100th parkrun

Its taken a while, but yesterday I completed my 100th parkrun. No fanfare, no cheers and no treats at the finish, but I managed it. What made it even better was that I was able to run the whole thing with my lovely wife Helen, and our silly pooch Nelly, and it was at our ‘home’ parkrun of Lancaster. It was also the 65th time that I’d run at Lancaster, with 8 times at Morecambe and 4 at Salisbury. It also means that I am eligible for a new parkrun T-shirt, the black one with ‘100’ on the back.

As much as we both really enjoy parkruns, we don’t worry about missing the odd week, although I would have made 100 a lot sooner if we hadn’t lost 18 months due to Covid. What is also great to see is that the numbers are rising again, with over 200 finishers this week.

To make my 100th parkrun a little tougher I ran there the long way round and ran home as well, making my run just over 14 miles. We then headed into town for coffee, cake and a mooch in a book shop, ending the day with a trip to the cinema to see the latest Bond film. A good day all round.

If you wanted to give me kudos, my Strava link is below.

https://www.strava.com/activities/6119756945

Here’s to the next 100 parkruns, or to be more precise, the next 150 parkruns as the next T-shirt available is for 250.

The Return of Parkrun

It is so good to have parkrun back. We’ve all missed you. 14th March 2020 was my final parkrun before the very first lockdown, and we all thought that maybe a month and we would be back, but I don’t think anybody expected it to take 14 months.

24th July and me and my lovely wife lined up at Morecambe Prom parkrun. The prom is nice and wide so there is plenty of space, and it is a nice distance from where we live for me to run there and then run with Helen. So many people to say hello to.

We missed the following week, but 7th August and we lined up at Lancaster. I had run there again while Helen drove with Nelly, our silly old dog. It was the ‘B’ route as there was a wedding, which meant three and a half laps of Fenham Carr. If we had known that we would have gone somewhere else. There were 8 tired legs between us.

My next parkrun was Salisbury as I was visiting my Mum for a few days. The route had changed once again and I lined up at the front of the sub 25 minute area, and then spent most of the first lap trying to overtake people. If you’re going to run in 28 minutes, please don’t stand in the sub 25 minute area, especially when there is a bottle neck within a the first few hundred metres. Despite that I finished in 20 minutes and 20 seconds, which I was very pleased with. Maybe I can run sub 20 minutes again.

Having not done parkrun for so long and keeping ourselves busy on Saturdays, going forward we don’t intend to do one every week, but we will do the odd tourist run.

Last weekend was a bit of a kerfuffle. I lost my barcode so I needed to print off a paper one, which combined with printer problems and not being able to log into my parkrun account meant that it was a bit of a rush to get to Williamson Park. I hadn’t checked to see if the run was cancelled, which it was due to the music festival. We should have known really.

Anyway, it is good to be back.

One Year Without Parkrun

One whole year without a single parkrun. That isn’t a sentence that I thought I would ever write. Exactly one year ago I lined up at Lancaster parkrun with our trusty pooch (starting at the back) and gently jogged round to finish in 67th position. At the time, like everyone else, I thought that it might last a few weeks, maybe a month at the most. I never imagined that we would be without parkrun for over a year. The good news is that with the vaccine there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel with a provisional date of 5th June for parkruns to begin again. That isn’t to say that we haven’t been getting out, but Saturday without parkrun just doesn’t feel the same, especially when it’s followed by coffee and cake. Hopefully see you all in three months time, starting at the back with Nelly.

Fountains Abbey Parkrun

It’s Saturday 13th June 2020 at 3pm and it has been a very busy day so far. Up early to take Nelly, our silly pointer, for a 40 minute walk to the park, stopping off at the local free little library to drop off three books and pick one up. Gentle 25 mile bike ride with the beautiful Mrs B, who made sourdough blueberry pancakes upon our return and I’ve just baked a banana loaf. We’ve been keeping busy on Saturdays and if I’m honest, I’ve not missed parkruns half as much as I thought I would.

However, seeing as Saturday used to be parkrun day, I decided to blog about one of the best parkruns that we’ve ever done. Set in the the National Trust property of Fountains Abbey near Ripon, the run does almost two complete laps of the famous ruins. It was so good that we went back a second time a few months later.

Both times we made a weekend of it, staying at the Woodhouse Farm campsite. Very friendly, plenty of space, lots of grass for kids to run around in, perfect for families, although it was too busy for us to order food on our first night so we found a funny little pub a few miles away. Food wasn’t too bad and they let Nelly in. The second time, we stayed in a basic camping pod as it was in the middle of October and theĀ  last weekend of the year that the campsite was open. Both times we went for a long walk in the afternoon with Nelly catching a rabbit one time and me and Helen having a play on a rope swing in a secluded wood. You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stopped playing.

Anyway, this blog was supposed to be about Fountains Abbey parkrun. The first time we were there I volunteered to run with Nelly, so I lined up at the back. The start is very narrow and there was no way the two of us could overtake many people for at least most of the first lap. The second time Helen lined up at the back with Nelly while I pushed my way to the front. I remember running behind a man with his very young son for most of the run, only overtaking them in the last km. Looking at the results and at the time he was in the JM10 age group. That young lad will be an amazing runner when he’s older. For me, the difference between starting at the front and the back was over two minutes.

As always the volunteers and other runners were all very friendly. Well, all except for one woman who barged in front of Helen as she crossed the finish line. I could possibly understand this if you were almost at the front, and my wife is an amazing runner, finishing 2nd woman overall at one parkrun and winning her age group many times, but on this day Helen was running with Nelly and as I mentioned, started at the back, so neither of us understood why this woman needed to push in front in such a rude manner. I have to say though, that is the only occasion in nearly 100 parkruns that we have witnessed such buffoonery.

Fountains Abbey parkrun is definitely the most picturesque parkrun that we’ve done, and we would recommend you should go there at least once in you’re in the area.

Clitheroe Castle Parkrun

Back in August last year, my beautiful wife and our silly pointer headed down to Clitheroe for a parkrun.We arrived nice and early, an ongoing theme with me, and had a little walk around the Castle before anyone else arrived. Sat up on top of a hill the views across to Pendle were amazing, especially as it was a nice sunny day. From the top we spotted the gathering point for the parkrun, and a few minutes before 9 we ambled down there for the run briefing. Malcolm, my boss from work, has a caravan near Clitheroe so in the summer it has become his ‘home’ parkrun, doing it most Saturdays, and as he was there I introduced him to Helen and Nelly. His dog wasn’t running as he was too old, so instead he was sat patiently with Malcolm’s wife Julie. As we lined up at the start Malcolm used his local knowledge to get near to the front, while Helen headed towards the back with Nelly.

IMG-20190825-WA0004

As the start was a little narrow it took me a couple of minutes to get into my stride and also overtake Malcolm. After a couple of hundred metres there is a nasty little climb, with a respite halfway up, before steeply curving up towards the castle, followed by a sharp left turn and back past the start/finish area. Only four more laps to go. Did I mention that Clitheroe Castle parkrun is a five lapper! We’ve only done two five lap parkruns, this one and Millon (read about it here) and if I’m honest I find it too many. Not to take anything away from Clitheroe which was friendly and very well organised.

Slowly as I ticked off each lap I continued to overtake people, some of whom I was lapping and others on the same lap as me. I even looked like a ‘proper’ runner in one of the photos, even if I do have a little too much timber around my waist.

IMG-20190825-WA0005

I was very happy with 7th place in a time of 21:46, with only the top two going under twenty minutes indicating that it is a tough little course. Malcolm was a couple of minutes behind me, and my lovely wife finished well under 30 minutes, which on that course with the tight corners and narrow paths, running with Nelly is an amazing achievement. Unfortunately there were no photos of Helen, or of the castle before hand. We’ll just have to go back again soon, especially as Malcolm suggested that next time we could all go for a walk from his caravan along the river to a local pub. Nelly likes pubs.

Millom Parkrun

Continuing with my parkrun project (read about it here) where I write about all of those parkruns that me and my lovely wife have done in the past, but hadn’t blogged about at the time. Like many people I have a look at the weekly parkrun stats from Elliot Line, where one of the stats he lists is the smallest parkrun of that week. More often than not, Millom parkrun would be one of those listed, often with less than 30 runners. The winners time was also often over 20 minutes. Potentially, on a good day, I might be able to ‘win’ a parkrun.

As the crow flies, Millom isn’t too far from Lancaster, but to drive there takes a fair old time. Fortunately, Helen’s brother has a static caravan in the south lakes, so one weekend we borrowed it, giving us a much shorter drive to get to Millom. It was a typical July Saturday, in that it was absolutely chucking it down, and didn’t stop raining until later that afternoon. We parked up at the school in Millom and had a look at the ‘park’. The route is five laps of the school playing field, not the best route, but there aren’t too many other parkruns in the area.

With a wide starting area there was plenty of room for everyone. Helen was running with Nelly, while I was hoping for a speedy run. And we’re’ off! Two or three runners sped off much quicker than me, but by the end of the first lap I was in second place, although the guy in front was setting a storming pace. Slowly I started to reel him in, and at the start of the fourth lap I overtook him, and with the playing field being quite small, each time I turned a corner I could have a quick glance behind to see where he was. By the start of the last lap I was fairly confident that the ‘race’ was mine.

67374959_665651637242579_8826357419064950784_n1837300519.jpg

I crossed the finish line in first place with a great big smile. Chatting to the barcode scanner he told me that there are usually a couple of guys who go under 20 minutes, but neither of them were here that week. My time of 20:30 is probably one of the slowest ‘winning’ times ever. The organisers posted a photo on Facebook of the top three, and as you can see the 2nd and 3rd placed runners are giants.

My brilliant wife, with our silly pooch, wasn’t far behind me, finishing in 13th place overall, 2nd female and 1st in her age group. A great day, apart from the rain, was had by all.

I love how a parkrun like Millom exists, with so few runners and seemingly stuck out far from anywhere. We probably won’t go back as there are too many other parkruns nearer that we’ve not done, but I hope it continues, and if you’re looking for a high placing, this is the parkrun to do.

Dalby Forest Parkrun

31st October 2016 – best day ever. A couple of weeks later we were returning from a week in Whitby and stopped off to partake in the relatively new Dalby Forest parkun. It was only my 9th parkrun and despite a couple of niggling injuries I was feeling quite sprightly. Helen, my amazing wife, started from the back with Nelly, our silly little pointer.

The route was a one lap affair, with a couple of short muddy sections through the forest. I set off at a good pace, a little way behind the leading group, although I slowly caught and overtook a couple of people. The route back was on a good quality path, and I remember looking at my watch and seeing that I had done 4km, deciding to try to up the pace a bit to catch the guy in front. I was neck and neck with him as we rounded a sharp corner and up a small rise. I waited until I could see the finish line so that I could sprint past him, but the finish line was right there, and he pipped me. Local knowledge obviously helped.

FB_IMG_1478961136735

Only a couple of minutes later Helen and Nelly came into sight, both of them with big grins. I was very happy with 6th overall in a time of 19:44, and Helen was an amazing 39th overall, which as I can attest starting at the back with Nelly is never easy. You would think that it would help being pulled a long by a fit strong dog, but she gets distracted by smells and if you’re not careful you’ll end up in a heap of arms and legs.

Possibly I was faster back then, as the only time that I’ve gone faster was on the very flat Fleetwood Prom parkrun a couple of years later. However, I’m not worried about speed at the moment, as most of my training is for longer races and simply going out for a run and having fun.

I know that this hasn’t been the most informative of parkrun blogs, but it was three and a half years ago, and over 80 parkruns ago. By my calculations I have another ten parkruns to blog about, which at my current rate of blogging, should all be written about before the end of the lock down. Today the three of us went for a 10km run along the river and back along the canal, which was a great little route, but we do miss Saturday morning parkrun. We also miss being able to walk into Lancaster for a mooch in a bookshop, before stopping for coffee and cake at one of the great independent cafes that are dotted around this great little city.

Keep your distance, stay safe and here’s looking forward to the resumption of parkruns.

Project Parkrun

Yesterday I completed a very wet and muddy parkrun at Haigh Woodland (read about it here). This was my 90th parkrun and also the 25th different parkrun, a quarter Cowell. The first people to complete 100 different parkruns was Chris and Linda Cowell, hence the name. The Freyne club is for people who have completed 250 different parkruns, so I have a long way to go, but I’m happy with my 25 different places. The furthest away is Salisbury and my NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet) is Lytham Hall. This year I would like to run somewhere further away than Salisbury, and obviously complete my current NENDY.

I like to try to complete a new parkrun every month, and last year I managed this. Most of these were completed with my amazing wife and our silly pointer. This year by the end of February I have notched up two new parkruns, with Witton planned for next week. Many of these parkruns I have blogged about, but more than half of them I haven’t. Therefore, Project Parkrun is to blog about the 12 places I’ve (we’ve) been to which I haven’t blogged about. The problem will be can I remember what the run was like. Skipton, Princes and Dalby Forest were all run over three years ago.

When I have blogged about all 25 different parkruns I might collate them all into one Word document and release it as an e-book, or I might wait for another couple of years when I will have hopefully reached 50 different parkruns.

Haigh Woodland Parkrun

Me and my beautiful wife had planned on meeting friends at Witton parkrun near Blackburn, but they had to cancel last minute. Not wanting to run Lancaster parkrun, knowing just how much mud there is at the bottom end of the park, we opted for Haigh Woodland parkrun. This is the closest parkrun to where I work, and Helen had been to the park last year with friends and had really liked it, as well as having a go on the miniature railway.

Unfortunately Helen didn’t sleep too good and was feeling very much under the weather. Being the amazing woman that she is, she still wanted me and Nelly to have a good parkrun, so off we went towards Haigh Woodland, which is situated almost half way between Bolton and Wigan, and equidistant between the M6 and the M61.

My wife tells me that my need to arrive everywhere incredibly early in endearing, although me and Nelly were only there 15 minutes before the start. This did allow time for Nelly to have a poo and for our bligatory pre-parkrun selfie.

20200229_0848171540250911.jpg

There was a pre-run briefing for anyone new to Haigh Woodland (or completely new to parkrun), which was well attended. Cuerden Valley, Pennington Flash and Ormskirk parkruns were all cancelled due to the weather, which might have swelled the ranks.

As it was the 29th February, the run was going in the opposite direction, which probably didn’t make too much of a difference, except that we were told to keep left for the out and back sections. As it was in the other direction we should have been told to keep right. We survived.

Lining up at the start there was also the most amount of dogs at a parkrun that I’ve ever seen. The start was also very narrow, much like at Fountains Abbey, but with mud. Did I mention that I had wanted to avoid the mud at Lancaster? Haigh Woodland had so much mud that you couldn’t avoid it. In the early stages people tried to dither around it, causing everyone to slow down, while Nelly was in full on bonkers mode, wanting to race towards the front. Not today Nelly, I’m taking it easy.

At the start I had overheard a man chatting about the previous weeks Canalathon, so during the run I had a quick chat with him, as I had done the 50km event last year Read about it here). He’d done an early season 20 mile version, but the weather had been so atrocious the organisers had offered discounts to the future 50km or 50mile events. Cannonball Events put on Canalathon, as well as a load of other great races from 5km to Ultras.

The Haigh Woodland parkrun route gradually made its way down, across the miniature railway lines, through some mud and then through more mud. Gradually there was a bit more space so me and Nelly could start to overtake a few people, and a couple of dogs. Nelly was still full of energy for the uphill return, pulling me along nicely, with the usual good humoured comments of ‘can I borrow her’ or ‘that’s cheating’.

A couple of hundred meters to go and we saw another dog, so putting in a sprint, something that I very rarely do at parkrun, we whizzed past the dog and owner, who was wearing a canicross top, and into the finish funnel.

We finished in 59th out of 277 finishers in a time of 25:38, an almost identical time to last weeks parkun at Preston (read about it here), but 40 places higher.

A great little parkrun and one that I would love to do in the summer (on dry paths). The only negative today was having to wait ten minutes to get out of the carpark as the barrier wasn’t working for the car in front. Small things that aren’t that important.

Today was also my 25th different parkun.

Did you parkrun today?

If you did, how many different parkruns have you done?

Preston Parkrun

I had suggested to my lovely wife that we should do a tourist parkrun this weekend, and that it should be Preston. This was fairly prescient as Lancaster parkrun was cancelled due to the high winds, and Morecambe turned out to be very grim, with 50mph winds and sand blasted into runners faces after the turn around point.

Preston parkrun is located close to the city centre in Avenham Park, and with free parking being a premium we jumped on a train. The times of the trains are not ideal, either arriving with only ten minutes to get to the start, or with 45 minutes. The later train was already running late on its way to Lancaster, so we hurried to catch the earlier one. Obviously Nelly our silly pointer joined us, and was very well behaved on the train, only pumping once or twice. Arriving early also gave us chance to have a walk round Avenham Park, which was an absolutely lovely park, with a Japanese garden and a large cafe. Helen also said a brilliant ‘Dad’ joke on the way which will have me chuckling for a long time.

49568821996_77d08b0506_c

The River Ribble alongside the park was very angry, flowing fast, with debris indicating that it had been even higher. The Environment Agency had announced that the Ribble was one of many rivers in the area to exceed existing river levels. Those one in a hundred year flood events seem to be occurring every couple of years.

After our little walk around the park we listened to the announcements, with the run director giving a shout out to the nearby Cuerden Valley parkrun, which had been cancelled due to being water logged.

I was running with Nelly so I lined up near the back of the field and chatted to a man with a bib stating that this was his 250th parkrun. Naturally I congratulated him, as did most other people. There was also a woman wearing a ‘this is my 50th parkrun’ bib. I’ve never seen this before, but I like it.

The start of the run was quite busy and slow, with a nasty steep climb, before gently descending for about half a lap. The course is three laps, and by the start of the final lap Nelly was definitely first dog, although the run leader did overtake us as we passed the turn off to the finish tunnel.

49569034047_b54df6b509_o

There was also a photographer on the course who had uploaded his photos to Flickr before we’d even got home. I’m not sure what kind of a face Nelly is making, but she looks fierce (she isn’t).

feirce nelly

Once across the finish line we waited for Helen to finish, although we didn’t have to wait long. After a slow start Helen had been quicker for each subsequent mile and was third in her age group. I might be a little biased, but my wife is looking fit, although the photographer completely missed her every lap.

We ambled back to the train station and only had to wait five minutes for a train. Once again Nelly was very well behaved, getting admiring looks from everyone.

By ten thirty we were home, uploading to Strava with a brew. An excellent start to the day.