A parkrun Tourist (whore) at Sherwood Pines

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.

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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.

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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.

Oops.

 

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Confessions of a Shit Runner – Women’s Stuff

I retired from running on October 30th 2016, just after the Sheffield 10k and again the week after when I put in another disappointing run at the Leeds Abbey Dash. It’s not unusual for me to throw the teddy out of the cot and many of my friends have heard about me retiring far too many times.

The first run, I really had been shit and when I say shit, that is shit even by my shit standards. Have I said shit enough times yet? The second run, I was massively disappointed because I had run this race before and knew that it wasn’t a particularly testing route and when I received the official time, it was my slowest there yet. I had felt strong and willing to put the other race behind me but unfortunately yet again it wasn’t my day and I wrote my first piece on shit running (Confessions of a Shit Runner)

Today, I ran another Sheffield 10k but one that has runners fighting over the 2000 places on offer and despite me saying last year that I would never run it again, I found myself caught up in the drama that was the online entry debacle for the Percy Pud.

I’ve only taken part once but been a spectator too and the weather has always been notoriously bad and all in return for a Christmas pud, that I don’t even like! Why on earth was I putting myself through this again?

My young lad had woken me up this morning at just after six when I was in a beautiful deep sleep; I was not happy. I had told anyone who had cared to listen this week that I had seven days to lose two stone as I thought that may assist me in getting round. My negativity was overwhelming once again and I had convinced myself that I might as well go for the hat trick of shit runs.

I had eaten at the right time, made sure I had consumed at least a glass of water and vaselined my lips. What more preparation did I need for a shit run?

Well, there lies the story. Something that us women should never talk about publicly for fear of crossing the line and ensuring that we do not let onto the male species that we actually have to deal with these issues.

The Curse.

Well, this is what my Mum still refers to it as but something that many women have to deal with at least once a month and athletes (and Shit Runners) have to just suck it up (not literally)

I realised I needed sanitary products, shortly before I met my running hero for the very first time; Rachel from Rachel Cullen Writes. Whilst in the midst of girl crushing over her, I pondered over whether I would ruin this first hook up by asking her ‘Rachel, I know I want to discuss a million and one hero-worshipping things with you but do you have any T-A-M-P-A-X?’ I decided against it and plotted my next move. I did also think that it would feature in her next blog and if anyone was going get any mileage out of it, it would have to be me!

We wandered up to the start line and I snaked across to the first-aid tent and whilst I knew sanitary products didn’t feature in an emergency response bag, I had hoped that some kind organised female would have one in her bag. After embarrassingly relaying my story to her she kindly produced something from her bag…

A pad.

I’ve not had the need to examine pads for some years but this was as thin as a sheet and I considered whether it was actually an incontinence pad? Beggars can’t be choosers though so I thanked her and wandered off with my gift.

The start time was drawing closer and I was still wandering around women with bags like someone not right. I approached a friendly group of women and explained very quietly my issue. One of the women looked at me like I was a lost puppy and said ‘Oh you poor thing, let’s try and get you sorted’ and took me over to the rest of the group. I immediately thought I would get sorted by these lot for sure. What happened next totally took me by surprise as I heard the kind lady say very loudly,

‘HAS ANYONE GOT ANY TAMPAX FOR THIS LADY WHO HAS STARTED HER PERIOD?’

Fucking hell, as much as I am now sat here writing about said event and don’t embarrass easily, I must have resembled a cherry at this point. Did all of the tent hear? If they did,  nobody volunteered any and I made my way to the toilet, wishing this day would just be over with. I even considered just throwing the towel (or pad) in and wondered how I would be able to run with a pad in-situ.

I rocked up at the line as it was starting and thought ‘fuck it, just run’ My race itself was what I pretty much expected but when I checked my watch with 2k to go, I thought I could actually break the sixty minute mark; something I had achieved only once before (the Abbey Dash that I failed at the previous month).

I crossed the line to see the official clock say sixty minutes and so many seconds and thought ‘balls, not again!’ and then quickly realised that I had set off after the gun so I checked my watch and realised I had only bloody gone and done it!

The official time came through and I had actually missed my 10k pb by one second but I was chuffed that I had broke the sixty minute mark for the first time in a few years.

As any great runner does, I would like to give out my thanks to the following:

Kind Lady with pad

Girl Crush (I am even more in love with you after meeting you)

Harry Gration & Eilish McColgan (for running at what turns out to be the day that I acknowledge I’m not totally shit)

And finally. The Pad. Without you, I wouldn’t have got round and I wouldn’t have got a pb.

Confessions of a Shit Runner.

I have had a love of running for as long as I can remember. I was the child who had an incredible amount of energy and wanted to race my friends all the time. The problem was, most of my friends had no care for running up and down the street and I had no care for playing with dolls.

I remember the day quite clearly that my dad arrived home and announced that I was going to ‘Arriers’. I had no idea what it meant and wondered whether it was some sort of punishment (I don’t think I was the easiest of children).

I turned up for a Wednesday track session, feeling like the Dog’s Bollocks with my new C&A tracksuit with the elasticated bottoms. Shitstoppers I believe they are now called. As a 10 year old, I had no fear and had no idea how far the 800m was that I was expected to run. All I knew was I was the best runner in my school year.

Unfortunately, although I turned up feeling like the Dog’s Bollocks,  I left realising I was no longer top of the tree. I finished way behind everyone else but it didn’t deter me though and I turned up week after week for the twice weekly sessions and went on to take part in the various races whether it be track or cross country.

Now some who know me would be surprised to learn that I wasn’t competitive in my younger years (I did get aggressively competitive during a game at a baby shower last week!). I turned up, was usually the one making up the numbers as far as the team was concerned but I genuinely enjoyed it. I ran alongside other girls who would be devastated if they didn’t put in a top performance and I think some of their parents attitude to it didn’t help.

I lasted until I was about 13 and then I found other things to occupy my time. I have always kept relatively active but although I considered myself shit compared to the others at the club, I would love to be able to run those times now. No fear of distance or hills, just turn up on the day and do it.

Every so often, I tell myself that I am going to lose a bit of weight and really try a bit harder  and get back on it. It’s hard though and it’s not about excuses. Juggling work and childcare leaves little time for much else without considering hill, speed and generally ‘getting those miles in’. I don’t want to settle for average but I am too old (and shit) to turn pro.

I do my parkruns and a couple or three 10ks a year and usually after one of the tougher ones, I tell myself (and anyone else still listening) that I’m retiring.

Today was one of those days.

Abbey Dash 2016, my third attempt.

I drove myself, because my lift had let me know it was going to be too cold and rainy to go.I parked in one of the suggested car parks and there was a massive queue to get in, followed by a massive queue to pay for the parking. I’m usually (anally) organised and today I was playing a blinder. I had to run to the start (as it started to rain) and was bloody knackered as I arrived at bang on 09:30 – start time. Fortunately the queue of last minute pee’rs had dwindled by then so I managed to land a stinky portaloo without too much trouble (I’d managed a pre race poo before I left home so thankfully that wasn’t an issue).

By the time I queued up in the pigpen, I was knackered but I had already had to have a committee meeting with myself in the car and I wasn’t about to have another chat now. Yes it was freezing and pissing it down but, seriously just get a grip!

I’d been absolutely shit the week before at the inaugural Sheffield 10k, had to walk for 40 seconds at least and I wasn’t about to repeat that. I knew this was a flatter course and I was gonna grab it by the bollocks!

I felt stronger and faster until about 9k when I hit a wall and knew that the tiny hill at the end would be a struggle but I was aiming to break my pb so I had to keep on going.

I thought about the people I’d seen along the route; an old work friend who was acting as  guide runner (the first and only time I would be able to run past him I’m sure) and I was inspired by both of them. I saw a friend from work stood in the freezing cold with her young twins in their buggies (there to cheer a relative on but I got a cheer nonetheless) and I thought ‘Cmon now, get your arse in gear and think of those who have more challenges today and just bloody run’.

I kept on running, right to the line and looked at my watch.

Fuck. Shit. Bastard.

Abbey Dash 2016 was now my third and shittest attempt.

I try and inspire other people and tell them that we have good days and off days and sometimes there is just no explanation, but you have to pick yourself up and give it another go.

My 5k pb time was smashed in the summer with all the odds stacked against me that day but I did it. Today (and last week) was just not meant to be.

Today was about making it to the line. And I did.

My love/hate relationship with running will continue. Today, I am retired but no doubt will be out pounding the streets in a couple of days time.

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