Dulwich parkrun review

A quick one this week. Dulwich parkrun is 3 laps (!!!!) of Dulwich Park. This wasn’t as bad as it could have been since the route was pretty flat and you could build up some speed.

There seemed to be a lot of people there (243 in the end) and quite a nice community feel. Some people were absolutely smashing the time – I crossed in 19:02 and came 26th, when in other races that would have got me in the top ten. Oh well!

My run went well, but because I was slow to the start line I spent the first half mile overtaking people. My GPS told me I’d done the first half mile in about 5″20/mile, which I was hoping was right (it did feel fast). Anyway, I got my head down and tried to stay sub-6min/mile. That seemed fairly easy, and as I kept up with people trying to overtake me.Photo 29-11-2015, 22 41 09

My Nike+ app told me the course was 3.18 miles and that I’d done it in 5’59 min/miles, so I was hopeful of an official sub-19 5k. Sadly, this wasn’t the case when I got the result. 19:02, so close. Still, moving in the right direction considering that’s my 3rd fastest parkrun ever.

Next year I think I’ll aim for a sub-18:50 as my main target, and try to get as many sub-19s as possible – that should help me hit my target of a sub-3h15 marathon (with an eye on sub-3h05 in the long run… no pun intended)

Main points:

  • Laps: 3
  • PB Potential: High.
  • First-time friendly: Yes
  • Downside: Crowded start, no facilities on site.

Mile End parkrun review

So, Mile End parkrun is my ‘home’ parkrun in London. Since it was just me running this week I thought I would give it a go and see if those hills really were as bad as I remembered them.

There’s a nice community feel at Mile End – they have pacer events, baking competitions, a coffee van at the start, and a few socials throughout the year. They do more than most, and it’s a very nice group.

The only downside is the course. It is two laps up Mile End park, and each lap contains two hills, a small and a fairly big hill (since part of the park is actually above the A11). Since the route is pretty much out and back per lap you run over each hill twice a lap, so four times over all. The paths are fairly wide (although with work being done on Regent’s Canal the towpath part of the route was a bit restricted), although sometimes busy, and you get to run past the Queen Mary campus where I work (and where I should probably spend more time…)

Anyway! My run went well. I wasn’t confident of a good time so I didn’t push myself too early, and saved some energy for the first big hill.  I had a guy overtake me early on who I decided to hang on to. After about .75 miles I found myself thinking ‘I could go faster’ but decided to hold on and conserve energy. Then my app announced the one mile split – I was hitting 6’06/mile, which was a lot slower than the first half mile split, so I decided to overtake him. To be honest, I think that was a good decision, because the pressure of having him behind me kept me going and took my mind off the course.

I got to the halfway point at about 9’30, so I frantically did some mental maths and thought that a sub-19’20 was probably reasonable goal. Hitting the big hill again, I didn’t feel the course take it out of me that much but my splits were getting slower – 6’21 for the second mile. At this point I just decided to hold on and push through. 2015-11-14 - Mile End

I crossed the finish line in 10th position, with a time of 19’19 – just about hit my target. Although it’s not as good as my course PB of 19’04, I think the fact that I wasn’t on top form (hungover the day before, could have done with more sleep, didn’t push at the start etc…) so didn’t try as hard is a good enough excuse. I am wondering if I had have committed early on I might have come within sub-19’10… oh well, plenty of time to give it another go!

I decided to run home too, trying to get my weekly mileage up for marathon training despite aiming for just 3 runs a week (is this madness? I guess I’ll find out in April…)

Princes Park parkrun review

Short review this week. I’m back in Liverpool for research and interviews, so I couldn’t turn down a chance to run at my home parkrun, Princes Park.

The course consists of two and a half laps around Princes Park, which is fairly hilly. The scenery is nice though, and being the only parkrun in South Liverpool it’s usually fairly well attended, regularly getting over 200 runners to turn up. Despite this, there’s usually not much congestion after the race starts, since the paths are fairly wide and there’s not usually that many people there.

As usual, my pet peeve surfaced; slower runners insisting on going at the front. This week was a double whammy: a man with his grandchildren in the second line, and then a woman running with a dog at the front.

Again, people are free to do the parkrun as they wish – that’s part of its appeal and why it’s such a great community – but this works both ways. Some people there aren’t aiming for new PBs each week, that’s cool, do your own thing, let a thousand flowers bloom, and so on, but other people are aiming to get a PB, and it’s unfair for someone to plonk themselves at the front, with hound, and then take up over half the path as other runners have to skirt round/avoid going arse over tit.

It’d be nice to see the group do something social afterwards (if this happens, I haven’t heard about it). There’s no talk of going to a cafe etc., which is strange since Lark Lane is so close.

Anyway, my run went very well. Despite having a few jager bombs and a cocktail last night, I felt alright at the starting line. My target was roughly 19:30, perhaps 19:20 to match the week before at Fulham, but I knew the hills would probably hold me back a bit.

I started strongly, working through the crowd at the start and decided to keep pushing when usually I would have settled down into place. I got the first half mile announcement from Nike+ with an average pace of less than 6 minute miles, so my target became keeping that pace going as long as possible.

Luckily, a lady gained on me and I used her as motivation to keep pushing. We overtook a guy in a MerseyTri t-shirt, and wasn’t feeling too exhausted at this point. This lasted for about a mile until the mid-way point, and then she pulled away (she came second, so at least I knew I would never have been able to keep up!). At the halfway point I was still hitting sub-6 minute miles, and I realised I could beat my course PB.2015-10-31 - Princes

At this point, I was left following a guy I’d noticed at the start. My new goal was to maintain the distance or perhaps catch up with him. Until about 2.5 miles, this was going well. He began to slow a bit and I started gaining on him. At just under the 3 mile point I was overtaken by a guy I’d passed early on, and I realised it was now or never to place fairly well. I’d hit the 3 mile mark, with Nike+ giving me an average time of 6’01/min miles, which was the motivation I needed. I just started to sprint, hoping I could hold on and reduce my average pace. I overtook the two guys I’d been following and pushed harder than I think I ever had before, determined to get a sub-19 time.

I crossed the finish line coming 5th, with my Nike+ saying I’d done 3.16km and my fastest 5k ever. It was a nervous wait for the result, because I had no idea if I’d actually done enough to beat my overall PB. Happily, I did – I (officially) crossed the finish line in 18:51, beating my course PB by 17 seconds, and shaving 2 seconds off my overall PB (set in Edinburgh, which is pancake flat).

This puts me in a good position for a strong half-marathon next week. I’m not expecting to get a PB for the distance, but I don’t think it’ll be as bad as I was expecting it to be. I think becoming a regular at the gym is having a positive effect, as is getting in some quality long runs too. I’m going to stick with what I’m doing until Christmas at least, and then have a review in light of the Manchester Marathon in April, since 3 runs a week might not be enough. Either way, I’ve got a spring in my step today. It’s good to be home.

Main points:

  • Laps: 2.5
  • PB Potential: Low – hilly course.
  • Facilities: Easy parking.
  • First-time friendly: Yes
  • Other positives: You get to be in Liverpool, and you might even get to see me.
  • Downside: Crowded start, no facilities on site.Princes - 5k Record 2015-10-31 - PB text

Fulham Palace parkrun review

This week was the first ‘big trek’ to a parkrun; we chose Fulham Palace parkrun, which was a one hour journey door-to-door. I managed to get back into Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales (Part 2), so the journey wasn’t a waste.

The first thing that struck me about the parkrun was the amount of people who seemed fairly well off (I overheard a few conversations which were essentially turbo-charged middle class pains, and saw one guy in a ‘Harrow’ t-shirt). I was not in Liverpool anymore. Regardless of this, everyone seemed nice and the lady doing the pre-run talk was great (I’ve never heard the phrase ‘funnel-duckers’ before). There were a lot of people here, perhaps over 200 (checked – 257).

The course consisted of (almost) 3 laps of Bishop’s Park. Usually I dislike laps, but the surroundings were so nice I didn’t have a chance to get bored. There is one sharp-ish turn per lap, and the park was fairly busy. I saw at least one person have to jump over a dog (yes, I know everyone has a right to use the park, but surely if you see there’s a race going on you’d either put your dogs on a lead or go into the middle of the park which is empty?!). They also go for a coffee in the park afterwards.

This week there was a promotional stand for a local food market, which was giving out bottles of water, Innocent fizzy drinks, hemp coconut biscuits, and ‘Ener-C Powdered Drink Mix’. I’m not actually sure what the latter does, but the water bottles are fancy.

The park is very nice, but the toilets would not look out of place at a crack den. One was out of order, one had no lock on the door (…no comment), and the third looked like it hadn’t been refurbished since Labour last won an election. It was a bit of a contrast with the wider area and park.

The main problem I had with Fulham Palace was that the start was very, very congested. Part of this is due to the paths, which aren’t very wide considering the number of people running. However, most of the issue was caused by slower runners at the front. I don’t understand why people who are clearly not going to run a sub-25 (who from my experience tend to be stubborn, usually younger, men who think they can just show up to a 5k and boss it, or the man who had his young daughter with him, who could barely keep up in the first 100m) place themselves right at the front. It’s selfish, it’s rude, and it makes you look like a tit as people try to overtake you. I wish race leaders would remind people at the start to place themselves based on their ability. It’s a small thing to do, but it could mean the difference between getting a PB or not for some faster runners.

My run went very well (despite the people clogging up the start). I felt quite good by the time I’d got to the parkrun; no hangover, no stiffness, no little twinges. I decided that I would give this one a good go, and hopefully get the same time as I did at the Southwark parkrun last week (this would also help me see if the course was actually 5k).2015-10-24 - Southwalk

Weaving through the pack at the start wasn’t too bad, since it meant that I was running fast to get through and this led to me getting through the first mile in 5’49. This gave me the (crazy) idea that I could do the 5k in 6 min miles, which although a pipe dream kept me going through the second mile (at 12:17, so the second mile was 6’28… dream shattered).

My tactic was to keep overtaking, moving from group to group, since usually I tend to end up running by myself in races which means I have no-one to push me. Once the second mile was done, I knew I just had to hold on. I kept on jumping forward, overtaking a lady who had had a very strong run and who I’d keep seeing overtaking people. I had roughly .5 miles left and decided this was the time to go all out, managing to get some distance between her and me. Now I was just trying to keep this sprint up. I overtook the last guy, who seemed to be inspired by the competition and upped his speed; this was the only time I was overtaken. I tried to hold on, but he narrowly pulled away. I’m glad he was there, since he kept me going for the last 200m.

I crossed the line at 19:23 – very happy, especially when Nike+came in at 3.11 miles too. I felt like I’d given it everything (somewhat motivated by an element of class war, representing working-class northerners everywhere) and it’d paid off. This was my fastest parkrun since November 2014, and I feel like a sub-19 might be possible before Christmas if I keep up this training and gym routine. In other news, this was my 26th parkrun – I am now over half-way towards my free t-shirt!

Main points:

  • Laps: 3
  • PB Potential: Medium – flat course, but the pavements aren’t particularly wide and there are some sharp turns.
  • Facilities: crack-den style toilets, close to the District line, post-run coffee.
  • First-time friendly: Yes
  • Downside: Crowded start

Fulham Palace

Southwark parkrun review

This week, we found ourselves at the Southwark parkrun. For once I was fresh; not tired, hungover, nor injured. I was ready. The place was easy to get to, I got off at Canada Waters and walked for about 5 minutes, but there are closer Overground stations (I’m northern, how am I meant to know these things?!). Plenty of parking around the park too, it seems.

The course comprises of 3 laps of the south side of the park. 3 laps is my idea of hell, but the route has nice wide pavements, not many people around, and flat. For such a PB-friendly course, there were few people there – not more than 100 I’d say (checked, there were 123) – and no recognisable club runners. There was a very no-pressure environment.

The best thing about Southwark is that there is a group trip to Weatherspoons(!!!!!!!!!!) after the run, for breakfast and coffee (and probably a cheeky quadvod if you fancied it).

My run went well. I’ve noticed that even though I’m getting (slightly) faster, I don’t feel it when I’m running. I’m doing a lot of exercise every day at the moment, between 3 runs a week, 2/3 gym sessions a week and 1hr+ walks on the days I’m not doing either, so my legs rarely feel ‘fresh’.2015-10-19 - Southwalk

Despite this, I pushed on and came in at a respectable 12th – you can see my result here. I felt like I could hold my pace for longer than usual, and that I still had a little bit left in the tank for the last 0.5 miles. I’d be interested to see what I can pull out when I’ve had a bit of a rest before a parkrun.

However, the only problem I had with the run was that my Nike+ came in at 3 miles, and Parker’s came in even lower (about 2.9 miles). The organisers say that GPS always comes in short, but I’m not convinced. This is really very annoying, since on such a nice flat course you could try for a PB, only to find that it doesn’t really count because the course was short. When I ran the extra .11 miles, I came in at 20:38 (which seems accurate, given I was at 10:20 the mid-way point). So, I’m taking my sub-20 result with a line of salt (and a shot of tequila), and hoping to repeat it next weekend.

Main points:

  • Laps: 3
  • PB Potential: High – flat, wide course (although not as flat as Hackney Marshes)
  • Facilities: toilets, parking, post-run Weatherspoons.
  • First-time friendly: Yes!
  • Downside: Not quite 5k.

Here’s proof of completion (or at least turning up!)

Southwalk
Looking fresh, as per.

Hackney Marshes Parkrun

This week I ran the Hackney Marshes parkrun. After last week’s driving debacle I decided to walk, and so made the first-timer briefing. There was a lot of parking at the Hackney Marshes Centre, too. Everyone seemed nice, lots of chatting and apparently they go for a post-run coffee too.

The course is simple – you follow the same path to the halfway point, then come back. It is amazingly hard to get lost. The route is mainly on concrete, with a little bit on a trail – and IT IS FLAT. I found myself running a lot, lot faster than I have been recently, it just seemed that the course was flying by. No hills!

I was surprised by how few people there were – 135 at this race, and it doesn’t seem to massively increase in other weeks. For such a strong, flat, fast course I’d have thought lots of people would turn up for PBs. Looking at the ‘First Finishers’ list is depressing – it should be humanly impossible to do a parkrun in 15:41!

My run was surprisingly good (although not 15:41 good…) – I was on the second day of this hangover, could have done with about 4 more hours in bed, and my legs were stiff by restarting barbell squats on Thursday – basically, I was a mess. 2015-10-12 - Hackney Marshes

I walked there to warm myself up a bit, and felt ok at the start line. I decided to push myself at the start, and even though I didn’t feel like it and my legs were fighting back. The course was really nice, and I knew I wasn’t too far from the first runner (which is always a bit of a boost).

After the halfway point I noticed a guy was closing in on me. He was easily over 50, so my pride kicked in and tried to keep me ahead of him. By the final half-mile I was flagging and he overtook me – no shame. I used him as a motivator to keep up, and even managed a slight sprint finish.

I crossed the finish line in 20:08 – so close to my current sub-20 target. If I wasn’t hungover, stiff, and tired I probably would have smashed it. You can see my time here. On an unrelated note, the guy who came first was beautiful. Well done Hackney Marshes.

I think I’ll be running around Hackney Marshes a lot more, Victoria Park gets a bit dull, especially when for the LSRs you need to get into the 4+ laps territory… and I hate laps.

Main points:

  • Laps: 1 (there and back)
  • PB potential: High.
  • Facilities: Sports centre which has toilets, showers, and a cafe. Lots of parking.
  • First-time friendly: Very!

Brockwell parkrun review

So, it’s been a while. In the last few weeks I’ve spent my Saturdays doing the Cardiff parkrun (terribly hungover), visiting my bestie in Lincolnshire for a top-notch birthday BBQ, and doing the Hever Castle Triathlon. I’ve been too busy to post about them, but suffice to say all the photographic evidence was terrible. So let’s move on. This week, it’s Brockwell parkrun!

I wasn’t feeling it this morning. I have a killer sore throat and could have done with another day in bed, but I got myself up and in the car for 8:10am – plenty of time to do a 30 minute journey, right? Wrong. Roadworks, diversions, and congestion (thanks Boris!) meant I arrived at Brockwell at 9:05am. Grand.

No briefings for me.

I rushed to the Lido (the website gave this as the starting point), to see people packing up the start line and moving it to the finish. I could just about make out a load of runners in the distance, so I got a move on and caught up with them.

The paths were wide and the park seemed very, very nice. The course consisted of one whole loop of the park and then a shorter loop. I was too caught up with making my way through the pack to really take any of the scenery into account or to get peeved by the laps.

2015-09-05 - Brockwell Park

As you can see, there are big hills on the course – it adds to the fun really – and it would be really hard to get lost. No cones needed here!

There was a big group here and they all seemed very social and chatty – there is a cafe on the park and people go for a coffee there.

Personally, my run went quite well, all things considered. I managed to come 75th out of 255, and finished with a gun time of 22:54 (versus 21:07 on Nike+). Clearly I couldn’t have been that late!

I’m hoping to get back to sub-20 runs soon, with training for the Grand Union Canal Half Marathon in November, and then upping to training for a marathon in April or May next year (since I won’t be doing London). I need to start getting some quality long runs in, which have been neglected for the past few months!

I think the main lesson I’ll take from this morning’s run is that I spent 100 minutes travelling to run for about 21. Next time I’ll get the train.

Main points:

  • Laps: 1.5
  • PB potential: Low, unless you’re used to hills.
  • Facilities: Parking, cafe, lots of shops nearby.
  • First-time friendly? I don’t know – but it is late-runner friendly.

    Brockwell Park
    Here’s me and Parker, she’s in her t-shirt for the Berlin Marathon which she completed last week (puts my triathlon into perspective) – and for once neither of us were hungover!