(Or, more posts about the weather.)
Friday was the two year anniversary of my first RunThrough race! I started going to RunThrough events around the same time I started going to parkrun and for the same reason – I wanted some races to look forward to, but didn’t want to risk spending large amounts of money on a race and then not being able to do it. Of course, two years on and my social life revolves around RunThrough, I can’t go to a race without bumping into at least ten people I know, and I have a stash of colourful medals that are threatening to need their own bedroom. Unfortunately, my first race was 10k in one of my least favourite venues, Victoria Park, and I felt compelled to repeat this distance to celebrate the anniversary, a decision that I came to regret before I’d even started on the second lap. The weather was glorious – glorious, that is, for sitting in the park reading a book and eating an ice cream, not for running boring laps that look the same from all directions. I found myself getting very hot. The first hot race of the year is always a shock to the system. I always think to myself “it’s just mind over matter, other people can get PBs when it is hot, so can you” but when it comes down to it, I am without fail at least 30 minutes per km slower on a hot, sunny day than a cold, grey one. I like to think that the people who don’t slow down when it is hot are just faulty and lack my self preservation mechanism and that I will outlive them all.
I finished in 1:18 something, which was five minutes slower than five days previously, and if anything the race felt harder. But I did get an excellent Easter Bunny medal.
The next day it was off to Catford parkrun (for no other reason than wanting to stay vaguely local and thinking it sounded quite nice). I actually lived in Catford (for a year, seventeen years ago) but of course this was long before I started running, or doing any exercise other than walking to the shop to buy beer and carrying it home to drink, so I had never set foot in Mountsfield Park before. It is actually a very nice park, though it could be better cared for. The parkrun volunteers were picking up litter from heavily overflowing bins before the start, and I got the impression this is something that they do on a regular basis. There are toilets and a cafe cunningly disguised as shipping containers right by the start. The toilet was a bit ramshackle and didn’t lock.
Next week’s run will be Catford’s one year anniversary and everyone has been encouraged to dress as cats, but as we were a week early, we had to do with a man dressed as Prince with purple bunny ears. “It’s the anniversary this week!” he exclaimed, as if this was a date that should be ingrained on my memory. Apparently he has been all around the Midlands parkrunning dressed as Prince. People do some funny things.
On to the course: Catford parkrun is a three lap, multi terrain course that is quite hilly but not massively so. The start is on a gentle tarmac uphill, then there is a small loop on some grass (flat) followed by an short sharp awkward uphill, a very pleasing downhill, and a larger grass loop (flat again). The grass was, thankfully, not as uneven or as slippy as last week at Eastbourne. After the second loop the course ducks through some trees on a trail path, then there’s a definite hill, similar in steepness and length to the one at Grovelands. At the top of the hill there’s some nice, smooth tarmac (very slightly uphill) round some ornamental flowerbeds and the like, and then you’re back where you started. The second lap is identical, but on the third when you reach the top of the hill you turn right instead of left, and sprint towards the finish.
There were 179 parkrunners, which is quite small for London and there was not a lot of congestion, which is always nice. Unfortunately, there are places on the course (particularly the grassy bits) where corners can be cut, and I did notice two young teenagers just ahead of me cutting out substantial chunks, culminating in their overtaking me as I diligently ran around a cone and they ignored it. I thought I had got away from them in the last trail section, but as you know I have no sprint finish whatsoever and a lot of kids are very good at sprinting. They finished 20-30 seconds ahead of me and as much as “it’s a run not a race” and “they’re only cheating themselves” it is a bit irritating because I have a feeling I would have finished ahead if they’d not cut corners. Anyway, on balance I decided sneaking on some kids for cheating at parkrun would be a bit mean spirited so I refrained from attempting get them disqualified.
I was actually pleasantly surprised at my time, which was 35:57. I have run four parkruns in 35:5* so far this year – five if you count my watch time from Raphael), but I think the courses and conditions have increased in difficulty (Cannon Hill, Mile End, Raphael, Eastbourne, Catford) so maybe there’s a subtle improvement in there and its not quite as groundhog as it looks.
I wasn’t lapped by Prince but he did finish five minutes before I did.