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…
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…