Is A Change As Good As A Rest?

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!

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Leybourne Lakes (and ducks) on a sunnier day!

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Check out those kayaking skills!!!!

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.

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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!

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Nearly there!

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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!

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And There Goes January!

And so December’s Advent Running was closely followed by a dual pronged motivational approach in January.  My first attempt at Janathon combined with The Running Bug’s #runyourselfnew challenge.  How did I get on, well they definitely left me with little time to blog that’s for sure.

Let’s deal with Janathon first.  In terms of exercising every day, well yes, remarkably successful.  On the whole this was mainly run based with some yoga thrown in for balance but three rather questionable days.  I’ll let you decide!

First Sunday, the weather was bleak and it was dark outside by the time I was ready to exercise so I opted for a yoga DVD session – but I opted for the DVD entitled “Yoga for inflexible people” which basically meant I did a few stretches and it was the shortest session available – all of 10 minutes, I seem to recall!

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Then there was the day I walked around Bluewater with my mum.  Now the fact Sweaty Betty used to hold walking classes around the shopping centre suggests this should be acceptable.  But my “walk” consisted of a short walk between two shops interspersed with a sit down for coffee!

And then there was the day I carried my Reebok step up 80 odd steps to my friend’s house.  What, you mean you don’t take your Reebok step to your friend’s house?  Why not, it’s good exercise!  Well if that doesn’t count, what about taking the same step plus a backpack of dumbbells up to a second floor flat for a client session later on that day?  And no, there wasn’t a lift!  That Reebok step sure gets around!

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Now I’m not entirely sure I would have been quite so successful with Janathon if it hadn’t been for the aforementioned second prong, #runyourselfnew.  I subscribe to The Running Bug, a virtual running club, because I like seeing my running distances mount up and watching my progress from one level to another (think Candy Crush but with actual movement).  I’m currently on level 7 but with the best will in the world, it’s going to be summer before I move on to level 8!

The #runyourselfnew challenge effectively meant that having submitted my average weekly mileage, a computer programme increased this by 10% each week for four weeks.  Yes, I could have done that myself but it’s much more rewarding when somebody else tells you you’ve performed 100% each week, even if it is in a virtual world.  It was quite a challenge trying to fit all those miles in but I managed to get to the end of January having run over 100 miles.  I like to think that my legs are somewhat stronger as a result and the month also saw a couple of firsts and a couple of “misadventures”.

So, the firsts first!  I ran when the temperature was -1oC!  Admittedly this was a running group night and if I’d been left to my own devices, it would not have happened but I know in future that the cold is not an excuse!  By the time we arrived back at base, I could feel my fingers again and I was even able to hang around for a chat!

On a Saturday morning, I’ve often thought as I drive to parkrun that I really should be running this, after all, it’s only just over 2 miles.  So last weekend prompted by a fellow runner, I did just that.  I ran there, ran parkrun and ran back!  Post run we both agreed that we would probably have been better to keep running once we arrived rather than hang around for 5 minutes before the start but hey, we did it 🙂  I’m not convinced this is going to become a regular thing though!

Then the misadventures!  There was the day I went out with the aim of completing a 6k run but ended up running 14k.  The plan was a simple out and back route but as I approached the turning point, a dog walker kindly held her unleashed dog back for me.  As I didn’t want to cause her too much inconvenience by running up behind her again a short while later (?!), I carried on past the turning point and created a new 4k circuit.  I was feeling quite energised by this point so decided to do the circuit again, and then again but with an added bit.  (See, I can add up, I know 3 x 4 is 12, not 14!)  This was one of those runs where residents of a particular road were beginning to suffer from Ground Hog Day but sometimes you just have Forest Gump Days and have to make the most of it.  And apart from anything else it meant my half marathon training long run had been done for that week.

And finally, there was the day I inadvertently got caught up in running a marathon by mistake!  Yes, okay, not the whole distance but judging from the encouragement received from other participants I obviously looked like I’d run a marathon.  But perhaps I should explain!

There’s this running group called Saxons, Vikings & Normans Marathons & Challenges who organise running events with enticing names such as “Chocathon”, “Cakeathon”, “Fudgeathon”.  The parameters for some of the challenges are quite simple, there’s a time limit and you can run as many laps as you want.  You can run one lap or, if you’re fit and fast enough, you can run an ultra marathon so long as it’s within the prescribed time limit.  You don’t have to run, you can walk but so long as you’ve completed one lap, you receive a medal and a goody bag.

In mid January they held a challenge in one of the parks I use for my running.  So on this Sunday afternoon I set out for a short run (to complete my weekly #runyourselfnew distance!!) and entered said park in full knowledge that I would most likely come across runners completing their distances.  Not only did I come across participants, I came across my running group leader so I turned around and ran with her for her last (marathon) lap and a bit.  It caused much amusement that the other runners were encouraging both of us with their “well done” and “keep going”.  If only they’d known how little I’d done!

Anyway, such was the camaraderie on that cold and dismal day, that I’ve entered one of their challenges in June when the weather will be a bit hotter but at least the start time is 8.30am and I may do one lap or I might do more!  The prices may seem a little steep in comparison to other events but the medals are huge and the goody bags are full of goodies, not deodorants, toothpaste, cough sweets, etc!  And if The Royal Parks Half Marathon can charge £55 and then want another £3 for sending out race packs, it’s cheap by comparison.  Btw – I’m glad I didn’t get a place (rant over!)

So February arrived on Monday and all motivational web based challenges were over so this week was earmarked as an “easy” running week.  All went well until my running club on Tuesday night where towards the end of the run, when left to my own devices, my brain started a few random calculations!  Hmm, I ran over 100 miles in January, if I did my #runyourselfnew targets every month, I’d run what?  Oooh, 1200 miles!!!  I can do that, my start base will be my easy week and blah, blah, blah!  This from a woman who decided she wasn’t going to set herself a distance target this year!  Please save me from myself!