parkrunday: Town Moor #511

A nice post-GNR slow plod after a long and busy week!

Sadly, Town Moor parkrun couldn’t do the traditional GNR t-shirt group photo today for COVID security reasons, but there were lots of photos both official and unofficial so I’ll have a hunt online for those later. It was great to see everyone in their smart burgundy t-shirts (it may be my favourite Great North Weekend t-shirt yet – and I’ve got seven of them now!).

I’m still not quite used to the post-hiatus route on the Moor and it does mess with my mind a bit when doing sections that used to constitute different points along the course. For instance, the opening stretch of path from the old course is now past the halfway point on the new course… but when I’m running that bit there’s a part of my mind that still thinks ‘oh no, we’ve only just started!’.

In terms of parkrun I have very definitely settled into a pattern where it takes two ploddy miles for my legs to de-stiffen and so it’s only in the last mile that I can build up a bit of speed. This is not a problem at the moment as my focus is the marathon, but after London I really need to work on my stiff calves so that I can run parkrun properly again.

Love that burgundy shade!

I was intending to do Leazes parkrun next week but Geth is worried about it being full of students due to Freshers’ Week so I will have to have a rethink…

Race Review: Great North Run 2021

It was so great to be back yesterday after last year’s virtual version!

It wasn’t a fully normal GNR. Due to various issues such as the Tyne and Wear Metro not wanting tens of thousands of people crowding onto the Metro in South Shields after the race, the course was changed so that instead of running to South Shields, we all turned back at the halfway point and returned to Newcastle. To avoid the usual crowding, we were also all set off in waves, with the elite wheelchair athletes setting off at 9:15am and the last of the mass runners not starting till after 1pm, so it really was a full-day event (especially for the spectators and volunteers, who all did brilliantly – the charity cheering points were still in full voice when I was going round between 11ish and 2ish!).

The expectation is that things will be fully back to normal next year. However, I am so glad that it was able to go ahead this year, even in an altered form, and in some ways there were a few advantages – due to Geth being allocated a slightly later wave than me, I was able to wave to him when he overtook me at three miles and again when I spotted him going the other way on the out-and-back at about five and a half miles, whereas we don’t see each other en route at all when it’s the normal course. It was also nice to be able to walk home from the finish on the Town Moor rather than having to queue for the Metro!

Red Arrows
It was amazing to see the Red Arrows again while waiting on the start line! They had to miss the 2019 race due to other commitments, so it’s been three years since we last saw them.

There were some tough uphills in the ‘unknown’ section (the last part of the run around central Gateshead and Newcastle), but I had expected that, knowing the area, and due to my slow plodding pace I didn’t really mind them (I’ve been doing a lot of hills in my marathon training so it was fine). I knew as soon as I saw them that Geth wouldn’t have liked them, though, which was confirmed by him complaining about them for the rest of the day!

I was about half an hour slower than my half marathon PB, but that’s just the way it is at the moment – marathon training has slowed my pace right down, and given that getting round London is my main goal for this season, it wasn’t the right time to race a half marathon properly. I’ll stick to spring marathons in the future so that I can tackle the GNR at full speed in future years! However, because of all the postponements from last year, races just had to fall where they fell this year rather than me planning out the season as I usually would. I’m just grateful to have them back at the moment.

Back to South Shields next year, which I’m sure will be just as much of a return party as yesterday was!

And in the meantime, for me, onwards to London…

parkrunday: Jesmond Dene #30

It’s the Great North Run tomorrow so I opted to volunteer at parkrun in order to save my energy. It was a busy one at Jesmond Dene, as expected, as (a) the GNR is setting up on the Town Moor for the special COVID course, meaning that Town Moor parkrun was off today; (b) there are thousands of running tourists in town for the aforementioned GNR, many of whom would be looking for a pre-GNR parkrun; and (c) lots of those tourists would be naturally drawn to Jesmond Dene as it provides a rare opportunity to collect a parkrun beginning with J (yes, alphabet-hunting is a thing in the parkrun universe).

It seemed like it all went okay though! The core team were very well prepared and marshalling at the lap split point was really fun. A few people got confused but everyone ended up on the right path for the lap they were doing at the time!

Geth was marshalling too (also saving energy) and so this morning’s run took the form of a nice slow jog to the volunteer meeting point.

parkrun volunteering

I was also pleased that the weather was nice today, unlike the previous two occasions I’ve volunteered at Jesmond Dene since the restart!

Back to Town Moor next week, hopefully sporting a brand new GNR finisher T-shirt…

parkrunday: Town Moor #509

Geth and I were back on the Town Moor this morning for another flat (well, certainly flat compared to Jesmond Dene) parkrun. Geth was able to take advantage of said flatness to run his fastest time this year! I, on the other hand, still had Thursday’s 18-miler in my legs, and so plodded round in my slowest time this year not counting last week’s tailwalking. It took two miles just to shake the stiffness out of my legs! I think that’s just going to be the way it is until after the marathon…

It was a gorgeous sunny morning (probably because I wasn’t jinxing the weather by going to Jesmond Dene) but not too warm, so perfect running conditions. I hope we’ll get a few more mornings like that in the autumn, post-marathon, so that I can take advantage of them.

I also wrote the parkrun run report for the first time today. This was a volunteer role I’d wanted to do for a while so I’m glad I had the chance to give it a go!

parkrun selfie
Weekly parkrun selfie! I was pleased to see there were some competent photos being taken by a volunteer as well, although I am almost certainly going to look slow in them 🙂

No parkrun for us next week as we are attending a special occasion. I’ll be doing a ‘notparkrun’ very early in the morning instead!

Six-week-out reflection

Six weeks to go until the London Marathon. Three till the Great North Run. I’m finding the long runs really tough but I’m getting there. There have been several main issues plaguing those long runs recently:

  • Foot pain – this has been a real saga. I’ve always suffered with burning pain and hotspots in the balls of my feet on long runs due to my shoes not being wide enough for my feet, but during this training period I have been so fed up with it (as it’s so painful that it stops me running) that I’ve been trying to find some way to stop it happening. Through the purchase of a ridiculous number of new pairs of shoes, I have discovered that running shoe companies don’t actually make shoes wide enough for my feet, but one or two of the pairs are at least a bit better than what I had before. I’ve also been experimenting with various sock types, moleskin tape and metatarsal gel pads, but I haven’t found the magic combination yet. I really hope I find it soon, as it’s making me pretty miserable.
  • Recurring hip issue – this was a real problem when I started running, but vastly improved when I lost a lot of weight. I’ve put a bit of weight back on during the pandemic and it’s really starting to niggle again, especially when my form suffers due to the aforementioned foot issue. I’ve been doing my yoga/Pilates stretches to try and ease it, and for this morning’s run I took an ibuprofen twenty minutes before starting and didn’t have any hip pain en route. The ibuprofen strategy is not ideal, but if it gets me round on the day then that’s what I’ll do.
  • Water logistics – I previously carried two 400ml bottles in the front pockets of my running rucksack, but it’s been a hot summer and I found on my last super-long run that it wasn’t enough. I’ve also had those bottles since I started running and they’re getting a bit old and manky now, so Geth recently bought me two 500ml soft flasks as a replacement. I tried them out this morning (a six-mile run) and was surprised to find they felt about twice as heavy as my old ones! That extra 200ml really makes a difference. They’re nice to use though once you get the hang of them. The only thing was that they weighed down my pack and caused it to rub against the back of my neck more heavily than it usually does. This settled down after a while, but I’m a bit worried about chafing on longer runs, so I’m going to start carrying a spare multiuse just in case.
  • Lack of energy – on my last super-long run I felt really tired. I can’t say that this is stopping me running though (it’s been the hip and foot pain that has done that) – it’s just slowing me down a bit. I’m hoping that this issue will disappear with better fuelling.

To keep me semi-occupied during runs I’ve been listening to podcasts (I treated myself to some Aftershokz bone conductors, which have been a godsend – and yes, you can wear them even if you’ve already got glasses, hearing aids and a multiuse on, it just requires a bit of careful arrangement!). The mental game has been tough during this training period though. I’ve had to stop doing lapped routes and spider/crossroads routes because I often just don’t have the fortitude to resist cutting the run short when I go past my house again. Another thing is that, as part of trying to deal with the foot issue, I started following an online tip to take a walk break once per mile. Unfortunately this has given me mental ‘permission’ to walk when it’s hard, meaning that the last few miles of most of my super-long runs have been mostly walking. I’m not sure how to deal with these issues.

I also keep seeing the advice (which has become more prominent over the last couple of years) that even slower runners shouldn’t be doing more than three hours in training runs. This advice is bad and is starting to annoy me, to be honest, as it shows a real lack of understanding of the way slower runners train. At my current ‘stop for walk breaks/water/gels every mile, run really slowly the rest of the time’ pace, three hours wouldn’t even get me to half marathon distance. I need to build up to a 22-mile long run like a faster marathoner, even if the longest long runs take all day, as I need the mental preparation of doing that distance. The real plus point about this current training period is that I’m recovering from runs really quickly (barely any soreness the next day), which has never happened before, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

I have three big runs remaining before the marathon itself: an 18-miler (this Thursday), a 22-miler (two weeks later) and the Great North Run (three days after the 22-miler, so no, I am not expecting a PB!). The shorter runs on the schedule (3-6 miles, plus a couple more 12-milers) will all be about continuing my experiments to find a footwear setup that doesn’t hurt. It’d be nice if I managed that this Tuesday so I don’t have to do the 18-miler with foot pain!

parkrun finish
Sprint finish at parkrun, 14th August 2021. If I can sprint finish like this at the London Marathon, it means I’ll have done the rest of the race too slowly! Photo (c) John Cooke 2021.

I’ll update again closer to the marathon. I know my result will be far from my original goals for this marathon back when it was scheduled to happen in spring 2020, but if I beat the insanely slow time that got me a second chance in the first place, I’ll be happy.

parkrunday: Jesmond Dene #27

I was excited about today’s parkrun because, for the very first time, I was volunteering as tailwalker (the back marker who walks behind the last participant and makes sure everyone gets through the finish before the parkrun gets packed away). It was fun, although the weather was not exactly ideal for being out on the course for nearly an hour!

Pre-parkrun. We were only about 45% soaked at this point.

It was an absolutely sodden morning and it just kept getting heavier! This was the second wet parkrunday since the restart and both times I was volunteering at Jesmond Dene… hope this doesn’t become a trend! I’m marshalling there again in three weeks’ time so I will keep you informed.

Back to regular running next week, plus another attempt at a new-to-me volunteer role 🙂

parkrunday: Girvan Prom #84

It was so exciting to be in Scotland for the Scottish parkrun restart this morning! Girvan Prom had been on my bucket list for a long time (I love seaside parkruns) and it did not disappoint, despite the cold wind and tough grassy section. I’m still pretty slow at the moment due to various issues around marathon training, but I still managed my fastest time since the English restart a few weeks ago, so I’m very happy!

They also gave out free tablet at the end to celebrate 😍

parkrunners with tablet!
Two very happy parkrunners with their complimentary tablet! Photo (c) John Cooke 2021.

The first of many parkruns to tick off in this area of Scotland, I hope! Planning on visiting a lot in the future…

parkrunday: Town Moor #506

Back running again this week. It’s amazing how, on only week three of the return, parkrun has started to feel ‘normal’ again.

Town Moor parkrun
No photographer at parkrun today so I took a slightly dodgy and unflattering selfie as we were leaving instead. Part of my mission to collect a photo from every parkrunday going forward!

Next week we will be visiting a parkrun we have not done before, which is very exciting. Still deciding which one though!

parkrunday: Jesmond Dene #24

I haven’t forgotten about all my parallel universe games, I promise! I’m just moving them to a different day of the week on the blog, as Saturdays are now ‘parkrundays’ again and so I’m spending the afternoons playing with stats and spreadsheets rather than playing with game code.

Today was the second parkrunday back in England after the hiatus. I had made sure to get my volunteering slot booked at Jesmond Dene, which I now consider to be one of my twin home parkruns alongside Town Moor.

parkrun volunteering
At my marshal point (before the rain started). I like the colour of the new pink hi-viz vests that are now standard for parkrun volunteers, but I’m not really a fan in practical terms – they’re nowhere near as visible as the old yellow versions.

I love the surroundings of Jesmond Dene – it’s a beautiful place. However, it’s a very tough and hilly course, so in some ways I prefer volunteering there to running it! (I will run it again soon though.) Geth ran the course this morning and has decided to make it his monthly hill training session when I’m doing my monthly volunteering stint!

It is really lovely having parkrun back in England. It has felt so easy to slip back into it – like it’s never been away – but I know I will never take it for granted again, like so many other things. I’m crossing everything that Scotland and Wales will follow soon (there are so many I want to do in Scotland!).

Back on the Moor next week…

Flying Saturday post

It was AMAZING to be back at parkrun today, flying in a different way (at least for the last 800 metres – the preceding 4.2k was a bit of a plod). Having a slow Saturday now. More games from the parallel universe next week!

Town Moor parkrun
The best thing about races and parkruns is the incentive to speed up a bit towards the end. Photo by Mark Slade for Town Moor parkrun.