Tag Archives: parkrun

Thank you Hilly Fields parkrun, Janathon, Jantastic

Oh my, Elizabeth Fry!

Today, I really didn’t fancy running. I put my clothes out last night and my beloved put them away thinking I wasn’t running until Tuesday. I got to work and my running colleague, D, said she’ll run tomorrow instead of today. At least she went out running on Saturday, so she’s building up her schedule. Then I was stuck in my big project, letting my mood slip as I’m alone in my office today. I was finding reasons not to go. Put it off to tomorrow. Or the next day. And then the schedule collapses. 

I took a few breaths. Stepped out of my day. Listened to my thoughts. Noticed them. Noticed that they’re thoughts, not facts. 

Some more breaths. Letting the thoughts go. Finding some facts. I’ve got a schedule. I need a break. I’ll feel better afterwards. I can have a slow plod if that’s how I feel. 

I took my phone, started the Endomondo app from the top of our steps, walked the few yards to the street and set off. I was feeling okay. Had to dodge a few people. At a roundabout I had to wait for a car to pass. The driver acknowledged me. Another runner, noticing I had broken my stride? At the building site a chap standing chatting on the pavement stepped out of my way. Through the park. Out of the park, across the zebra at Grove Road. Back into the park. Noticing other runners, walkers and cyclists. Smiling to a few. It feels almost as good as last Thursday, when my colleague S and I hit 8:34 in our first mile, then slowed it a bit out the back. 

The voice of Endomondo calls out the first mile. 8 minutes, 11 seconds. 

8 minutes 11 seconds! I’ve never knowingly hit this pace before. I’m doing the sums, Two miles in 16:22, three miles in 24:33. Plus a bit more to finish off the 5k. My fastest parkrun is 25:07. This is could be the same pace. 

Of course, now I’m on something akin to record pace my body starts complaining. My shins start to feel tight. My mind knows that when I run with colleagues we’re on the track but today I’m on the path. My knees are complaining. Is my shoe lace coming loose? It’s mind games. I’m stronger than this. 

Being Victoria Park, I can see the pub that roughly marks the 2 mile spot. It’s miles away. I settle again. On the far east side of the park. Up ahead are some chaps with leaf blowing machines. Whatever happened to rakes? And a tractor. A 13-plate, I notice as I get close. It’s blue so I assume it’s Ford but it’s not, it’s New Holland. Past the men with their blowers. Past their Ford Transit truck. 

Around the corner. My shoe lace is undone. Bother it. I stop and tie it up, another double knot. Will I lose my time now? I recall my slow start from the steps. I’m doing okay. Sweat in my eyes. Seem to see a lot of women with babies along this stretch. And a chap with a baby. From now on I wonder with each runner if we’ve passed each other already. 

Endomondo woman announces the second mile. Seven minutes thirty seconds. Two miles in 15:41. Oh my, Elizabeth Fry! I’ve gone faster than the first mile! I’m tiring though. I tell myself it’s okay, even if I ran the next mile at 10 minutes a mile it will be respectable. 

The north side of Victoria Park, parallel with Victoria Park Road goes on forever. You just have to keep going. Eventually you get round. Keep going, I tell myself. When I notice my pace falling I encourage myself on. 

Back to Grove Road. Over the zebra. Into the next stretch. The section that we sometimes think is the last but it isn’t. There’s another divider to go. 

At last, the back bend, the furthest west section of the park. I almost get entangled by a dog walker. One with about seven or eight dogs on leads. Round the final big bend. Another runner just ahead of me. I use him to pace myself, he’s going faster than I’d like to be going but I’m nearly home. 

Endomondo woman again. Seven minutes fifty-three. Three miles in 23:34. I’ve never done this before. I pass the runner I was pacing with, sprinting as hard as I can to the gate. But it isn’t over at the gate. I’m fiddling with my pocket as I run, to get my phone out, to open it up, be back at the pause button. It’s a 90-degree corner and onto the bridge. I begin to slow as I’m onto the gate. Remind myself to push. Last few strides. Over the (imaginary) line. I lose a few more seconds fumbling with my phone. 

Finally: 24:27. I’ve done it. I’ve broken my record. Broken? More like smashed it. I look at the time again. I’ve ripped 40 seconds off my best parkrun time. No hills, but still. 

I walk back to the office, triumphant. 

As I walk I’m thinking of my friend David, who demolished my reasons for not running and guided me through my first eight months of running. And it was David who first told me about parkrun. I’m thinking of the my friends Mike, Stefan, Chris and Mark who have all run parkrun with me. I’m thinking of the Hilly Fields parkrun community. And my colleagues who run at lunchtime. I’m thanking the Jantastic crew and the Janathon bloggers. And my mindfulness group. Because it’s good to have goals and it’s great to find old friends and new inspiration. And my beloved and Junior. I’m thanking you all as I walk. 

Finally, I’m thanking me. Because I did it. And I can do it again.

Stats so far today: 6,441 steps. 5.3km run. 


parkrun conversion

One of the joys of parkrun is the opportunity to take somewhere old and familiar and see it new. Back home the park I run parkrun in I used to use for the occasional walk, most usually when I was going somewhere else, or because it has a ping pong table and we’re amenable to the occasional game. We even have spare bats in case visitors want to join us.

So it was that Saturday came round and I was in a familiar park, Colchester’s Castle Park awaiting the start of their parkrun. I was with a familiar face, one of my best friends who I’ve known for almost 25 years.

At home, our parkrun is at Hilly Fields, so you know what to expect. Among three laps there are two hills run three times each. Short sharp shocks.

Castle Park is also on a hill and you run three laps. Well, sort of. You run one large circuit, then a medium circuit and finally a small circuit. And in that time you run the whole hill two-and-a-half-times.

We started near the back, my friend and I, agreeing that it was a social run. He was new to parkrun. I’m converted. The first mile was run in around 9:30. And soon after that we picked up speed and as we did so we got a little more competitive. Not overly so, we just made it be known to each other that we’d like to run harder. We began overtaking people. Regularly.

Towards the end my companion let it be known that he’d like a sprint finish. But he said so quite early. I was going to suggest it, but not until the final bend. So on the final lap of the castle keep (the biggest built in the UK and the largest surviving example in Europe) we began the sprint up the hill, across the top and down again.

We turned into the final straight, along a beautiful avenue of trees with a large bandstand to the side. The sun was shining bright and the crowd roared. It was the loudest finish to a parkrun that I’ve ever experienced. (Those who have already finished are queuing to scan their codes right by the finish line.) We crossed the line, one-after-the-other. My friend was converted. He’ll run again.

Janathon stats: 5.6km; 3,941 steps walked.

parkrun breakfast

For me there’s nothing quite like a helping of cold porridge as a post-parkrun breakfast.

And not just cold porridge – it has to be cold porridge eaten out of the pan with the wooden stirring spoon. I even love scrubbing the plasticky layering around the edge of the pan onto the spoon.


This morning’s offering was particularly fabulous. We’ve recently found that our son is getting into his porridge, possibly helped by the rather brilliant Abney & Teal porridge episode. And this has left us with rather more excess porridge than normal. Result for me!

Porridge was a rather fitting breakfast for today’s parkrun outing. It was not a nice day out there. The wind and rain wasn’t so bad as it had mostly eased off. It was the saturated ground that made running an exercise in agility and balance, not speed and finesse.

My neighbour S joined me for parkrun today. We ran together, sometimes running wide to avoid the worst of the waterlogged ground  and we walked up one of the hills. To his credit, hardly having run since November, my neighbour put up with my unceasing encouragement (“Just two more lamp posts to the top of the hill”) and ran all they way round the last lap. For some of us parkrunners, it’s not about the personal bests and the top times. It really is just about taking part and getting through it.

Keeping up the Janathon experience I ran parkrun’s 3.13 miles in 33:14 or so. I ran there too, 0.85 miles.

Related posts

Porridge lady on eating porridge for Christmas

Janathon’s Shaz on bad weather running

Joel Stewart, creator of Abney & Teal, on the effort put into the cartoon series

Exploring parkrun and the Quaker way

A great passion of mine over the past 13 years has been discovering the Quaker way and living with Quaker faith. And in the past year or so another great interest has come along – parkrun. I’ve not thought before about combining them but my great friend Marisa Johnson has!

I didn’t even know that Marisa was a parkrunner until I read her frontpiece in the latest edition of Among Friends, the newsletter for the Friends World Committee for Consultation Europe and Middle East Section (FWCC-EMES). If you’re new to Quakers right now it’s useful to know that we Quakers don’t have a hierarchy of faith as such around the world. Instead, FWCC brings Quaker meetings from around the world together to talk and listen with each other. EMES is our region and Marisa is our secretary.

If you’re new to parkrun, it’s a free timed event in parks mostly in the UK and around the world. Set over 5km, it takes place every Saturday morning.

In her article Marisa draws on the percentage score each runner receives after their timed run, comparing their run to the world record but managing factors such as age. She also writes about the transformation that we find possible in faith and whether she’ll be able to live up to her potential. It’s a great short article and well worth a read for any Quaker who does parkrun! Or any Quaker. Maybe even any parkrunner too. You can access the newsletter download from http://www.fwccemes.org/news/among-friends-issue-128 and Marisa’s article is on the front page.

Getting to the point at Parkrun

Parkrun on Saturday was a mixed affair. I’d started with running to the park as my warm up, which was a good idea. When the run proper started, I was feeling good and I made it around about 3/4 of the first lap pacing myself just behind someone who runs within my PB time but better than the times I’ve been running of late.

Unfortunately, as we came up the first of two significant hills I managed to persuade myself that I needed the loo. So I ducked into the toilet behind the cafe. I’m sure I could have waited, I’ve felt worse before and carried on. But I’ve also got into this habit where sometimes I stop mid-Parkrun and use the loo. Usually when I’m running much slower, so this was in itself a first.

When I re-emerged I was much further down the field. I set off and soon found a rhythm I could keep with, which was a little faster than those around me so I made up some ground. One thing that tends to keep me going is thinking of the men’s points table. I don’t have any chance of making it to the top, but a nice way of keeping my focus on a better time is to see the men ahead of me and think about the extra point I get for each man that I finish ahead of. The first placed person of each gender gets 100 points at Hilly Fields Parkrun, second gets 99 and so on down through the field. It doesn’t mean anything in the end really, but it is a helpful way to keep me motivated through the course.

As I ran I made a note of who was ahead of me and noted the men as extra points. There were mostly women immediately ahead of me so there weren’t many immediate points on offer. On the start of the third lap I saw one of the chaps ahead of me cutting off a bit of a corner. I don’t have a problem with this as Parkrun is all about our own integrity and I sometimes cut a corner off a bit if I’ve gone long somewhere else. And I recall some blog advice I read recently suggesting that if you take the tightest line you can through Parkrun you’ll run 5,000 metres and not 5,050 metres, which could help your time.

But there weren’t many points on offer ahead of me so I decided to pass this guy if I could. Only he was going at a decent pace himself. When I got to climbing Vicars Hill (the first of the two big hills, where I had persuaded myself to go to the loo 2 laps earlier) I put a lot of effort in and passed this guy. I decided to put enough distance between him and me that I could perhaps lay off the pace a little.

After the hill there’s some flat and then a big down hill. Sometimes I let my legs fly down there and other times I try and keep my pace together. This time I went for it. As I turned slightly at the bench at the bottom of the hill I looked back and the guy I had passed was not far behind me, also sprinting down the hill.

Usually, as I come to the last hill, it’s really hard and steep and I go relatively slow to save a little for the final stretch. But not this time. I decided to see off this guy properly. I charged up the hill. But as I turned off the grass and onto the tarmac path at the top of the hill the guy was right on my shoulder. He had caught up!

Again, by this time I would normally hold off before making a final sprint for the line but now all I cared about was this single bloody point. I pushed on again, sprinting to the right around the runners immediately ahead. My nemesis went left. After my first burst he was still there with me. So, from somewhere, I don’t really know where, I found the energy and effort to push on again.

When I next dared look round there was space between me and him. A guy who had already finished shouted encouragement from the bench. I wasn’t leaving this to chance. I ran my long legs as hard as I could all the way to the finish.

I came through about a couple of seconds ahead of the other guy and as he came through we briefly connected with handshake fist bump thing. In acknowledgment of the battle, perhaps. But what really mattered was that I had got the point. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I spent the next few minutes lying in the mud trying to get my breath back.

Later when I got my time from the Parkrun website I saw my time – 27:07. Still 2 minutes off my best. The other fellow came through in 27:12, some way off his best of 19:00. 19:00! No wonder he had the legs to push me all the way to the end.

Thanks to the other guy’s efforts I was only 4 seconds off my time from two weeks ago (when I didn’t stop for the loo part way round). Maybe next time I’ll forgo the comfort break and put the effort into a faster time of my own accord. I know I can get back to my PB time, I just need to keep on trying.

Passing on the running bug

On Saturday, I was all geared up for Parkrun. I had run on Thursday night and had recorded a great time so this was to be the day of my next Personal Best attempt. After recording 25:07 in August I had hardly got within 2 minutes of that time in the following 2 months. So I was ready to go. No, really. I had even been online reading tips about how to get a Parkrun 5k PB. 

But on the day, my friend texted me. Would I be going to Parkrun he enquired? I was, but I was going early to jog there and do my stretches first. I am determined. Okay, I’ll see you there. You might, but I’m going for my PB, I thought to myself. And so up to the Hilly Fields I jogged. I did my stretches. And just as we were about to walk over to the start, my friend turned up. 

And that was when I realised that I wasn’t going to go for my PB that day. It can wait for another day and for now I would just enjoy the pleasure of running with friends. So we ran together and I scored my second slowest time ever, 31:12. Only beaten in slowness by the run a few weeks ago when I stopped to use the loo part way round. But my friend got round the course and could put the stress of a busy week behind him for a while. We certainly weren’t the fastest. We were among the slowest.  The PB will wait for another day. 

When I started running, around 18 months ago, I went out in my lunchbreaks with a friend who is a more experienced runner. He told me that he often went out with a more experienced runner than him. And he was happy to help me get going. Now I feel like I have the opportunity to offer some encouragement to someone else. I’m passing on the running bug.