Sunny Hill parkrun

On Friday I had one of my bright ideas. These never end well. The bright idea in question was to do my long run on the running track. I thought this was a good idea because a) it was New Year’s Eve and surely no one else would be there b) if something started to hurt I would be able to stop and not have to negotiate getting home in the cold c) I run faster on a track for the same amount of effort, therefore could get it done and go back to bed for a nap before EastEnders.

The problem with slow running on a track is that my brain sees a track and promptly says “ah, speedwork! Your pace should be starting with a 5!” For the first few kilometres I really tried to run slowly only to realise I was running at 5k pace and not Long Slow Run pace. Because running on a track is so much easier than running outside, it didn’t feel like that much effort, but my heart rate was definitely appropriate for a 5k. Unsurprisingly, while my pace remained good, my pacing certainly didn’t and dwindled with every kilometre. I unintentionally ran my fastest ever ten miles 1:55:48 (two minutes faster than the first ten miles of the 2016 Brighton Half…) and then I was so knackered that I slept for the rest of the day.

We will gloss over the fact that not only was the track full of the annoying running group who need every single lane to do very little actual running, there were two very cheery middle aged race walkers who were doing the proper hip swingy thing and walking considerably faster than I was running, calling out “well done” as they lapped me. Why must my life be plagued with these stupid fast walkers?

The next day was New Year’s Day. Much to my relief, parkrun has abandoned the stressful and chaotic practice of allowing people to partake in two parkruns on New Year and thus we had to choose just one. Camilla and I decided to head to Sunny Hill. I’ve been saving this for a special occasion but there haven’t been a lot of special occasions lately. It is the hilliest parkrun in London and it’s all tarmac and it has a delightful name. I was particularly pleased to see that despite the fact it was January there was actually a modicum of sunshine to help it live up to its name. There was, of course, more than a modicum of hill.

The course starts with a “mini lap” round the middle of the park, which is quite hilly, and then two big laps, which are extremely bloody hilly. The worst/best hill is at the beginning of each big lap. It is similar to the Finsbury Park Hill, in that it starts with a medium incline and ends up ropes and poles kind of steep. It is dissimilar to Finsbury Park in that as soon as you get to the top you run back down the other side, which is equally steep, only to have to run all the way back up again on a different path, making you wonder why you bothered running down at all. There is also great potential to get distracted by views of Wembley Stadium or a particularly attractive rat and trip over a pot hole so I cannot emphasise enough: look where you are going. No, I didn’t fall over. But the potential was there.

I was happy to walk the hills and take it fairly easily as I was still tired from the previous day and there is no point killing yourself trying to get a good time on a course like this. I could see Camilla not too far ahead of me and she is generally about five minutes faster than me so I figured I was actually doing quite well (or that she had lost the will to live). Unfortunately, everything was about to change. I was vaguely aware that my left leg was complaining a bit from the start but when you are me something always hurts and if I stopped every time something hurt I’d never run at all. However, as I passed the finish (and some smug already-finished people) I felt a pain in the back of my calf like I’d been bitten by a crocodile. Examining the offending limb and seeing an absence of crocodiles, I decided it must be a cramp and ineffectually pummelled it and wiggled my toes for a few seconds. I tried to run on but could barely put it on the floor. I tried again and actually did some proper stretches and the leg uncramped enough for me to hobble onwards, but only just. This is the closest I’ve come to DNFing a parkrun, there was still another 2k to go which seemed like a long way to go on one foot. I decided to see if I could get to the top of the hill and reevaluate. I walked most of the next kilometre and started to feel a bit better so I gingerly ran the last kilometre (which, helpfully, is nearly all downhill). I was hoping to salvage a narrow sub 40 but I just couldn’t make up enough time and finished in 40:50. I reckon it would have been about 37 minutes without the calamity, but obviously I’ll have to return to test that theory. I can confirm that the course was just as good as I’d hoped it to be, just a shame the athlete is not fit for purpose!

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