I Need a Lie Down!

I have to confess to be feeling a little bit weary after a few running/volunteering days but I’ve achieved so much and learned a lot!

From Saturday through to Wednesday, Saxons, Vikings & Normans Marathons & Challenges held a five day series of events at Cyclopark and what with it being so local, how could I resist not being involved 😉

Two of the events (the Gothic and Valentine’s Challenges), I had participated in last year so I gave those a miss and I’m running in a Music Legend Challenge later in the year, so I went for the Olympic Challenge and the Unusual Suspects Challenge on the Saturday and Monday respectively.

Saturday’s route was a 5.25 mile lap from base camp up to one end of the outer park, then all the way down to the other end and back to base.  It’s a route I use a lot for my own training so I’m very familiar with it and that’s not necessarily a good thing!  I was determined to complete the marathon distance on Saturday because I knew not doing so but still presumably having run a reasonable distance would impact on how far I’d be capable of running on the Monday.

We started out on a chilly grey Saturday morning but as the laps progressed, the wind picked up and the rain started.  I have now set myself an SVN benchmark whereby no event can be less than half marathon distance so after three laps a decision had to be made.  Doing a fourth meant a fifth could not be ignored.  But then another little carrot had been dangled in front of me at the run briefing.  Traviss advised that a half lap after the fifth lap would be an ultra marathon and a sixth lap a 50k ultra marathon.  I knew the latter would not happen but I was very determined to go passed the full marathon.  I had very much regretted not taking up this opportunity at the Soul Cake Day Challenge back in November at Margate but the thought of another 6k down the Westgate sea wall and back was just too much.  After having my card clipped for the fifth time and a double check that the half lap would mean an ultra, off I set.  It was probably the hardest and slowest part of my run that day but I did it and one of 2017’s outstanding goals was achieved!

Olympic Challenge

Please note the “ultra” badge 😉

Sunday was spent very quietly and involved a lot of stretching before I set out again on Monday.  The lap for this challenge was shorter, 3.75 miles and involved the upper part of Cyclopark plus a nice incline up towards Jeskyns and back.  A “long” half meant four laps so the mind games kicked in, ie, two laps in and it was “next time I’m here will mean only once more” followed by “the next time will be the last one”.  But then comes the “I can do one more” followed by “well I might as well do six although then I’ll have to do seven” and thus I managed another marathon!  On the last lap I had company in the form of my August “ten in ten” co-conspirator, Lynne, who had been volunteering.  That made it a lot easier, that and the fact the sun was shining!

I came away with two very shiny (and huge) bits of run bling, plus copious amounts of chocolate and a very big smile on my face.

Unusual Suspects

Think this might be the current favourite run bling!!

But then on Tuesday and Wednesday, I took my turn to volunteer.  I’m very much of the mind that if other people give up their time to allow me to participate in such events, then I should help out if I have the opportunity.  And this is when I learned so much, not just about what happens once the runners have set off but also about the issues in researching and planning new event venues and more importantly, the difference the financial contributions from SVN can make to the local area.  At one venue they have managed to employ a part time ranger as a result of additional income from SVN’s presence, which means they can organise more educational visits.  How great is that!!

Perhaps the thing that sticks out most in my mind is Traviss trying to convince one woman to go out on her seventh lap to not only be the first female marathon finisher that day but also to get a PB.  It took a few minutes and there were a few false starts but she was sent on her way with the help of fellow runners.  It was wonderful to see her finish having taken eight or nine minutes of her previous marathon time.  Although I think she then regretted having taken so long to be persuaded because she missed out on a sub 4 hour marathon by less than two minutes!  This is why I love this group, they are so encouraging, from experienced runners down to first timers, they all get sound advice and encouragement to achieve things probably not previously envisaged.

On a personal level, I also sought advice from experts on refuelling between multi event challenges because I have discovered I really struggle to eat after a long run, which is not going to be ideal come August.  The answer could be in liquid form and I have a few months to practice.  I also discovered that Dryrobe make the most wonderful cold weather outfits which are invaluable on cold, wet and windy February days and would be exceedingly useful when volunteering at junior parkrun down on the windy Prom.  I wonder if the taxman would notice if I claimed one on my business accounts!!

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Gravesend junior parkrun is two!

Apparently it’s been three months since I last blogged (!), so I thought I’d share a little piece wot I wrote to mark Gravesend junior parkrun’s second birthday.  It was written for inclusion in a local running magazine published by So Let’s Go Running but I thought I’d make use of it myself 🙂

It’s hard to believe that it’s just over two years since Gravesend junior parkrun started.  At the time, we were the second junior parkrun event to start in Kent.  Checking the website recently, there are now nine (excluding those few which come under the Greater London umbrella).  I can’t remember how many junior events were taking place when we first started but there are now 136 across the UK.

November saw us not only celebrate our second birthday but also commemorate our 100th run and during that time we’ve seen more than 452 4-14 year olds take part.  Now obviously over that time, we’ve lost some of those runners (not literally) – some have become too old (!) whilst others have migrated to other local events as they’ve opened up but it’s great that most weeks we will find first timers taking part and that’s all without any obvious advertising.  And in total our children have run 7,574km since November 2014.

If you’ve never been to watch a junior parkrun event, it works on the same principles as the Saturday 5k event.  You register for a barcode, you turn up at the event, run 2k, get a finish token and then get “scanned” to receive your finish time.

As with the Saturday event, the proceedings start with a run brief when rather than milestone t-shirts, we have milestone wristbands.  The children receive coloured wristbands; half marathon (blue), marathon (green) and ultra marathon (orange) once they’ve completed 11, 21 and 50 runs.  If you do the maths you should be able to work out the logic.  Juniors can also download and print off a milestone certificate which can be included in the presentation.  At Gravesend, we also like to give the ultra marathon celebrants the opportunity to autograph and run in our special 50 t-shirt (a spare adult 50 t-shirt which came into our possession!).  This can cause much hilarity when the t-shirt dwarfs the runner but health and safety means we have ways to ensure no tripping ensues.  Although there have been complaints that the obligatory wearing of the t-shirt can jeopardise PB opportunities!

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Unlike the 5k event, we precede the run proper with a warm up.  Now in most cases the children have already warmed up, whether that be completing a few practice laps whilst waiting for the start, or climbing nearby trees.  Some even venture into the nearby play area.

The warm up is prescribed by HQ and at Gravesend, the Run Director is lucky enough to be helped out by some very willing volunteers.  Hip circles have been accompanied by cries of “ooh la la” whilst the requirement for bum kicks seems to cause much hilarity.  But the warm up routine is so effective I’ve used it to warm up an adult beginners running group.

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The warm up!

Once the warm up is over, the children congregate at the start area.  Some get ready to start their sports watches, some grip their furry friend even tighter and some hold on to their parent’s hand. But once the Run Director says go, they’re all off!

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Junior parkrun rules mean that we have to have sufficient marshals around the course to ensure the children are within sight of a responsible volunteer adult at all times.  And a tail runner is mandatory.

We are very lucky at Gravesend in that we often have the wonderful Dawn Granger on hand as our volunteer photographer.  Her photos are simply stunning but if you need to see for yourself, check out our Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/groups/gravesend-junior-parkrun/pool

As part of our second birthday celebrations we encouraged the children to dress up as animals and it was amazing to see how many onesies and masks came out of the closet.  We had also hoped that the “animals” would cross the finish line two by two but the old competitive spirit took over along the finish straight.  It was either that or the fear of Becky’s celebratory cakes running out!

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One of the truly wonderful things to see at junior parkrun is the friendships that spring up and not necessarily just the children!  Children who only see each other at junior parkrun will greet each other like long lost friends and then run together chatting and encouraging each other around the course.  We adults would probably call it pacing!  Only this last weekend whilst marshalling, I saw three boys running together, one acting as coach and encouraging the other two.  I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the results later on that morning to note that one had achieved a new PB.

You can obviously visit any one of the other junior parkrun venues but we think our location at Gravesend is pretty special.  We’re right next to Gravesend Fort (great for Pokémon hunting) and as we’re also next to the river, we get to see big boats (or as Pete Granger insists on calling them “ships”), little boats, cruise liners and rowing shells.  We even get to see the house boats moored in the canal basin.  We are a truly nautical junior parkrun.  There’s also the aforementioned play areas to wear the children out a bit more before retiring for a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the Prom Cafe does a mean cooked breakfast or ice creams are available to anyone feeling a bit peckish after all that exercise (seasonal opening).

So why not come down to Gravesend Riverside one Sunday morning and see what all the fuss is about!  And if you’re too old to run, volunteers have a great time too 🙂

* all stats correct at the time of writing

Lexi and Jones – March Edition

swan lakeI’m ashamed to report I had a very inactive weekend although I was busy watching others working hard 😉 Saturday afternoon was spent watching the Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake with my current favourite female dancer, Marianela Nunez and her husband, Thiago Soares.  Then Sunday morning I timed 46 enthusiastic children braving the elements on Gravesend Riverside to partake of their regular junior parkrun fix.  And this time the timing was 100% correct 🙂  So, what do I have to write about?  Well how about reblogging the latest articles published this weekend on Lexi and Jones?

My three articles are entitled “Age is Just a Number – Right?” expanding on my futile attempts to put off the inevitable; “Spring – The Time for a Good Declutter?” following the emergence of this year’s daffodils I enthusiastically started off on a declutter of my own in advance of redecorating a bedroom (so I’m currently living in a state of chaos and dust); and finally “The Demise of the Traditional Cook Book?” where I started off reviewing a couple of food bloggers/websites and ended up questioning whether the internet will see the end of the traditional cook book.

Lexi’s articles include her very moving tribute to her Grandmother “Flowers by the Bed”, and her training for an ultra marathon moonwalk “Walk the Walk”.  Yes, training is required, walking is not as easy as you may think!

Enjoy!

Random Running Related Ramblings!

Because I can’t think of a more witty title!

After a two week absence, I turned up to parkrun on Saturday morning despite the snow an hour earlier.  And although the white stuff had stopped, there was still some moisture in the air but amazingly it wasn’t nearly as cold as I’d anticipated.

During the pre-run gathering I stood next to a fellow runner.  Let’s call her Vikki – mainly because her name is Vikki!  It transpired we had passed each other during our “long” runs on the preceding Wednesday and I asked her what she was training for – the Brighton Marathon apparently.  I enquired how far she had run that day.  “Fifteen”, she said.  “One more than me” I quipped and then I asked where she’d run.  I’m always anxious to hear about new routes in the area.  As she reeled off all the places she’d been, my brain started to think “hang on a minute, that’s an awful lot for 15”.  Then the penny dropped, she’d been talking miles, me kilometres.  Ooops!

She also told me she was coming back from a calf injury so I assumed that was why she was standing in the middle of the pack, she was going to be taking it easy.  I knew she was a faster runner than me so why on earth I thought I could keep up with her, even coming back from injury, goodness only knows.  Suffice to say that my first kilometre was done in record time and Vikki had already started to pull away.  Then, by the last lap, I was suffering from stitch and had to incorporate a couple of walk breaks.  Not a good time in comparison to recent results, over 27 minutes.  Vikki incidentally finished a good minute and a half ahead of me!  (And a minute behind her parkrun PB – parkrun stalker in the making here!)

When I got home and checked my little database (yes, I know, very sad), I discovered it was actually my slowest parkrun for exactly a year.  Nice little anniversary present!

Now some of you may scoff at my database but it actually resulted in a smile after Friday’s 5k.  I’m used to my solo runs being slower than my parkruns but Friday’s had felt really slow and hard going.  I had been hoping for 6k but called it a day at 5k.  But when I looked at my little spreadsheet, it turned out it was my fastest solo 5k all year – maybe that’s why it felt tough!

My running buff

My running buff

This week I was asked to try out a running buff for a company called Kitshack.  I only got my hands on it on Saturday evening so haven’t had a lot of opportunity to try it out yet.  Although I did use it when distributing finish tokens at junior parkrun yesterday.  Although the morning started off quite sunny and warm, towards the end of the run, a nippy wind was blowing in off the Thames Estuary and I was very glad of my buff.  It’s also been used as a hair band but I’m really looking forward to taking it out for a run.  There have been parkruns where it would have been very welcome.  I can think of one particular occasion recently where it was so cold, it felt like the air in my throat was crackling and icy.

Unfortunately I wont be using it at parkrun next weekend because I’m attending a Leadership in Running Fitness course with England Athletics.  At the moment I would find it a bit pointless joining a running club (work would mean I’d never get there), but I have some maybe misguided idea of trying to set up a running group which operates during school hours, more couch to 5k than elite runners.  It may not come to anything but if nothing else, attending the course will hopefully help me with any Running Buddy clients I sign up in future.  In the meantime, I’m hoping I wont be outrun by my fellow attendees!

Busy, Busy, Busy!

So while I was enduring my recent enforced rest period, what was I up to?  Writing for the February issue of my co-authored blog, Lexi and Jones, of course!

Here are the links to my articles but in a nutshell the first tells you all about our day out to Charlton Lido last Monday, whilst the second is about my refusal to get drawn into the maelstrom of hype associated with Fifty Shades of Grey.

And whilst I feel nothing but derision for the film and books, Lexi very gallantly sacrificed 125 minutes of her life to see what all the fuss was about.  I had been expecting her review to be published at the same time as the rest of our February edition but yesterday’s launch saw no sign of it.  Disappointed or what!  Part of me wondered whether/hoped it was so bad that she couldn’t bear to think about the film again in order to write anything.  But I should have been a bit more patient, because she has written a review and it was well worth waiting for – I love it!  Justifies my jaundiced views totally!

Our other articles this month include Lexi’s advice on post Valentine’s night breakfasts and the sex lives of the middle aged woman, very enlightening!  Who needs Fifty Shades!

This month we were both absolutely delighted that we had our first contributor, our favourite yoga teacher, Emma Turner of Samadhi-Yoga.  Emma has written about yoga and sexuality for us.  Emma also has another website called Greener Mums which encourages us all to try to be a little greener in our lives.  I’ve only just discovered this so I’m looking forward to a bit of catch up reading.

My articles for next month are now underway but turning back to my running, I’m pleased to report my 6k run on Tuesday was followed by a 7k on Thursday.  But thanks to the sleep gods (or maybe it was my Friday 13th bad luck), my anticipated parkrun fix yesterday didn’t happen.  I saw every hour from 10.00pm Friday night until 6.30am Saturday morning at which point I gave up and turned off the alarm.  I sincerely hope the menopausal insomnia has not returned and this was just a one off.  I spent most of yesterday in a haze, now I know how new mums (and dads) feel after being deprived of sleep.  Not taking any chances tonight, the herbal Nytol is coming back out!  If that fails – vodka!

It was going so well!

It was going so well!

Having been inspired by the runners at junior parkrun this morning, I came home and went straight out for a run to make up for yesterday.  My morning coffee had left me feeling a little bit spaced out. And I’m also blaming this for my inability to operate the timer this morning.  I managed to start it okay as the runners set off and then, for some reason, turned it off as the first runner crossed the line!  Goodness knows what was in that coffee but I suspect I’ll be backing to marshalling duties next week!

Anyway, I headed out with the clear intention of doing 6k.  I would get to the 3k turn around point, do a quick evaluation and then decide whether to carry on.  I’m glad to say I carried on and did 11k with an average pace which would see me get a half marathon PB – just have to maintain that pace for the other 10k now!  No twinges from my knee and only the occasional complaint from my ankle.  I’m now keeping everything crossed – six weeks to go.

And here’s a new blog column heading I’ve decided to introduce – “Smells that assaulted my run”.  Today we had laundry products from The Manor Hotel, roast “beef” from the Toby Carvery and chips from the Morrisons cafe, oh and sweat from all the cyclists at Cyclopark!

WP_20150202_002During my run I wore my new winter running top, my bargain from Sweatshop, the Karrimor Trail ¼ zip long sleeve tee (that’s what it says on the label).  So here follows a quick product review.

I was initially drawn to the top because it was marked down from £74.99 to £18.99 – can’t resist a bargain.

Secondly, it had pockets – lots of pockets.  Sportswear manufacturers please note, I want pockets, preferably with zips!  So far this jacket has four, two zipped and two open.  I say so far because on occasion I have located sneaky little pockets hidden away in other running gear so there may be more to appear.  My front door key went in the top zipped pocket, which means now, rather than periodically patting my backside to make sure the key is still present, I’m patting my left breast instead!  I’m not sure which is more distracting to walkers, dog walkers, cyclists or drivers but hey, I don’t want to get locked out.

The final thing which attracted me was the colour, I am a girl after all.  But no, it’s not pink, it’s an emerald/turquoise (apparently).

The jacket itself felt very comfortable during the run, nice thumb loops to negate the need for gloves (which can be easily lost, see this blogpost for an explanation).  It also has an adhesive hemline to prevent the wind getting up and under.  To be honest everything about the top was excellent.  My only quibble would be the partial zipped front.  There was an occasion where I felt the need to cool down a bit and a full frontal zip would have been ideal.  But for £19 I’m not complaining!

This Girl Did!

this girl canIn a week when Sport England launched the This Girl Can campaign – aimed at inspiring women of all shapes, ages and abilities to get involved in sport – I had a bit of a self esteem boosting experience – I ran with the “big boys”!

I’ve not turned up for parkrun since New Year’s Day and it seemed like ages ago even though it was only just over a fortnight.  There was a small part of my brain that hoped it might be called off because of the weather but my local team of volunteers managed to make slight adjustments to the route to enable us to avoid the more dangerous icy paths.  Damn!  Although on reflection, they are my heroes – again!

During the pre-run gathering I was deep in conversation with Phil, a Running Bug friend, when we were informed that the start area was being moved so we all trailed around to the adjacent and somewhat narrower path.  The start at Shorne is a bit of a bottleneck anyway but this new area meant we were running three people wide.  Unfortunately the mass movement to the new start area also meant the faster runners found themselves at the back of the queue with not a lot of opportunity to move up to the front!

I was somewhere in the middle and started off with Phil.  He has recently joked about me pacing him but since he’s a good minute faster than me, this seemed a bit optimistic on his part and not even on the radar for mine.  But for the first 500m or so I found myself keeping up with him.  And then he introduced our accompanying runner, Dan, as someone he’s used as a pacer in the past.  I somewhat hesitantly said “what time are we talking”, “24 minutes” was the reply.  “Oh, expletive expletive, I’m going to die!” I thought.

Amazingly, I didn’t.  I do, however, think the cold might have had something to do with this.  My body was completely anaesthetized by the cold and so I couldn’t feel pain anywhere – legs, lungs, whatever!

So twice during the run, we lost Phil to the hazard of trailing shoelaces, although he did catch up on both occasions and pipped me to the post at the end.  And somewhere on the last lap I remember Dan passing comment about me speeding up but I think it was more a case of him having to slow down because of a bad case of stitch.

Then in the last 500m or so, when I’d found myself running alone, I suddenly had company in the form of another male runner.  He told me he’d been trying to catch up with me for the last two laps.  “Don’t worry, I said, you’ll be leaving me behind now”, which he promptly did!  But my ego had been boosted – I can run with the men 🙂

Then this morning I came down to earth with a bump when I was tail runner at junior parkrun.  Incidentally, I have embarked on a new challenge – how many layers can you wear before it becomes impossible to run.  Fortunately six including a big coat does not appear to be the answer because the one week where the tail runner has to run all the way around, happens to be the week I take on the role!  Hats off to all those children though, they put some of us to shame.  It was, however, on the second of the two 1km laps that I had a sudden realisation – technically, although maybe not morally, I was old enough to be some of these children’s great grandmother!  Just put me out of my misery now ;-(

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My 50th parkrun!

This weekend I completed my 50th parkrun and my 49th at Shorne Woods.  I was asked to contribute some words to the week’s Run Report and rather than reinvent the wheel, here are some words wot I wrote!

My First parkrun Half Century

 

T-shirtI’ve made it, at last, and my reward will be a shiny red parkrun t-shirt and a red icon on the results table.  It’s been a long time coming.  Imagine my disappointment when I realised that 10 t-shirts were awarded to juniors and not adult runners!  So through wind, rain, mud, puddles and a reasonable amount of sun, this weekend I clocked up my fiftieth parkrun.  I’d like to thank my family for their support, I couldn’t have managed it without them.  Well I would if they hadn’t been tucked up nicely in bed!

I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed my Saturday mornings over the past 15 months or so.  I’m not a morning person generally so how I’ve managed to voluntarily escape from under the duvet so early and so frequently is a miracle.

That enjoyment has been evident whether I’ve been running or volunteering.  In fact, volunteering brings a whole new sense of enjoyment – the fact that you can watch other people doing all the hard work!  My volunteering stints started off with marshalling and have expanded to handing out finish tokens, being the tail runner and contributing to a few run reports.  But there’s still barcode scanning and time keeper to go.  And at next week’s junior parkrun I’m down to give time keeper a shot.  This, to me, is the holy grail of volunteering roles.  Oh, the responsibility.  Suppose my finger goes into overdrive?  I hope there’s some failsafe method of correcting any inaccuracies or there could be some very disappointed and/or elated children around Gravesend Prom next Sunday morning.

Since my first run, I’ve discovered there are some notable landmarks around the Shorne Woods course.  I recently learned of the existence of “dog poo corner” and there is of course, “Gary’s bridge”.  I’m assuming this refers to the wooden structure before the steepish and potentially puddle strewn hill and not some dental work Gary’s had done!

So to mark my milestone, I’d like to christen a landmark of my own – “The Bridge of Moral Quandary”.  You know, the bridge where some of us quite possibly come up against a faster runner heading for home on the short lap and you have to quickly decide whether to hold back and perhaps loose a few seconds off your own time or carry on and risk a mid bridge collision.  Or is it just me that has these random thoughts!?

One of my fitness “goals” this year was to be a parkrun tourist and I managed that a few weeks back when I went to Great Lines.  Ok, ok, I know, I didn’t stray very far but I was lured there by Royanna Roger’s assurance of a PB.  And that claim wasn’t made in vain.  I did manage a PB but not the one that’s recorded against my name in parkrun annals – unfortunately.  Due to a bit of a problem with some finish tokens that week, I’m down as having run a sub 25 minute 5k.  If only.  In my dreams perhaps.  I was about 18 seconds off but that means to achieve a genuine new parkrun PB, I have to run even faster!!  And that’s so not fair.  Sulky face!

But even though I ran a faster time when at Great Lines, I have to confess to feelings of disloyalty whilst there.  I should have been at Shorne where I belong.  I will, at some point, though venture a tad further for a bit more parkrun tourism – Dartford perhaps!

Me & Royanna (courtesy of parkrun)

Me & Royanna
(courtesy of parkrun)

I should pass some comment about my fiftieth run as that’s the reason for my run report contribution!  It seemed only fitting that I should mark the occasion by running the entire course with Royanna who has on numerous occasions over the last year or so encouraged, pushed, motivated and inspired me to run faster and get over that finish line.  Sorry, this really is beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech!

 

Finally and on a more serious note, I would like to thank all the volunteers without whom none of us would be able to run and all the runners for their support and encouragement, and without whom I could come first – every week 😉