My Running Story – Volume 2

Just a little under three years ago I wrote a post entitled “My Running Story” which you can read if you click on the title just now (the blue words. CLICK THE BLUE WORDS!). In this post I outlined my transition from a run hater to finally using the word runner to describe myself, over the period of a year. I also shared a brief bit about why I started running and why I decided to continue. (Spoiler alert: I started running to impress a girl. Of course I did, what else was it going to be?) Today I thought it was finally time to update my running story and see what has changed in these last three years. I’ll do it in three parts…


My newest pair of road shoes, which I got from my parents for my 24th birthday. These are my 4th pair of “proper” running shoes for roads (and the easily the brightest)!

Part One (Hundred)

Straight off the back of that blog post I kept on running and never looked back. I didn’t get particularly fast and never did manage to bring down my Newbury parkrun pb time (it’s still at 22:17 to this day). I found myself actively enjoying running, to the point where it quickly became my favourite thing to do. I found myself going out running in the week, not just at parkruns and I entered and completed a few more organised race events (I say race loosely, I have never and will never run one of these with the intention of racing it to win. I just like organised routes and medals). I injured myself a bit but nothing major and I kept ploughing on with the distance, eventually getting to the point where I entered the BUPA Great South Run. I finished the GSR in a time of 1:24:08 (I think – somewhere around there anyway) and whilst my legs hurt for days after it, I was incredibly proud of what I’d done.

My friends had all left Portsmouth at the end of our final year in University, that previous July, around the time of the last post, and I found myself mixing a lot more with the Havant parkrun regulars. I’ve made some wonderful friends through Havant parkrun and I if I’m being completely honest I don’t think I would still be running today without their support. It gets hard sometimes (more on that in Part 2) but the people I’ve met and run with kept me going. The crowning achievement of this next year of running was the day that I ran my 100th parkrun, earning entry into the coveted 100Club and getting my next free parkrun T-Shirt. I was even incredibly lucky to have two of my three best friends and ex-housemates come down for the weekend to run with me on my 100th, in addition to the Tea Themed course and Hi-Vis vest that I received from my parkrun friends. I was happy in my ability to run and felt more comfortable doing it, talking about it and enjoying it.

Part 2  Mojo No Go

It all went a bit to pot after the 100 Club. I’d suffered at the hands of my PGCE year and put on a bit of weight. That continued throughout my time in my NQT year and found myself stressed and working so hard to keep up with the gruelling demands of the school. I lost myself a bit and didn’t run as much. I hardly ever went out in the week and my road shoes sat neglected on our shoe rack. I had no mojo to go out and run. By the time I’d got home from work and had dinner it was usually 8pm and I had books to mark and lessons to plan. I was writing a new scheme of work each half term, and frequently even wrote two of them since I was teaching three different subjects at this point. I even had to plan my own RE lessons since it was apparently a “weakness in my teaching” (I did take the time to explain on multiple occasions that yes, my RE teaching wouldn’t be as good as my Geography teaching because I hadn’t studied RE since Year 11 and even then I didn’t like it. I’M A GEOGRAPHER! But did anybody listen? Of course they bloody well didn’t and of course it was all my fault who else could plan those lessons? Oh I don’t know… THE RE DEPARTMENT MAYBE? No. They didn’t.)

As a result of being tired and stressed my running suffered. My times got slower and I just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort to bring it all back together. What was the point? I was slow anyway and I didn’t enjoy running anymore. It became a bit of a chore – something I only did to keep myself vaguely active and only then once a week at the most. I tried going to the gym to get back into it, but I was too lazy. I just couldn’t be bothered anymore.

I still went to parkrun though. Every week on Saturday morning I’d get up, I’d go to parkrun and I’d run 5 kilometres. I might have been a lot slower, I stopped to walk a lot but I still did it. It was this routine, and the people I met and mentioned before that pulled me through my year and a bit of no mojo. As I said, I would have probably quit if it was only me.

It all came back eventually though. I found myself running in the week again and making time for it. I started training regularly in Tae Kwon-Do once again after taking roughly 5 years out to do University and Teacher Training and I slowly brought my fitness back to an acceptable (by my standards) level. I’m still a lot slower than I was but I’m okay with that – at least I enjoy it all again!

Part 3 This is the bit that sounds like a Bowie song (because of all the ch-ch-ch-chaaangeeeees!)

Queen Eizabeth parkrun’s annual Summer Barbecue. I blame this place and tie as the catalyst for where everything about my running story changes. For years, since starting parkrun and catching the bug for it I’d wanted to be a Run Director (One of the people who is in charge of the run for a week and makes sure it all goes smoothly) at Havant parkrun. In my “Year of running dangerously” (or running more and enjoying it if you prefer) I’d ingratiated myself into the volunteer team at Havant parkrun. I hung around to help pack stuff away, I volunteered more and I enjoyed it. I became a bit of a regular fixture and got to know people really well. I wanted to Run Direct because I wanted to give back to the place and the thing that had kept me going through a year of hating work, through three years of learning to love running. It felt right and I was always on the lookout to see if a spot on the RD team ever opened up (it didn’t).

My enthusiasm must have been noticed by Dave, the Event Director (man who is “in charge” as it were of all the RDs and deals with parkrun HQ) who also happened to be the parkrun Ambassador for the area (person who helps new parkruns start). Dave mentioned that there was finally scope to get a new parkrun in the North of Portsmouth since the Southsea parkrun was doing so well. The funding was in place as long as a willing, enthusiastic and passionate team could be found to organise it.

Dave asked if I’d be interested in taking the reigns and becoming the Event Director for this new run.

I said yes.

Things kind of floated by for a few weeks until One Fateful Day at the QE Summer Barbecue when I asked the first two people to join my core team as Run Directors. From there we went through a bit more recruiting and a lot of course design, redesign, measuring, remeasuring, finding funding, finding people to run with us, finding volunteers to help organise us and around 8 months later we finally held our inaugural parkrun.

Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun has just had it’s 7th event and we’re still going strong. The 4 of us on the RD team have settled in nicely and it’s got a great atmosphere – largely down to the fact that all the volunteers we get helping are such amazingly positive people, and we’re lucky to have so many of them stick around with us as our Core Volunteers who we can always rely on to help us keep the parkrun going. I love being the Event Director and overseeing everything, working with my team to make the run happen and some of the stories you hear from people are so heartwarming and positive, it really makes you remember why you do it.

I love parkrun. It made me a runner. It made me a volunteer. It made me a better, more rounded and friendly person.

It also made me run in the week more and realise that if I can stop being lazy for an hour, I do still love running!

I’ll be back with Volume 3 one day, I’m sure…



Bolt Round the Holt 2013 Half Marathon

It’s been a while since I wrote a post about running, so I thought that the recap of my first ever half marathon might be the occasion needed to make this post a little bit more interesting to those of you that are non-runners.

As I mentioned, this was to be my first half marathon, as I usually stick to the 5km distance of a parkrun for my running escapades, though I have completed a 10km whilst dressed as Father Christmas. But still, a half marathon is equal to 21km a full 11km more than I’ve ever run before.

I wish I could tell you the tale of my perfectly crafted and well detailed training plan that I rigorously stuck to from the day that I submitted my entry into Bolt Round the Holt but alas, I’m not one of life’s most sensible crowd! As it was, my training plan consisted of a single ten miler, some 8 mile runs and a 7 mile one, on top of the regular 5km parkruns. Not the best plan to make sure that you can manage a full 13 miles. Luckily, my housemate Tom decided to enter alongside me and his training wasn’t much better so there was some comfort there.

Race day arrived and after the car trip down to Alice Holt Wood near Farnham we were registered, got our race numbers and then decided to wait around, soak up the atmosphere and then, when it was finally close enough to the start to justify removing the warm clothing in this horrifically biting April weather we’ve been lumbered with, we started warming up.

After a half hour delay due to an over crowded registration desk the aerobic group warm up started, although we were shivering the entire way through it, just wishing that the start would hurry up and arrive as we’d already warmed up, before finding out about the delay! Finally though, we were arranged on the line and ready to go: just a single kilometre short lap to begin with for us 21kers before starting the bulk of the race – 4 laps of the 5km loop.

Settling into what I thought was a comfortable pace for this distance, I made it about half a lap before being caught up by some of my fellow Havant parkrunners and decided to stick with them for a while, in order to keep myself motivated. The kilometres were decreasing, we were passing some people, we met yet another Havant parkruner on our second lap whilst she was nearing the end of her 10k run, and we were dealing well with the grotesquely chewy energy gels provided at the water stations. Unfortunately, my time with my fellow parkrunners was nearing it’s end.

Halfway through the first kilometre of lap three, K16-17, I started to flag a bit whilst they managed to keep the pace up. By the end of the first hill I was falling even further behind and my inability to run on flat surfaces (yes, I’m one of those weird people that actually LIKE running on hills as I can get a good pace going) meant that they were getting smaller and smaller as they ran off into the distance. I resolved not to give up and kept forcing myself through the pain in my legs, this being the furthest that I have ever run in one go. Making it round to start the final lap, I was tired, I was in pain and I was cursing whoever it was at the organising committee that recommended that you wear trail shoes on the run, when you needed them for maybe 300m of the lap if that. Oh how I longed for my road shoes!

Te final lap saw me have to slow my pace on the final part of a hill so I was pretty much walking for a hundred metres, in order to remove the K Tape I had on my knees as it was flapping loose, but I kept the running going and all of the people that passed me encouraged me and told me to keep going, as I was doing to the people that I passed. The final hill saw me slow to a walk in order to cough up what felt like a lung when I mis-swallowed some of my final gel but then I was off again, pushing myself harder than I have in a long time, not wanting to give up and wanting to beat the people around me to the finish line as I’d come this far.

Entering the home straight my housemate was on side cheering me on (or shouting abuse at me, which is more likely) as we’re the three Havant parkrunners that I’d been with on the run. I managed to cross the finish line with a horrific expression on my face in a time of 2:13:00. Not too bad for my first half marathon, especially one as hilly as this, and with no training!

Here’s a picture of me from the run, it’s taken quite early on, as you can tell by me still smiling and not grimacing in pain as the later photos show!


The smell of success: Pickle and Ralgex

Okay so now for something a little different than usual.

For the last few weeks I’ve been writing the Run Report for Havant parkrun, where I’ve transferred my Saturday morning runs to whilst being down at Uni. Unfortunately, there’s no Portsmouth parkrun, so it’s into the car and up to Staunton Country Park for 9am Saturday morning, ususally accompanied by a varying cast of my housemates (special mention to Dean, who has so far been with me every week! Good effort!). Cutting to the chase, this week I returned home for the weekend, leaving my run report writing to another, wholly able member of Havant parkrun and at 9am I was back at my home run on Greenham Common, Newbury. Since I’ve grown to like writing the report i thought I’d keep my hand in the pie by writing my own for this weeks Newbury parkrun. Enjoy this one and feel free to check out Report #18 and #19 here if you’re interested!

Newbury parkrun #40

Having to scrape the windscreen of you car at 8:20 on a Saturday morning is never a good sign. Nevertheless with the frost well and truly off my windscreen and visibility returned it was off to the start line of the 40th Newbury parkrun. The goal for today, besides not losing a finger or two to frostbite during the pre-run briefing, was to get round the 5k course in under 25 minutes. Ever since moving down to Havant parkrun I’ve been holding a little competition with myself at each different parkrun to see where I can get the fastest time and today was no exception. I set off from the line hoping that the cold weather would push me to cross the finish line in under 24:53, my Havant time, and therefore give me a little personal challenge to beat next week, back on the “rolling hills” of the Havant course.

Out on the course the standard Newbury parkrun game of Dodge the Cowpat was well under way with all 218 of us runners skipping daintily around the fetid piles of evil that the residents of the common had decided to leave for us. Upon nearing the end of the first 600m straight I was immediately struck by a combination of smells that I think would do quite well to be bottled and sold as the “Smell of Success – The Newbury parkrun perfume” consisting of that sweet, sweet chemical tang of Ralgex and the reminiscent pong of Monster Munch wafting from the local pickle factory. Ahhhh, success.

It was on the wings of this most delightful of fragrances that i staggered across the line after the briefest of sprints to ensure I was ahead of the small pack that had started stalking me on the home straight. I didn’t much fancy being beaten right at the line after staying ahead of them for so long!
Stumbling past the photographer with a trademarked grimace plastered on my face I made it across the line feeling pleased with myself, not having pushed myself to my absolute limit but coming within spitting distance of it!

The best bit? I came across the line nearly a whole minute faster than I was planning to clocking myself a brand new shiny pb of 23:59.

Now to beat that next week at Havant…

Just before crossing the line, unaware of how fast it seems I can go if i put my mind to it!