Yesterday morning I made the short journey round the M60 to Longford Park in Stretford for my first attempt at the Stretford parkrun. It was only when I arrived at the car park that I realised this was one of the tracks that I ran on as a teenager nearly thirty years ago. I had a vague memory of running the 1500 metres in a Greater Manchester schools meeting on this track; but like everything else about running from that era, I can remember very little and have no record of it.
I didn’t worry about that yesterday though. I was here to run round the park with several hundred other runners to on a mild, sunny spring morning. We were all lucky. The rain that had hit Bolton during the night had abated and as I left the car to jog for a couple of miles the air had that great early morning freshness that makes being out at that time so worthwhile and enjoyable.
As I jogged round I said hello to the numerous volunteers who were setting out various parts of the course with cones and tape. It’s brilliant that so many see the value in volunteering; no volunteers, no parkrun. It was also pleasing to see that the parkrun looked like it was going to be on smooth dry paths with only a very slight incline on one part.
The course starts and ends with a lap of the track. From this point it’s a two laps of the park affair, with an out and back section towards the end of each circuit. As we lined up I thought that there must be around 350 runners so I made my way to the front line. Even though I wouldn’t be running with the fastest guys I wanted to be away before the sharp right turn out of the track into the park. I also wanted to set off hard as a consequence of my plan for the morning. As I embark on marathon training for the Chester Marathon in October I wanted an indication of my fitness and running hard would allow me to gauge this. As it was the effort felt hard but not flat out. I just couldn’t muster my legs to turn over any quicker. The hilly session on Monday with Burnden Road Runners and the hilly race on Wednesday had taken some of the sharpness out my legs. However, I somehow managed miles of 6:23, 6:35 and 6:26. This brought me home in 19:29 for 35th place from 426 runners. A new PB; a result that I was delighted with.
Stretford is a great parkrun. I’ll definitely return at some point for another hard effort. The course allows for quick running and the enthusiastic shouts from the event director as I ran down the last 100 metres helped to make for a very enjoyable morning.