Posted by: fitartist | March 24, 2015

Richmond Half Marathon…PB Potential

Yup, another half-marathon PB in the bag!

As always, the journey to the start of a Sunday morning race in London is as challenging as the race itself, so I found myself on a freezing cold platform – thankfully with a friend – at silly o’clock with an epic journey ahead. The heat of the tube is always sleep inducing, so a brisk walk to the start of the Richmond Half-Marathon was welcome! As we were cutting it fine, I didn’t really have time to take in all the things on offer, focussing instead on the queue for the loos and the sign for the baggage tent. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Having volunteered recently in the baggage tent at the Winter Run, all future baggage tents will seem pale in comparison…this one was a bit DIY: show your number to a (very smiley) marshall, find a table/area with your number above it, leave bag. It worked though, but I certainly wouldn’t leave anything of value!

After a few more last minute nervous adjustments, Jacqui and I looked for the 1.50 pacer flags, having a brief chat and ‘good luck!’ with another friend Ronnie who was pacing the 2 hour group (well done to the pacers, it must be hard work running with a great big flag bobbing around). I was feeling a little nervous and also uncertain about how this would go, after my uncomfortable and slightly unhappy race in Brighton a month ago, so decided I would just see how I felt and, if things felt good, I would aim to beat my Brighton time. The pacers headed off quite fast, faster than 1.50 pace and I soon lost sight of them (and Jacqui!). This race has a very varied course and the roads are not closed (though carefully marshalled), so you do find yourself negotiating kerbs, shop signs, bus-stops and so on and the first section is not exactly scenic. We skirted around the high wall of Kew Gardens and passed by Kew Bridge then took to the Thames path. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear trail shoes, but this whole section was pretty rough under foot, with gravel and the odd raised rock, so my imagined views of rowers gliding across the water were forgotten as I concentrated hard on the path ahead. It did become quite congested here and I saw the first of the four falls I witnessed throughout the race.

I was feeling good, and my pace was steady, it was quiet, with everyone concentrating hard, just a thud thud and the heavy breathing of other runners. There were whole sections where friends and family had come out to cheer and the support was great, I also found the marshals very friendly and encouraging. I had decided to stick to the same fuel strategy as Brighton Half, and had two gels stashed in my pocket, one for the 10k point and one for the ten mile point, if I needed it. The water stations were frequent enough, but the water had been poured into cups, not so great! It’s so much better if you can grab a small bottle and sip as you go, washing down a gel if you need to, but the cup means you either drop it, squish it into the air or throw it at your face (I did a combination of the above). I got through though, but could have done with being a bit more hydrated later on as the sun came out. There were some nice wooded areas and some running on grass, which I think some people around me struggled with – it’s a good idea to include this kind of running in your training for this race, so you don’t find yourself stumbling as you get tired and lose form.

As always, I had missed a few mile markers along the way, so was delighted as the miles seemed to tick away nicely and we were soon enough heading for the Old Deer Park and the finish. I picked up my feet and kept the pace steady, trying to catch up with a woman ahead as a goal. All of a sudden we found ourselves running through a working car park to a little tunnel under the road, then onto the grass of the park and a ‘400m to go!’ sign. Thinking this sounded really short, I picked up the pace then noticed the course looped and turned and the finish looked miles away! Here the crowds were excellent, really pushing us along to the finish, one last push and I was pausing the Garmin at 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, so three minutes off my Brighton time :)

I had had a feeling the goodies might be good, and was chuffed with my medal, t-shirt (fitted, one that you can actually run in!), buff and a Whole Foods bag with a selection of snacks and not one but three drinks: water, juice and coconut water! Perfect to sip and snack on as you stretch and recover.

I’m really pleased with my time, but mostly pleased that I actually enjoyed it and have recovered really well – I do think I was coming down with a nasty cold before I started running at Brighton, so not the ideal situation. Now, of course, I’m wondering if I can get under the 1.50 mark, now that would be amazing!

PB Face

PB Face

Posted by: fitartist | March 10, 2015

Primal Pantry Pecan Protection

You may recall a review I wrote not long ago of the Primal Hazelnut and Cocoa Bars, perfect for fuelling on the go, especially if you’re following a paleo or gluten-free diet. Thanks to a new Apple and Pecan bar, you have more choice and another chance to boost your nutrient intake. It seems pecans have been proving themselves useful in lowering cholesterol – whilst pecans are high in fat, the new study has shown that, rather than being detrimental to the levels of cholesterol and fats in our blood, the nuts appear to reduce them.

Apple and Pecan

Apple and Pecan

I found the Apple and Pecan bar tasty, enjoyed the texture given by the nuts and they’re a handy size to pop in your bag or pocket for a quick post-workout refuel. The Primal Pantry bars (which includes four other bars – coconut & macadamia, almond & cashew, brazil nut &cherry and hazelnut & cacao) are now available in Tesco, Superdrug, health stores and gyms. For further information visit www.primalpantry.com

Posted by: fitartist | February 26, 2015

Sub-2 Half-Marathon

It’s been a long time coming, but I did it! I had signed up to the Brighton Half-Marathon months ago, along with about ten friends from Hilly Fields parkrun, it was to be a full-on weekend of pasta, chat, post-race fish ‘n’ chips with a little run in the middle. My training was going well, with the requisite number of long runs in the bag and I had possibly even got over my stitch/cramp/stomach troubles. Yes, I know, you can feel a big ‘but’ coming can’t you? The Thursday a couple of weeks before the race was to be my long (13 mile) run, and I set off on possibly the most bitterly cold day so far, into a sleety London. I weaved in and out of the Thames path, heading westwards from Greenwich, keeping my head down, and trying to keep warm. I ran over the Millennium Footbridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral, paused for a moment at the ten mile+ point to take on a gel and, when I tried to start running again, felt an incredible pain in my right leg, just behind my ankle, on the inside. I gritted my teeth and tried to keep going, but it just seemed a silly thing to do. I did, however, need to get home! I had my Oyster card with me, so hobbled to Charing Cross, bought a big hot drink to attempt to keep myself warm and sadly took the train home :(

The next couple of weeks included one ok-ish run, one dreadful, aborted run and a couple of swims, not great pre-race preparation. The biggest thing to take a knock was my confidence as I became nervous about running in case I did myself some permanent damage, really! As the race day approached, I had to make a decision – my room was booked, as was the train and I had been really looking forward to the social side of sharing the experience with friends. I decided that the problem was possibly due to having really tight calf muscles and that maybe I could be ‘fixed’ by a sports massage, so I booked myself in on the Friday before. I hadn’t really had a sports massage before, so didn’t know what to expect – including being a bit clueless about what to wear. A little call-out on Twitter proved useful, as did this blog post over on Magpie in the Sky (I opted for bra and pants for the massage, in case you’re wondering). The therapist talked to me for a while and went on to assess my posture and so on before giving my calf muscles a good old kneading, in fact he didn’t make it above my knees because the calves really were ridiculously tight! He showed me some stretches, which are the ones I normally do anyway, so I guess I need to do more and maybe self-massage before and after a hard session.

And so to the run. I was very nervous, not having run for about ten days! The evening before was lovely, meeting friends at an Italian restaurant for piles of pasta mostly (I opted for risotto, my tried-and-tested pre-race dinner). Of course, my sleep was rubbish, the usual waking every hour or so with a mixture of nerves, excitement and anxiousness about my alarm not going off. When it was eventually time to get up, it was a beautiful day, a lovely golden glow accompanying the sound of seagulls. Down went my porridge, banana and cuppa and after hanging around nervously adjusting shoe laces and so on, I decided to head over to the start. A quick hug from my friend Sarah, a quick loo trip and I met another friend Hugh at the start pens. Hmmm, now this is something they need to review and get right for next year. I was supposed to be in the ‘yellow’ pen as indicated on my race number, but there was nothing to show you where to go, and people were simply piling in from the back. Hugh and I ducked to the side and walked along a bit, but found ourselves in a bit of a crush of people all trying to join the crowd…with a couple of minutes to go until the countdown.

Soon enough we were off, sort of…a slow amble towards the big pink arch. Hugh soon disappeared into the distance, looking very strong. I saw a mile marker and we turned to head out East. This stretch felt like a long slow hill that went on and on until an eventual turning point where I could hear sounds of relief then groans as we realised we were now running into the wind (I say wind, it wasn’t that bad, the wind that picked up later in the day would have finished me off!). At this point I started seeing friends on the other side of the road: a high-five from a very determined looking Roni, a wave from Emma, all giving me a boost and making me run a little faster :) At the drinks station I grabbed a bottle and took a few gulps, I was determined to keep myself hydrated and not suffer the hideous cramp that has troubled me in races in the past year. I sipped, swooshed and gulped down a gel, probably dribbling a lot of it down my chin. Nice. This next bit was long and hard. I now started to see the fast(er) runners heading finishwards, light on their toes and fresh faced. I looked ahead and wondered where my turning point would come. The beach huts to my left didn’t seem to stop, so I had a way to go yet. ‘Pick up your head, run tall, lift your feet!’ I told myself. At last, at about the ten mile mark, we turned and I felt an enormous sense of relief. I decided at this drinks station to walk a bit, take a good drink, another gel and then get my head down for the last three miles. Now my leg started to hurt again, and then my knee, it was all feeling a bit rubbish. With a combination of walking a little then running, I got a little bit closer to the pier and the big wheel that looked so far away. At this point I spotted Andrew across the way. This was Andrew’s first half-marathon and he hadn’t been so sure about even starting a few days before, so it was such a joy to see him still going, still smiling and our little high-five really gave me the push I needed.

I picked up the pace for the finish (maybe a little earlier than I should have done!) and crossed the line in 1 hour 56 minutes and 21 seconds. The last half-marathon race I ran and achieved a PB at was the Cardiff Half in 2010, where I ran 2 hours 12 minutes, so I’ll have that! I wandered rather vaguely around the finish area, not knowing where my friends would be, grabbing my bag to layer up and get warm, downing a cup of tea, then heading towards this lovely post-run lunch when I eventually worked out where we were meeting…

Re-fuel

Re-fuel

Gradually friends trickled in, some amazing PBs had been smashed, old form had been regained and first time distances had been conquered. We worked out that, between us, we had knocked over an hour off our previous PBs!! Well done Andrew, Em, Glenn, Hugh, Roni, Sally, Sarah, Siggy and Stephen, all an inspiration :)

Cold but happy

Cold but happy

Posted by: fitartist | February 11, 2015

A New Challenge

If you follow my progress regularly, you will know that I have enjoyed swimming for a long time, and found it particularly useful during pregnancy when I swam almost every day, even when I was going into ‘overtime’. Even so, I don’t really consider myself ‘a swimmer’. Oddly. Last year I found myself in the unlikely position of ‘racing’ other people in my first triathlon, a weird experience for someone who used to try their hardest to dodge swimming in PE (it was pretty horrid). Since I signed up for the Crystal Palace Triathlon, I really got stuck in, and have been swimming two, three or even four times a week since then, finding my stroke improving and I might even have got a bit faster. Woo-hoo! In May I will be having a go at the CPtri again and, in September attempting my first open-water and Olympic distance at the Hever Castle Triathlon. It was with this in mind that I signed up for the Swimathon in April.

When I looked at the distances, I was initially drawn to the 2.5k distance, a challenge indeed. I ummed and aahhed a bit and decided that, if I am to ask people to sponsor me to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, I need to do something even more challenging, so I’ve committed to swim the whole 5k! Arrrghghghghg! The furthest I have swum previously is one mile (1500m), so this is really taking me out of my comfort zone. I was surprised (and delighted) at how many people sponsored me straight away, which really gave me a push to get going with my training. There are some really useful training plans on the website, and I went along to my local pool (where the event will be held) yesterday to throw myself in to my first session.

Essentials

Essentials

I swam 92 lengths of the 25m pool but, as it was split into sets, with short rests, I felt fresh even when I reached the end of the session. It was odd taking rests and sipping my drink – I normally roll up, get in, swim hard, get out, go home. It gave me a real confidence boost getting through that first 2300m session, I now feel like I can reach my 5k target in ten weeks’ time :)

Posted by: fitartist | January 20, 2015

Bootcamp Pilates

When I’m stuck in my run, run, run, swim, swim, swim routine, I often forget about taking some time to fit in something else. I do a bit of additional core work at home after a run, or when I remember, and it really does help, but I find it hard to squeeze yet another discipline into my week. Last week I decided to have a go at Bootcamp Pilates to see if this might be something to balance all the forward motion activities I find myself doing. I have done some pilates before (actually it was a big part of my dance training, and I have always been aware of its benefits), but this has always been mat-based, but this time I found myself climbing onto a machine. At Bootcamp Pilates, they use reformer machines – this is not some new fangled thing, but is based on the original machines used by Joseph Pilates, so has been tried and tested over many years.

As I was new to the class, the teacher spent a bit of time explaining what we would be doing and showing me how to best set up my machine, she also popped over every so often to make sure I wasn’t getting into a pickle. We started with a warm-up, using a ring thing (I don’t know the technical term) and working our abs (I was glad of my regular core work at this point!) and we were soon getting into position on our machines, and using the resistance to work our legs. There I was thinking my legs were good and strong, but I was really feeling the burn as we held the last position…just a little bit longer…and three, two, one….arrrghghg! So, if you pictured pilates being something biddies do, involving lots of lying around and deep breathing, then you’re wrong!

I would definitely say I prefer this class over the mat-based class. I was so busy concentrating on getting my position right (and not falling off the machine and showing myself up) that the hour flew by and, before I knew it, we were warming down and stretching. My teacher was really friendly and made sure I understood everything before letting me throw myself about on moving apparatus, and the studio I visited was really handy for Old Street station (just a few minutes walk). There are other studios in Notting Hill, Fulham and Richmond and, if you’re quick, you can take advantage of the current offer of four classes for £50 (this is just for January, so get a move on!). I found I was aching the next day, especially my thighs and glutes, so I definitely had a good workout :)

Posted by: fitartist | January 14, 2015

Buko Organic Coconut Water

Regular readers will know that I am constantly on the look-out for fuel and drinks that might help me tackle my cramping problem, so I was keen to try out some Buko Organic Coconut Water. I have been given coconut water at races before and have even gone out and bought some from the supermarket, so I am already a covert, but I know some people don’t like the taste and it can take some getting used to. I personally find it refreshing, especially if it’s nice and cold from the fridge, and have been popping these little 330ml cartons in bag for after a swim.

In case you don’t know, there are many health benefits to drinking coconut water, it’s:

– Full of essential vitamins and minerals
– A great source of potassium
– Naturally isotonic and great for rehydration
– Contains anti-oxidants such as cytokinins which regulate growth, development and ageing
– Low calorie drink with zero fat and zero cholesterol
– Aids digestion, cleanses the skin, and improves circulation

So, that might explain why it could help prevent the cramping that often stops me part-way across the pool.

Coconut Water

Coconut Water

There are a few coconut water drinks on the market now and it continues to increase in popularity, maybe due to being low calorie and natural (many people seem to be moving away from sugary sports drinks), but Buko is unique in that they work in partnership with Cuipo. Here is some information about Cuipo:

“Cuipo work with conscientious brands around the world to help persevere rainforests, by taking a small donation from each product sale and using it to buy real forest – having already bought and preserved 88 million square metres since their inception in 2010. Buko coconut water are the first UK brand to work with Cuipo and on every drink pack you will find a unique code, which represents ‘your’ square meter of rainforest. What’s more you can enter this code on the Cuipo website to see which part of the rainforest you have helped to save”.

If you want to find out more about Buko Organic Coconut Water, and buy some bottles for yourself, visit www.organicbuko.com

Posted by: fitartist | January 8, 2015

New Year’s Resolution!

Really, that’s what a parent at the school gate had the cheek to call out the other day as I ran past. She clearly doesn’t know me!

Happy New Year and good luck to any of you who are trying to stick to new year’s resolutions, I don’t have anything against them, I just think January is a crap time of year to deprive yourself! It’s the perfect time to try something new and commit to getting fitter though and, with so many group initiatives to help you along, you won’t be alone. This year I’m logging my activities on Jantastic as part of the Hilly Fields parkrun group. I did this last year and found it gave me a real focus and helped me commit to a set number of runs/swims a week. Another group endeavour I’ve taken part in previously is Janathon, where you jog, blog and log every day for the month. It’s a great way to receive some support and encouragement to get you out there (and there are prizes too!).

I thought this might be a good time to look back over some achievements in 2014 and look forward to some new challenges in 2015. Last year was a fantastic year for my running, with a new direction and a new pace. My regular involvement with Hilly Fields parkrun helped me make lots of new running friends and encouraged me to become a regular at Kent Athletic Club, which inevitably helped me to get a bit faster, at last ducking under the 25 minute mark for 5k, something I had been aiming towards for a long time. This sense of camaraderie also saw me entering more races and smashing my 10k PB along the way. 2014 was also the year I tried triathlon, with a local race at Crystal Palace really giving me the bug. This new interest made me realise just how much I love cycling and led to me competing almost to the point of collapse at the London Duathlon in September (it hasn’t put me off wanting to do it again!). I also took part in my first sportive, hopefully the first of many.

It was a good, consistent year, giving me a strong base to move forward with this year. First up is the Brighton Half-Marathon in just a few weeks. I haven’t run this distance in a very long time, with the Cabbage Patch 10 being the longest recent race, so I’m steadily building up towards the 13.1 miles. This is going to be a very sociable one, with a group of us heading down from Hilly Fields, and Edward and Hector coming to cheer us on. A month later I’ll be facing the distance again, with the Salamon City Trail Richmond Half-Marathon – I enjoyed Richmond Park so much in the duathlon, that I wanted more! There are still places available, and you can also enter the 10k race alongside it. I’m hoping to get a place in the Crystal Palace Triathlon again, it was such good fun last year and, for my birthday, I was given entry to a triathlon, so went for the Hever Tri in September. I decided to set myself a greater challenge by entering the Olympic distance race, so that’s a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I’ll definitely need to work towards this one, especially the swim, which is in open water, expect lots of posts about tentative dips in slimy ponds…

For now I’m ticking off my four runs and three swims a week on Jantastic, and keeping it interesting by visiting some lovely locations. Good luck with all your running/swimming/riding adventures in 2015!

Aquatics Centre Mile

Aquatics Centre Mile

Posted by: fitartist | December 3, 2014

November Round-Up

Blimmin’ ‘eck, November went by in a flash and I got good and sweaty – and very, very muddy – in a few races along the way. First up was my second duathlon of the year, the Velopark Women’s Duathlon. I picked this one for a few reasons: another chance at a duathlon over a shorter distance, so a speedier event, women-only, so it might be interesting to see what this kind of event is like without the mix (this is not essential to me, just curious), small field, and the opportunity to whiz around the road track at the Olympic Park on my bike :) As usual, I was itching to get out and to the start, so arrived stupidly early, which gave me enough time to get very excited about being at the Velopark, check out the lovely, smooth road and also begin to get very cold. Gradually, more and more women with bikes started arriving and nervously leant them up against the fence in the transition area (this is quite a relaxed affair!).

Velopark

Velopark

We were soon being talked through our pre-race briefing and applauding volunteers, organisers and a woman who was celebrating her birthday (she went on to win, nice birthday present!). Our first leg was two laps (so two miles) of running. Since I had allowed myself to get cold, my lungs decided to pack up at this point and I huffed and puffed my way round. I had imagined it to be flat, but there were lots of twists and turns and a few – small – hills. As always, I felt a rush of pure joy when I jumped on my bike for the ten miles of riding. Straight away I was overtaking and shouting: ‘On your right!’. It’s really very hard keeping track of how many laps you’ve done so, every time I crossed the line, I shouted out the number of the lap I had just completed, this didn’t stop me getting confused when I started to see faster women going into transition…’Better just do another lap, just in case then’.

When I was sure I had completed my ten, I jumped off, changed my shoes and did the transition run, ie wobble, wobble, ouch, drag…That last mile of running felt like hard work, but I really pushed myself because I wanted to finish in under an hour. My time by my Garmin was 57.36, so I was very pleased with that. Once all the women were in, it was time for the presentations. There was even a podium for the winning competitors to bask in the glory! I cheered as they took their places, then made my way home, trying hard to warm up again. Later on in the day, I found out that I had come third in my age group, but a different competitor had been called up to the podium by mistake, my moment of fame taken away! I’ll have to go back and try again, maybe go up a step on that podium next time ;)

Next up, I was invited to run through some mud by my friends Siggy and Stephen. They run with Petts Wood Runners (you may remember them from the Petts Wood 10k not so long ago) and take part in the Kent Fitness League series of events. They knew I would enjoy getting myself grubby over at Oxleas Wood. I hadn’t counted on it being quite so wet though, with flooding happening in Lewisham and a steady downpour leading up to and throughout the run. Yay! When we arrived, we huddled into the tent with the other PW runners and tried to keep warm until the start. As I was running as a ‘second claim’, Siggy kindly lent me a vest to wear (though white didn’t seem like a good idea given the conditions). It was lovely stepping out onto the grass and seeing a stream of coloured club vests heading towards the start, which took us straight up a hill. From here we headed across to the first part of the woods and immediately encountered deep brown pools of icy cold water. Some people ahead were trying to avoid these by scrambling up the sides of the path – never a good idea – but I just went for it and filled my shoes to the brim.

There was no room for sight-seeing on this course, with the ground ahead of you and over-hanging branches being the main concern for the next five miles. Parts of this section were narrow and I found myself walking for a while where slower runners struggled with a particularly steep hill. Before long we were running behind the cafe and into the next section of the woods. Now this was really, really muddy, with some puddles reaching over my knees and trying their best to pull me over. Once we had negotiated steep sections, some steps, tree roots and fallen branches, we were back over to the other side, to do it all again. Siggy and I were having a little unplanned race with each other: she would urge me up the hills then catch me on the flat or downhill, calling out: ‘You’ll catch me on the up hill!’. During the last jaunt around the deeply muddy second section, Siggy overtook me again and I knew I couldn’t quite catch her this time, as I tried my best to stay upright. As I came out into the open once more, I attempted to get a grip on the now slippery grass and pushed to the finish. By my watch, I got 48.16 and quickly wrapped up and grabbed a hot chocolate from the cafe. What a fantastic race! I hope to run again next year.

Mudfest

Mudfest

And finally – yes, it’s been a race-dense month again – I took part in the MoRunning 10k at Greenwich Park again on Saturday. I really enjoyed this last year and, as my friend Glenn was getting together as many runners as possible to join his Run Dem Crew team, I thought I’d give it another go this year. I hadn’t had a very good week leading up to it and felt so generally crap and unwell that I hadn’t run at all, not the best preparation for a hilly 10k! I pulled myself together, gave myself a good talking to, got on my bike and cycled over to Greenwich Park where I met lots of other people with dodgy moustaches.

Me and Roni

Me and Roni

After a big group photo we jogged over to the start and slowly made our way across the line. I somehow found my legs were picking up and I was overtaking slower runners, realising that maybe the rest had done me good. It’s a tough course, but it was a beautiful day and the support from the crowd – and especially the Run Dem Crew – was fantastic and really gave me a push. I had hoped to beat last year’s time (I secretly had a 50 minute figure in my head) and happily crossed the finish in 49.48, so three minutes faster than last year :) So, November was a good month, another one filled with really varied races and goals achieved. I’m entering December with no races in the diary and an #adventrunning challenge to run 25 runs in 25 days…so far so good…and so much more hungry for mince pies ;)

Posted by: fitartist | November 13, 2014

A Week in the Life of a parkrun

parkrun is big. There are now events happening every Saturday morning all over the UK and in other parts of the world, even as far away as Australia! There are also Junior parkruns taking place on Sunday mornings, encouraging youngsters to try a 2k run with their friends. I’ve been closely involved with Hilly Fields parkrun for the two years it’s been running, and have made some lovely friends and would even say it’s changed my life, so I was a bit disheartened recently when a friend said on Facebook that parkrun had messed up her time again. Of course, I jumped in and got all defensive and it seemed that people were saying this is a common problem at many events. I’ve run at a few different events around the country and have never had a problem with my time, in fact the only problem is my own eagerness in pressing my Garmin too quickly at the start. I thought, as a Run Director, it might be a good opportunity for me to show you what goes into a parkrun, how we make it happen every week (and on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day!).

*waves*

*waves*

**Warning! I do go on a bit, go into lots of detail, but I really wanted to illustrate a week in the life…It’s my own personal experience, and each run is different, with different needs and approaches.**

On Saturday I ran, I didn’t have a good run, it was windy, muddy and I wasn’t feeling too healthy. After the run, we packed up the finish funnel, thanked our volunteers and sauntered over to the cafe to process the results. It’s always heaving in the Hilly Fields cafe, lots of smiling faces, hands cupped around a hot drink, talk of PBs, goals and life in general. We grab a table, place our order and the Run Director gets to work on uploading the data to the system. When you cross the finish line, you are given a finish token. This has your position and a barcode on it, we scan this and your own, personal barcode and these are (magically?) matched up to the time on the stopwatch. Usually, one of the volunteers will grab all the tokens and spread them out on a table in the cafe, where they are carefully put back into number order and rethreaded onto a long cable-tie (for some reason, this is a really popular job!). In the meantime, we locate the leads in the rucksack and connect the stopwatch and scanners, which load the data onto the computer. To make parkrun happen, we enlist the help of volunteers, we couldn’t do it without them so, before the run data is sent to HQ, we submit the names of our volunteers for the day and they will be allocated any points owed to them.

Finish token

Finish token

Once the barcode and timer data is in the system, we can have a look at the results table to check for any errors. At this point, we might notice ‘unknown runners’ (people who haven’t brought a barcode), and we will have the opportunity to rectify any problems that may have occurred at the finish funnel – this might be something straightforward, like a sweaty barcode that won’t scan, or something more puzzling like someone running through the funnel again with their partner/child/mum but being counted on the timer, or a ‘funnel dodger’ – someone who runs through, is counted, but doesn’t get scanned. These sorts of things happen all the time and you get to spot them quite easily but, occasionally, there might be something a little more perplexing and this is where you would ring up HQ and speak to the person on duty that day (sometimes you’ll even get through to Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself, the founder of parkrun!). Once everything is ok, we will send the data and it’s processed at head office (remember, there are hundreds of events all doing this at the same time…there is a queue). As we update Facebook and Twitter and get to drink our coffee, we start to hear phones pinging around the cafe as people enjoy seeing their official results. Result!

Encouragement

Encouragement

If everything seems ok, it’s time to gather up all the kit and head home. Every so often, someone might come up and say ‘My time seems a bit out’, so it’s back on the computer to see what’s happening. Again, this could be something like a funnel dodger or similar, and can be easily rectified and the data resubmitted (in this case the person would not receive another text, they would need to look at the results on the website). There’s quite a lot of kit to make up a parkrun (though they are all different, and have different needs depending on the course and the preference of the Event Director). We have managed to condense it down into a Sainsburys bag, a rucksack and a bundle of finish funnel poles, quite a lot for one person to carry! This week I was on my bike, so Stephen, our Event Director kindly offered to take the finish funnel poles home :) When I get home, I keep an eye on the Hilly Fields email, in case there are any queries, lost property concerns or offers from prospective volunteers. I will also check the kit bag, fold up the hi-viz vests (and wash any that have got muddy!) and, if there is any lost property, I might put up a message/photo on the Facebook page to let people know (the bag gets very heavy over the winter!).

Early in the week I will send out an email to all registered volunteers asking if they would like to help out. Our event runs with around ten volunteers and we generally don’t have too much trouble in recruiting people: once you’ve done it, you realise what a buzz you get and people often commit to running regularly and volunteering every few weeks – we even have volunteers who don’t run! If the roster is looking a bit empty, I might mention this on Facebook or Twitter and we usually have a few more people coming forward. By the time we get to Friday, the roster will be nice and full, and I check the rucksack to make sure the computer has performed any updates, clear and charge up the scanners and clear and reset the stopwatches. Ready to go!

We love volunteers!

We love volunteers!

I set the alarm clock early for Saturday morning, it wouldn’t happen if I overslept! A quick breakfast and I might head up the hill by myself, or have Edward and Hector to help me set up if they’re not stuck into Lego. It’s all uphill from our house, so I’m usually a bit hot by the time I get there, carrying all that kit. It’s great if there is an early runner or volunteer around, so I can enlist their help in putting out cones and arrows. There are two key spots on our course that need to be carefully marked out with cones, so that needs doing first, other areas need just a few cones and maybe an arrow, depending on how many marshals we have that day. At the top of the hill we put out the finish funnel and the parkrun flag for all to see, and slowly more and more people begin to gather and it gets a bit noisier as people greet their friends and catch up on the week. Volunteers arrive and I hand them their vest and any equipment they might need (stopwatch etc) and tell them where they need to be during the run. As we near nine o’clock, I call everyone to the start and we have our pre-run briefing. This is where we welcome any first-timers (big cheer), say hello to any tourists (big cheer), thank our volunteers (even bigger cheer), present any 50 or 100 t-shirts (another cheer), go over the course details and any things to look out for such as dogs, park users, potholes. We might congratulate anyone running their 50th or 100th parkrun (more cheering) and maybe sing happy birthday and, of course, mention any cake that might be shared at the end. I will then hand over to the timer, and off we go!

Cake!

Cake!

We have a spot where the course forks, not far from the finish, and a few volunteers and family/friends might gather here to cheer people on. When I’m Run Director, I like to chat with people at this point and usually have a walk around the course to speak to other marshals and encourage people as they pass. We often have dog walkers and other park users coming up and asking what’s going on, sometimes you’ll see them a few weeks later, in brightly coloured kit, joining in :) Quite quickly, we assemble at the finish to cheer the first runners across the line (our course records are men: 15.39 and women: 18.56). The people on the stopwatch and finish tokens will keep communicating with each other to make sure they are in synch, so we can keep track of any missed tokens and so on. We now have a steady stream of runners at all different paces, it might be that a regular runner is trying to achieve a PB, so we will shout that little bit louder to encourage them up the hill. Faster runners might head over and cheer other runners on, and friends mill around, stretching and finding out how they got on. After around 40-50 minutes after the start, we are congratulating the last few finishers, collecting up the cones and arrows and leaving the park as we found it (if slightly muddier in places!). Smiling runners thank us as they head home and others join us in the cafe, where we do it all over again.

Support

Support

*Thank you to Natalie, Lisa and Paul for taking such lovely photos time and time again*

Posted by: fitartist | November 11, 2014

New Balance New Shoes

I recently had the chance to go along and see the new range of shoes and apparel from New Balance. Having tried out a few of their shoes now, I’m always keen to see what they’re bringing out and any new innovations they have up their (lycra?) sleeve.

Running shoes running track

Running shoes running track

Something that stood out were the new style Fresh Foam shoes, which feature a Fresh Foam midsole and durable blown rubber outsole, which responds to the runner’s footstrike and impact patterns. This has been carried over into the 980v1 trail shoe, to give a more natural feel under foot on varied terrain.

980v1 Trail

980v1 Trail

I was particularly interested in the underside of the shoes (yeah, I know, geek), and like what they’ve done:

Grippy

Grippy

I have found trail shoes that have too deep a groove just pick up sticky mud as you go and you end up clomping around with heavy, solid feet. These grooves are just deep enough to grip and have the teeth running towards the back for the upward climb…and they’re light. Excellent!

I’ve recently been trying out some NB trail running shoes:

Autumnal shoes

Autumnal shoes

The Leadville 1210 has been made especially for ultra runners and has a tough Vibram outsole to cope with different terrains, but has been stripped of any unnecessary extras to lessen the chance of rubbing on longer distances. I haven’t exactly been going that far in them, but have certainly put them through their paces on slippery hills and wet paths.

Box fresh

Box fresh

They’re a lovely looking shoe (not that this means a thing once they’re caked in mud) and feel light enough to be responsive. I always find NB shoes to be a bit tight, so tend to go up half a size, but this pair are one whole size bigger, which makes them a little loose for my narrow feet – I think they are roomy to allow for the inevitable swelling that happens over longer distances. I would definitely recommend trying them on and giving them a test to make sure you get the right size, so important when you’re taking on epic distances.

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