parkrunday: Rising Sun #313

The course PBs continue 🙂 My previous best at Rising Sun was 32:35 last July so I was fairly hopeful due to the way things have been going recently.

Rising Sun parkrun
It was a muddy one so I wore my trail shoes – which meant it was a trail shoes PB too! Photo from Rising Sun parkrun Facebook page.

I started at the front with the fast laddies, which felt scary at the time but meant I avoided the usual bottleneck (it’s a wide start that quickly narrows). As has been the case for most parkruns recently, it turned into a bit of a progression run – I need to be brave enough to start faster. Or possibly do more of a warmup.

I finished in 26:02 – six and a half minutes off the course PB, which is not bad!

That’s 10 course PBs in a row! But the streak is absolutely not guaranteed to continue, as I’m back at Leazes this weekend. I was only there a week and a half ago and already did a fairly blistering time (for me), so we’ll have to see. I will give it a good go though.

parkrundays: Town Moor #606, Jesmond Dene #141 and Leazes #140

Catching up with the last few parkrundays!

6th January saw me back at Town Moor, this time in shorts and fast shoes with my serious face on (the theme for this month’s parkruns). This was a successful strategy and helped me take over a minute off December’s all-time PB! New all-time PB 25:11.

Back to Jesmond Dene for the first time in a couple of months on 13th January. Pleased to take more than a minute off my course PB here as well – 27:26.

Photo from Jesmond Dene parkrun Facebook page. (I look awful here haha but you can tell how hard I was pushing on the final sprint!)

Finally, this last Saturday, I completed the set of Newcastle city parkruns with Leazes. Another week, another minute-plus off a course PB – 25:17! I was hoping in the latter stages it would be another all-time PB, but I couldn’t quite beat my Town Moor time from a couple of weeks previously. Soon I hope.

Warm layers on afterwards for the walk back to the car!

Assuming it’s on, I’m planning to do another local one this weekend. I’ve not visited in a while, and my course PB there is in the low 30s – so hopefully I’ll be able to take a decent chunk off that one too, even if I take it slightly easier this week (it’s a cutdown week on my marathon training plan so probably best to cool it a little!).

Race Recap: Leeds Abbey Dash 2023

I am extremely late with this race recap. The autumn got away from me a bit. Never mind – at least I’m getting it posted now before my 2024 race season begins.

Geth and I both wanted one final crack at the 10k distance in 2023 after the Great North Run was out of the way. I hadn’t yet broken sub-hour and I was sure I could, while Geth hadn’t yet properly tackled a 10k race in 2023 due to his spring injury. We settled on Leeds Abbey Dash because it was said to be fast and because we both always enjoy a trip to Leeds – one of our favourite cities.

Leeds Abbey Dash
Start line selfie!

Following a nice Saturday evening in Leeds and a good night’s sleep at our favourite city centre hotel, we made our way to the start line. It was fairly cold now that we were well into October, especially as I have now made the decision to brave races in shorts and vest all year round.

As such, I felt a bit frozen solid when I started! But I soon warmed up and de-stiffened, and quickly caught the one-hour pacers, which was a good sign. The course is largely an out and back, which meant that once I was a couple of miles in and the leaders were coming back the other way, I had lots of people to focus on as I ran, and I was able to look out for Geth.

I felt really strong at the turnaround and after that it was just a case of hanging onto the pace, especially as I was mostly overtaking people rather than the other way round. I had to talk to myself quite hard during the last couple of miles, but I did manage to stay focused, and in the end I crossed the line in 54:23. Not just the sub-hour I’d been chasing for eight years, but also a sub-55!

I wasn’t really able to find the words at the time (part of the reason I’ve taken so long to get round to this blog), and even three months later my self-perception still hasn’t caught up with the paces I’ve been doing, especially as I’m still improving. I still find it a bit hard to believe that I was able to take such a big chunk off my 10k PB (previously 1:01:21) as I had had a few good cracks at it in the late spring and early summer. Three and a half months made such a difference!

I’m not really thinking about 10ks at the moment as I’m in the depths of marathon training. But I do have a few booked in 2024 so it’d be lovely to continue along this trajectory 🙂

Phone Box Thursday: Bargates, Leominster

Another defibrillator!

Red phone box
Red phone box, Bargates, Leominster, 18th September 2023.

(Coordinates 52°22’64.2″N, 2°75’12.9″W.)

As you can tell from the dedication to the late paramedic, this is a relatively recent defibrillator – in the 2021 Street View image, the phone box looks fairly tatty and unloved. It’s been given a coat of paint and looks to be well cared for now.

More from the area next week.

Life without alcohol: five years sober

It’s funny to think it’s been half a decade since I last drank alcohol. The time seems to have gone so quickly.

There are still tiny things I miss. Being able to go into a bar and look glamorous holding a glass with a stem, rather than a tumbler. (I replicate this at home with alcohol-free fizz in champagne flutes, but options are limited in bars.) Spending silly money on fancy luxury champagne because it’s a special occasion. That kind of thing.

But that’s not what I usually did, of course. What I usually did was get a cheap crate of Strongbow and drink it straight from the can. The crate would be empty by the end of the day. It was the opposite of glamorous.

My life is immeasurably better without alcohol. It can be more challenging without that escape button to press, but it is better. I am fitter, healthier, more mindful. I make better decisions. I am calmer.

I never want to go back.


It’s my thirty-ninth birthday today. I only have one year left of the extraordinary decade that is my thirties. I intend to make the most of it and be as ready as I can be for my forties, which I hope will be an even better decade for me.

I didn’t think I’d still be learning about myself at this age, but every year brings more wisdom, experience and confidence. This year I intend to say ‘no’ a lot more and focus on identifying the things that are right for me.

I celebrated my birthday with family, cake and presents under the Christmas tree in Edinburgh this morning, and am now back home in Newcastle for a quiet evening with pizza and TV.

Birthday cake
With my birthday cake, made with care as ever by Dad. (c) John Cooke 2024.

parkrundays: Oriam #131 and Portobello #365

Oriam was not the plan for the 30th of December!

The plan was Edinburgh (Cramond) for the first time in four years – a nice sprint up and/or down the promenade, depending on which direction the wind was blowing. I was confident I would beat my course PB of 29:50 and perhaps even sneak another all-time PB if the conditions were right.

However, the conditions were not right. The conditions were in fact so wrong that Edinburgh, along with many other parkruns in the area, cancelled on the morning. Too icy!

As such, it was a last-minute dash to Oriam instead. I had also not been to Oriam in four years, and I was also confident of a course PB – though I couldn’t actually remember what my existing course PB was! I only remembered being fairly slow on the one previous occasion I had visited (for my 100th parkrun in December 2019), largely due to the insane mud on the course.

It’s a shame that I couldn’t finish 2023’s parkrunning with a fast parkrun, but as far as traily/hilly courses are concerned, I kept up with my very respectable recent efforts. To my Jesmond Dene 28:41 and Pendle 28:42, I added an Oriam 28:30 – which was an 8 minute 7 second course PB, following a 36:37 back in 2019. Not bad after a slightly manic morning with the change of plan!

No photo for Oriam as I was too distracted (and wanted to get home and out of the -2°C weather – brrr).

Thankfully Portobello went ahead as planned on New Year’s Day after cancelling on the 30th. Geth and I have been doing our NYD parkrun there ever since we started NYD parkrunning! It was even more rammed than usual – like sardines at the start – and I wasn’t at all surprised to hear later that they’d broken their attendance record (with 521). Hats off to the run director, who did a superb job with the briefing after the megaphone failed, and to the crowd, who maintained a respectful silence while this was going on.

It took me about two minutes to get through the Portobello bottleneck but I still got a really decent time – 26:52, which was a course PB of about 7 and a half minutes! About as good a start to 2024 as I could have wished for.

Not the best picture but I was having a lovely parkrun! Photo from Portobello parkrun Facebook page.