Saturday, 24 August 2013

Clocking up a 1,000,000 parkrun metres & what it means to me….

Even though the `200` is not an official milestone the fact I`m a parkrun `millionaire` I think warrants a few words…

Unsure how I actually discovered `parkrun` but when I did investigate it further…..I thought brilliant a free weekly rac…..I meant free weekly event…I thought how good is that :-) First I had to choose which one I wanted to go, I was lucky as there were two events within 20 miles of me.....the home of parkrun `Bushy Park
Time Trial & a smaller event `North Hampshire 5Km Time Trial` (Basingstoke parkrun as it`s known now).    I choose Basingstoke as it was newer & smaller - everyone is different and to me I didn`t want to be lost within the crowd & help out the smaller event so Basingstoke was perfect…. and on the 29th November 2008 off I went down the M3 to Basingstoke parkrun.

I wondered if they would even noticed me - a newbie in their ranks ???

I thought this was strange no booking in first, no number, just someone shouting “3-2-1-GO”…..I ran as hard I could around the two & half laps of the War Memorial Park - my time was 23:35 & finished in 21st place out of the field of 28 but I didn`t care, I loved it. Then I made one of the biggest mistakes I personally think you can make at parkruns & no it wasn`t forgetting your barcode as at that time we didn`t have barcodes…   Yeap I went straight home after the run. In fact it took my several weeks to `pluck` the courage up & go for coffee & cakes afterwards even if they did meet afterwards at the Hilton. Yes there were much, much faster runners there chatting away drinking coffee, stretching on the floor, eating cake but they didn`t care if knew less than them or that I ran slower than they did & after a while neither did I.

I leant so much about running & not just about how to run 5Kms either.  One of the most useful things I learnt from parkrun & this is from a runner in his 50`s who could run sub 17 min…..tuck your laces in as they is nothing worse that stopping as your laces have come undone…I can honestly say my laces have never come undone in a race - so thank you Tim for that gem :-) 

If time permits then I strongly recommend staying around afterwards & chatting over a coffee with fellow parkrunners.

Even then I was hooked…it was great….a fantastic event & pleased to be part of it.
Maybe 12 months later at coffee afterwards I was introduced to Steve & Louise who both had the same idea & were there asking the Basingstoke team questions about the actual day to day running of a parkrun as they were setting up an event in Frimley which was only 2 miles away….how nice of them :-) and on the 13th Feb 2010 the first Frimley Lodge parkrun was first ran.

It is great going to a different parkrun, its brilliant going to the very first one - I think it supports the team of volunteers who have worked extremely hard to setting up the event that all their work is noticed & appreciated. Each event has their own `quirk` - one lap / mutli lap, flat / hilly, road / off-road, cafĂ© that is close / miles away… 
Every now and again I switched between the two - Basingstoke & Frimley but eventually (Jan 2011) I switched to Frimley Lodge - I was going to miss that crowd, my friends at Basingstoke each Saturday morning - I do go back & it`s just great and yes I will complete 100 runs round that park there one day (77 runs so far)..

I am envious of the runners who are just about to do their very first parkrun - it will change their Saturdays forever, I am envious of runners getting and wearing their new parkrun T-Shirts as it`s an incredible feeling of being awarded it & wearing that top for the first time (& yes you should wear it straight away)……oh and a certain Darren Wood (415  parkruns) - I bet he has no idea now of what he did on Saturdays morning some 9 years ago.
You can even run against (or with) former 5,000 meters World Record holder…where else can you do that on a regular basis?

Go, run, enjoy & tell everyone you know about these runs…… fact tell people you don`t know about them even if they don`t run…they can always feel part of it by volunteering.  Make that your weekly challenge..

So thank you Paul Sinton-Hewitt, thank you Basingstoke parkrun & a big thank you Frimley Lodge parkrun & lastly a thank you to everyone I`ve met at these fantastic events - I have made many, many friends - good friends at parkrun. I do consider myself very fortunate.
Bring on the 250th.....I am coming for you…. 

Above is one of my favourite parkrun photos – marshalling point along the canal at Frimley Lodge (Jan `12)

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Thunder Run 24 - Ok folks there is a clue in the name…...

The `TR24` to me is the `Daddy` of these events and what do I mean by `events well the format is 24 hours racing open to Solo, pairs, 5`s & 8`s on mixed terrain 5 to 6 mile course. It is huge - the 2,500 places sells out within weeks of opening - with a reported 1,700 places being turned away. 
It is a fantastic event and so for the fourth consecutive year I head up towards Burton On-Trent to join up with friends I met on the Runner World`s Great North thread. We have always entered teams in the `Mixed 5`s` category & this year was no exception...
First tip is to get there as early as possible - you miss the traffic (I left Farnborough at 1.30pm & arrived just after 5.00pm) and the campsite get filled really quickly...


After meeting up with Mick, Simon, Nick, Chris, Julian & Wendy (& partners & Families) - with Anne-Marie, Mandie & Vixx arriving in the morning. We head over the main area where I spend the evening chatting to friends from all around the country - a brilliant evening. I even managed a fairly good night's sleep on Friday….but awake far too early on Saturday morning - I had decided against the local parkrun (which is only a few miles away).

The course has had slight changes over the years but generally it is a tough course…...I have pinched the following course description to give you a basic idea & hopefully not scaring you too much…..
"First 600 metres or so is flat on grass then heads right into a sharp uphill on trial through some woods to just after 1km where it opens up on grass before heading back up through woodland and then onto a grassy hill. Continuing on grass you snake back through the campsite at 2km, before going through some more woods, then back through the campsite on grass to 3km and up the second notable hill. An undulating trail then takes you to 4km through woods and then onto an exposed grassy section with a small, sharp hill to 5km and more trail. Just after 5km there's a water station and the "Conti Climb" which is basically another hill! Then it's back through the woods to 6km and a climb up a grassy hill before heading back into the woods to "the maze" at 7km which is a very twisty-turny section on technical trail with tree roots aplenty to trip over! Once through this section you're up onto an exposed ridge to 8km which then descends sharply back into the campsite and 9km. The final section takes you through the campsite and up a sharp uphill section before descending to 10km and the start/finish area! "
We had worked out our team order - the `Willy Wonka IV` were Chris starting it off then with Wendy, Simon & myself before handing over to the speedy Julian. At the race briefing we were warned about nasty weather approaching - yeah right - we were weltering in the heat at this point.....
We made our way down the course to see the runners off - due the course design you could see them at a couple of points...0.5Km & 2 Km & just before 3 Km & later on around all the way from 8.5 Km to 9.5Km
Despite the busy first lap Chris was soon back, with Wendy on the course - the changeover is quite simple if you remember the basic rule of being there for at 5 minutes before the runner is due back - nothing worse than flying around the course & no-one there for you to hand the `baton` to...
Soon it was my go....even at 2.30pm it was baking hot - not quite New Forest heat but getting there. I went off like a loon - "well it`s only 10 KMs" - opps I had forgotten how hard the 1st half of the course is.. I was glad to get to water station just before  `Conti Climb` I threw water on me like I was on fire !!!. The second half of the course is I think easier - you enter the `technical` area - narrow path marked with tape through trees - then pop out then back through unto a flat field before entering the second `technical` section you really did need reactions of a Jedi Master as the route around the tress was very tight as well as watching out for the tree routes, finishing off this year with the `sheep dip` before the straight forward, and my favourite part the last 3 KMs ... and with a smooth baton exchange it was unto to Julian…
I was due out for lap two at around 6.30pm & thankfully it was a lot cooler. I ran this lap better, more evenly paced. The soloist were doing great - 6 hrs in. My time on this lap was only a few seconds down on lap one. Funniest thing in this lap was the `sprint 100 metres trail` - this lasted from 6:00pm to 7:00pm on the `Conti Climb`. I wasn’t meant to do this but I get there with another runner & we see the bottom timing mat is still there so we both look at each other & without a word we give it a go…head down sprinting up this hill… we get exhausted (fairly soon to be fair) I look up & see the timing guy walking down from the finishing line…..with the top timing mats is his hands…..I stop sprinting & eventually get my breath back  
I made sure I had money tucked away so I could eat & drink something on my way back to our pitch - saves a bit of time. The fish n chips were great….
Now this is when the weather changed and after what seemed ages of Thunder & Lightning the rain started…..and didn`t stop… 
I guess it rained for 2 to 3 hrs before I went out to do lap 3 (11.00pm) which of course meant wet & dark !!! Like the two laps before I wore my adidas Adizero XT4`s - which I have to say were brilliant in the earlier drier condition but first real outing in the wet. I have to say my attitude to running in this dreadfully weather was that old saying " Life isn`t about waiting for the storm to pass - it`s about dancing in the rain"….and boy was it raining. The course was a mud fest. I was soon soaked (still in Shorts n T-Shirt), I was caked in mud - I WAS DANCING & loving it  This was, without any doubt the best lap of ALL of my Thunder Runs. The XT4`s were brilliant - I didn`t slip over once & it wasn`t a case of me not running as fast I could - I was disappoint I crept over the hour when I handled over to Julian.
Experience told me now was the time to eat & try to have a nap - simple sums to when I was due out next seemed to getting harder - I was an hour too early - opps but at least it was the right way to be wrong. I had got the `day-break` lap again - you start in the dark needing your torch but at the end you don`t really need it. The light breaking through the darkness almost recharged your inner batteries. Luckily the rain had stopped half-through that lap. The course was still muddy thou :-)
This break I needed to sleep - after a quick wash I hit the sack - well sleeping bag really. I awoke no more than couple of hours later - just about trebling my sleeping time since 4.30am on Saturday - Ok normal breakfast & coffee then out for my next lap at 9 am ish. 
Again waiting there for Simon, chatting to others runners & checking the score board - the `Willy Wonkas IV` were doing ok - heading for another top ten finish…I already knew I was not going to hit the magically seven laps - one year I will thou. Despite that I gave it my all - the course was very sloppy in a number of places. It was almost quicker to go up some slopes sideways than on the `race line`. again quite pleased with my time for lap 5 and again handing smoothly over to Julian.
Before the handover we had a team talk - we as tradition now run the last lap as a team lap - we remove all but one timing chip and run together - we walk the hills and run the flats & make sure we don`t hold up any runners - we congratulate the marshals & runners we pass esp. the Soloists.
Wendy, Simon & Myself headed out on this last lap - it was only 60 mins since I finished my previous – a long cool down is how I thought of it J  You can see the `Willy Wonkas IV` finishing out lap of honour at around 3:41 on the video – just in background when Rebecca is crossing the line.  We shook Patrick`s hand & congratulated him on a brilliant event & to me the best ever – roll on TR24 2014.

We as a team finished in a very respectable 9th place with a total of 26 laps – well done Willy Wonkas
Brilliant to see you & the Thunder Crackers

Results - LINK
Individual tally – 37.2 Miles in 06:05:01

Lap One (2:30pm) - Garmin Connect Link
Lap Two (6:40pm) - Garmin Connect Link
Lap Three (11:00pm) - Garmin Connect Link
Lap Four (04:00am) - Garmin Connect Link
Lap Five (09:00am) - Garmin Connect Link
Lap Six - Team Lap (11.00am) - Garmin Connect Link

Laps of 51:02, 51:09, 1:00:17, 01:06:17, 01:01:24 & 01:14:53

Next up = well what`s on the horizon really – my 200th parkrun at the end of August so may try to go for a cheekie PB, the JW Ultra in September & then the big target of in October the Caesars Camp 50 ….. can I get PBs JW Ultra & Caesars Camp????
Best not run any bonus miles in those races then
Happy running….