I’m sure I can’t be the only runner who gets a little bored running the same routes over and over again? And does running the same routes over and over again affect your performance? Does familiarity breed contempt and/or inertia?
I seem to remember back at the beginning of 2015 I decided one of my fitness goals for the year would be to bring a bit more parkrun tourism into my routine. Well, that was a massive fail – nil points! I didn’t stray any further than my home run at Shorne Woods.
In an attempt to do better in 2016, I declared I would try to do a different parkrun once a month and so far so good. Admittedly I got off to a flying start on New Year’s Day when I did the double with Dartford and Shorne Woods. February has been even better, I’ve managed two different venues (although I’m ashamed to say not ventured once to Shorne – although in my defence this was not helped by punctures and a night of little sleep).
Last weekend I tried out Malling which is a two lap course around Leybourne Lakes where I started my open water swimming “career” and also where I had my first kayaking experiences! I knew the route would therefore be rather flat, what I didn’t realise was just how stony the surface would be! But the paths are wide and the views are pleasant enough. It will be interesting to see what happens when the ducklings start appearing and quite possibly start straying on to the runners’ path!
I did come away with an idea for Gravesend junior parkrun though. Malling parkrun has come up with an excellent idea for tea/coffee making facilities in the absence of a “proper” cafe. They have a thermos of hot water, coffee granules and tea bags, etc and even proper mugs for the volunteers and an honesty pot for any runners wishing to avail themselves of the facilities post run. The cafe on Gravesend Prom shuts down over the winter and this could be just what we need, especially after this morning!
This weekend I strayed a little further. Researching what options were available in the immediate area, I came across a parkrun in Sittingbourne and when I clicked on their page, I discovered this weekend would see their inaugural run. Well that’s enough to attract my attention, plus the fact the only other time I’d been to Sittingbourne was to go to a psychic evening somewhere in the town centre! It would be good to see what else the area had to offer.
Sittingbourne parkrun takes place in Milton Creek Country Park and is another two lap course (I’m beginning to like two lap courses!). They had a good turnout for their first run – 217 runners can’t be bad. We all set off obviously hoping the lead runners knew the route so we could follow like sheep! Although having said that there were plenty of volunteers to encourage us on our way. Like Shorne, there is a bit of a pinch point not far into the run where the path narrows down to a single track but fortunately there is space to pass other runners on either side. And after a little way the track opens out into wide open spaces leading to a slight incline followed by a welcome decline. Because the course is so open, you can see the lead runners up ahead of you so you know exactly where you’re heading. Although there were no huge puddles to run through/circumvent, there was a fair amount of mud which meant my core muscles got a good workout too. Fortunately I managed to stay on my feet!
On approaching the end of the first lap, my watch told me we had gone just over 2k so I assumed the balance of the distance would be made up by the distance between the start and finish points. Coming around on the second lap the same watch told me I was in for a good time which kept me from fading at the end. However, after crossing the line my watch also told me I’d only run 4.65k! I wasn’t aware of cutting any corners and consultation with other runners suggested I wasn’t the only one who’d fallen well short of 5k. The upshot of this was a very fast time for me and yet another false parkrun PB (the previous one experienced at my visit to Great Lines parkrun when the finish tokens had been handed out in the wrong order and I ended up with a time half a minute quicker than I’d actually managed).
Despite this little quirk, which hopefully will be corrected by the event organisers at some point, I still enjoyed the experience of running somewhere new and will go back again. And on a positive note, factoring in my average pace over a 5k distance, I would still have got a quicker time than I have run of late. Indeed, Malling’s result was also quicker. Hence my wondering whether a change of venue can make you run faster?
So I have plans to carry on with the parkrun tourism and I heard mention yesterday of a new run starting next month at Bedgebury Pinetum. A quick Google confirmed the new location but the AA suggested attending this venue would involve a 65 minute drive, which begs the question when does a 5k run become just too far away? I would mention that I am (hopefully) taking part in the Runners World Trailblazer 10k at the same venue in May so obviously an hour’s drive is not too much for a longer distance!
It was a little bit difficult yesterday to hear the exact details over the pre-run buzz but the Run Director informed us one of the runners had run at 150 different parkrun venues (at least I think that’s what she said!). Wow, I have a very long way to go but just imagine the logistics, never mind the expense, of attending so many different venues. Either he’s very rich or has an awful lot of friends with spare beds!