Parkrun Volunteer

I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent parkrun blogs (read about themĀ here andĀ here) that me and my beautiful wife intend to complete our fiftieth parkruns together, and that I’m currently on 49.

I put my name down as a volunteer two weeks ago, but Lancaster parkrun, along with loads of others was cancelled due to ice and snow. This weekend was therefore my first time as volunteer. The founder of the first parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, once suggested that it would be nice if everyone volunteered at least three times a year, but that it was fine if you didn’t. At Lancaster, and at most parkruns, there will be people who never volunteer and people who only volunteer. I definitely fall into the former category.

This Saturday I was down to help set up, so I was there at 8am. This wasn’t popular with our dog, as she wanted to come with me, although she did do parkrun with my wife a bit later. There wasn’t too much to do with setting up, and people not down on the volunteer roster arrived to help out as well. In the end there were over 30 volunteers, so after setting up there wasn’t too much for me to do except cheer people on.

I really enjoyed it as I got to chat with more people and also to see the whole event, from the lead runner making it look easy and not out of breath, to the finish line sprinters, the joggers, the children and the first timers. I stayed right to the end and cheered on the last finishers before the tail walker came in.

I love how inclusive parkrun is and it doesn’t matter in the slightest how long it takes. A 60 minute 5k is just as far as a 19 minute 5k.

I probably won’t be volunteering next week as it is a takeover week by Morecambe parkrun, which is due to start up in a couple of months. I’m really looking forward to there being another parkrun in the area, and one that I could on a good day run to.

I would definitely recommend that everyone should volunteer at their local parkrun at least once.

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Parkrun Extras

Currently I’ve done 49 parkruns and have been there for a few weeks as I’m waiting for my wife to catch me up so that we can do our fiftieth together. Because of this, I’m getting my parkrun fix through other means. Last week I volunteered for the first time, although due to the ice Lancaster was one of many that was cancelled. I have added my name to the volunteers roster for the next two weeks, which should allow Helen to catch me up.

Apart from volunteering, my first fix comes from the free weekly timed podcast, which is a fun 30 minutes chat about parkrun with Vassos Alexander, the former sports guy from the radio 2 breakfast show, and Louise Ayling, the uber parkrun tourist.

http://www.freeweeklytimed.com/all-podcasts/

From listening to a few of the older podcasts I came across an add-on for Firefox or Chrome from Running Challenges, which adds a whole load more stats to your official parkrun results page. These stats include p-index, wilson-index and your Tourist Quotient, with dozens more. One interesting stat is the all year runner. This lets you know how many parkruns you’ve done in each month. September is my busiest month with 8 parkruns, but alarmingly, I’ve not done a single parkrun in April. This will be remedied soon.

https://running-challenges.co.uk/

If stats are you thing, then go and find Elliott Line. This website is a weekly run down of parkrun, starting with a list of the largest and smallest parkruns. For example, on 3rd February 2019, the largest parkrun in the UK was Bushy Park with 1267, and the smallest was Fort William with just 16. There are then attendance records and any new parkruns along with how many people have reached milestones. Last week there were 875 runners who joined the 50 club.

http://www.elliottline.com/parkrun/

Finally, a tourist map which is linked to your parkrun results page and shows where the nearest parkruns to your home location that you’ve not yet done. This is similar to the NENDY stat which I mentioned when me and my wife did Ford parkrun in Ulverston (read about it here), except that the map will show 10, 20 or even 30 nearest parkruns. You will need to enter your parkrun athlete number for it to work. To find it just search for ‘parkrun tourist tool’. Of course if you live in London or a large city then there will be loads to chose from, but up in Lancaster there are not too many nearby. That is until Morecambe parkrun starts up in the spring (hopefully).

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It might be a while before we tick off Blackpool parkrun as we have a busy couple of months, but me and my beautiful wife are aiming to complete at least one tourist parkrun a month.

 

Book Review: Debra Bourne – parkrun

It’s no secret that both me, my beautiful wife and our silly dog are all big fans of parkrun. Nelly is looking a bit tired because she’s had double run today and a long walk in the snowy lake district yesterday, and also doesn’t really want to give me the book back.

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As soon as I found out that there was an official book to celebrate ten years of parkrun I ordered a copy, even though it’s a few years out of date as parkrun has been going for over 14 years now.

I’ve blogged about parkrun a few times before (here, here and here). Currently I’ve done 49 parkruns and you get a free T-shirt with ’50’ on the back once you’ve completed 50 (other T-shirts are available for 100, 250 and 500), but I’m waiting for my wife to catch me up so that we can complete our fiftieth together.

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Back to the book, and it’s brilliant. It contains the history of parkrun, how it evolved, new runs added and new countries, but the best thing about it are the stories from regular people explaining how parkrun saved their life. So many people who were worried about their health, physical or mental, and either found parkrun or friends recommended it. One thing I love about parkrun is how open and welcoming it is to non-runners, and how parkrun becomes part of your Saturday.

Lancaster is our regular parkrun, which has been going for two and a half years. When it started there were usually 150 there, but on the first Saturday in 2019 there were 391 finishers, and three weeks later over 400 for the first time. There are also plans a foot for a parkrun in Morecambe along the prom, starting this spring.

The success of parkrun is astounding, as the stats in the book attest to. International parkrun day is held on the first Saturday in October, and on the tenth anniversary there were 477 parkruns globally with almost 80,000 finishers. Last Saturday there were 1388 parkruns and 285,000 finishers. In the UK alone there were 581 parkruns and 160,000 finishers.

As I stated at the start, I am a convert to parkrun and in a few weeks time I am sure that I will be blogging about me and my wife reaching 50.

Canalathon

Like most people I like to have a couple of ‘A’ races to aim for each year. An early season ‘A’ race for me is the Canalathon. There are three distances, 50km, 75km and 100km. I’m doing the short one, which goes from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge along the canal towpath.

I’ve upped my running in the last couple of months, with my attempt at RED December (Run Every Day) and a 25km run last weekend (read about it here). My aim is to do another long run every two weeks, but probably nothing longer than 30km.

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Despite the many ultra-distance triathlons that I’ve done, I’ve only previously done one ultra-run, which was Halloween Hell on the Humber. That particular race was a 6 hour run over and back across the Humber Bridge as many times as you can. Each lap was 4 miles and I managed 8 laps. I think the winner did 11. I had enough time to complete one more lap but I didn’t have the legs.

The run legs of the ultra triathlons that I’ve done have been on 1 mile laps, so Canalathon will be my first ultra-distance run that is a point to point.

I’ve mentioned to a few people about this race, and almost everyone has said that it should be nice and flat. In the 13 miles from Manchester to Rochdale there are 41 locks, so most definitely not flat. However, the race will be very easy to navigate as the race never leaves the towpath. The Rochdale canal beyond Sowerby Bridge goes through a tunnel so this makes it the perfect place for the finish.

An interesting fact about the Rochdale canal is that the summit is very short and has always struggled with a constant supply of water. Nowadays there is a limit of only four boats per day.

Me and my beautiful wife are hoping to make a weekend of the event, staying in an Airbnb with our dog, and hopefully doing Halifax parkrun on the Saturday. I’ve also booked the Monday off work to give my legs a chance to recover.

Long Slow Run

I’ve entered the 50km version of Canalathon in two months time, so I thought it was about time that I did some longer runs. The 50km version of Canalathon starts in Manchester and finishes in Sowerby Bridge, which I think is the full length of the Rochdale Canal. There is also a 75km and 100km event on the same day, but for me the 50km version will be far enough.

Back to this morning’s run. I did just over 25km at a nice even pace, aiming for 10km an hour. I also wanted to try out my new Montane Fang5 trail running vest which my amazing wife bought for me last week. She’s had one for a few months and I borrowed it when we did a 90 minute run last week, but it was a little small. I also enjoyed holding the full water bottles, which remind me of fake boobs, although I have never touched fake boobs so I’m just guessing.

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The first hour was running with our silly little pointer, Nelly. To keep her happy we went to the park and did two laps with her off the lead chasing squirrels. Imagine my surprise when she returned with one in her mouth. If I’m completely honest I think she may have found it and didn’t actually catch and kill it herself.

 

We then continued past the prison and down to the River Lune cycle path before returning home. Nelly didn’t look impressed about having to end her run when it was obvious that I was carrying on. Nelly isn’t the easiest dog to run with and 25km with the second half mainly on paved roads wouldn’t suit her.

Being incredibly organised I didn’t have any gels and knowing that without any extra calories I would be in a mess by the end, so I passed The Edge Cycleworks (friendly local bike shop in Lancaster) and bought a couple of Torq gels, finishing one there and then. My usual brand for gels is OTE, but if I’m feeling cheap I go for the Wiggle own brand. I seem to be able to run with any gel, except got Power gels where I had a very bad experience at the Lanzarote Ironman in 1999. I had my second Torq gel as I passed the new university building. Forest Fruits flavour not as nice as the Rhubarb one.

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With only 5km left I slowly made my way home, and managed to not have to add in any silly little loops to make up the distance.

Writing this blog a few hours later, and my legs don’t feel too bad, although my ankles feel stiff so I will probably go for a very gentle swim in the morning. The Montane vest was brilliant. I might have to adjust the straps a little, but it was comfortable and I hardly noticed that I was wearing it. It also had pockets to put my hat and gloves as the run was a little warmer than expected, and various other useful pockets for my phone, keys and gels. A bi thank you to my lovely wife for buying it for me.

Ford Parkrun, Ulverston

I’ve blogged a couple of times before about how brilliant parkrun is. Read about my pb at Lancaster parkrun here, and about reaching 25 parkruns here. I’ve also recently started to listen to the free weekly timed parkrun podcast with Vassos Alexander (former sports bloke from the Chris Evans radio show) and Louise Ayling (uber-parkrun tourist), which is very enjoyable. One item that caught my attention was the extra stats that were available if you download a plug-in for either Chrome or Firefox. I will blog about these stats sometime in the future, but one of them that was particularly interesting was my NENDY – Nearest Event Not Done Yet. According to the stats, based on distance as the crow flies from my home parkrun of Lancaster, my NENDY was Ford parkrun in Ulverston. Me and my beautiful wife therefore decided that this Saturday we would have a road trip, along with our loyal pointer, Nelly.

Ford parkrun is fairly new, with today being only the 24th event. We found the park without too much trouble and were immediately welcomed as old friends. Due to it being a bit damp we would be running the ‘winter’ route, which was four laps, including quite a tough little hill.

I chatted to a few people at the start who told me that they’ve only had 100+ runners on a couple of occasions. Secretly I was hoping to improve on my best finishing position of 5th.

The route was a little tricky with tight corners, a dead turn and a slippery grass section. Gradually as the run went on I managed to overtake a few people and finished in a very pleasing second place, although I was two minutes behind the winner. My brilliant wife finished in 32nd, which considering how narrow the paths were, and to be running with an unruly dog, was also very pleasing.

Overall a very pleasant trip to Ulverston, with some of the friendliest people. Not the easiest parkrun for a dog, but Nelly didn’t seem to mind.

Back home I had a look at my revised NENDY, which is now Blackpool, although I’ve promised my wife that we would do our fiftieth parkruns together. Today was my 49th and Helen’s 45th, so no parkruns for me for a few weeks.

Rivington Pike Night Run

Me and the wife are always looking for something different, so when I saw an advert for a night run up to Rivington Pike we decided to enter. A few months ago my job moved to Horwich, which is the town at the bottom of Rivington Pike, so I had run up there a couple of times before work.

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We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, but what we didn’t expect was over 400 entrants. The race HQ was buzzing with people. We said ‘hi’ to Charlie, who was on a running streak of over 100 days, and his daughter, who was also running.

I was wearing my Enduroman woolly hat, and one of the race marshalls came up to me, also with the same hat. We chatted about which race he’d done and what year, although it turned out that we’d never been to the event in the same year. As an aside, at the swimming pool this morning I saw a man wearing a Brutal events swimming cap. Ultra-triathlon competitors from both of the UK based races in the same week, small world indeed.

Back to the race, and I had agreed to run with my beautiful wife, just in case she got lost, although with so many people there this was highly unlikely. I was happy to run a little slower as I had done a 7km swim the previous day and was still feeling a bit tired. Not the best preparation for what was going to be a fairly tough run for everyone.

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With so many people running, we set off near the back, which in hindsight was a mistake as the first hill (which seemed to go on forever) had a couple of pinch points, so as soon as a few people started walking, everyone behind had to. The climb was also full of gnarly old cobbles, making it tough going under foot. Eventually the hill flattened allowing us to run for a while, before the next climb up round the back of the Pike.

As soon as the track started to descend my wife was off. She is naturally a very good off-road runner, and I always struggle to keep up with her on the descents. The downhill bit didn’t last for too long as we soon headed off up Winter’s Hill, although not all the way to the top where the large mast is. The track off the top was again very tricky and muddy, and I was overtaking by quite a few people. The view was also spectacular, not through the mist, but with all of the head torches disappearing into the distance.

Back onto the wide track before the final descent back to the race HQ, with large grins on our faces. Both of us loved the event, very well organised, plenty of marshalls and generally lots of very happy runners. The whole event had been given an ‘alien’ theme, hence the unusual medal and race number.

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The race numbers also had a small timing chip on the back, so the results were online within a couple of hours of crossing the finish line. My amazing wife even managed to finish 5th in her age group. Another nice feature was that the official race photos were uploaded onto Facebook so that you could download any you wanted for free.

A big thank you to Epic Events for putting on a great race, and to all of the volunteers, supporters and marshalls who turned out on a cold and windy night in January. Definitely a race that we will be doing again.