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Wednesday, 27 April 2011

parkrun freedom is....great 10km training

Its just so easy to double up your parkrun freedom for simple 10km training!

For those that don't know already, a "parkrun freedom" is simply the act of running an official parkrun course at any time other than at an official parkrun event.

Once you become a parkrun regular, and learn your local parkrun course, what could be simpler than doubling it up for a perfect 10km course?

If you are training for a 10km event this is great. The more you run at parkrun and the more familiar the course becomes, the easier it is to work out how to run at a specific target pace. Whether you want to run at a specific pace during a training session or just do the distance, a parkrun freedom is just as ideal. What more do you need than parkrun!

I have run a parkrun freedom many times and plenty of those have been done as two back-to-back to double up to 10km. I have run many at a comfortable pace and some at close to full race pace.

However, recently I have started running intervals within the my freedom run. If you are looking to get a 10km PB, intervals are a great way to practice running at or faster than your target race pace. I have tried a few different takes on interval training during a parkrun freedom:
  • 1 minute fast then 2 minutes recovery,
  • 2 minutes fast then 2 minutes recovery,
  • but today I tried something new: half a lap at target pace and half a lap recovery.
This run today was a great way to practice at target race pace. I have to say that if anything it actually made my target race pace feel a little easy. Maybe easier would be a better description!

After running 34 parkruns and 70 odd freedom runs, I know exactly what time I should reach each point on the course for quite a range of target times. This makes it really easy to know my pace for half a lap and to know whether or not I am on course for my target time at various points prior to half way. So much so, that on my 4 half laps aiming for race pace today, I was never more than 2 seconds off my target time (under each time of course!).

Now experts may tell me that each training run should have one specific purpose. And I would reply saying that my purpose today was to run intervals to practice at target race pace. But today I achieved more than this by using the parkrun course. Not only did I run a total of 5km at my target 5km race pace, but I also ran a 10km in a fairly decent time (42:40), with half of it feeling very comfortable indeed. Brilliant for morale!

What more can I say, a parkrun freedom can be a very useful aid when training for a 10km race. Whether your target is a specific time, a PB or just to complete the distance, a double parkrun freedom is simply the perfect answer.

Happy parkrunning!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Hamstring rehab = Freedom parkrun in the sun!

With a bit of luck I am hoping to get out for a freedom parkrun today in an effort to continue my hamstring injury rehabilitation.

Now I'm not sure what the cause was, but since my parkrun effort on Saturday, my hamstring has been very sore. Obviously the initial cause was the original hamstring injury. Now it could be that the Saturday parkrun itself was the cause of the renewed soreness, but I don't think so. The hamstring felt fine on Saturday afternoon. More likely it was all the bending whilst gardening and playing football and rounders with the kids all afternoon on Saturday. It was like an overstretched feeling in the muscle.

Anyway, the upshot was that on Sunday I could only hobble about and I was not much better on Monday either. The grumpiness of injury had shown its head again! Yesterday seemed to provide a miraculous recovery as the soreness had completely gone overnight. The great news here being that it was indeed only soreness and not re-injury. I really had to force myself to be sensible yesterday evening to stop myself going for a freedom parkrun. I knew the extra day would be a good idea. And today it feels even better still.

So thankfully it looks like I can get back out into the park today to do a freedom parkrun, and what a beautiful day for doing a freedom parkrun in the sun! The grumpiness has gone and I can't wait to get back out there, filled with optimism that the injury is close to full recovery and plenty of sunny runs ahead.

Now the question is, what pace shall I do my freedom parkrun at? Last week I did a 23:51 freedom run and then 20:23 at parkrun on Saturday. But I think the recent soreness has made me a little wary. So I think I will do a very gentle warm up, maybe around 9 minute mile pace, for at least 15 minutes. Then, all being well, I will stretch before doing the freedom run. I think a first lap at around 12:00 minutes would be good and if all feels well then I may look for around 11 minutes for the second lap. Then a nice slow jog home.

The great thing about parkrun and doing a freedom run for rehab, is that I am now so used to the parkrun course (having run it more than 100 times) that I know how to run a 12 minute lap or a 11, 10 and even 9 minute lap. This is so helpful when trying to come back from injury in a sensible manner, but also trying to gradually increase speed in a safe way.

After my freedom run I will then have to see what it feels like. I know that I have the dreaded cold bath hanging over me if I feel any kind of soreness. I hate cold baths so much, but whether it is pyschological or of real-physical benefit, I know it helps me. The threat of the cold bath will certainly be enough to stop me pushing it too hard.

And after that I'll just have to wait and see and hope that there are no negative side-effects in the next day or two. And hopefully no soreness! If I get through the freedom parkrun unscathed I can consider another freedom run in the next couple of days, try to increase the pace a little more and hopefully put myself in a position to do the parkrun on Saturday. If I make it to the start line at parkrun on Saturday it would be nice to go a little faster than last week in an effort to gradually get back towards my best times.

Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

parkrun is....great for injury rehab

About 2 and a half weeks ago I injured my right hamstring training for the Leamington Regency 10km. I had been running really well at parkrun for many months and had finally sorted myself out with my first 10km run since the 2007 Great Manchester run (my only previous 10km). I had been certain that I would smash my PB, but unfortunately the injury meant that wasn't to be.

I did manage to get round the10km in a little under 46 minutes, but that was nowhere near the time I would have aimed for.

So why is parkrun good for injury rehabilitation? Well it wouldn't be a good idea in the early stages of recovery. Certainly not in the first 48-72 hours where RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) is the order of the day. And not too good either in the next phase of stretching, strengthening and then light jogging. But after that, parkrun is a great way to gradually build back up to your best.

So apart from that 10km run I have spent the last 2 and a half weeks trying to do all the right things for my hamstring. I did all the RICEing in the first 48 hours, lots of stretching and strengthening exercises, and a bit of slow jogging. I then reached the point where I was ready to do a longer slow run. What better way to do that than to get to my local parkrun course and run a Freedom parkrun?

So yesterday I jogged up to the park and ran a Freedom parkrun. I started slowly and took it very easy on the down hill stretches (which is where I had the injury in the first place), and then gradually picked up the pace a bit. It was an amazing feeling just to be back out running again. I am terrible at being injured. It really gets me down. I must have been a real grumpy old man the last couple of weeks. I have always been this way ever since all my hamstring problems from my days as a semi-pro footballer (get me!). In those days I would always come back too soon and re-injure the hamstring. Which probably explains why I still have a weakness there now. Anyway, I never took injuries well and I would always let them get me down. This time has been no different. But just getting out for a run yesterday and not feeling any pain was great and totally lifted my mood. I didn't even mind the cold bath afterwards, which I normally hate with a passion. Straight after the run I was filled with optimism with the end of my recovery now in sight.

Freedom parkrun done without injury - check! So on to today and a proper Saturday parkrun. Again, a great way to slowly come back from injury. I normally position myself at the very front of the pack on the start line. But today, I very sensibly (unlike me!) put myself near to the back of the field. This naturally forced me to start slowly. But as spaces appeared after the first couple of minutes I slowly built in confidence and eased my way past many of the others runners. I knew I was going faster than the previous day, but there was no pain, so I was happy to carry on at the same pace.

It was after a few minutes that I realised what a cunning plan the bottle of wine (all to myself. That sounds bad - does 2 bottles shared sound better? No.) had been last night. Had I not had that I would have quickly gained far too much confidence and raced off and risked further injury. As it was, the bottle of wine ensured that I really didn't fancy going too fast!

I completed the first lap in 10:30, far quicker than the 11:30 I was aiming for, and then proceeded to edge my way through the field to a sub 10:00 second lap and 20:23 overall finishing in 30th place. A pretty decent result for taking it easy! I think that works out as my second slowest parkrun ever. The slowest being due to the morning after a bottle and a half of wine the night before. This evidence does seem to suggest that wine is not as good for you as I keep hoping. That doesn't mean that it won't be me fuel of choice for a parkrun again at some point in the future. I don't like to learn my lessons too quickly where wine is involved! Anyway, I'll take that time very happily as I was only hoping for 22 to 23 minutes.

So that is another huge step forward in my hamstring rehab thanks to parkrun. Having so many runners to run with and alongside makes running so much easier. Just the boost I needed on my way back from this injury. Being timed over a course that I have come to know very well certainly helps. By knowing how far you have run in a certain time lets you know what pace you are running. If you can be strict with yourself it is an easy way to gradually run faster over a number of days and weeks. I'm looking forward to next week's parkrun already. Hopefully I can look at a time closer to 19 minutes next week, not quite at my best, but heading that way would be great.

My plan now will be to rest tomorrow and then maybe do another freedom parkrun on Monday. Then hopefully another later in the week and then again next Saturday. The aim will be to knock another 20 to 30 seconds or so off the previous time each run. Hopefully this will help me build my confidence to run faster and faster and head back towards my best.

parkrun really is a great way to come back from injury. And I am so glad that I am backing running again and more importantly back running at parkrun again. I was only absent for 2 weeks, but I really missed it a lot. Thank you parkrun and all those involved in organising it each week.