Facebook SDK

Monday, 24 January 2011

Coventry parkrun goes from strength to strength

Coventry parkrun has started 2011 at a blistering pace, and I don't mean the winners times. I am talking about the amazing number of parkrunners that we are getting each week.

Coventry parkrun started the year with 99 parkrunners on New Years Day, a pretty incredible start given the "night before" many would have had.

We then came incredibly close to our record attendance (of 162) with 160 people on 8th January.

We followed that up with a new record attendance of 178 on 15th January and then smashed it again this last weekend with 195 parkrunners.

In breaking the record the last two weeks on the trot, and adding 33 to our record in the process, it feels as though there will be no stopping the growth for some time to come. I wonder how many weeks in a row we can manage to break the record - a few more I suspect.

One of the more encouraging stats is that each of those last 3 weeks has seen 28, 29 and 28 new parkrunners respectively. This in itself is impressive. If you turn this around and think that 167 of this weeks runners had run Coventry parkrun previously, then its plain to see that we are retaining a hell of a lot of runners too.

It can only be a matter of weeks (if not this coming weekend) that we will break the 200 parkrunners mark. I wouldn't be at all surprised if we reach 250 by the time spring sets in. There's nothing like a sunny morning or two to bring out a few more runners.

All in all I think its safe to say that the future for Coventry parkrun looks pretty good at the moment. Long may this growth continue!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Coventry parkrun attendance record

A fantastic turnout at Coventry parkrun today. In total 178 people completed the run, smashing the previous attendance record of 162 by 16. This looked on the cards after the 160 turnout last week. I wonder what kind of totals we are going to get up to later in the year when it gets a bit warmer. It looks like we will be pushing 200 in the not too distant future for sure, certainly long before the April date I predicted around new year.

The new course that I tried out on Wednesday and Friday was adopted for the parkrun today. It was a real relief not to have to run across the "bog of doom" around the memorial monument. It has become more and more boggy and slippery over the last few weeks and almost impossible to run on.

The few commenst that I heard about the new course after the run were all positive. I think most runners appreciated avoiding the muddy bits. The lovely smooth flat pathways of the new route are also a real bonus. Unfortunately, expecting the muddy course, I had turned up in my old "dead" trainers, completely lacking in an kind of spring. I think this affected my pace a little.

The strong wind also affected speed also affected speed today. It seemed as though it was into our faces for three quarters of the lap.

Before that start I made an arrangement with Paul Slatford to run together in an attempt to get a faster time. We agreed that Paul would get us through the first lap in 9:20 and I would do the same for the second lap.

We set off steadily, keeping up with the lead runners for the first few hundred yards. After about 3 minutes we overtook Ian Gower (who was in 2nd), leaving us in second and third. By this time Harry Redford already had a good 50 yard lead and look certain to win. Paul and I ran on together for the rest of the first lap. It felt like we had been running at a good pace, so I was a little surprised when we completed the first lap in 9:39.

As agreed before the start of the run, I took over the lead on the second lap. I upped the pace slightly and Paul stayed on my shoulder. However, about 4 minutes into the second lap I could feel Paul slipping back. I knew that we were still well below the agreed pace so I carried on at the same pace. Paul clearly slowed as within a minute the gap was at least 50 yards.

I would usually up my speed for the final half lap but the wind and a lack of energy prevented that today. I ran on to the end, finishing comfortably in second, and far less exhausted than usual, but a finishing time of 19:07 was a little disappointing to say the least. Well off the "low 18:40's" time that I had been hoping for.

Talking to Coventry parkrun Race Director Jason Douglas after the run it sounds as though we will be keeping to this new course for the coming weeks whilst the work on the memorial monument is ongoing. He did also mention that the new route may be very slightly over 5km, maybe an extra 50 metres or so, but he had erred on it being slightly long rather than short. Fair enough I say.

I think I have resigned myself to the fact that I really need to start doing some hills and fartlec work in the next few weeks. My recent raining just hasn't been doing me the good I need it too. Hopefully a few hard training sessions will get me back on course for the times I want. I think its going to have to be a hard 5km followed by a few tough hills on Monday!

Friday, 14 January 2011

A busy running week: Part 2

On Monday this week I finally decided it was time to register for another running event. For so long I have been concentrating on parkrun, but now its time to use the fitness improvements from parkrun to go for some PBs at other distances.

My brother Andy and I agreed on the Warwick to Kenilworth "Two Castles" event and registered on Tuesday morning. I have wanted to do this run for years, but it has always clashed with kids birthday parties, however this year it does not. I am already looking forward to the event, but know that I will need to do a few more longer runs to prepare.

I will be aiming to bat my PB from my only other 10km run, 39:58 at the Great Manchester Run in 2007. I feel pretty confident that as long as it is not a blisteringly hot day then I should be able to beat this time. Given that the race is in mid June I think I am probably hoping for rain!

On Wednesday I got out for another training run. I was going to do a freedom parkrun, but the boggy parts of the current course put me off. I instead planned out another similar parkrun route with mapmyrun.com. The route starts and ends in the same place as a normal Coventry parkrun, and follows two thirds of the same route. It does however avoid the memorial monument area and therefore stays completely on the pathways. I measured the lap at 1.55 miles (2.49 km) which means that the extra 30 metres (or so)  that we have at the end of the second parkrun lap is pretty much what is needed at the end of the second lap on this course to make up the 5km.

I warmed up with Andy, but we agreed that we had different aims so ran the route separately. I was aiming for somewhere sub 19:30, but hoping for sub 19:20. Andy said he was aiming for 25:00.

I completed the first lap in 9:39 and knew that a similar second lap would be enough to get under the 19:20 I was hoping for. I found the second lap very tough, but managed a 9:37 lap time for an overall time of 19:16. Although slower than the 18:52 I was disappointed with at my last parkrun event, allowing for the difficulty of running alone, I was very pleased with this effort.

Today I managed to get out for yet another training run. This time it was just my gentle Friday run. I again did the new alternative freedom run route, but this time running with Andy. We were aiming for a sub 25 minute time and actually managed 24:12, which was very satisfactory as it felt really comfortable.

That is now 8 runs in 14 days this year. Lets hope I can keep that level of running up for a few weeks or months and hopefully I will start to see the effects in my times.

Tomorrow I will be doing my 25th parkrun event, halfway to my "50 club T-shirt". After being slightly disappointed with my time last week I am aiming to chip around 10 seconds off that time to get into the low 18:40's. This will help me on my way to one of my aims of 2011 of a new PB before the end of February. I am currently thinking that this aim may be asking a bit much, but I am going to give it my best shot anyway. The plan is to knock off around 10 seconds a week for my next 3 parkrun events to get me back into the mid 18:20's. Lets hope I can start by getting back into the low 18:40's tomorrow!

A busy running week: Part 1

With Christmas and New Year I have found myself somewhat out of the habit of posting entries on my blog. Today I am trying to turn that around with this blog post to cover all my runs over the last 7 days.

Last Saturday saw me take part in my first parkrun event of 2011 and my 24th in all. Even 10 minutes before the start of the run it was blatantly obvious that it was going to be a very high turn out. I suppose the New Year's Day Coventry parkrun had been a good indication of the popularity of the event. If 99 people can turn up to run at 9am on New Year's Day, then you would expect a few more the following week. In the end the number of finishers was recorded as 160, just 2 short of the event record. I would put a large bet on that event record being broken at some point in the next few weeks. Maybe not tomorrow though as rain is predicted, but we shall see.

I started last weeks parkrun event fairly quickly and soon found myself settled in about 6th position. I didn't feel at my very best and decided to tuck in behind another runner for a bit of drafting. I stayed in that position pretty much for a lap and a half, gradually working our way to 3rd and 4th (me) about 2 minutes into the second lap. The first lap had been completed in a mediocre 9:30, but I didn't feel the usual strength left for the second lap (that I would hope to have) given a first lap at that pace.

Just after the halfway point of that second lap I decided to put my foot down and stormed past the guy I had been drafting behind. That change in pace saw him quickly left behind and I was confident that I had sealed 3rd place. However, after less than a minute at the higher pace I could feel my energy running out and had to slow slightly. It was then really a case of drifting home in 3rd place. I finished in 18:52, a time that I considered OK at the time, but have since been a little disappointed with. I suppose I am disappointed to be so far (38 seconds) off my best.

Well my disappointment at that result and my failure to lose any of my Christmas weight last week drove my decision to try to add an extra run into my weekly schedule. For a few months I have been running 3 times a week. Before that 2 was the most I could manage. But last Sunday I decided to up that to 4 a week. For the moment at least I have added Monday evening to my Wednesday, Friday and Saturday runs. It was logical really, because for a long time now I have been resting on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Therefore running on a Monday still gives me a day either side for recovery.

I also decided that Monday and Wednesday runs would be pushed hard. Monday will be a hard 10km run and Wednesday will be a hard 5km (freedom parkrun) run. Friday will remain an easy freedom parkrun and Saturday the main parkrun event.

I am hoping that this plan will help me both lose my Christmas weight and get my fitness levels back to where they were a couple of months ago so that I can start challenging my parkrun PB again within the next 6 weeks.

On Monday I braved the cold and the heavy rain on a route that I have not run for 6 or 7 years. With it being an evening run, and not fancying the unlit park, I went for a road course. When I used to run this course, somewhere around 22 minutes was my best time. So I had a target. I was aiming to run one lap hard and then maybe an extra half lap if I fancied it.

I set off really hard, pleasing myself with my pace. I was enjoying the run and was mainly just pleased with myself for getting out and doing an extra run in that horrible weather. I completed my first lap in 21:13 and decided to do a second lap, continuing straight on, but slowing slightly feeling the effects of a fast first lap. Within a minute I had already persuaded myself that I had to beat my first lap time. I knew this would be hard, but always enjoying the challenge of beating my own times I pushed on hard. I completed the second lap in 21:04, beating the previous lap time by a pleasing 9 seconds.

I have since measured this course on mapmyrun.com and found that it is 4.99 km per lap. This is great as I now know that a single lap is good parkrun prep and 2 laps are great for a 10km. I now have both laps times and 10km times to try to beat on this course. Rest assured that I will be giving either or both a go on Monday!

I'll carry on with the rest of my running week in another post shortly.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Gentle freedom run #29

I did my 29th parkrun freedom run in Coventry today with my brother Andy.

We took it very steadily as Andy has been struggling all week with a sore knee and Achilles tendon (since our 9 miler on Monday - my fault!). We had no targets at all today, other than getting round, which is not at all like either of us. We just enjoyed the run and being out in the park.

It was particularly boggy on the off-tarmac part of the course around the war memorial, which may cause some slips tomorrow. It will certainly slow everyone down for 20 seconds or so.

Anyway, we plodded round for a time of 27:08. I have just had a quick look and that is actually 5 seconds inside my slowest ever freedom run, so at least I achieved something!

I'm very much looking forward to getting back out there for the parkrun event tomorrow. It will have been three weeks since my last parkrun event and I can't wait for it. I don't expect any miracles time-wise and am just hoping for something around 18:50 or under, which may be optimistic. If I get under 18:30 I will be over-the-moon. Today's run certainly hasn't taken much out of me so I hope to feel pretty good for it in the morning.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

My 3rd run in 4 days!

I can't believe it, I really must be a proper runner now!

Today I ran my 3rd run in the last 4 days. Not only that, but it was horrible weather, with near to freezing heavy rain and I was running on my own but still I didn't think twice about getting out there and running. I had three layers on and to be honest, that worked well against the cold, wind and rain.

I decided that the off-road parts of the current parkrun course would be far too boggy, so I instead went for 3 laps of the perimeter of War Memorial Park in Coventry. I sometimes go for 3 laps as fast as I can, but with the extra Christmas weight and a recent sore Achilles (since running 18 miles in two days), I decided to go for 2 comfortable laps followed by 1 flat out. My best lap (after 2 slower laps) being 9:45 prior to this run. But I wasn't even considering that as a target for today.

As always I set myself some tricky targets for the third lap. I knew I wouldn't be able to get near my PB due to the conditions and my extra Christmas weight, but I decided I would be happy with 10:30, very pleased with 10:15 and over the moon with sub 10:00.

I completed the first lap in a comfortable 12:02. Heading round the second lap I noticed the puddles deepening and in some areas the tarmac disappearing out of sight, but I was not put off. I completed the second lap in 11:52 and instantly upped the speed heading into the third lap.

Around the half way point of the 3rd lap I was already 15 seconds down on my PB time and confirmed to myself that a new PB was indeed out of the question. In the (competitive) back of my mind I still considered it possible. Still feeling good, I decided to make sure I at least achieved the time of 10:15 and upped the pace again to go for that target.

On the final straight, which it would normally be comfortable to complete in about a minute, I had only 42 seconds left for my target, so I had to put a bit of a sprint in up the last incline. But all was worthwhile in the end as I completed the lap in 10:15. Exactly matching my ideal target.

A very pleasing effort all round, both for getting out in the first place in the cold and rain and also for getting such a good time on that last lap. Looking back through my records for last year it seems that 10:15 is my equal 6th best lap ever.

Not a bad way at all to start with my first fast run of the year. Obviously though, I'll be looking to go faster in my next fast run!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Double Freedom Run

After missing the last two Coventry parkrun events I just couldn't resist running two freedom parkruns back-to-back today.

I didn't really set myself any targets today other than trying to maintain a fairly consistent pace without going too slowly.

I set off at a reasonable pace and found myself zig-zagging through a minefield of debutant child cyclists and others with scooters and roller-skates. Have roller-skates made another comeback? They were very clearly all the new Christmas gifts having their first outing to the park. I managed a first lap of 10:30 and backed that up with a second lap of 10:45 to complete my first freedom run of 2011 in 21:15.

My main aim for my second freedom run of the day (and year) was to get close to that first time. I jogged back to the start line, enjoying my 20 second break between freedom runs.

For the first lap of my second run I set off a bit more slowly than I had been running, recording 11:07 in the process. I found enough energy from somewhere to do a 10:21 for the second lap (my 4th in all), to set another respectable freedom time of 21:28. Annoyingly slower than the first freedom run of the day, but good enough for my first run back after the gluttony of the last 10 days or so.

I may even consider another double freedom run again tomorrow.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Other targets for 2011

So I have written about my training and my parkrun targets for 2011, but what other running targets can I come up with for 2011?

The only other event that I did in 2010 was the Coventry fun run, finishing with a 2 minute PB in 5th place. So one tough target would be to improve on this. A new PB would be ideal, however finishing position depends on who turns up on the day. But I'll try for a top 4 finish.

My last half marathon was in 2009 and my only 10km was in 2007. In 2011 I'll aim to do at least one event at each of these distances and I simply have to aim for PBs in both. In the 10km I'll be aiming to beat my current PB of 39:58. In the half marathon I'll be aiming to beat my current PB of 1:33:37.

My challenges for general running events for 2011 are:
- Coventry fun run: 21:00 (to beat my current PB of 21:22, set in 2010).
- 10km: 38:00. This will be very tough.
- Half marathon: 1:30:00. I feel more confident about the speed to achieve this, just so long as I can do the distance.