Monday evening was lovely, from my balcony I could see the sun was lighting up the Derbyshire hills. However, it was my first day back on a diet so I was craving food as soon as I got home and decided to set my alarm for 6 am to enjoy the morning sunshine.
Sadly the sunshine came in liquid form and was bouncing nosily off the windows. I reluctently pulled on my running tights, jacket and my truly stupid looking cap and headed out onto the Blackwell trail for a wet plod out and back.
The path was almost as much liquid as it was solid and I started weaving left and right trying to keep my self reletively dry but after a particulaly deep foot fall which sent a geyser of water right up the back of my legs and into the tops of my trainers. About a mile in I just gave up and found myself running through all but the deepest of puddles.
I hit the end of the trail and turned, heading back. The rain had done it’s damage and I was soaked right through to my skin so I was relying on my music to help me keep going and get back to the warmth of my shower as soon as possible. Luckily Status Quo gave me the plodding backbeat I needed to get me splashing from puddle to puddle as I headed home.
Even through the rain I was still smiling as I finished up my run but was happy to get indoors and dry.
Moving into a new apartment, a bad summer cold and lots of excuses brought on my laziness mean it has been a little while since my last run. But with my first 10k race only a month away I need to knuckle down and build up my abilities once again.
An unexpected blue sky greeted me as I headed out into the former territory of Robin Hood, Maid Marion and their merry band of men. I arrived among the majestic 100ft tall Sherwood Pines with only moments to spare as the other runners had already lined up at the parkrun starting line.
I didn’t even get time to find some music on my phone or dig my earphones from my pocket before the hoard dashed off into the forest. With no music being piped into my ears I was just going to have to make do with my hard breathing and the sounds of the wildlife and trees around me.
Having missed the first timers speech I had no idea what to expect from the route. I knew it was a single lap but had no idea of any hills or potentially difficult sections. I had no choice but to just follow the people in front of me and let them guide me around the route.
I started slow and steady and tried to regulate my breathing as early as possible (I am still unable to breathe through my nose following my long standing cold) and was happy to find the course was undulating with no really steep sections.
My first mile was a comfortable 11:52 minutes and the slight incline gave way to a long gentle downhill stretch which allowed me to get my feet moving a little quicker and the 11:11 time was encouraging. The sun had some power when it made its way through the trees but the canopy gave plenty of shade and as the path slowly turned upwards I slowed considerably but kept on moving knowing it would soon plateau and take me towards the finish line.
I didn’t sprint to the finish, instead, I opted to gently jog over the line with some air still left in my lungs.
Sherwood Pines is an amazing venue for a parkrun and I am sure I will be back soon.
Wednesday night is usually reserved for a 45 minute Bodyvive class followed by a more gentle Aqua Aerobics and a short swim before showering and back home for food and a wind down. However, I forgot to book my class and the recent upsurge in popularity of Bodyvive left me with 45 minutes to fill.
I had left my running shoes at home but had my gym shoes and swimming shorts and decided to head out to Mill Lakes for a nice early evening run. Even worse than not having the ideal running gear is that my headphones were still in my kit bag, It was going to be me, my aging Karimoor trainers and the sounds of a nature and machines.
The sun was carrying plenty of heat in the early evening and with no breeze it was a good temperature below the trees. With no music,podcasts or audio books distracting me I was running to the rhythm of my own breathing, the sounds of the birds and the occasional grumble of passing traffic on the nearby road. It is a certainly a different experience and I did not realise how much I have come to rely on the thupbing drum and basslines to speed me up and slow me down. At the first rumble on my wrist I was disappointed to see a 12:16 mile. Much slower than I was hoping and it led me to adjust my stride to speed up, but I was struggling to find a comfortable pace, speeding up too much and my heart rate went higher than I liked. But I pushed on knowing the park was a reasonable flat course.
My second mile saw my pace increasing to just under the 12 minute mile and I continued to up my pace. As I made my way back around the lake my pace had increased and I was finding it hard to fill my lungs as I passed the three mile point. A 11:16 third mile left came as something of a surprise and I pushed on to 3.5 miles and a well earned drink.
Using my old trainers was not the wisest decision, my knees are aching and my back is somewhat uncomfortable. I need to remember to always have my running trainers on hand in case of an impromptu chance to get some miles under my trainers.
The sun was my natural wake up alarm this morning as it filled the bedroom and I rolled out of bed with very little energy and no idea where I was going to head for my parkrun fix.
A cup of coffee inside me, my shoes on my feet and tied tightly I decided on another first time location. I headed the 6 miles to Forest Recreation Ground. When I first heard about parkrun it was the Forest Rec that I intended to try. I was always too nervous to go on my own and it somehow got pushed out of my to do list.
I arrived to the sound of the fire alarm ringing from the park pavilion as the volunteers busied themselves setting up the finish funnel and dispatching the marshalls to their places on the course.
I did a short 5 minute survival shuffle to bring my muscles to life before heading back for the tourist introduction and pre run speech. Along with 262 other runners I headed away from the start and onto the playing field. I was aware of an incline coming up after the short loop of the field and I intended to run every step of the 5k this week so I started slowly and made my way up the incline slowly. As I switched back on the still rising path I got a brief, but encouraging, view of the finish funnel below before the trees covered the path and a welcoming cool breeze helped cool me down.
The incline was just over half a mile and by the highest point my heart rate was high and my breathing hard. Luckily with any incline on a circular route it eventually goes back down again. The remainder of the first lap I used to get my breath back before heading around the field for the second time.
I often find the second lap mentally easier and, even though I knew it was going to be a slog for me, it was clear that I was not going to succumb to walking at any point.
I took a about 20 paces and found my breathing settling quickly so I leaned into my stride a little more and let gravity increase my pace. I rounded the final corner and was greeted by the welcoming sight of the finishing straight in front of me.
I had far more energy left than I expected and I increased my cadence from around 155 to 169 and finished strong.
My time was….not good. But I was so happy that I didn’t resort to walking up the hills and the weather and the atmosphere left me with such a smile on my face as I, slowly, walked back to my car and, more importantly, my large bottle of water.
After 5 months of volunteering at parkrun it was time to actually get out and run one. The natural choice should have been the Bestwood Village run, where I have been spending my saturday mornings, but I was certainly not ready to take on the two notorious hills that make up the first mile of the course. Luckily Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are well served so it was a difficult choice but I decided on the most recent of the runs to have launched, Shipley Country Park.
I drove the 9 miles through the sunshine actually feeling excited at the thought of being timed around the course. I managed to park quite a distance from the start so I used it as a chance to do a brisk walk and a gentle jog to try and warm up my muscles ready for the start.
After a few moments soaking in the welcoming atmosphere followed by the first timers welcome talk and the pre run speech it was time to line up and head out into the country park for the two laps.
After a short run around the sun-drenched field the cool air of the shady tree lined path was welcoming and allowed my to set a nice pace without the sun getting in my eyes. I decided that I was going to monitor my heart rate closely throughout the run in order to pace myself and ensure I get around the course.
The park was looking lovely in the morning light and the path alternated between tree-lined and open as I made my way around. The lake, i was soon to discover, was an early warning for the one significant hill the course. A hill which, I soon discovered, I could walk up quicker than I could actually run it. The well placed marshalls gave great encouragement and pushed me over the crest of the hill and back into my running motion.
My heart rate was looking good, It was slowly getting higher but walking the hill had helped me recover and pick up my pace as the pathway angled downward. Passing more marshalls and the path back to the finish was bringing me ever closer to the hill once again. I managed to run a little bit further up the incline this time before I fell into a walk but with the hill behind me I was less than a mile from the finish line.
The park gave way to the cooler tree-lined path heading towards the home stretch. I tried upping my pace to try and break the 35 minute mark but my lungs were fighting back strongly and I found myself unable to keep up the pace. As I reached the end of the path and made the 90 degree turn towards the finish line I greeting with cheers and applause of the volunteers and already finished runners and I took that as inspiration to push myself with a sprint finish over the line.
I didn’t get my 35 minutes time but I felt elated to have finished strong and I was instantly reminded why I love the supportive and friendly environment that parkrun offers fledgeling runners like myself.
The act of getting out running again was weighing heavily on my mind. I was questioning my ability to run. How long would I be able to run for? Would my legs begin aching after a few minutes? Would my chest and lungs be able to carry me for the entire run?
I pulled on my shorts, top and trainers before making the short drive to the Blackwell Trail still feeling unsure of how long I was going to be able to run for.
I popped in the ear buds and leaned into my first stride of my resurrected interest in running. My calves, thighs and hips all felt tight as I my initial strides and it the first half mile was extremely difficult. My mind was going back and forth on the distance I was trying to cover and, as my muscles warmed up and joints eased, I upped my original goal of 2 miles to 5k with a walking stretch at the half way point.
After passing a mile I knew I had not completely lost my fitness and even though I knew it was going to be a challenge I was going to ensure I ran the entire 5k. I made the mental breakthrough about 15 minutes in. I fell into a good, if slow, rhythm and found myself enjoying the music, the fresh air and the actual act of running.
After turning around at the half way point made the most of the slight downwards slope for a while but before long my heart rate began creeping up and I was getting more and more breathless, struggling to fill my lungs with sweat stinging my eyes.
I had to dig deep to finish and as my Garmin crept passed 3.10 miles I was happy to slow to a walk and get my breath back.
My first run back was both more difficult and easier than I thought it would be. The first mile was a difficult mental battle, the second mile was a reasonably comfortable and gentle run but the last mile was a pure physical battle.
It feels good to be back on the trails.
“I am Fat. I am Lazy. I am a Runner”
Those are the ten words I started this blog with over 18 months ago. At that time all three were 100% true. I can still attest to the first six words but the last four are no longer accurate.
I finished on the 31st of December last year having run the equivalent of the length England and it had left me very tired, very sore and somewhat saddened that it was all over. The main thing on my mind was resting my weary body after putting it through so much in the last month of the challenge. I was elated to have finished the challenge but almost immediately after inputting the last of the details into my spreadsheets I realised there was a bit of a void that had been left behind. I had spent over a year planning, running and obsessing over those 525 miles and I now had to find something else to occupy my mind
My knees, hips and back took quite a few weeks to shed the remnants of the challenge and just when I had an opportunity to get the trainers back on I got distracted with two very different activities calling for my attention.
The first one was a fresh new challenge. In June I had signed up to attempt the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge. This was a one day challenge which involves climbing 3 mountains (largely) in Yorkshire over a 25 mile walk in under 12 hours. A challenge that was going to take a lot of planning and training, not to mention buying a lot of kit I had never needed before.
The second challenge opportunity was my involvement in the soon to be launched parkrun at Bestwood Village Country Park. The training and planning was completed through January with the launch on the last Saturday morning of the month. Over the next 5 months I have become a member of the Run Directing team that puts the event on every week as well as volunteering most weeks to keep the event running smoothly.
Sadly these commitments came at a cost. Until a few days ago I had only run once in 2017 and I have found myself, once again, putting the pounds back on in quite large numbers.
Luckily being around runners every weekend at parkrun meant running was never far from my mind and I knew it was only a matter of time before I was to get my Brooks’ out of the cupboard and charged up my Garmin to get out there and get running once again.