Stretford Parkrun

One of my Christmas presents from my lovely wife was tickets to see a play in Manchester at the Lowry. The play was based on a Neil Gaiman book, which Helen knows I’m a big fan of. The book in question was The ocean at the end of the lane, one of his books which I haven’t read. With there being a train strike we decided to stay the night in Manchester.

We arrived at Salford Quays in the afternoon and immediately walked over to the Lowry to see the paintings by the man of the same name. It is a really good exhibition and we both enjoyed it. It is also free to enter, so if you’re ever in the area you should pop in.

We were staying in an apartment rather than a hotel, which was a bit of a faff with security and sending proof of who we were. They’d obviously had issues in the past. The apartment was not much large than our bedroom, but it had a kitchen area so we didn’t have the added expense of eating out.

The whole area was quite busy as Manchester United were playing at home to Everton, with the stadium just across the ship canal. The red team beat the blue team 3 goals to 1. The play, on the other hand, was simply stunning. Inventive, scary and spell binding. Once again, if you have chance to see it you should.

We then returned to the apartment and had a cup of tea. We know how to live it up. We’re also both doing dry January.

The next morning we drove south from the Quays to Longford Park where Stretford parkrun is located. The webpage warns visitors that the car park isn’t very big and that you’re not allowed to park on the adjacent roads. Fortunately, due to my proclivity for arriving everywhere far too early, there were still a few parking spaces available. Obligatory car selfie below.

The start and finish are located on a running track with two full laps of the park. The area around the park looked very posh and the park itself was also very nice, with a couple of large playgrounds for children.

There was a lot of people as we lined up at the start. Helen headed towards the back while I looked for a spot towards the middle. I didn’t want to go too fast in case my niggly injury flared up again. The rain also started just as we were about to set off, and not a light drizzle, this was a proper Manchester down pour. As such, there were a couple of places on the course where it was almost impossible for your feet not to be fully submerged.

The start involved one full lap of the track and then a short out and back section, where I could see how fast and determined the front runners were. It wasn’t until I’d ran a mile that I could run at the pace I wanted to as it was so busy. As I said, this was planned.

Two laps later the route returned to the track for half a lap. A number of runners sprinted past me as I neared the finish line. Again I wasn’t too worried. In the rain the barcode scanners were having some issues, but as soon as I handed over my finishers token I went off in search of Helen to cheer her on. She was in the zone and didn’t see me. I should have shouted louder.

We were both happy with our finishing times and positions as we grabbed a coffee from a mobile van, which wasn’t very good, and headed home to pick up Nelly from the kennels where she’d spent the night.

There must have been something on in the area, as there were almost 600 finishers, 150 more than the average. Anyway, we had a brilliant night away, watched an amazing play and completed another tourist parkrun.

49 Parkruns

My final tally of parkruns for 2022 was an amazing 49. One shy of the magical 50, but I’m happy. I ran my home parkrun of Lancaster 20 times, including three times over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I also ran 23 parkruns that were new to me, along with Morecambe five times and Fleetwood once.

I missed one parkrun in August due to a small niggle, and then missed the following week as I was competing at the Triathlon Team Relays with the City of Lancaster Triathlon Club. In December I missed one parkrun again because of an injury, and then Lancaster and Morecambe parkruns were cancelled on the two following Saturdays due to snow and ice.

I’m not sure what 2023 will bring. I’m not going to set a target, either time or number of runs. Instead, I’m simply going to try and run when I can, preferably with my lovely wife.

Watergrove Parkrun

Another week and another tourist parkrun, and once again I was ticking off my NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet). Watergrove is a fairly well-established parkrun, with today’s event being number 354. However, it isn’t a particular popular one as the average number of finishers is only 59.

Watergrove is located to the north of Rochdale, so to reach there from Lancaster it is a bit of a dog leg, heading south towards Manchester and then along the M62. Warning, the last section of road is cobbled, so I would suggest leaving your Ferrari at home. There is also limited parking, not a problem for me as I arrived with plenty of time to spare. Finally, there are no toilets.

The parkrun is named because the route is adjacent to the Watergrove Reservoir, which wasn’t very full.

Turning around 180 degrees and there was a fabulous view across the fells and all the way to Manchester, although my photo is mostly of the carpark.

At the first timers briefing the volunteer told us that the route was hilly, and with plenty of cobbles and had been judged to be in the top ten hardest parkruns in the country. I can attest that it is one of the toughest that I’d done.

The route is a wobbly V, with two out and back sections, both of them up hill. I set off at a good pace along the track with follows the reservoir, before turning sharply up a cobbled hill. The leader was soon completely out of sight, and when he passed me in the other direction after the first out and back, he was a long way ahead.

I tried to stay with the following group, but they soon pulled away from me, leaving me chasing the man directly in front of me. I caught up with him on the final flat section, but he had a quick sprint finish and pipped me by a second.

I managed to finish in 5th place but was 3rd in my age group. The man directly in front of me was in the 65-69 category. Wow! Overall, there were only 51 finishers.

I have to say that while this was one of the toughest parkruns that I’ve done, it was also great fun with the cobbled hills making it very different. I ran in road shoes, and I think I only just managed it. If it had been a little wetter, then trail shoes would be a must.

A final word of thanks to the volunteers who keep a small parkrun going, and have been keeping it going since July 2014, especially as there are another ten parkruns within a 13-mile radius.

My new NENDY is all the way towards Liverpool in Crosby, which will take less time to drive to than Watergrove.

Worsley Woods Parkrun

After last week’s speedy run at Morecambe parkrun, it was time for another tourist run. Slowly, as I tick off different parkruns, they get further and further away. My NENDY is well over an hour’s drive. However, there are parkruns quicker to get to than Watergrove, which was one of the reasons for picking Worsley Woods.

I arrived nice and early so that I could do a run beforehand. I hadn’t yet completely the monthly Strava 10km challenge, and there was a Garmin 10km challenge on this weekend as well. My route would also tick off three Veloviewer tiles, increasing my cluster by five tiles, as well as completing three streets on City Strides.

Anyway, after almost 5km I lined up near to the start. There was a simple briefing for those of us who hadn’t done the parkrun before, and then we all headed to the start. The start was fairly narrow and even though I was near to the front I still had to weave in and out of runners in the first half a mile. The route was fairly simple, one mile out along an old railway line, followed by one mile through the woods and one mile back. The woods included two short flights of steps, which always take it out of me. The weather had been dry most of this week, but I expect that the wood section can become very wet and muddy in the winter. Out of the woods and I overtook a few people on the long straight back to the start/finish.

The last few weeks I had been feeling quite strong, which I put down to the better training I’ve been doing, curtesy of Garmin’s virtual coach Amy, so I was surprised to see that my finishing time was 20:43 in 26th place overall and 2nd in my age group with almost 350 finishers. One of the busier parkruns that I’ve done. The first woman finished in an incredibly fast 18 minutes. I expect that to be in the top ten fastest parkruns of the week.

One of the most pleasant parkrun routes that I’ve done, which got me thinking. Do all of the good parks already have a parkrun?

On top of all this, at the start I bumped into a man with a Pointer. Slightly different look to our Pointer and from a different breeder, but still very friendly and wanting to know if I had any snacks.

A pb at Parkrun

I very rarely manage a pb at parkrun, mostly because I’m slowing down, but today I did. My lovely wife, Helen, is at a wedding today and was using the car. This meant that my options were either Lancaster or Morecambe parkruns. I fixed the puncture on my touring bike yesterday, so I was all set to ride to Morecambe. I took Nelly, our old Pointer, out for an early walk before heading off on my own. Nelly doesn’t really enjoy parkruns anymore.

The weather has been fairly grim, but the rain held off long enough for me to cycle to Morecambe, run the parkrun and then cycle home without getting wet. Very impressive.

Anyway, my virtual Garmin coach had me running an out and back session today, where I was to warm up for two minutes, run 8 minutes at 5min/km pace, then 7 minutes at 4:45/km, with two minutes cool down. I completely ignored that and went for it, managing to average 4:01/km pace, almost finishing in under 20 minutes.

However, my finishing time of 20:05 was good enough for me to finish 12th overall and first in my age group. It was also my quickest finishing time at Morecambe. Very pleased with that result.

As I have only been using a Garmin coach for two weeks, I’m fairly confident that it won’t be too long before I complete a flat parkrun in under the illusive 20-minute barrier.

Cliffe Castle parkrun

Cliffe Castle parkrun has been my NENDY parkrun for a number of months, so today I made the 90-minute drive from Lancaster to Keighly to run Cliffe Castle.

First problem of the morning was getting the Sat Nav to accept the postcode. Next problem was that the Sat Nav wanted me to take the M6 south and then use the A59. The time difference between this route and the back roads was negligible, however there were lane closures on the M6.

Anyway, I found the carpark without any issues and because this week I had brought my phone with me, I had a little walk around the park taking a few photos.

The park isn’t very large, but there was a magnificent greenhouse/conservatory, and a very nice pond and a fountain, although the fountain isn’t turned on until 9.30. I could also near plenty of birds from an aviary.

The main house, possibly not quite a castle, was still very impressive, although the 70’s style concrete bunker that had been built adjacent looked out of place (to the far right in the photo below, partly hidden by the tree).

As it was windy and wet, I huddled inside the car until it was nearly time for the start. I made it in time for the tourist briefing, where the volunteer mentioned that it was a three and a half lap course, with 90% of it downhill, with one very large tough climb, which is as high at the Ribbleshead Viaduct. After the usual announcements it was time for the off.

My new coach, Amy from Garmin, had today down as an easy run, consisting of a 2-minute warm up, 4km run at an easy pace, finished off with a 2-minute warm down. Almost immediately my Garmin was beeping and buzzing, letting me know that I was going too fast. I then came upon “The Hill” for the first time. It was steep and it went on for far too long. My Garmin then started telling me that I was going too slow.

The nature of a three-lap course means that inevitably I will be overtaking a number of people on my final lap, although as there wasn’t too many people running today, this wasn’t a problem. At the end of the third full lap the course does a small loop past the pond and fountain, with another sharp little climb, thankfully not as long as “The Hill”.

My finishing time was 22:21, which I am more than happy with, and 6th overall. I was 2nd in my age-group, almost a minute behind the other man in my group. There were 86 hardy parkrunners along with a dozen volunteers. Overall, a very pleasant and friendly parkrun, and despite “The Hill” one that I would recommend if you’re in the area.

This was also my 50th different parkrun and I completed the Pirates challenge on the running challenges Chrome extension. The Pirates challenge involves running seven different parkruns beginning with the letter C, and one beginning with an R.

My parkruns were; Cheltenham, Clitheroe Castle, Cuerdon Valley (no longer a parkrun), Centre Vale, Conkers, Coventry, Cliffe Castle and Rothay Park. My next NENDY is Watergrove parkrun near Rochdale. See you there soon.

Coventry Parkrun

Another weekend away. Me and my lovely wife headed down south to stay with Helen’s eldest son and his partner in Hitchin. We broke the journey up by staying at her brother’s house in Kenilworth, even though he was up in Fleetwood.

Anyway, the closest parkrun was Coventry, only four miles away, and Helen was also running along with our silly old pooch Nelly.

As expected, we arrived with plenty of time. However, neither of us had brought our phones, so the only photos are one that I “borrowed” off Google and another from an official photographer, although he managed not to take any photos of Nelly or Helen. The parkrun is within the War Memorial Park, with Parking at the Park and Ride (free for the first three hours). We had a walk around the park, which was really pleasant, with toilets that we free and well looked after.

We missed all of the run briefing, although Helen spotted that there was a person translating it into sign language, which we’ve never seen before. Lining up at the start there were a whole load of pens, depending on what time you expected to finish in. I lined up just behind the sub 20 minute area, not wanting to encroach upon the speedy people.

After my performance at Fleetwood last week, I ended up giving it some again. However, without the wind it felt much easier. The two lap route passes the War Memorial towards the end of the lap, and while the run was quite quick, it wasn’t pan flat.

I ran most of the run alongside a younger lad, who raced off from me with 100m to go, but he thanked me afterwards saying that he’d just managed a pb because I’d pushed him.

Amazingly my time was exactly the same as the previous week, 20:32. The big difference was that this week I finished 31st and was 2nd in my age group. More than happy with my result, and I think I can possibly manage a sub 20 minute parkrun before the end of the year.

I then waited for Helen and Nelly. I hadn’t realised how many people were taking part, and Nelly gets a bit stressed in crowds, so Helen had had no option but to take it easy for the first lap. Nelly is also 12 years old, and maybe parkrun isn’t for her anymore. They were both smiling though.

At the finish, Brooks were had a display and were giving away free running bottles, which we filled with water so that Nelly could have a drink.

Coventry was one of the best parkruns that I’ve done, and one of the busiest with 585 finishers, putting it in the top ten largest parkruns of the weekend. It was also my 150th parkrun, although there’s no t-shirt for 150. Only another 100 to go until I can claim a new shirt.

Fleetwood parkrun

My lovely wife Helen comes from Fleetwood, and her mother still lives there. We decided to visit, which meant that I could run the local parkrun. We had run there before in August 2018 at event #4. I pushed hard that day and managed my best ever parkrun time, two seconds under 19 minutes, although I finished 8th overall.

Helen and Nelly, our pointer, were going for a walk along the beach while I was running. Nelly likes beaches.

The prom has been revamped, especially at the turn around point, although the beach huts look good adjacent to the start/finish.

It had been chucking it down when we woke up, and on the drive over there had been a number of showers, but as I lined up at the start it wasn’t raining. The run director informed us that there was plenty of standing water and that it was likely that we would finish with wet feet. The wind was also fierce, but it would be a tailwind on the way back.

Today was Fleetwood’s 148th event and as I had had a fairly busy day the day before, I expected to take it easy. That lasted about 10 seconds. Usually at the start line I can spot the speedy runners, the whippet thin runners or the runners wearing racing flats. Apart from a very keen dog, no one disappeared into the distance as we set off. After about a minute I realised that the three people in front of me weren’t pulling away. That was when I decided to give it some biscuits.

After about 1km I pulled in front of the younger lad, leaving myself and another man following the man with the very keen dog. We both pulled past the man with the dog as we neared the turnaround point, and then with the wind behind me I pushed as hard as I could for the next km, hoping to create a gap.

One of the best things about out and back routes, is that you can see how far in front the speedy runners are, and count back to see what position you’re in. It was also encouraging to hear people saying “well done” to me as I passed them on the way back.

With 1km to go I passed a smiley volunteer who cheered me on. I kept an ear open to see how long before he cheered on the second placed runner. He was far enough back that I was beginning to think that the run was in the bag. My second ever first place finish was within my grasp.

A little way before the finish line Helen and Nelly cheered me on, even though I could only just about manage a grunt.

I crossed the line in first place in a time of 20:32. Possibly one of the slowest winning times ever, but you can only race against the people who are there. Amazingly, my only other win, at Millom, was in a time of 20:31.

My heart rate for the parkrun topped out at 182 bpm. I couldn’t have gone any quicker, and if the second placed runner had been close enough for a sprint finish, he would have beaten me.

I have to say that I was fairly ecstatic. I was also a red-faced sweaty mess when Helen took a selfie back in the car.

We then headed to Helen’s Mums, where I had a shower, coffee and two large slices of Helen’s amazing homemade quiche. All in all, a very good day.

Conkers Parkrun

We went bonkers at conkers!

My lovely wife Helen was on a two day Raku pottery course in the midlands, so we made a weekend of it, staying in a lovely B & B adjacent to a pub, although breakfast wasn’t included. At almost £100 a night, maybe breakfast could have been included.

The journey down there was horrendous and took a lot longer than the satnav predicted, so we were more than ready for an early tea in the pub, both of us having pie and chips, which was simply amazing, before taking Nelly for a walk along the canal. We might have taken Nelly for a walk first and then had tea!

Saturday morning we just about had enough time for me complete a parkrun and then drive Helen to the pottery rendevous. As Conkers was the closest parkrun to where Helen needed to be, that was the one to do.

Conkers parkrun is set in a wonderful park/nature reserve with a miniature railway and both the great outdoors and great indoors to explore. There is also a short disused section of the Ashby canal, which might be used for swimming as there appeared to be swimming pool style steps.

As we drove into the carpark there were parkrun volunteers directing us to a parking spot. I assume this is because the parkrun is popular and to reduce nuisance for other users of the park.

While I listened to the run briefing, Helen was busy taking photos for me to use in this blog, as well as looking after Nelly, who isn’t so keen on parkrun anymore. It’s a bit too quick for her old legs.

At the briefing we were told that because the route is narrow we should line up according to our expected times. This is done at Salisbury parkrun, but is ignored by loads of people, making it a very frustrating run. At Conkers it appeared that everyone did line up in the correct order, as I only had to squeeze past two runners near the start who were holding people up.

Anyway, the start was a little walk from the briefing area, across the miniature railway line and down a path. It was a shock to see loads of people already lined up. I wasn’t sure how my legs would hold up after last weeks 10km race, but I didn’t need to worry as my legs seemed to know what to do. The first few hundred metres were all uphill and then there was a long straight, before a ‘lollipop’ loop and then returning.

It was one of the most pleasant parkruns that I’d ever done. I’ve done a couple of four or five lap parkruns which border on unpleasant, but this was an absolute joy. I could have happily run it again. I didn’t as we needed to get to pottery.

I was pleased to finish in 27th place overall in a time just a few seconds over 22 minutes. There had also been nearly 400 finishers. One of the more popular parkruns that I’ve done. Once my barcode had been scanned we shot off for Helen’s raku pottery day. I dropped her off and returned to the B & B for a shower, before taking Nelly out for a walk along the canal and to find coffee and cake, which we found in a marina from a canal boat cafe.

All in all a magnificent day, finished off with fish and chips, and a sausage for Nelly. Also, Helen had a great first day at her pottery course, see amazing photo below.

No parkrun

I didn’t run parkrun this weekend. I have an injury. It isn’t too serious and I’m sure in a couple of weeks I’ll be fine. I hope that I’ll be OK as I’m doing the National Triathlon Relays with COLT in three weeks time.

Last weekend, running home from Lancaster parkrun, the ball of my right foot suddenly felt very sore, painful even. I’ve spent the last week trying to stay off my feet, not always easy with a dog who needs walks. I’ve been cycling instead of running and this week I’ve cycled 100 miles, which is probably the most that I’ve cycled in one week for a long time. Today’s 30+ mile sunny and hilly ride with my lovely wife was pretty spectacular. My foot isn’t as sore, but I’ll give it at least another week of rest.

Anyway, this Saturday was the first parkrun that I’ve missed this year. In fact, it was the first parkrun that I’ve missed since the first week of November last year. I feel a little sad about missing a week, probably two weeks, but it is only parkrun and I don’t want it to become like an albatross around my neck, where I have to do a parkrun every Saturday, come hell or high water.

With the relays being on a Saturday as well, I could possibly go the whole of August without a parkrun, although hopefully I will be able to run at Lancaster in two weeks time.