Category Archives: Races

parkrun 14.10.17

I’m a bit of a sucker for coincidences and a bit OCD too, and it was a series of loosely related coincidences that took me to Antrim parkrun today.

First of all, completing it would bring me up to exactly my 1000th mile since I started running. It would also have been my 10th parkrun and my connection with Antrim stretches back to when I moved to live there a long, long time ago when I was 10-years-old (ok, ok, I know I’m pushing it a bit now but things also have to come in sets of three! Right?)

I’ve considered doing a spot of parkrun tourism in Antrim for a little while now but when I noticed that all the above ducks were in a row it was a total no-brainer that I went today.

I don’t drive so despite Antrim being ten miles from home I could still get there quicker on the bus than I could by walking to my local parkrun, so off I popped on the 8:30am 218 Goldliner to Antrim, arriving at 8:55am and then another 20 minutes walk/run to the start, still quicker than the 40-45 minutes it’d take me to go local.

Getting to the start, it was heartening to see quite a few already there and more arriving by the second … in total 234 turned up which, I think, is the biggest parkrun I’ve been in.

I took a few pics enroute and a few more around the start area and after joining in with the newcomers briefing (a nice touch) I then made my way to the start, albeit a fair bit back. I didn’t know exactly where the line was so I just took an educated guess on when to start my Garmin … in the end I was only a fraction out, so that was good.

With such a large turnout and on a narrow path at the beginning things got a little bunched up but that was no bad thing because it stopped me from darting off too quickly. Things soon spread out, though, and I was able to get into my stride. I also ran past Parveen from my Monday night club training so it was nice to say a quick hello before letting her concentrate on her own run.

I’d only run along here once before – at the Centra Run Together event last year – so it wasn’t totally unfamiliar at the beginning but I was into uncharted territory once we turned left over the bridge and into the castle gardens for the first of two laps.

I wasn’t terribly worried about my time today, this was more about the experience, so I decided to take more pictures on the first lap before focusing more on my run on the second loop.

I lived in Antrim for seven years, leaving in 1987, so a lot of old memories came flooding back plus I don’t remember the castle gardens being as immaculate as they were today – the result being that I was stopping every minute or so to take a quick snap. It was all very pleasant … indeed the entire experience from start to finish was highly enjoyable, it was a very picturesque course.

After getting to the finish I waited for Parveen to complete her run and have a quick chat before making my way back to the bus station.

As I headed back one of the core team stopped me for a chat, I mentioned my history with Antrim and he filled in a little more detail on what has changed over the years. That was very kind of him and indicative of the friendly, relaxed nature of the entire event.

It was a great way to complete 1000 miles and to pop my tourism cherry. I’ll be back soon.

Relive my run

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Cultra Charity Challenge 10k

Well, that was fun. Lots and lots of fun. And what helped make it fun because enjoying myself today was the last thing I’d imagined would happen.

At a race a few weeks ago I got handed a flyer for the forthcoming Cultra Charity Challenge 10k to take place at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The flyer showed an image of what looked like the medal which featured a DeLorean car as it’s centrepiece. I didn’t think too much of it at the time because I thought it was just a graphic to help illustrate the event …. but, as time passed, it became clear that this WAS the medal, it DID feature a DeLorean so this automatically made it a race I simply HAD to take part in. I couldn’t not do this one, what sort of Back To The Future fan would I be if I didn’t have this medal in my collection?

I never gave the event too much thought until the night before when I thought I’d take a wee look at the course.

Oh my giddy aunt!

It looked quite hilly. Oh dear. But, I reassured myself, surely it couldn’t be *that* bad. The odd wee ‘bump’ here and there, that’s all there’d be, I told myself.

Anyway, meeting the rest of the club crew at the park ‘n’ ride, I got a lift there and back with Judith, which was brilliant and she was great company.

Arriving at the venue we met up with lots more from the club, including one or two who’d done the same event last year …. and immediately the warnings came about the hills! Gulp.

Most of them were doing the 5k, for some reason I thought it’d be a good idea, when I entered, to do the full 10k, which was basically two laps of the course. There was the option to change distance on the day but I decided just to stick with what I had.

So off we set. The 10k went first, doing a lap of the ‘Town Square’ before looping back to the start with the 5k lot then coming in behind us. From there the course went downhill quite steeply to the exit of the Folk Museum and crossing the bridge linking it to the Transport Museum.

We then did one circuit of the carpark (the 5k didn’t include this) before turning back for the Folk Museum and the start of an almost continuous uphill climb.

My goodness, it was absolutely brutal.

When it levelled off a little there always seemed to be a turn and an even steeper hill than the one we’d just come up. I tried to run up them, at least a bit, but at times it was impossible. In fact, one part in particular I absolutely defy anyone to run up it … I could barely walk it!!!

I knew then why ‘challenge’ was included in the title of the race. This was *very* challenging, made even more difficult because large parts of it were run on the trail – but as tough as they were it was also hugely enjoyable. I have very little experience of such conditions so it was a little tricky finding my feet but because it was different from tarmac it kept it interesting.

One lap down, the faster 5k runners had caught and passed me and I was yards away from the finishing line … and I had to go around again! However, rather than moan about it I actually didn’t mind now that I knew what lay ahead.

So back downhill again, to make up for some lost time, which was tough on my by now exhausted legs but yet I surprised myself too, some of the hills I took better second time around.

By now I wasn’t terribly worried about my time. I was happy enough with how I was running, and I was happy that there were two men behind me … so I resolved to keep them there. Do that (which I did) and I’d be content (which I was), even better considering both of them were about ten years younger than me. There’s life in this old boy yet!

Because I wasn’t concerned about my time I resolved on the second lap to take some pictures along the way. It was a lovely course – hardly surprising given the location – so I thought I’d record it, and to try to get across just how steep some of those climbs were!

I plodded on, mindful of the two blokes behind me and I started to pull away, eventually opening up a gap of some seven and 14 minutes respectively on them. For me that was a result!

Even better, if I’d done the 5k there would have been loads and loads behind me based on my time at the halfway point. I’m pretty chuffed with that, to be honest.

Today’s race was organised by the Born2Run group, who hosts a series of trail races all over the winter months. As I said earlier I have little experience of this type of running but because I enjoyed myself as much as I did I’m going to try to book a couple of them, work permitting, to keep my motivation going.

If they’re all as much fun as today was I’ll have a ball!

By the way, seeing as you’re here … a little favour? If you enjoy my blog could I be so bold as to beg for your vote at the Running Awards? Click here and navigate your way to Publications & Online > Blogs > Huff, Puff and Shuffle. I’ll not win but I’ll mean loads to me to get some votes!

Relive my run

Shine Night Walk 2017

A month ago I had absolutely no intentions of entering the Shine Cancer Research Night Walk so just how did I end up traipsing over the finishing line in the shadow of London Bridge at 6:40am in the company of five other people who began the night as complete strangers?

And I’ll warn you now, this account could take almost as long to read as the 9hrs or so it took us to complete the marathon so settle in for the long haul … or, in the words of hit 80s kids show Why Don’t You, go and do something less boring instead!

It all began when I answered an email from Charlotte from the National Running Show looking for bloggers to form a VIP/media team to take on the challenge for Action PR/Everyone Active.

The Shine Walk has been on my to do list and I had tentative plans to enter it in 2018 but given the opportunity of a free place I just couldn’t resist.

I’ll admit to not really giving it too much thought in the weeks leading up to it and it was only really in the few days beforehand that I began to think about what I would need on the night and to wonder if I was actually capable of doing it.

Before I knew it I was in Southwark Park making my way to the Everyone Active gazebo to meet the rest of the team, namely Miranda, Charlie, Richard, Edward and Paul.

Full disclosure … I feared I was going to be like a fish out of water. These guys had done it all, they’d accomplished mind blowing feats of speed and endurance in a variety of disciplines and terrains and here was me, a little short fat bloke from Northern Ireland, with only a couple of years or so of (slow) running under my belt. How was I ever going to measure up?

The only thing that reassured me was, bizarrely, my lack of speed. I mean, you’ve seen how long it takes me to run a marathon so spending hours and hours (and then some) on my feet was something I knew all about.

Throw into the mix my accent, natural shyness and lack of confidence (I’ve got plenty to say, I’m just not convinced anyone else wants to hear me say it) and I was somewhat concerned it was going to be a long, lonely night.

But I needn’t have worried. Right from the start everyone seemed dead on (to coin that great NI phrase) and there were no strong or overbearing characters which was crucial if we were going to spend the night together. We started as strangers, ended as friends and whilst we might never meet again we’ll always have Knightsbridge at 3am (or some other London location at some other ungodly hour) to look back on!

The start was set out like a festival, complete with stage and tents, but because we were ‘ahem’ VIP’s we were taken backstage into a little tent to prepare for the night ahead. It was good to look out at the crowds and to see the build up from the other side – although at one point I thought the organisers were going to bring us up on stage to participate in some sort of warm-up routine!!!

Thankfully that didn’t happen but what did happen is that we were taken out the back and guided to the starting line to lead everyone else off. That felt pretty cool, to be honest.

Off we set in what was a carnival atmosphere, everyone was buzzing and the ‘rock’ choir as we exited the park was a nice touch which really added to the sense of occasion.

Anyway, after all the festivities, it was down to the serious business of walking and just getting this thing done.

Some of the team had designs on completing it in around six hours but given the numbers out and about that wasn’t going to realistically happen. Even though we started from the front a lot of over exuberant, eager and most likely inexperienced (it’s a marathon, not a sprint etc.) walkers passed us quite quickly meaning we got boxed in a fair bit during the early stages.

That said, we still managed to keep going at over 3mph which might not sound a lot but when you’re doing it consistently mile after mile after mile it’s no mean feat. Intensity wise I spent 70% of the night in HR Zone 2 (according to my Garmin) so it was fairly gentle compared to a run but over nine hours power walking is quite some going!

Obviously that time include the half-a-dozen pits stops scattered throughout the route. At times these pit stops were very welcome, a chance to stock up on water (both in and out!) and treats, as well as a good indication of our progress with each one getting us ever closer to the finish.

On other occasions they were almost a hindrance when the temptation to sit down for a rest became almost overwhelming. But I didn’t. I know from experience that once I complete a run I start to seize up quite quickly, so I made a point of keeping my legs active throughout.

The route encompassed all the major London landmarks (sometimes twice) so I’ll not bore you with the details.

Prior to the walk I tried to break it up into chunks in my head. The first half didn’t worry me. Checking back over my Map My Walk stats from a few years ago I saw that I’d previously walked 13.1 miles in around three-and-a-half hours.

For me this first part was the chance to get to know the rest of the team better and I think I did, spending a little time chatting with each of them. From my marathon runs I knew that I would find it difficult between miles 13 and 20, so I figured I wouldn’t be much company then and didn’t want to inflict myself on anyone else! It’s not that I couldn’t do it, or that I couldn’t keep up, but the biggest struggle might have been mental.

However, it was just after the halfway point – precisely when I worried I’d start to struggle – that something amazing happened …. I bumped into Cam! I knew she was doing the walk too but didn’t really expect to see her at any point given that there were thousands doing it but, crossing the road in front of me, there she was!

That gave me quite a lift … seeing a familiar face, albeit one I usually only see once a year at the same gig, but familiar all the same. I walked with Cam until the next pit stop at around 17.5 miles (sorry team, I was still with you though!) whereupon we went our seperate ways again. At this point I was walking on air, I had got through the toughest part – a little while longer and we’d have only 10k left to do, all downhill from here!

Ummmm, yeah, right. By this stage all the fun and excitement of the night had long since waned, even the normally vibrant streets of London were largely deserted and quiet. This really was time to dig in and just get through it.

It was eerie but, in many ways, it was also beautiful. It felt like we had the city to ourselves.

But each step, each mile marker, took us tantalisingly closer to the finish and the excitement slowly but surely began to rise again. Crossing over Westminster Bridge, onto the South Bank and seeing the 25-mile marker was quite something, only a mile to go. I was going to do this!

Of course, at this point, whatever sadist that designed the route decided it would be lots of fun to make us walk over the cobbled surfaces around Borough Market! Ouch. My poor feet.

Then, as we crossed London Bridge, we saw it below us on the river bank – the finish! We stopped to regroup and have a team picture taken with Tower Bridge as a backdrop before finishing as we started … together.

We were joined for those last few yards by my daughter, Michelle. She had been putting in an overnight shift as a volunteer dishing out the medals but had finished her stint so waited around to give us a personal escort over the line (and to keep me upright!).

That added a little extra special touch for me. She had (as a competition winner) run a little part of the London Marathon course with me back in April – which was amazing – so to have her walk the red carpet with me at the conclusion of this latest adventure was also something that deeply touched me. We messaged each other throughout the night and morning with regular updates, and it really helped to know she was waiting at the end of it all.

I also need to pay tribute to Dawn. Regular readers of my blog will know that she goes above and beyond in her support of my running … well, she did it again, albeit not in person this time but with constant messages throughout the night. She sacrificed her night to keep me going with words of encouragement and I can’t thank her enough for it.

I can’t also not mention one person that kept appearing at different stages of the evening, a bloke by the name of James, who sat at the side of the road in a chair. I saw him just after the start, and a little later someone who looked like him but at that stage I thought nothing more of it.

Then he appeared for a third time, and a fourth … in all he popped up, I think, about six times. I’m not quite sure how he did but, in a strange way, this monotony of seeing him also broke some of the monotony of the night. He became someone to look out for and it became a highlight to spot him, just for a high five and a little word.

A massive thanks, also, to the volunteers. Some of them would have been out on the course for longer than the walkers. Indeed, I spotted one poor girl asleep against a lamppost at one point! It took real dedication to give up your time like that, but the event simply couldn’t have taken place without them.

But, most of all, thanks to my fellow team-mates. It really was a pleasure to ‘serve’ with you. Thanks to Miranda for the opportunity in the first place, and to the rest of you for your company and support.

I’ll be following your future exploits closely via social media and I know I’ll be suitably inspired to go on further adventures myself. Hopefully, guys, we can bump into each other at the National Running Show, or at some event yet to come.

Relive my walk (my Garmin died at 24.8 miles but you get the idea)
Miranda’s blog
Richard’s video
Action PR blog

If you’re still with me after reading all 1838 words of the above and you would like to donate to Cancer Research UK – which this is all in aid of after all – you can do so on my JustGiving page.

And one last tiny little favour … if you enjoy my blog could I be so bold as to beg for your vote at the Running Awards? Click here and navigate your way to Publications & Online > Blogs > Huff, Puff and Shuffle. I’ll not win but I’ll mean loads to me to get some votes!