Facebook SDK

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Freedom in the snow

The weather forecast for Coventry for tomorrow is snow, with a high temperature of 0C. Hopefully not enough snow to prevent or interrupt my freedom run tomorrow. The weather website I use says that the "realfeel" will be -8C - that's very cold!

To be honest I am intending to run whatever the weather. I just hope that the ground isn't covered with ice as I see that as the only hurdle to prevent me doing a fast time. I'm feeling in top form at the moment and really want to go for a fast run. I'm hopeful that my brother Andy will be joining me for the freedom run tomorrow. With a bit of luck we can have a good go at Andy's PB.

One of my only remaining targets for this year is to help Andy get his PB down a bit. This may sound selfless, but I am actually thinking about my own chances of improvement. Having Andy to run with and to push me next year will give me my best chance of improving further. Recent form has shown that Andy is heading that way.

So, same as last week, I hope to aim for a sub 19:30 freedom run tomorrow.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Coventry parkrun 27/11/10 (Snow!)

After a night on the beer and less than 5 hours sleep, I woke at 7am on Saturday morning and for some reason, something told me to take a look outside. It had snowed. It wasn't too deep, maybe half an inch, but a covering nonetheless. My first thought was, "will parkrun still be on? I hope so!".

My brother (Andy), our mate Mike and myself all set off for the park hoping that it would still be on. Mike may have been hoping for another outcome, but he didn't say anything. The fact that he was going to be making his parkrun debut and his first run of any kind since school cross country (over 20 years ago), it was not the kind of weather you would choose.

It was bitterly cold. Even in running tights, with three layers on my top half, hat and gloves I still felt very cold. We jogged the few hundred yards to the start assembly area and found that there were already a few people milling about. At that stage (8:55am) it was pretty much one volunteer to each runner, but that quickly changed as the die-hard parkrunners started to assemble. In the end we managed 58 runners. Well down on the normal 120 plus runners, but impressive given the conditions.

It was clear to all that this was not going to be a day for a PB. However, Jason Douglas (Coventry parkrun race director) advised everyone to be sensible during his pre-run briefing. The chuckles from the gathered parkrunners suggested that everyone was more than happy to enjoy the run without even thinking about a PB. The atmosphere is always very friendly at Coventry parkrun (and all parkruns I expect) but this week it seemed even more so.

From the very start of the run you could tell that everyone was a bit more tentative than usual. The first few corners were taken very steadily. But after that, people seemed to grow in confidence. In fact after a couple of minutes the pattern seemed to be very carefully on the corners and then pretty much normal speed on the straights.

Personally I managed a 10:01 first lap whilst running with Andy. After I that, as my confidence grew, I pushed on and posted a brisk second lap of 9:09 to finish 4th overall in a satisfying time of 19:10. Given the cold and the snow covered ground that was a far quicker time than I had expected.

Andy finished about a minute behind me in 20:09 and Mike, in his first run for 2 decades, finished in a respectable 34:13. The most impressive thing was that Mike continued to talk about parkrun for the rest of the weekend. It had certainly made some impression on him. He said that he would do it again next time he was with us in Coventry and even suggested he would do one at a venue more local to him one day if he could get someone to run it with him. I'm not sure we have made him into a runner just yet. In fact I am sure we haven't, but he liked the idea of parkrun and I'm sure he will be back again at some stage. And that time he will have a realistic target to beat.

I think that is great testament to parkrun. It can take someone who hasn't run for 20 years and get them interested. Then it won't be for everyone, but for some its only a small step to run a second time with the aim of improving, getting fitter, losing weight, whatever the draw may be for each person. And that's when you can find yourself hooked. Brilliant!

After this weekend's run, one thing is for sure, my longstanding opinion of myself as a fair-weather runner is well out-of-date now. I don't mind at all if its freezing or snowing for my next training session or parkrun. I intend to run whatever the weather and I am already looking forward it. Bring on my Wednesday freedom parkrun with Andy in the snow, I can't wait!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Freedom parkrun #17 (23:58)

It was another sunny lunchtime for a freedom parkrun, if maybe a little on the chilly side. No, I have to admit, it was actually very cold. Certainly hat, coat and gloves weather for anything other than running.

Wrapped up nice and warm, with three layers on top, running tights on the bottom and even a set of gloves, I never actually felt the cold. Even though I know it can only have been 1C at most. Andy (my brother) and I made it our 4th freedom run together in the last 10 days. Our aims for today were a nice gentle run so as to save all our energy and our ageing limbs for the main parkrun event tomorrow morning. We agreed on a warm up lap of the park and a rough aim of 25 to 27 minutes for the freedom run itself. But not really meaning for that to be a target.

We set off at a very steady pace, comfortable enough to talk about our plans for the weekend the whole way round. This weekend we have our mates from "back home" (Kent) coming to stay at Andy's. One of the events for the weekend being tomorrow's parkrun. We kept our eyes on the times at our various normal time check-points around the first lap and knew we were on for somewhere around our original aim. Anyway, talking remained comfortable and to our surprise we completed the first lap in a couple of seconds over 12 minutes. So in fact 24 minutes was likely to be pretty comfortable.

Being competitive as we are, we immediately adjusted our aims and assured each other that over 24 minutes would no longer be acceptable. What are we like!

During the second half of the run we also discussed a way to come up with a handicap system for us and our mate Mike (who is running parkrun with us tomorrow). We settled on target times of 18:30 for me, 19:30 for Andy and 24 minutes for Mike (as this was going to be a comfortable time for us today). Based on the fact that we are bound to have a few beers tonight, and we all know alcohol impairs performance (didn't you know?), we also agreed on a beer allowance. Each beer consumed this evening adds 15 seconds to our target times for tomorrow (or 20 seconds for Mike). Therefore, I am happy in the knowledge that 6 beers tonight buys me an extra 90 seconds for tomorrows parkrun. Well worth it!

Anyway, we had nearly finished by the time that discussion was over and a little burst at the end of our run saw us home just inside 24 minutes at 23:58. My second slowest, but still very pleasing.

That's 17 freedom runs for me now and I'm already looking forward to numbers 18 and 19 next week. With that in mind, I'm likely to have run more freedom runs than parkruns at some point within the next few weeks. There can't be many people out there that have run more freedom runs than parkruns!

I'll post an update about tomorrow's "beer handicap" parkrun on Sunday probably.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

parkrun freedom #16 (19:22)

Another very pleasing freedom parkrun today.

It was a very cool, crisp lunchtime in War Memorial Park in Coventry today. I met my brother Andy at the park entrance and we did a nice gentle warm-up lap of the park perimeter, discussing our target for the impending freedom run and the parkrun on Saturday. Andy has his sights firmly set on a new PB at the weekend. With him having 2 PBs already this month, a third would be amazing. And I hadn't run for 5 days, so we were both more than happy to put a lot of effort into this run. We agreed on a primary target of under the 19:48 from our best freedom run last week and an ultimate goal of sub-19:30. This would be Andy's best parkrun of freedom run time, so a tough target.

We set off very quickly, reaching various positions around the first lap in pretty decent times, only a handful of seconds off my best for at least the first half lap. It was probably about this time that Andy started to blow a bit. By the end of the first lap Andy was saying that he was at his limit. At 9:42 it was one of the fastest first laps he has done. I have to say I felt fine. Its seems such a fine line between fine and shattered for me, as 20 seconds quicker and I too would have been near my limit.

We noticeably slowed during the first half of the 2nd lap, but with about 2 and a half minutes of running time to go and our likely finish time slowly drifting upwards ,Andy confessed that he was done and had to slow. He told me to go on and seeing that he was completely gone and feeling fine myself I picked up the pace. That certainly helped my finish time as I opened up a 28 second gap on Andy by the end, finishing in 19:22 with Andy at 19:50. Those being my 4th best and Andy's 2nd best freedom times.

At only 23 seconds outside my best freedom run, and 8 seconds inside our target, I was very pleased. I am certain that the way I was feeling I am well set to take a chunk off my freedom PB the next time I give it a good go. But the fact remains that I wouldn't be able to get near my parkrun PB on a freedom run. That is just too much to ask without others there to drag me on.

I had a look at the list of the last 100 nationwide freedom runs and found that I have recorded 3 of the last 15 freedom runs. Its sad but I also found that I have 10 of the last 100. Perhaps I am a little bit too keen!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Another day without a run

Another day without a run. That's now 4 days without any parkrun, freedom run, training or any kind of run. And I am certainly not up for a run this evening.

I am really looking forward to getting back into the park for a run tomorrow lunchtime. I have not yet decided whether that will be a freedom run or laps of the perimeter of the park. That decision rests upon whether or not my brother joins me. But one thing is for certain and that is that I really want to go for it and I can't wait.

If its a freedom parkrun I want to aim for one of my best and certainly sub 19:30. I may even be tempted for a sub 19:00, but only if Andy doesn't join me, as that time is still slightly out of reach for him at the moment.

If I end up doing perimeter laps on my own I will probably go for 2 gentle laps and then one flat out. Flat out for me works out at about 5 minutes 35 seconds per mile, which for one lap of the park (at 1.75 miles) leaves me utterly shattered. I have been missing that feeling and can't wait for it tomorrow.

Monday, 22 November 2010

My parkrun history

The first Coventry parkrun took place on the 6th February 2010. Unfortunately I didn't hear about it until it was 5 or 6 weekends old and then couldn't run for another few weeks due to other commitments.

My debut ended up being at the 10th event and I have run 20 out of the last 32 events, with the odd omission for holidays, weekends away, injuries, babysitting and volunteering.

My first run was fairly tame compared to my current standard. But at the time it felt pretty much flat out. I suppose I didn't know the course at that stage, but I don't think that accounts for much of the time difference. My first run was 20:18, but since then I have taken over 2 minutes off to reach my current PB of 18:14.

I think the improvement is mainly due to becoming a regular runner rather than a casual runner. That is one of the biggest things that parkrun has done for me. Even though parkrun requires no commitment whatsoever, you do not pay any subscription so there is no bind to need to go to get your money's worth, it can still very easy get you hooked and turn you into a regular runner. This has happened for me. I try to make it every week if possible and am disappointed when I can't make it. I also find myself training far more often than ever before. I always try to train at least twice a week as well as the actual Saturday parkrun.

I think this is another great thing about parkrun, get into it and it will help you get more regular exercise. Simply by attending the parkrun events you will be running once a week, every week. Then as the desire to improve takes hold, you will find yourself running extra runs in between. I know I didn't set out to do this, it just happened. And I cannot be the only one this has happened for. Its happening for my brother right now. He has been doing the parkrun events each week, but in just the last week or so he has started doing the odd freedom run. Three in the last 5 days to be precise!

parkrun has this effect on you. It gets you gripped and turns casual runners into regular runners and regular runners into committed runners.

Nine out of my last 10 runs have been under 19 minutes with the other only 2 seconds over. I am starting to feel that I may have reached my peak for this year and will find it hard to get a new PB until the warmer weather returns. But this is my first winter as a runner, so what do I know!

There was one week, 11 runs ago, when I had a terrible run (relatively). At 20:43 this is my worst parkrun time. However, that was a good lesson to learn as it was as a direct result of a heavy drinking session the night before. In no uncertain terms, I found out that alcohol impaires performance (revelation!). This is something else that parkrun has done for me. Friday night is no longer a drinking night for me. And even though Saturday isn't a lie in anymore, I still feel great getting up early on a Saturday morning, without any ill effects from drinking and knowing that I have parkrun to look forward to.

So what about my aims for parkrun for the rest of the year? I don't aim to beat my PB. I don't think I have that in my sights for a while, but you never know. I would love to build up some real consistency under 18:30 if I can. I would love 18:30 to start to feel more and more confortable, although I doubt it will ever feel truly comfortable.

And my aims for next year? I think I'll leave that subject for another post nearer the end of the year.

Missed parkrun

So, my first Saturday without being at a parkrun in any capacity for over 3 months. I certainly missed it. I missed the running and meeting up with the usual people. And I certainly missed the parkrun itself.

I think I must be addicted to the pain. Almost every time I run a parkrun (and quite a few of my training runs to be honest) I give it pretty much everything I have. I don't tend to leave much in reserve. I really like this feeling a lot. I always have. I was always the masochist at pre-season football training that loved pushing myself to (and even beyond) my own personal limit. One day I should write a blog entry about my Great North Run experience - that was fun! I don't tend to push myself quite as far these days, but close. I think I missed that feeling of utter exhaustion followed by euphoria this weekend.

I really can't wait for parkrun next weekend. Even more than usual this week though, mainly because I am introducing a couple of mates to parkrun for the first time. Being non-runners, I think they are going to hate it. But I am certain that they will be impressed with the parkrun concept even if its not for them.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Bring on next week's parkrun!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Freedom parkrun #15 (19:48)

What a beautifully sunny lunchtime it was today in War Memorial Park in Coventry. Perfect for a freedom parkrun. So that's what I did.

Unfortunately I will be away for the weekend and will not be able to take part in the Coventry parkrun tomorrow morning. Even more unfortunately the Wirral doesn't have a parkrun yet and the nearest runs will be an inconvenient hour or so away by car. I can't wait until the day that parkrun has spread so far and wide that wherever you find yourself on a Saturday morning a parkrun won't be too far away.

So for the first time in 7 weeks I won't be at parkrun as a runner or volunteer. In fact, the last time I missed a parkrun completely was the 7th August. I think its fair to say I have had a good run of attendance. I'm sure I'll miss it tomorrow though.

Back to today's freedom parkrun. I was accompanied by my brother Andy again, for the second time this week. Andy is volunteering at Coventry parkrun tomorrow so we both agreed to use our freedom run as our parkrun replacement run. We agreed to aim for sub 20 minutes, but agreed 21 minutes would be ok, depending on how we felt on the way round. Andy has only really started going sub 20 minutes in the last 3 weeks so we knew it would be a tough ask for him.

We set off at a good pace and unlike our midweek run, neither of us were up for chatting at this pace. We were very pleased with a 9:47 first lap and even with having to avoid a digger working on the new visitor centre in the park we still managed a 10:01 second lap for a very pleasing 19:48. This equalled Andy's 3rd fastest official parkrun time, so he was pretty pleased.

All in all, our freedom run was another great use of a sunny late autumn lunchtime in Coventry War Memorial park. If the weather is like that every Wednesday and Friday lunchtime through the winter I will end up clocking up quite a few freedom runs and quite a few miles. Fingers crossed!

Best of luck to everyone running a parkrun tomorrow, I hope you enjoy it. I'm sure I'll be thinking about it and missing it at 9am tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

parkrun volunteers are amazing

Simply put, parkrun events would not exist without volunteers.

Each week, at each parkrun event, a group of volunteers ensure that the event runs smoothly. These volunteers are often parkrunners taking a week off from running for the greater good of the event. Most of them would probably prefer to be running, but are willing to make this sacrifice to ensure that everyone else can carry on taking part.

There are also (from my experience) a number of volunteers that never (or rarely) run a parkrun and give of their time freely and generously for the sake of all that take part. I find this, in itself, absolutely amazing. Very often these are the core volunteers. Those that volunteer week after week.

My experience of this is at the Coventry parkrun. Now 40 races old, the Coventry parkrun isn't a new parkrun, but it isn't old either. Lets say its established. Every week I see many of the same volunteers happily showing the way and offering encouragement. I know I'm not the only one that tries to say thank you every time I pass them, but I hope that everyone does eventually. I hope the volunteers hear this offer of thanks from behind my exhausted breath. I think we all owe every volunteer this small offer of appreciation at what they are doing for us each week. A little thank you goes a long way!

Volunteering is not compulsory but very much appreciated. parkrun suggest that volunteering 3 times a year should be about the right level. There are many that volunteer a lot more. I would say volunteering once every 10 to 15 runs seems about fair. By my own rules I probably need to think about volunteering again in the not too distant future. Its not much to give up 1 run in order to get another 15 free parkruns now is it?

As a sign off, I'd just like to say a big thank you to all those people that volunteer at parkrun. And to those that volunteer week-in week-out, you are amazing and I want to thank you for all you do for parkrunners like me. We all appreciate what you do.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Freedom parkrun - good on your own, better with a friend

Well I did it, I completed my 14th freedom parkrun this lunchtime.

I am in the very fortunate position of being able to work from home a couple of times a week. Now more than ever, as the nights are drawing in and winter approaches, I find that a lunch-time run is the best way for a fair-weather runner like myself to fit in a couple of runs without having to run in the dark.

Today was a bit different to my usual solo freedom runs. Today I was joined by my brother, Andy. He is also in the fortunate position of working close to the park. We met at the start line after running there from our respective workplaces, had a quick stretch and then stepped onto the start line where we hastily agreed to aim for sub 22 minutes. With each of our PBs well over 2 minutes under this time, it doesn't sound too tough a target, but in my experience, freedom runs are far harder than normal parkruns.

With no objection from Andy (apart from the noted facial expression - "how quick!") we set off on the normal route and started chatting, mainly about my new parkrunfan blog and it was mainly me chatting "at" Andy to be honest. Within 30 seconds I had to pause to pull up a running sock that had slipped inside my shoe. I caught Andy up around the memorial. Two minutes later, back at the memorial on the return leg and the sock had gone again. A more permanent fix was made to the sock this time and thankfully it didn't annoy me again. I have never had this happen before. Two periods of sprinting (to catch up) certainly changes the feel of a relatively comfortable run.

Coventry parkrun is a two lap course and we reached the half way point of the run in 11:20. The sock incident had played its part in this delay. We are both the types to never allow a target time to be missed so we picked up the pace a bit and the chatting slowed somewhat.

We managed a brisk 10:19 second lap and finished the freedom run in 21:39, well within our target time. This is about the average time I complete a freedom run in, but having company made it feel so much easier.

Having someone to share the run with and have a chat with, for at least some of the run, helps to take the mind off any tiredness that can creep in. The run flew by to be honest. This is only the 2nd time we have run a freedom run together, far fewer than the 12 I have done on my own, but it certainly won't be the last. We have already made arrangements for another freedom parkrun this coming Friday. I can't wit and I thin Andy is as keen as I am.

Freedom parkrun later today

I will be doing a freedom parkrun later today and I can't wait. Its amazing how much I look forward to running these days.

For those that don't know, a freedom parkrun is simply a run around a parkrun course on your own. Or in my case today, with my brother hopefully.

I am not looking for anything other than a comfortable freedom parkrun today, but I may decide to attempt a fast lap of the perimeter of the park after the parkrun. I'll just have to wait and see how I feel. I'll try to post an update later.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

parkrun is...a race

Is parkrun really a race? Well the simple answer is yes, or course it is. But to be honest, parkrun is whatever you want it to be. It can be a race against others, a race against yourself (or your PB), a training run, a warm-up, a warm-down, a social event or any other reason for running - should anyone need a reason to run, other than for fun that is!

If you take the first 15 or 20 people in every parkrun, they certainly look like they are treating it as a race. In truth, many of the fastest parkrunners are probably treating it as a training run. Just another excuse to get out there and do a few more miles in a nice friendly, relaxed environment. But parkrun isn't really about those fastest runners, at least not in my opinion anyway.

parkrun is all about the all-inclusive aspect, anyone can join, everyone that wants to should join.

For me, it started as a bit of fun, became a challenge to better my personal best (PB) and move up the field and has now become a weekly event in my life that I always look forward to whatever the weather. Though this last statement may be tested now as I head into my first winter of parkrun. And to be honest, at the Coventry parkrun we have been blessed with pretty good weather almost without exception. So often, 9am on a Saturday morning, War Memorial Park in Coventry seems to get the best weather of the weekend. Almost without fail I find myself commenting on what a lovely morning it is. Typically this is during the post race adrenaline high phase of my race recovery.

If you want to treat it as a race, there will be plenty of like minded individuals. If you run a consistent time each week, you will see many of the same faces around you each week, plus plenty of new faces as parkrun is on the up-and-up and attracting new participants every week.

In summary, if you want parkrun to be a race, it certainly can be. It certainly is for me most weeks, both against my PB and the same people that I meet week in and week out and slowly but surely start to consider more as friends than rivals. Long may that continue!

Monday, 15 November 2010

parkrun is.......free!

That's right, parkrun is free. Free to join and free to run each week. Is this the most amazing fact about parkrun....it must be a contender at the very least.

When I first heard about parkrun back in March or April this year, this was the thing I found hardest to believe. I had been out running around War Memorial Park in Coventry on my own one Saturday morning, I had seen what looked to me like an organised run going on in the park and I had decided to investigate. When I eventually found out that it was parkrun and read all about it, I could not understand how it could be free.

Quoting the parkrun homepage, "parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in." and "parkrun aims to have an event in every community that wants one."

Isn't this amazing? Open to everyone, already in many towns and cities around the UK, run like clock-work, timed, marshalled and all this for free.

So what's the catch? There is no catch. You sign up and then turn up as and when it suits you. You don't have to be committed, but if you are anything like me your committment will come, borne out of the pure addictiveness of parkrun and everything about it.

All that parkrun asks is that every so often each parkrunner takes their turn at being a volunteer. All this means is that maybe 3 times a year, each parkrunner should miss a run and take on one of the jobs that helps to make it all run so smoothly. This may be as a marshall, pointing the way, clapping and giving encouragement to the runners. It may be as run photographer taking photos, running the timing system or giving out placing tokens. None of the jobs are tough, but each job needs to be done and helps to make parkrun run as smoothly as it does each week. Giving may be just 3 Saturday mornings a year to allow yourself and hundreds of other parkrunners to have a free event every week is not much to ask and is well worth it in my opinion.

parkrun costs you nothing, so why not give it a go. Click here for more information on Coventry parkrun or here for the list of all parkrun events.

I hope to see you there soon.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

parkrun website

If you want to find out more about parkrun, then why not follow this link to the homepage of the parkrun website.

parkrun - what's it all about?

So what is parkrun? That's an easy one to answer, or is it.....?

There's the factual explanation.....parkrun is a free, weekly, 5km timed running event, in over 50 locations across the UK (and Denmark). But that's not enough.
There's the emotional explanation.....parkrun is a phenomenon, bringing communities together each week for the good of all.

The true meaning of parkrun cannot be explained in one single blog post. I will endeavour to explain what parkrun means to me and my fellow parkrunners over the coming weeks and months. I will tell you how I found out about parkrun, got started, became obsessed and how I intend to spread the word to as many people as are willing to listen. Saturday mornings will never be the same again!