24 things I learnt from training for my ‘mile an hour for 24 hours’ challenge

A version of this post first appeared on Fetch Everyone on 27th September 2020.

When the London Marathon went virtual last year and I decided to combine it with the ‘mile an hour for 24 hours’ challenge, I thought that it would be fairly straightforward – just go out every hour and run, right? Still, I knew that I should probably practise doing that for a few hours a day, and I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be *slightly* more complex than I expected. A few things I learnt from my 24-hour challenge training…

Virtual London Marathon day

1. I realised I wouldn’t be able to eat proper meals for the entirety of the 24-hour challenge, because eating an actual proper meal less than an hour before running was resulting in a horrible stitch while I was out on the run. As such, I ended up grazing on small snacks for the entire day instead, and it was a bit of a balancing act making sure that I was (a) eating enough, (b) not getting a stitch or making myself feel sick, and (c) making sure also to eat stuff that was healthy and not just pure sugar!

2. Related to (1), it turned out that there was an exact correct number of mini rolls to eat in between 1.2-mile laps. That number was 2, or sometimes 3 if it was later in the day.

3. The neighbours all thought I was mad, having observed me running up and down the street several times a day, and I’m not sure my breathless explanations did much to mitigate this. The situation did not improve much on the actual day, when I went out 24 times in total, starting from midnight.

4. The running itself was not the challenging part, although my legs did complain a little when I insisted on going out for multiple runs just a couple of days after the Virtual GNR. The recovery in between laps seemed to be long enough that I could keep going out again without getting fatigued. This was definitely more of a mental challenge than a physical one – and a week before the event, the doubts that crept in about my ability to complete the challenge were absolutely nothing to do with not being able to run it. Physically, I felt like I could run a mile every hour forever (well, not really, but you know what I mean). It was more about being nervous that I wouldn’t have the mental endurance to keep going out again and again and again.

5. However, while the 45-ish minute period during which I sat down between laps may have been long enough for recovery, it certainly didn’t feel long enough for anything else! I couldn’t really get into some work or a book or a videogame, or do anything other than a bit of Facebook browsing – because the next thing I knew, I needed to go out for another run. Most of the people doing this challenge on YouTube used the time in between runs to get stuff done off their to-do list, and I take my hat off to them, because I wasn’t able to manage anything else on the day besides running, refuelling, and trying not to fall asleep!

6. During the training, I felt incredibly embarrassed and guilty about spamming my followers on Strava with up to six running activities in the space of a few hours. I didn’t, in the end, do an apology post for the 24 separate activities that clogged up their feeds on the day of the challenge – but I seriously considered it!

7. I still can’t decide whether I actually ran a marathon or not. Initially I was of the opinion that ‘no, it doesn’t count, I’m not running it all at once’, despite the fact that I was going to be in the results and get my medal and t-shirt and everything… but in the run-up to the event, (a) the London Marathon social media channels were very encouraging of people splitting the distance into multiple runs and (b) I discovered through my training and the actual challenge that going out for 24 runs in a day is its own type of tough, so maybe I should bestow the title of ‘marathon’ upon it after all. I don’t consider it a PB, though, even though my total moving time was a lot less than the last time I ran a marathon!

8. Running in the middle of the night was an interesting new experience, and I was relieved that, on challenge day, nobody along the route got suspicious for some random reason and called the authorities about the madwoman running past their house once an hour in the dead of night (see also (3)). I’ll actually did a few practice midnight runs in the last week before the challenge in order to scope this out…

9. Sleep deprivation was also an interesting obstacle. I planned to spend a couple of days in the run-up turning night into day so that I could sleep most of Saturday in preparation for starting at midnight… but this didn’t work out, and so I ended up staying awake for about forty-two hours with no sleep breaks. Strangely, the adrenaline prevented me from getting sleepy!

10. Somehow, despite running it exactly 64 times in training for the challenge, I wasn’t sick of my 1.2-mile route by challenge day. However, after running it another 24 times on the day itself, I couldn’t really face the same route for my recovery run the day after!

11. I had to do some strict laundry scheduling in the last few days pre-challenge, as I discovered that hanging around between runs in the same kit feels grim as hell and so I needed to change clothes after every few laps in order to feel marginally less grim (even my between-run trackies needed refreshing every once in a while). This was also necessary due to the fact that, as it transpires, even the most comfortable of sports bras starts to chafe if you hang around sweating in it for too long.

12. Stretching after every single lap was boring and possibly unnecessary, but I continued to do it anyway because I had remained uninjured during training and didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.

13. Multiple run practice was the only reason that I actually managed to keep up with the Fetch Everyone ‘Run The Sum’ game (where you run the sum of the date in kilometres every day, e.g. on the 17th you run 1+7: eight kilometres) in September. I certainly don’t think I could have managed it on just one run per day!

14. Related to (9), I had to try to learn how to drink coffee in between laps without feeling ill, because I thought that Pepsi Max alone probably wouldn’t cut it for caffeine on the day. As it transpired, neither agreed with me on the day and so I didn’t consume very much caffeine at all!

15. Next door’s cat has all sorts of hangout spots for different times of the day that I would never have known about if I hadn’t been out doing multiple run practice at all hours. Cats are fascinating.

16. Geth, it turned out, thoroughly liked the idea of ‘crewing’ for me during the challenge, which was something he’d picked up from watching hundreds of YouTube videos about ultrarunners doing impossibly long races. He thus ended up accompanying me during middle-of-the-night runs, helping to record video for my running vlog, and generally not sleeping as much as he would normally have done on a weekend. Reciprocity demanded that I go out to meet him at various points on his October long runs with fresh supplies of water and gels, which was quite nice (and a good excuse for a walk in those slightly less locked down times!).

17. In the 10-15 minutes before my next lap was due to start, I found myself at a loose end, impatient to go, and was often tempted to start the lap early. Related to (5), the 45-minute downtime was a really awkward length. However, as set out in the terms of my challenge when I first announced it, the plan was to go out every hour on the hour, and I was determined to stick to that… even if I would probably have been done with the marathon a lot quicker if I’d kept shaving 10 minutes or so off the rest period!

18. It felt a bit awkward running past the same council workers doing the roadworks every hour on the hour. I also observed more than I ever expected to observe in terms of the progress of said roadworks.

19. While I was regularly doing non-multiple-run-practice days up until the Virtual GNR a few weeks before Virtual London, the period in between was really dedicated to training for this challenge and so I found I was starting to miss both (a) running for longer than 1.2 miles at a time and (b) running on other routes. I planned to do a lot of exploring and venturing out to new places once the challenge was over! (This didn’t transpire as I was a bit burnt out.)

20. I was having some serious issues around my shoe rotation. I run every day (I started my run streak on 1st January 2020), have three pairs of running shoes currently in use, and never wear the same pair two days in a row due to all the standard shoe rotation arguments about shoe foam needing more than 48 hours to decompress and thus live its best life. However, does all of this go out the window if running multiple times per day? Should I have been rotating my shoes from lap to lap? Was I interrupting the foam decompression process by pulling on the same ones again 45 minutes after I took them off? So many questions.

21. Much to my surprise, in training, my laps sped up throughout the day. I tended to start off with a nice gentle lap that worked out any stiffness from overnight, and it seemed to get faster naturally from there. This trend did not continue on the day of the challenge; on the whole, I was fairly steady. It didn’t really matter to me, though, as I was just happy to finish each hourly mile.

22. ‘Needing’ to make my own goody bag to open at the end of the challenge (due to London Marathon not sending the medal and t-shirt until after the fact) was a really, really good excuse to buy new running gear. Not that I ever seem to need one.

23. I’ve never had a problem with arithmetic, but for some reason, when it came to the number of laps I’d done so far in a day, I could barely count to three. I kept finding myself arriving home thinking, ‘So, I’ve got two laps to go… is that right? Have I really done three laps already? It doesn’t feel like I’ve done three…’ I don’t know what I’d have done if I didn’t have my Garmin to keep count for me. This was even more ‘interesting’ on the day when I needed to keep track of 24 laps while sleep-deprived!

24. As fun, intense, and different as this challenge was, I have really, really missed real races over the last year, and I can’t wait to be on a proper start line again – not least the proper start line of the proper London Marathon in October 2021. Things are looking a bit bleak and endless at the moment, so I just have to keep crossing my fingers that we will be able to race again by then!

Race Review: Virtual Great North Run 2020

Finally getting round to reviewing a virtual race from last September – one of the highlights of my running season in 2020!

I keep referring to this race officially – in Strava logs and the like – as ‘Virtual Great North Run 2020’, as it keeps things neat. However, I fervently hope that there will only ever be one ‘Virtual Great North Run’, that the race can go back to normal(ish) in 2021, and that appending the ‘2020’ will forever be unnecessary!

GNR 2019
A picture from happier times, in South Shields after the Great North Run in 2019.

For most of 2020, despite the fact that in-person races had to cease along with everything else when we went into lockdown in March, I avoided virtual races. Virtual races have been a thing since long before the pandemic – the idea is that you pay the ‘race entry’ fee, run the distance wherever you like, send in your Strava log or similar as proof, and receive a medal in the post for your medal hanger/kitchen drawer/wherever you keep your medals. I’ve never been keen on the idea, because in normal circumstances I don’t see the point. If I’m paying a race entry fee, I want the experience of a real race – the crowds, the adrenaline, the excitement, the music, the fact that I automatically go faster when running with other people, the cheering spectators, the sights along the route, the atmosphere of the finish line… I could go on and on. I really, really miss real races 🙁

For some people, though, virtual races are ideal. There are people who can’t attend races on Sunday mornings due to other commitments, or who don’t like being in crowds – so it’s great that virtual races exist and can cater to these people. I’m just not the target audience, in normal circumstances.

However, we are far from normal circumstances.

The big coronavirus-related anxiety for me over the summer was the question of whether the rescheduled October date for the London Marathon would be going ahead. In a nutshell, as I already blogged lots and lots about this at the time: they took ages to announce; they eventually announced it was going virtual for 2020; I was able to defer my ‘real London Marathon’ place to 2021; I also accepted the invitation to run the virtual race in 2020 as I wanted to do it as a ‘mile(ish) every hour for 24 hours’ challenge. Sorted. I had signed up for my very first virtual race.

Virtual GNR bib
There was the option to print out your own race number. Now framed with all my others!

The Great North Run had cancelled their in-person race and announced they were going virtual for 2020 quite some time before the London announcement. When this announcement was first made (in June, I think?), I didn’t expect to do the virtual. Every cancelled race I had originally been signed up for in 2020 had invited me to do a virtual version in exchange for a race entry fee, and I hadn’t taken any of them up on the offer – because, as explained above, I don’t normally see the point in virtual races.

However, after signing up for the Virtual London Marathon, I felt that it would be a good idea to commit myself to a half marathon length run, as it would be good training – even though I knew I would be running the marathon in a different way that wouldn’t require quite as much all-in-one-go endurance. I had kept meaning to run half marathon length runs over the summer, but none of them had ever transpired due to lack of motivation, so I decided to sign up to the Virtual GNR in order to make sure that I actually did it.

The other reason was that the excitement of planning my 24-hour challenge had made me realise how much I was missing races. A virtual race, while still a glorified training run in my world, would at least help to give some structure to my running over the next couple of months.

GNR t-shirts
T-shirts from previous Great North Weekends (2015-2019). I did the 5k the first year we lived in Newcastle, and have done the full GNR every year since.

A few days after signing up, I happened to bump (not literally, I am a good social distancer) into a running friend while out on my Sunday long run, and as a result was invited to join the informal Sunday GNR training runs that were being organised by members of the local social run group. I’d attended a couple of the group’s formal runs around late February, just before everything shut down, but hadn’t realised that there were still some informally-organised socially distanced runs going on. (They’ve had to stop again since the lockdowns have become stricter over the autumn and winter, sadly!)

Virtual GNR outfit
All set for the Virtual GNR. Club vest and special Lucy Locket Loves GNR leggings on!

I enjoyed the Sunday training runs, which were at a pace that was a bit faster than my usual solo bumbling, but manageable for me, and decided to run the actual race with the group as well. It was a great atmosphere at our ‘starting area’, with perhaps fifteen or twenty people from the group all running in a socially distanced way (this was before even the ‘rule of six’ came in, let alone the return to full lockdown… so much has changed again in the last few months!).

Chalk start line
Start line marked in chalk on the pavement!

The group’s starting pace on the day was a little fast for me, it turned out. The first 5k of the race was the fastest I’d run since before parkrun shut down, and the first 10k of the race was a lifetime 10k PB for me of 1:03:30. This is really promising in terms of my aim to manage a sub-hour 10k in 2021… but was absolutely not something I should have been doing in the first half of a half marathon! I was focusing too much on keeping up with the group rather than running at my own pace – and, as I did know the route, I should maybe have told them to go ahead and fallen back to a more comfortable pace for me.

As a result, I burnt out and fell apart a bit in the second half of the race. The rest of the group gradually disappeared, and at about ten or eleven miles in I told group leader Alan (who was lovely and kept waiting for me) that he could go ahead and I’d finish a bit later. The last couple of miles were pretty difficult and slow and I kept taking walk breaks, which I hadn’t needed to do in a half marathon for some time. Geth came to meet me at about twelve and a half miles, and I just about managed to run-walk to the end of the planned route. My official time as measured by the GNR app was 2:25:29 – only a couple of minutes slower than my PB from the Inverness half in the different world that was early March, so I had to take that as a victory given everything that had happened in 2020! I stopped my watch at about 2 hours 29 minutes once it said I’d done the full half marathon distance, and I think I ran over the planned route finishing line at about 2 hours 32 minutes. All of those times were faster than any other half I’ve done apart from Inverness, so in terms of finish time, I can’t complain.

Virtual GNR t-shirt
The Virtual GNR t-shirt is one of the nicest yet.

I was a little disappointed with myself about the pacing as I like to finish strong in races, but to some extent it was out of my control. I originally planned to do another half marathon distance run before the end of the year, just to see what I could do when completely in charge of my own pacing, but I ended up needing a couple of months to recover from my 24-hour challenge/Virtual London Marathon. I need to build up again over the first few months of 2021.

Virtual GNR medal
Nice heavy medal for the effort too!

Besides, I’ll also be focusing on 10k training for the next couple of months, with the aim of being ready to get that sub-hour result later this year. It doesn’t look likely that I’ll be doing any real races any time soon… but it turns out a virtual race isn’t the end of the world, so I’ve signed up to do a virtual 10k later in January.

I still can’t wait to get back to real races!

Race Review: Inverness Half Marathon 2020

It was meant to be the start of a fantastic race season. Training was going brilliantly for my second London Marathon, and I was also looking forward to improving my PBs at all my usual spring races before spending the autumn exploring a few races that I hadn’t done before. While the Tokyo Marathon had been cancelled for all but its elite runners a couple of weeks previously, it just didn’t seem likely that the coronavirus pandemic would have that kind of effect here in the UK.

That was early March, of course – we had absolutely no idea what was about to hit us – and six months down the line, with everything else now officially postponed to next year, it is definitely the case that the Inverness Half Marathon was, and will remain, my only race of 2020, not counting the two virtual ones that I will be running in the next month.

I’d probably better get round to reviewing it, then, seeing as how in hindsight it was the highlight of my ‘season’!

Inverness Half Marathon
A stream of runners along the banks of the River Ness. (Photo © John Cooke 2020)

My initial, fairly modest, aim for Inverness was to run sub-2:35 (for context if you don’t know, I’m a slow runner who has been gradually bringing my half marathon times down from 3:46:45 in my first Great North Run in 2016). I had run a new PB of 2:36:32 at the 2019 GNR, and at that time had set the goal for my next half as sub-2:35, with the additional hope that I would further improve this to sub-2:30 by the end of 2020. (There were a lot of half marathons planned for 2020… sigh.)

However, the combination of my London Marathon training and my new habit (started on New Year’s Day 2020) of running every day meant that my pace was really improving, and it was starting to seem possible that I would be able to run closer to 2:30 by the time of the Inverness half. Geth was predicting an even bigger improvement of 2:25 based on my recent times, and I knew that if I had a good race I would probably be able to do it. However, I kept my goal time modest, because – as is always the case in half marathons – I was worried about pushing myself too hard and burning out. I promised myself I would be happy with anything under 2:35, which would be a good PB.

Pre-half marathon
All ready to run! Pre-race in the sports centre.

Inverness is a great course. Most of it is fairly flat, with the exception of a long-ish climb round about miles 4-5. This climb is early enough in the race that it feels like you’re getting it out of the way early on. The middle section is a bit suburban and twisty, but the first and last couple of miles feature stunning views of the River Ness (the last mile back to the stadium is a bit of a slog, but you just have to power through at that point!).

It was cold on the start line (though not as bad as 2019!), with everyone eager to get going. As such, I went off far too fast for the first mile, and it took until about mile 3 for me to settle into my target pace. I was a bit worried that this would come back to haunt me; however, I was able to maintain my pace really comfortably for the rest of the race. I finished in 2:23:42 – a huge PB of 12 minutes and 50 seconds. This was massively promising for the rest of the year!… at the time.

Obviously, that planned ‘rest of the year’ did not transpire, and I have a general rule of not thinking about the parallel universe where coronavirus didn’t happen, so I’m not going to dwell on what might have been this year. However, I’m hopeful that when races finally start back up again, I will be able to get back to chasing down those PBs – my next scheduled in-person half marathon is Edinburgh in May 2021, which is meant to be really flat and fast. 2021 could be the great race season that 2020 originally promised to be, assuming that things continue to move slowly back towards normality.

Plus, of course, I’ve got the Virtual Great North Run this Sunday with the local social run group – and my long runs with them have been promising pace-wise, so you never know…

parkrun tourism: Inverness

With the – tentative! – news that parkrun events may be starting up again in England by the end of October, I thought I’d better finish off my pre-hiatus tourism reviews!

Geth and I were in Inverness on the first weekend of March for the Inverness Half Marathon. It was our second year running the race, and last year the Saturday was a bit hectic (we got the train up on the Saturday and due to rail issues didn’t arrive in Inverness until very late at night). This year, I wanted a much more relaxed Saturday before the race, so we spent a couple of days driving up (staying in Edinburgh en route) and arrived in Inverness on the Friday night, in time to attend Inverness parkrun for a shakeout on the Saturday morning.

I’d been worriedly following the Inverness parkrun social media pages for the previous few weeks, as the bad winter weather had meant that they’d been cancelling every week. Inverness has two different courses – the primary course in Bught Park and the backup course in Whin Park – and thankfully the weather leading up to the half marathon weekend stayed dry enough that they were able to use the Whin Park course. We were on for Geth’s 100th parkrun!

Inverness parkrun
Post-run selfie with that poor collapsed pop-up sign! I think Inverness maybe need to order a new one from HQ…

The Whin Park course is three and a half laps of a pleasant park with a nice lake. There was a section that was a bit difficult and muddy due to recent flooding, but other than that it was fairly secure underfoot. Geth and I jogged round together at a fairly leisurely pace, saving our legs for the following day, and it was a really nice run.

Post-run and post-return-to-hotel-for-showers, we headed into town for cake. There’s got to be cake on a milestone parkrun day!

parkrun milestone cake
Milestone cake! Geth managed to squeeze in his 100th parkrun before lockdown started – he’s been on 100 ever since!

I don’t know when I’ll be back in Inverness, but I’d be happy to do this parkrun again!

parkrun tourism: South Shields

In February, I attended my twentieth different parkrun venue (a big deal in the parkrun world – you get various unofficial virtual badges and things like that). I’d been meaning to try out South Shields parkrun for ages, as I’d enjoyed lots of nice days out around the area, and it finishes along the same straight as the Great North Run does.

South Shields parkrun
Pop-up sign (love these) at South Shields parkrun.

It was a fairly cold winter’s day when I went – not really a day for enjoying the seaside! However, the route is an enjoyable meander through the sand dunes for the most part. This long section isn’t very flat or fast, but the tarmac downhill finishing straight makes up for it. Maybe it was just memories of multiple Great North Runs, but I found myself overtaking far more people than I usually do as I raced for the line!

Like a lot of the parkruns I attended this last winter, I would really, really like to do this course again in the summer. Of course, parkrun is very unlikely to return in the next few months, but hopefully we will be parkrunning again by summer 2021, and I can return to South Shields on a sunny day with Geth in tow 🙂

My five-year runniversary

On the 31st of May 2015, I was sitting on the sofa, about a third of the way through my first playthrough of Mass Effect. It suddenly occurred to me that videogame characters could run forever, never getting tired or slowing down, and as Commander Shepard ran forever on my TV screen, a fleeting notion came to me. ‘I’d like to be able to run forever,’ I thought wistfully, before being launched into another space gun battle and forgetting all about it for a few more hours.

On the 1st of June 2015, I started running.

Great North 5k 2015
On the start line of the Great North 5k 2015, next to a rain-soaked River Tyne.

My first running route was a 1.1k loop around where Geth and I live. On that first day, I had to take two (planned) 50-second walk breaks; the total route took me about ten or eleven minutes, nearly twice the time of the fastest kilometres that I do nowadays.

I got home and had to sit down on the stairs for a while, my breath icy and my chest aching. I had spent 2010-2011 doing Wii Fit on and off, and had attended a Zumba class twice a week for the last eighteen months before we moved from Southampton to Newcastle in February 2015, but running was a whole new level of cardio and I wasn’t used to it. As I thumped at my chest to try and bring it back to life, Geth looked at me pityingly. ‘This isn’t going to last,’ he observed, and in that moment, I also had my doubts.

However, I’m a stubborn cow, and so I went out again to do that 1.1k loop for the next four days in a row, cutting the duration of the walk breaks down by five seconds each day. I decided to run five days a week, Monday to Friday, and do a bit of strength training at the weekends. At the end of week one, I signed up for the Great North 5k, already feeling the need for a target race to help with motivation. By the end of week two, I could run the whole loop in one go (slowly!), and by the end of week three, Geth was convinced enough to buy me my first pair of running shoes (Karrimor trail shoes, because I didn’t know anything about running shoes). For week four, I doubled the loop to 2×1.1k and started again with the 50-second walk breaks.

Training for my first 5k was not without its challenges. I was a lot heavier then, and so I suffered from a lot of debilitating hip pain that really slowed me down. I also spent a week in the south of France with my family, and every morning I diligently staggered up the steepest hill I have ever run on, in 30°C heat! I later had to take a week off training due to an attack of runner’s knee, and found this a bit panic-inducing, not yet realising that training plans can be flexible. In the event, I only managed to run my final 5×1.1k training loop without stopping once… but that was enough, and I completed the Great North 5k 2015 in 35:51, a 5k time that I wouldn’t be able to beat for nearly two years, even after I started parkrunning most weeks.

While I had big running ambitions and dreams when I started, and always hoped to be able to run faster and for longer, I’m still amazed sometimes when I look back over the last five years. I have run approximately 1,770 miles (Strava says 1,769, Smashrun says 1,771, FetchEveryone says 1,773!), which isn’t huge mileage over five years by a lot of runners’ standards, but I’m more than proud of it. I’ve completed three 5k races, 112 parkruns, ten 10k races, two 10 mile races, eight half marathons, and one full marathon – my proudest achievement, even though my time wasn’t much to write home about. In the early days, I regularly staggered in with the tail runner at parkrun, and came last out of thousands of runners in the Great North 10k 2016. I am still slow, but on my good days I’m almost a mid-packer now. On New Year’s Day 2020, I started running every day, which has massively improved my speed along with my mileage.

I can’t express how much running has enhanced my life. I prioritise health and fitness in everything I do now, and I’m not sure that I would have lost five stone or managed to get sober if running hadn’t made me more aware of my general wellbeing. I’ve made friends through the wonderful running community that exists in the north-east of England and beyond. Above all, it’s an amazing hobby that I’ve been able to share with Geth – he was inspired by that first Great North 5k that I did, and started running himself the following year.

This morning, I ran that first 1.1k route again as part of my regular 2k-ish easy run, and cast my mind back to that first difficult attempt. I think that on the 1st of June 2015, if you’d told me that I would one day be able to run that loop without even really noticing I was running, I would never have believed you.

I still can’t quite run forever. But a marathon feels like forever, and for the time being, that’s enough.

Post-run
Post-run this morning. The best way to start the day.

parkrun tourism: Gibside

I continued my parkrun tourism around north-east England in February with Gibside parkrun, which takes place at Gibside National Trust in the northernmost area of County Durham. It wasn’t that far to drive, but the turnoff is easy to miss!

Gibside parkrun
Volunteers at the finish line of Gibside parkrun.

Gibside is a very pretty course, but it’s the opposite of flat. The hills are fairly brutal for most of the way round, and I think I was about seven or eight minutes slower than my PB. It does have a nice finishing straight though, and the paths are nice and wide all the way round, meaning that there’s no congestion – especially as it’s a fairly rural parkrun and thus doesn’t have a huge attendance.

I found it to be a bit of a theme over the winter that I ended up doing tough, traily, muddy parkruns that would probably have been more enjoyable during the summer months. Gibside wasn’t overly muddy, but it was scenic, and I think that scenery probably looks a bit nicer now that leaves exist again. Sadly, I likely won’t be able to test this theory until 2021, as I reckon parkrun won’t be back until then. Maybe by then I’ll have forgotten the hills and be willing to give Gibside parkrun another go!

parkrun tourism: Windy Nook

Before lockdown happened, I was trying to visit more of the parkruns local to me in the north-east of England, in the hope that I could one day tick them all off the list and achieve parkrun ‘regionnaire’ status! New parkruns spring up a lot in normal circumstances, so it would have taken some time, but it looked like an interesting adventure. I don’t know when that adventure will resume, as I expect that when parkrun does start back up again (2021?), I will be focusing on enjoying my home parkrun (Newcastle Town Moor) and nearest parkrun (Jesmond Dene) instead.

In January, however, I was very much in tourism mood, so one Saturday Geth and I got in the car and drove to Windy Nook parkrun, in Gateshead.

Windy Nook parkrun
Summiting one of the many hills on the Windy Nook parkrun course! Geth and I apparently had similar form on this occasion… (Photos from Windy Nook parkrun Facebook page.)

Windy Nook is a bit of a grim place on a cold winter’s day – iced-over puddles everywhere and scrubby-looking winter trees. The parkrun course is a very tough and traily three-lapper with lots of hills and a series of steps at one point (i.e. at three points due to the laps). As such, neither Geth nor I managed anywhere near our fastest times, although Geth did make it into the top five finishers due to the small field.

Post-parkrun coffee and cake was on offer at the nearby community centre, which was very welcome after a tough run! If I do this parkrun again, it will definitely be in the summer, as I imagine the area looks a bit nicer at the moment.