Burnage parkrun

One of the things that fascinates me about parkrun is the fact that each of the events has a slightly different feel to it.  You’d think that they would all be very similar given that, at heart, they are simply free 5K events at 9AM each Saturday morning.  But, with the changes in setting and location, size of the field, and the subtle organisational alterations it is clear that each offers something slightly different from its neighbour.

I was pondering this as I drove over to Burnage parkrun which starts and ends at Burnage Rugby Club, close to Manchester’s leafy suburb of Didsbury.  It was a glorious September morning, and even though my calf was throbbing away my mood wasn’t dampened at all.

After a few twists and turns through a nondescript industrial estate I found the rugby club – the car park already filling up with runners, and with families attending football training on some well maintained green spaces.  I checked where the start would be and set off to jog a couple of miles, both to understand the location better and to warm up my aching calf.  I really didn’t know that such a nice green space existed here.  Despite being a PGCE student just down the road in Disbury many years ago, I never ventured past the Parrs Wood entertainment complex; so it was with some surprise that I encountered dog walkers, other runners, and an abundance of wildlife just minutes from a very busy suburb of Manchester.  It made for a very pleasant warm up.

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At 8:55 I made my way to the path that the run would set off from and was surprised to see more than 100 people already organising themselves into an appropriate starting position.  As the run director welcomed first timers and visitors to Burnage many more were arriving and the turnout looked very promising.  With a quick explanation of the course we were off.

The course itself is a twisty affair over good paths. It takes in sections alongside a river and consists of a couple of small and larger laps. A few steps at roughly half way through the large lap break your stride on a couple of occasions, but otherwise the course is relatively flat and smooth.  I wanted to run steadily: there would be little point in aggravating my calf.  This was fine; the only time I felt it tweak was on the turns as several of them are quite sharp. However, slowing down to an almost stop and then turning allowed me to maintain my position at 15th in the field without too much bother.

The second lap seemed to be over before it started, and with another sharp turn onto the rugby field for the final straight, the parkrun ended.

Despite taking it easy with my calf, and the acknowledgment that I’ll need another couple of weeks of easy jogging, it still made for an enjoyable morning.  Another recommended parkrun.

Results

The benefits of a low battery

As a teacher I am fascinated by the challenge of helping people to push past their perceived limits.  I truly believe that we are all far more capable than we think.  Indeed, thinking too much can sometimes be counterproductive.

Here’s a recent personal example:

When ran my first Bolton parkrun  on Saturday 18 February 2012 my time was 25:46.  By 16 November 2013 I had managed to reduce this to 20:38 before my times plateaued.  I justified this by thinking:

  1. I was a returning runner and I was constantly stopping and starting training through niggles and injury.
  2. I was training for other things: marathons, and in 2015 IronmanUK – events that are much more about endurance rather than speed.

This rationalisation of the plateau remained until the day my Garmin battery ran out on 7 May 2016.

I found myself on the start line of the Bolton parkrun with many of my Burnden Road Runners friends wearing the club vest; we’d been asked to wear them as a way of promoting the club to the 300+ runners that were about to take part.  I looked down to my wrist and was met with a blank screen: the battery had died.   Without my watch I was forced to run on feel and I made the choice to run as hard as I could.  Luckily I had a faster club mate in front of me for most of the run and we took it in turns to push the pace along.  Without the feedback from my watch all I had go off was feel; and this is very different from running on feel at a known pace.  It was really hurting…but without the knowledge of the pace that was causing the pain it was just that: hurt and pain.

So I pushed on, crossed the line, jogged home.  I avoided any post-run discussion about the possible time that I had run, instead preferring to wait for the email to arrive later on in the day.  I thought that it would give me time to reflect on my run and try and come to a prediction about what my time would be.  In the end I couldn’t do it.  While waiting for my email I simply couldn’t work out what my time had been.  I knew that it hurt me a lot, but without that pain being anchored by the clock and given meaning through digits it was quickly forgotten.

It was then with some surprise that to find out that I’d taken 14 seconds off my previous best for the course.  It was a pleasing reminder to stop over-thinking things and just run.

Of course, there’s wealth of psychological theory to account for this.  But, I’ll save that for another post.  I don’t want to over-think the benefits of under-thinking!

Results

Stretford parkrun #24

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.

Results