When I first started a blog just over a year ago, I had absolutely no intention of writing anything other than my chosen topic. There was no passion to be a writer, it was purely a cathartic process to enable me to cope with a lifelong situation and hopefully raise some awareness along the way.
I didn’t want to diversify into any other topic but didn’t envisage that so many people would be interested in reading what I had to say. And then for a little bit of a joke, I wrote about a run I had taken part in and my usual self depreciating humour appeared to appeal to another audience, The Running Community. It wasn’t without criticism though; one kind reader had pointed out my overuse of starting a sentence with ‘I’ and said that the reader would become bored. In my defence, it was an intentional overuse, not dissimilar to a poetic licence. I had never claimed to be a writer and I enjoyed rebelling against the standards I had been taught many years ago; starting a sentence with But and And. I had learned pretty early on when starting my primary blog that my writing and subject would only appeal to certain people and I couldn’t please everyone all of the time and then there was that group you find stalking social media who you can never please any of the time. My ageing leathery skin has become thicker over the years and I know how to block some of the shit out.
Getting to the point of this particular post, my other half announced today that I should write about my parkrun experiences; he’s a little slow off the mark with this great idea given that today I completed by 85th and visited 12 different locations but I’ll give him this one nonetheless.
I decided last week that I was going to become an official parkrun tourist (renouncing my self inflicted title of parkrun whore) and try and get to experience as many different parkruns as reasonably possible without having to leave the house at 0600.
I put out a midweek appeal and asked facebook friends if they wanted to try parkrun for a first time and did anyone want to suggest one. In response, I had one comedy reply and a couple of credible suggestions for courses but nobody who was willing to commit this week. Instead, I had to drag the other half out of bed on a kid-free day to accompany me on my road trip. He has been to parkrun quite a few times and I don’t normally need him to babysit me but I am trying to give him a gentle nudge to get back in the saddle so had given my best puppy dog eyes in order to convince him to drag his rotting carcass out of bed somewhat earlier than he would have liked. To make matters worse, the one I had chosen was going to be about 45-60 minutes drive from our home. Needless to say, it went down pretty much like a lead balloon. It’s worth mentioning that despite his commitment, he is the sort of dick that turns up and still runs the arse off me. Loser.
At 05:45 I staggered out of bed after dreaming I was in labour and about to give birth. I realised the pain was just a bad attack of period pains, something I had not experienced much of previously. I could barely stand up straight and thought about the commitment I had made (inside only my own head) that I would be doing Sherwood Pines parkrun today. I knew the other half would be delighted he wouldn’t be getting an early wake up call but I’m as stubborn as a mule so had a committee meeting with myself and in a Brian Clough sort of way, told myself to get a bloody grip.
When I woke the other half up at 07:20, the absence of my usual talkative self was probably a bit of a giveaway that something wasn’t right. He asked me whether I should be running and I was obviously shit at convincing him there was nothing wrong but there was no way I was cancelling.
Fortunately, the 45 minute drive there gave me time to get my act together and we landed at Sherwood Pines at 0830. We were slightly confused around which carpark we should be using despite me checking the night before about the location of the free one. Typical Yorkshire bird in that there was no way I was paying for something unless absolutely necessary! The instruction was to park in Sparrowhawk carpark which was just after the bends. This may seem obvious to locals but to us, it was all a series of bends and after going all through the swirly roads and back out to the entrance, it was only apparent when more parkrunners turned up as to which one we should be at. The sign seemed to be tucked away (unless we can’t see what is in front of us which is quite possible).
As we had arrived quite early, we took advantage of the warmth of the car for a bonus five minutes before doing our best sheep impression and following those venturing into the woods; a beautiful setting for an early morning run.
There were toilets available (not all parkruns I’ve been to have toilets available nearby) and the other half abandoned me for his usual pre-race preparation whilst I slowly walked to the start hoping that I would not turn into an icicle before they pressed start on the stopwatch. I was trying to recall what I had read about it in terms of difficulty and how many laps and couldn’t remember anything. I swear blind the temperature was affecting my brain but at least it had taken my mind off my labour pains. I wasn’t too concerned as I knew the key information was usually passed in the pre-run briefing.
First-timers and tourists (and whores) were taken off and I absorbed the only part I needed to concern myself with; one lap. This is where I need to explain my own running ability at this point. I’m not a good runner, I would say I’m more of your Johnny Less Than Average but in the main, I have resilience and heart and that is what gets me to the end each time. I do fight a psychological battle with any course that is more than one lap, so I thought this one would be exactly up my street (or woods).
The main briefing was very difficult to hear due to an extraordinary amount of dogs all barking and it echoing throughout the woods; a very surreal moment. The talk at the start is a huge positive part of the parkrun experience where you get to hear about the triumphs of homerunners. It was a little disappointing that despite the megaphone, you still couldn’t hear it.
A bell signalled the start and we all trundled off into the depths of the woods. The first half a mile was quite tricky due to the numbers participating, it took a while for us all to space out and I was struggling with the cold. I glanced at my garmin at 0.89 miles and wondered how I would complete it. Fortunately, the slight uphill of the start turned into a long downhill which allowed me time to recover and by that point I had warmed by extremities sufficiently. I was nervous about going too fast on the downhill parts and was trying to save myself for the inevitable uphill section that was to come. But it didn’t and before I knew it, I was turning the corner up to the finish line where I made a last ditch attempt at a sprint and chased someone to the line.
My official time was 28:47 and I’ll be honest, I was slightly disappointed with it as I thought the course was one that I could have achieved a faster time. Looking at my split, that first mile let me down and I suppose that’s the downside of being a tourist (whore) and not knowing what to expect.
I’ll definitely be back but maybe when it gets a little warmer and I will certainly be aiming to smash that time. Overall, I would say it’s a great course and definitely on my favourite list.
My apologies if this is not your typical run review and on reflection, there is a lot of background to me, mentions of bodily functions and only a little about the course itself.