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…

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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…

 

My Running Story

I’m a runner.

There, I said it. I’m a runner and I have been for just over a year now. Back in my not very distant at all past, I hated running and would do anything I could to avoid it. I mean, I was active and enjoyed sport but just not running. It was boring, repetitive and I just didn’t enjoy it in the slightest. With that in mind, I did once enter a 5km fun run when I was 17, which involved dressing as Santa Claus. Whilst nowadays 5km isn’t very far to me it was back then and I found myself hating almost every minute of it. Needless to say, I didn’t run for about 3 years after that, barring the occasional jog along the seafront.

So how did that change? Well, in part it was down to parkrun. Yes, if you know me at all, or you follow me on Twitter it’s that thing that I always seem to be talking about. The free, weekly, timed 5km run every Saturday morning was a great motivator that made me keep turning up, week after week and soon enough I was hooked. It’s been over a year since I became a ‘proper’ runner and started to put my trainers to pavement regularly, but how did it all begin? Why did I start parkrunning? What made me go up to Greenham Common on that fateful Saturday morning? Well…

It was a girl. Yep, cliched as hell, but that’s right. I started running to impress a girl. After talking for a while, the girl in question had stated on many occasions that I should start parkrun and on many occasions I hadn’t been bothered to turn up… Until she said she knew I wouldn’t. Now if there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s people telling me that I won’t do something so I laced up my trainers at 8:25 on Saturday 9th June 2012 and made it to the start line with enough time for a quick warm up. Oh jeez, this was going to hurt, wasn’t it? After not running for the best part of 4 years I was about to embark on a 5km jog. Eep.

Shockingly, and against all of my prior expectations, it wasn’t that bad. I was slower than I wanted to be, but faster Thani realistically expected and managed to cross the finish line of my first ever parkrun in a time of 27:27. Not too bad. I decided I might keep this up for a while, do the occasional Saturday but sure enough the bug was in me by this point and I have managed to keep it up, week upon week for what will now be the 50th parkrun in my tally in a little over a year. Not bad…

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Yep, that was me at my first ever parkrun.

So when it came time to leave home again and return to uni, I had managed to find a parkrun fairly near to Portsmouth and decided to keep up this running lark. I even managed to convince my housemates that they should come with me. Of course the idea of getting up to go running at 9am on Saturday was met with more resistance than that of a particularly demonic dictatorship some resistance, they turned up and in time have warmed to the parkrun lifestyle. Kind of. Well, most of them. Sometimes.

At first, Havant parkrun was strange, it wasn’t what I had gotten used to over the summer. Needless to say, that all changed once we started integrating into the group and in time it has come to be more of a family to me than a group of runners. The people there are fantastic and I’ve made some amazing friends in my time running with them. Havant parkrun also saw the creation of my running club, Tea Time Terrace, the origin of which will be explored a little later in another post. The Terrace has been a big motivator and has made the while thing more fun, combined with becoming surrogate members of the Cake Club, a group of runners that enjoy baking too (I know, it sounds like I was made for this club!). All in all, it’s been a fantastic 9 months at Havant and I’m excited to be back there come September for another 9 months at the very least (albeit without The Terrace, but hopefully I’ll manage ;p).

With summer coming back around, I’m about to start back at Newbury for the holiday stint, trying to bring my course PB down from its current state of 22:17 and enjoying myself. A lot has changed since I started – I have proper running shoes now! Ive even done a few longer distance runs, with a 10k and a half marathon under my belt and plans to do a lot more in the future. I’m sure a lot will continue to change as I keep running and I hope you stick with me through it all! Maybe you’ll even start a running journey of your own! If you have any stories to share, please do! Either pop your tale in the comments or better yet, START A BLOG and share it there! 😀

Oh, one more thing. I’m no longer staring things to impress a girl anymore. I guess I’ve finally grown up 😉

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(Well, only a little bit!)

‘Dodge the Cowpat’ and other parkrun games!

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m back at home for the Christmas holidays! This return home for the festive period also means a return to the Saturday morning up at Greenham Common for Newbury parkrun! In case you didn’t know, whilst I’m at university I regularly take part in the Havant parkrun where, on top of just running for myself, I write the weekly run report which I try to fill with as many puns as possible each week (this has got out of hand a few weeks). Back home I don’t write the run report but, since I enjoy writing and I have this readily available platform, I thought that I’d attempt to write my own “Run Rundown” for the parkruns that I complete. So without further ado:

Newbury parkrun #47 – ‘Dodge the Cowpat’ and other parkrun games!

Waking up when it’s still dark is never a fun way to begin any day. What’s less fun is finding out that it is absolutely bucketing it down with rain outside after you’ve managed to stumble your way to the kitchen without waking the rest of your house up and got yourself a steaming hot cup of “Morning Fuel” (or coffee, as you may know it). It was at this point, pyjamas on and hair sticking out at all angles whilst staring blankly out of the front window into the cold and rainy abyss outside that I did think to myself: “Maybe I’ll just go back to bed…”

Steeling my resolve, and the fact that I had already promised my friend and university housemate, who just so happens to live in the same town as me at home, a lift to parkrun that morning, I proceeded to get myself ready and out of the door with a towel and a spare change of clothes in the boot of the car. After a brief jaunt up to the common and a rather damp start to my warm up, the rain MERCIFULLY decided to lessen and the jackets came off, ready for the pre-run briefing  and shortly after, the start of Event 47.

It was at this point that I remembered that unlike Havant, and many other parkruns that I’ve heard tales of from other runners, Newbury has a special challenge to contend with. the Cows. I was reminded of this fact as one casually sauntered it’s way across the starting line, not particularly caring that there were a bunch of lycra and tech-tee clad men and women (and dogs) waiting to go for a run along the very path that it was standing on. Eventually, Sir Loin cut across to what must be a prime grazing spot (Oh yes, we’re onto beef puns now) and the run could begin!

Newbury is a very flat course, which is lovely because it means you don’t have the moment of sheer pant wetting terror as you plummet down the steep back slope too fast and skin your knees, elbows and most of a shoulder going for a roll along the gravel (I’m not sure anyone has done this yet and I hope they never do. Run safe people!). the other advantage of a flat course is of course, reflected in the times with myself being able to pull almost a minute off of my PB on a more varied gradient course. Crossing the runway and reaching the end of the first kilometre I endured a brief game of ‘Dodge the Cowpat’ and after a few pieces of fancy footwork it was onto the back end of the course and eventually down onto the “Home Straight” which just so happens to be roughly, just over 2km – deceptive.

Coming to the finish, I realized just how much more I had left in the tank, but resolved that I would stick to my pace and finish a nice, relaxed, comfortable parkrun. And that I did. Just a second over my PB, crossing the line in 24 minutes dead. The upside to this is knowing that there’s a lot more left to give on the flat, speedy course and hopefully, a lot of time to take off of the PB over my next few runs.

As you can see, I took my run VERY seriously today. Nothing says "Serious" like a double thumbs up...

As you can see, I took my run VERY seriously today. Nothing says “Serious” like a double thumbs up…

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!