parkrunday: Edinburgh #665

Following a thwarted attempt in late December, I finally got to Edinburgh (Cramond) parkrun for the first time in over four years!

Awkward sign selfie (couldn’t be bothered asking somebody else to take a picture!).

The wind is usually bad in one direction at Cramond, but this last Saturday it was really bad. The outward leg (50mph tailwind) felt like it took about a minute… the return leg (headwind) felt like it took about an hour!

Still a huge course PB though – 25:12, over four minutes off! Can’t complain about that.

Volunteering next time 🙂

Race Recap: Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra 2024

An all-day adventure!

I was up at 4:20am for this one (couldn’t sleep) and was parked at the race start soon after 6am, mainly because I was more nervous about getting a parking space than about the run itself. I’m glad I went so early because it meant I had an hour or two in the car to decompress with a magazine.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Milling about at the start. Photo from Greener Miles Running Facebook page.

I got myself set up and warmed up and found my friend Ed at the start, and soon we were off along the banks of the Tyne. It was fairly busy for the first few miles of the run, and it mostly seemed to be locals – lots of people using it as a training run for The Wall ultra in the summer. The first few miles ticked along fairly quickly, and I was glad I knew this bit of the route from doing my recces during the last couple of months of marathon training. It didn’t feel like long before we reached the first checkpoint at Wylam, 11 miles in (though the race guide had listed this as 8 miles in – there were quite a few last-minute route changes!).

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Setting off! Photo from Greener Miles Running Facebook page.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Crossing the Scotswood Bridge… only to recross it on the other side almost immediately! Photo from Greener Miles Running Facebook page.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
The bridge just past checkpoint 1 at Wylam.

The next section felt a bit lonelier as people started to spread out, and Ed and I started taking the odd walk break as the route became trailier. I hadn’t done this bit in training, which meant that it felt longer as I didn’t really know where I was. The race guide was slightly off in distance again for the halfway checkpoint at Stocksfield – advertised as 16 miles but it was 17.5 miles in. It felt like it took a while to get there! I was really grateful for the banana and cola on arrival, but we made sure to get going again quickly.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Halfway checkpoint selfie.

More wooded trail sections awaited us on the south side of the river for the next stretch, including a few muddy paths that were fairly unrunnable! Again, I didn’t know this section at all and had now adjusted my mental schedule so that the checkpoints were approximately a mile behind their advertised position and the total distance was 33 miles rather than the advertised 32. In addition to the checkpoints (where we had our ‘brevet cards’ stamped) there were also pieces of information we had to find along the route and note down. By this point these were about a mile behind schedule too. At the end of this section, we briefly crossed back to the north side of the river to visit the Wylam checkpoint a second time at 23 miles in.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
You can’t run this bit! Photo from Ed.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Still smiling at 23 miles!
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Emerging from checkpoint 3. Photo from Andy.

I knew that the east end of the Ryton golf course marked 9 miles to go, as I had recced that section on an out-and-back 18-miler a couple of weeks previously. It seemed like it took a long time to get there (the golf course is massive!) and by the time we did, it was clear that the total distance was going to be about 34 miles. I found this a bit of a challenge as I had mentally prepared for 32 – and you wouldn’t think 2 miles would make much of a difference for an ultra, but it really does in the mind. I just started counting down the miles instead of counting up, and I really appreciated having scoped out this bit of the course as I knew exactly how far it was back to the Quayside.

Ed and I did a lot of walking in the last few miles as it was getting very tiring! We picked it up again in the last couple of miles as we were approaching the Quayside bridges and knew we didn’t have far to go. Geth was waiting for us at the finish and filmed us as we came in – 34.2 miles, just over 8 hours. It had been a very long day but a good adventure, and I’m so proud that I did it and can call myself an ultra runner.

Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
The final few yards! Screenshot from video by Geth.
Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra
Finished! Screenshot from video by Geth.

While there were some very hard parts of the run, I know from experience never to say never again when it comes to running, and I expect I will do more ultras (and probably repeat this one next year!). However, there are a few things I’ll know for next time:

  • Ultra distances are not necessarily as advertised! In future, I’ll be mentally prepared to do a few more miles than expected.
  • I need to add walk breaks in from the start so that my overall pace can be a bit steadier. We weren’t deathmarching in the final sections – we were still doing a good walking pace – but I would have liked my run/walk splits to be a bit more even.
  • Next time, I’ll train specifically for the distance. I’ve been training for Manchester Marathon (my spring A race) and thought that adding in an extra weekly medium long run of 10 miles in addition to my weekly long run and other sessions would be enough for the ultra, especially as I’d got up to 20 miles on the long run and everyone says you don’t need to do anywhere near the actual race distance when training for an ultra. However, the extra miles felt like a lot (especially when it transpired during the run that the extra 12 were an extra 14!) and I think I would prefer to have at least run a recent marathon before tackling this distance again.

Geth asked me the minute I finished the race whether I’d do it next year. I gave a lot of ‘ifs’ similar to the above list, but I didn’t say no, so I think the likelihood is that I will.

In the meantime, though, I’ll be glad to be able to give Manchester my full attention for the next four weeks! I managed a marathon PB within the ultra (my existing marathon PB is 6:26:47 from London 2021, and I hit marathon distance in under 6 hours yesterday) but I have much bigger plans for that PB as my training has been so good lately. Fingers crossed.

The last first

After I started running in June 2015, my first attempts at race distances arrived pretty quickly, as I think they do for most people:

  • First 5k: Great North 5k, September 2015
  • First 10k: Sunderland 10k, May 2016
  • First half marathon: Great North Run, September 2016
  • First marathon: London Marathon, April 2019

I’ve done a few other random race distances too: 10 mile, 5.8 mile, 25k. But it’s the standard distances that feel properly like ‘firsts’, and tomorrow I have another:

  • First ultra: Tyne Bridges to Boundaries Ultra, March 2024

An ultra isn’t a standard distance, of course. This one is advertised as 32 miles (51.5 km), but it could measure a bit more or less than that depending on GPS and whether I get lost. (I shouldn’t get lost. It’s meant to be very beginner-friendly.)

But it does feel like the last ‘first’. Maybe I’ll be mad enough to do longer ultras in the future (there are certainly a few on my bucket list), but I don’t think I’ll have this feeling again.

Anyway, thinking about all of this is helping to distract from the fact that I’ve spent the whole week swinging back and forth between ‘terrified’ and ‘sort of excited’. I know it’ll be a tough challenge, but it’s a generous cutoff (10 hours; I expect some people will walk the whole thing) and I ran a strong 20-miler last week so I don’t have any worries about finishing, barring disaster. As tends to be the case with races these days, I’m far more worried about the logistics than the run itself. I just want to get going so I can stop overthinking things!

I’ll also be quite glad to get back to my regularly scheduled marathon training once the ultra is done. Just over four weeks to Manchester (my A race for this spring) and feeling strong.

parkrundays: Town Moor #613 and Blyth Links #175

Catching up with the last couple of weeks.

A week and a half ago I went to a very muddy Town Moor for my 200th overall parkrun and 100th Town Moor parkrun. Sadly the course PB streak came to an end, but I was only two seconds slower than my previous attempt at Town Moor a fortnight previously, which I think is pretty consistent! It was all about my double milestone that day, and about some quiet reflection.

This last weekend I went to Blyth Links for the first time! It’s always nice to try a new parkrun, and I intend to do so a lot more often this year. It was a very windy day, but the Blyth Links course is very flat and fast, and so I managed a big overall PB despite the wind – 24:05. Geth and I are planning to return in the summer to see if we can do it faster in better weather!

No parkrun this weekend as I’ve got a Saturday race (more details in the next blog). It should be the only parkrun I miss this year assuming I don’t get scuppered by weather, illness or any other unexpected events!