RUN: I Beat Ron Hill

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Well, technically I ran a faster 5K time than Ron Hill. But I did hear a rumour he started later than the rest of us… Maybe I shouldn’t mention that bit.

Last weekend saw my Parkrun’s 5th birthday, which meant we had a special guest of Dr Ron Hill OBE! He’s a quiet sort of chap, whose only real words to me were that his trainers weighed less than a pound each. He’s also quite little so was probably quite overwhelmed with the crowds of Parkrunners wanting to get a photo with him!

It was unfortunately a rather wet day but that didn’t seem to dampen runners’ spirits. There was a field of 436 which included international middle distance runner James McIlroy, who came second. So I most definitely did not beat him with my time of 24:09, 10 seconds off my previous PB.

I haven’t improved my time since early May, though I’m still very much enjoying being a part of Parkrun. I volunteered Saturday just gone and am running this Saturday – but Friday night I’m off out to Jamie’s Italian Manchester for carbs, cheese and wine, so very unlikely to get a new PB then. Stranger things have happened I suppose!

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Race For Life Pretty Muddy Review

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Yesterday I got Pretty darned Muddy in the fantastic sunshine, on a course that went through beautiful Tatton Park in Knutsford. It was the first Race for Life Pretty Muddy event and of course I had to be there for some filthy fun. For once I actually went as part of a team and ended up running the entire way with Lizzy from Mixtape & Menu – my normal strategy of ‘go on your own and run as fast as you can’ would have been very boring in this situation, as it was all about supporting others to get over obstacles in life as you struggle over too. Oh, I do love a good life metaphor!

The Filthy Girls Gang consisted of my old manager from work and a gang of her buddies, most of which had never run a race before. Their excitement was palpable and contagious, so even my most-dreaded part of a race, the ‘fun’ warmup, was full of laughs and hijinks.

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I actually have no idea what time I finished the 5K in, and for once I wasn’t bothered. The scenery was great and the added obstacles made you use your brains as well as your legs.

My only issue was that Pretty Muddy wasn’t quite muddy enough – I’d heard stories of shoes being lost in all the mud but actually it was only the last two obstacles that were muddy. I’d have loved to have been covered top-to-toe thick mud the entire way round.. but maybe that’s just the masochist in me?! Nevertheless, a brilliant morning made all the better by a strong team spirit; though a more seasoned runner may feel blasé about the event, I would highly recommend it as a first foray into cross country running, obstacle courses or even your first run.

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RUN: National PB Day

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Saturday was National PB Day! No, not peanut butter – although that is on January 24th – but Personal Best. I ran in Parkrun as there was an opportunity to win Adidas Boosts if you beat your PB that day, but sadly it was not to be for me. I could tell before I even got there: getting out of bed was tough, I managed to put my sports bra on upside down, and I arrived at Heaton Park with just seconds to spare.

I decided to stick close to the 25 minute pacer – after all, I reminded myself, in January I would have been overjoyed to run 5K in 25 minutes. It felt like a pleasant run at a fairly steady pace, and as you can see in the picture above I’m smiling rather than my usual grimace! We hit 4K and another runner turned to the pacer and exclaimed “25 minutes?! You’re a bit ahead aren’t you?” The pacer realised his mistake and dropped back, but since I was feeling strong at that point, I decided to push on at the same pace and finished on 24:38 – 40 seconds slower than my PB.

The day’s lesson? Believe in yourself and stay positive. If I had decided when I woke up that it was a good day and I was going to go for a PB I almost certainly would have hit it. As it stands I may have cheated myself out of a pair of Boosts! Let’s hope that one of Heaton Park’s runners really went for it that day and wins the trainers. They deserve it.

Barcode scanning queue – it was certainly a busy one
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RUN: Trust In Your Training

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You could say that in December I was at a pretty low point. My dad passed away in November, so I took some time off work and university, which was very much needed so I could pull myself together a bit and support my mum. Unfortunately it seems the less you do, the less you want to do, so what was supposed to be a restorative time turned into a self-destructive time: a lot of time sitting around doing nothing, and hating sitting around doing nothing, but not really having anything to get dressed for in the morning. A real catch-22 situation.

As much as I was hurting I knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted me to spend my time like this, so I decided I needed to set myself a challenge to bring me back to life. Nothing crazy – I was feeling too delicate for skydives or mountains – but something achievable, that I would have to work towards. And so, I decided on running the Manchester 10K. I’d run further distances before – half marathons, in fact – but not for some years, and although I did run occasionally I didn’t take running or my own health too seriously.

This changed massively when I decided to take on the challenge of the 10K. In fact, my life has changed completely – I’m fitter and happier than ever before, and although of course I think about my dad a lot, I am able to cope a lot better with the feelings this brings up.

So – the big day was Sunday. I set myself a target time of 50 minutes, so physically I had to work hard, and emotionally there was a lot riding on this. How did I get on..?

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The first 5K was not enjoyable at all – I was too hot and the air was so dry I wasn’t even sweating. I was running with very few people rather than a big crowd as my pace was faster than the rest of the wave, though this my fault – when I signed up I was much less fit and less capable so will have chosen a slower pace. Considering the heat, I felt the water should have been more evenly spaced out; despite having a small drink with me my throat was rasping by the time I’d reached the water stations, of which there were two within a short distance. I would have very much appreciated a drink about 3K and 7K.

My legs felt like dead weights and my throat was like sand, but silly little things that made me think of my dad kept me going: the man stood watching in the Pink Floyd t-shirt, the brass band playing the song my dad changed the words to so they were something daft. These gave me the energy to plod on when I really didn’t want to.

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From around 6K onwards I started to enjoy myself. I began to overtake some people in the wave in front so was hitting more of a crowd, and also the final waves had set off so I was running in as they were going out. Watching for familiar faces on their way out distracted me from thinking how hot and bothered I was, and I also settled into a comfortable pace – I felt so awful that I was sure I wasn’t going to hit my goal time, so just tried to soak in the atmosphere.

Getting onto Deansgate and the last couple of hundred metres, I saw the clock was on 49:30. No way! My sub-50 was still within reach. I put everything I had into my sprint finish (hence the less-than-attractive face, below, though not sure what the tongue sticking out is about) and ended with a time of 49:43. Flabbergasted is putting it lightly – it just proved that if you put the training in you should trust in yourself.

I met up with my mum and Chris and there were definitely a few tears and hugs; the end of the race seemed to signify the end of a very tough few months we had together, physically, emotionally and mentally. Then it was time for a large glass of wine and an even larger piece of cake – well deserved, I thought!

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A Beginners’ Guide To Heaton Parkrun, Manchester

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Working in retail it’s as rare as hens’ teeth to get a Saturday off work, so I took advantage of a rare opportunity this past weekend to go to my first Parkrun.

I wasn’t sure what to expect – I have been to non-Parkrun park runs before which were definitely amateur affairs, but the run at Heaton Park was run with utmost precision by a large team of volunteers. It was a cracking morning too, which brought out a huge field of 450 runners!

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You register on the Parkrun website to begin with, then print a barcode to take with you. At the end of the 5K race you run through the finish line into a funnel where a volunteer with a stopwatch records your time. You are given another barcode then both barcodes are scanned together, then linked to your stopwatch time. An hour or two later your time is sent to you via email or text (this past Saturday you got chocolate too, but that was a special Easter treat).

I was thrilled to find my time was 24:24, putting me the 16th female back home – and the 1st woman in aged 25-29! The organisation of the event ran like clockwork and I couldn’t believe it was all from a team of volunteers. I will be back – and I will be working hard to beat my time.

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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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This morning out on my run I had A Moment: I was suddenly overwhelmed and bewildered by the fact that my legs, heart and lungs, despite being weary and confused about the fact that I’ve dragged them about of bed to put them through THIS, could work that hard, for that long, just for me. You simply start your run, then you stop running only when it’s over.

It reminded me of Haruki Murakami’s words in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which attempts to explain what goes through Murakami’s mind when he runs. It’s hard to explain to a non-runner that when you’re getting in the miles you somehow think of everything but also nothing. Sometimes for a few seconds I wonder about the twinge in my leg which is promptly forgotten about; sometimes I imagine situations, like what would happen if that bird there flew into me? But most of the time I think of nothing more than my breath and putting one foot in front of the other.

The thoughts that occur to me while running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky as always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky. The sky both exists and doesn’t exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn’t. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it it.

Murakami, What I Talk About When
I Talk About Running 

Then when I ran past Old Trafford, and with it being a game day and all, its fried-onion smells and chanting fan sounds. Then the moment was lost. But still. A Moment.

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A well-deserved post-workout shake; that was a really decent pace for me.


Running On A Sunny Winter’s Day

Though today we may be back to our usual March weather of being chilly, dull and wettish, a few weekends ago we had the most spectacular Sunday. I jumped out of bed and couldn’t wait to lace up my trainers to get out on the trails, and I ended up doing around 7K in the sunshine. It was a few days after the UK-wide storms hit so it was a little more of an obstacle course than usual, mainly involving climbing over fallen trees and fences, but that’s what I love about cross country, though – the unexpected element. When you’re running along roads you only have your own mind to keep you occupied, whereas on trails you’re seeing all sorts of new sights, and have to use a bit of the old grey matter to negotiate your way around and over hurdles and obstructions.

As you can see, the great weather awakened the hijinks within me: tree poses in trees and headstands in the middle of tracks!