as I’m not the only one who doesn’t always think things through…

I got one centre stage shot

CC has to be done

For the record, some of our number followed through with the forward planning and managed daylight selfies.  I respect these people, though I cannot truthfully count myself amongst them:

So our weekend was off to a good start. That was that, session done, strava recorded, photo shoot completed and we were all crazily hyped, like infants recently gorged on sherbet lemons and red bull.  Yay!  We can do anything, we are invincible, we are all indeed FGRs!

Back to base for communal smiley dining and then to take on the major challenge of the weekend which was to achieve sleep on the high-slide sleeping receptacles.   Not that I’d be able to sleep anyway. I was far too excited by the prospect of meeting parkrun royalty tomorrow and romping round the spiritual home of parkrun under the famous Bushy parkrun tree.

Bushy parkrun The Tree

Bring it on!

Just one more sleep…

For all my Run with Karen related blog posts, see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

Categories: running | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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