A Tale of Three parkruns

Isabel Trail, Stafford, 13 November 2021

Finally I’m in good form, the weather is kind, it’s a perfect course (a flat out and back on a disused railway line). I’m going all out for a PB. I don’t even care that I have a half marathon the next day because we all know I’m never going to beat my half PB ever again and it’s a mystery why I even bother trying. I know exactly what pace I need to hold (6:40/km) and I know that it probably isn’t a good idea to run the first km in six minutes and two seconds like I did in the last RunThrough race, although to be fair that got me a PB too, albeit the worst positive split of all time.

It was one of those days when everything worked. My legs kept up with me, nothing untowards happened, and kilometre after kilometre ticked past between 6:35 and 6:40. It was fast enough for me to be panting like an overheated bichon frise in July yet it didn’t really feel that difficult and I even overtook someone sprinting to the finish. (Okay he was in his seventies and it was his first parkrun and now I feel like a right meanie but I always get overtaken at the finish and you have to take victories while you can).

Time: 33:27, PB by 29 seconds. Surely the beginning of a winter of glory! I didn’t even do badly in the wretched half marathon the next day (but I think that needs a post of its own…)

Beckenham Place Park, 27 November 2021

It’s the third time I’ve run Beckenham Place parkrun and it’s the third completely different course. The first time was my favoured B course which replaces the flooded grass with a hilly woodland path. The second was the old normal course, which was a bit rubbish, and this time it was the all-new every-terrain course with a loop round the lake, cafe, toilets and most importantly my mother marshalling at the 2k point. (She is there most weeks, if you’re reading this with the intention of going. Say hi if you see her.) This route takes in most of the old course and the B course (but sometimes in the opposite direction to which you are accustomed) and also adds a new section over the old golf course, through a particularly treacherous stretch of woodland and round the lake. I was very conscious of trip and slip hazards, of which there were many, and I was very proud that I managed to make it to the home stretch without incident and still on target for a narrow course best…

SMACK

I was on a perfectly dry trail path that I must have walked over five hundred times before and I’d tripped over some kind of massive boulder. Possibly the ghost of my dead Jack Russell, Kipsy. She always loved that bridge because it led to the big green field where she could chase other dogs and then jump into the river and shake cold water over me. I wouldn’t put it past her to trip me over. Mischievous little bugger.

Anyway, by the time I had pulled myself to my feet and hobbled to the finish line, covered in mud and with blood dripping from multiple limbs, the course best was well and truly out of the window and my mother looked apologetically at the other volunteers as she introduced her wreck of a daughter.

Time: 39:17. Worst time of 2021.

Kingston, 4 December 2021

When you’re ten (or a footballer) and you fall over, you scream and you cry and ten minutes later you’re fine.

When you’re twenty-five and you fall over, you get up straight away and you’re already fine.

When you’re forty-four and a half and you fall over, you get up straight away and think you are fine. And then as the day goes on you realise you are not fine. And resting makes it worse but it hurts too much to do anything. And even though you have no actual proper injuries that a medical person would care about you feel like you have been run over by three buses and a steamroller and a week later you actually feel worse than when you hobbled over the finish line proclaiming that you were fine.

Catalogue of injuries: Left knee (purple, unable to bend without squealing), rest of left leg (not actually injured but just coming out in sympathy), right hand (hole, swollen, purple, unable to operate mouse), left elbow (lost 59 pints of blood through hole size of pinprick), left ribs (no visible damage but unable to take deep breath or do Les Mills Core).

Still, for some reason I was sure that all would be fine. I vaguely remembered that a) my friend Mike had set a PB at Kingston that had lasted him years b) that the Thames Path had recently been resurfaced, so I thought I could probably get close to the 35 minute mark if I tried or 38 minutes if I decided to take it easier. I also thought that I could get away with my “fast shoes”. Neither of these thoughts were correct. The parkrun starts with a lap of a muddy, slippy field. I wasn’t going to walk at this stage but I struggled to run at all and couldn’t keep up with Rob (who was walking on physio advice). The field was probably only 400 metres or so but I felt shattered and like I’d had enough by the time I’d finished. The only thing that inspired me to keep moving was the fact that I needed to catch up with Rob because I couldn’t lose to a fucking walker. I mean, finish after him, as it’s not a race of course. I managed to catch up with him but I couldn’t actually get ahead of him and wasn’t particularly impressed when he decided to walk alongside me and tell me a story about swimming in the Thames. I did not have sufficient breath to reply, or, luckily for him, sufficient arm strength to push him into the aforementioned body of cold water.

The turn around point is a loop around a field and to my horror it was even muddier and slippier than the other one. Of course Mr Race Walk was off into the sunrise while I slid around like Donald Duck on a banana skin. I could not face the thought of falling again so I minced across the grass very gingerly thinking I’d be able to catch Rob once we were back on tarmac. Wrong again. I couldn’t even see him and however much I tried to increase my speed nothing happened except life becoming more and more painful.

I got to the finish and saw it was on grass and I was so fed up that I ran along the path instead and then sidestepped into the funnel at the last moment, totally ignoring the marshals who were clearly trying to get me to fall on my arse again.

Time: 37:34, which felt about twenty times harder than 33:27 three weeks ago. Rob finished a minute ahead of me. Why we are friends at all is a mystery to me.

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