105 Days to Go – Melton Mowbray parkrun #1

Enthused by the encouraging run of a few days ago I was inspired to take part in the inaugural Melton Mowbray parkrun. Grantham residents are patiently awaiting their own edition of the free-to-enter-timed-5km-run. In the meantime they realistically have the choice of Peterborough, Lincoln or Clumber Park if they don’t mind a lengthy drive, or Newark if they want an event that is easily reachable, but is frustratingly a little over distanced for a 5km run (around 350 meters long by my reckoning).

Melton Mowbray, for me anyway, is roughly the same distance away (18.5 miles) as Newark, so the new parkrun potentially offered an attractive alternative. When the alarm went off at 7 am the mere thought of stepping outside didn’t seem that attractive with gale force winds battering the house and intermittent bouts of rain lashing against the window panes. I struggled for ten minutes to summon the will power required to leave the comfort of my duvet behind, but I managed it and before long I was preparing myself for the run.

The drive to Melton on the A607 was blissfully free of traffic (It’s a lovely road to drive when it is free of other people using it) but the appalling conditions were hardly inspiring. I made it to Melton Country Park around 40 minutes before the off. Already the small car park was nearly full (They’ve been allowed to use the local college car park to accommodate the masses) but I was lucky to get a spot and soon took refuge from the wind and rain outside the nearby Visitor Centre. The first person I spoke to turned out to be the first woman to finish. I think she had run the trial event a week earlier and pointed out the rough direction of the course. Keen to do a warm up I went on a reconnaissance lap as best I could given there were no marshals on course yet. What was immediately apparent was that the wind was going to make conditions very difficult and that the going underfoot was going to be challenging, with numerous deep puddles and several muddy patches on a course that combined sections of gravel, dirt and asphalt.

Two miles later and the warm up was done. The calves were a little less tight than they were (Which was fearsomely tight) and I felt keen to get going. It would be the first time I’d run in anger since the Robin Hood Half Marathon back in September and I was keen to know what condition I was in. I met up with a couple of guys from Grantham Running Club, I even met a friend of Kenilworth Runners on the start line. What was immediately apparent lining up is that the enthusiasm for the event, being held in conditions that would rightly put off most, was high. It turned out there were 268 finishers – a fantastic number for an inaugural running. Mercifully for the runners the rain stopped just before the beginning of the run – all they had to contend with now was a gale force wind.

After the briefing and subsequent re-briefing concerning matters that had been forgotten about in the initial briefing, we were given the 3-2-1 and we were off. On poor terrain the start was less frenetic than is customary at these parkruns. I found myself just outside the top five when the courses only real trouble spot caused, for the first few runners, some trouble. To cross the lake there is a narrow wooden bridge which, as the runners approached, was occupied by a gentleman with at least two large dogs. Alarmed by the sight of 270 odd runners hurtling towards him, he made his best efforts to vacate the bridge, but hadn’t quite done so by the time we got there. The lead runners had to slow to a virtual stop; the leader got a couple of muddy paws around his midriff by means of a friendly hello from one of the weighty quadrupeds. Thankfully no harm was done to animal or runners and we continued straight to another unexpected obstacle in the form of a former railway bridge to run under which was a good 30cm deep with water. I expect such things in cross country races, to have my feet soaked in such a manner this early in the morning was not in the plan.

Straight from the foot soaking we were thrown straight into the course’s tough little climb, which Strava reckons averages 6%. Today though it was made somewhat easier by a 30mph+ wind blowing us up it. A sharp right at the top and there was a long gentle descent made tougher by a fearsome crosswind. I settled into a pace that felt comfortable. I wasn’t fancying a flat out run, I was more concerned with making it to the finish in one piece. I was lying seventh and was content, for today with that.

After the gradual descent came a sharp right hander and down a fairly steep decent which almost became the slowest part of the course given the headwind that was trying its hardest to blow us back up the hill. The path degenerated into a narrow continuous puddle before a small bridge took us onto the main part of the park, which was happily properly drained and on wide concrete paths. The end of the lap saw a tough section into the headwind, then some poor conditions underfoot akin to cross country which saw me lose a position to a local runner more keen than I to do well.

The second lap was uneventful. I maintained the gap to the two runners ahead of me and began to close them down in the final stages of the run. That in itself was satisfying. I was as strong at the finish as I was at the start – not as quick as I would have liked but I have to remind myself that I’ve only been back running for two weeks after more than two months out injured.

I passed a runner to take seventh on the final drag before an unconvincing sprint to the finish where there were some lapped back markers to content with. I’d barely looked at my watch, which is unusual for me. It read 18:55 which was satisfying under the circumstances, but hard to gauge what that actually represents in terms of where I am at given the conditions were so difficult.

After seeing my GRC club mates finish I set off on a 3.5 mile warm down, which saw me do a loop round near the town centre. It was a slow affair, the calves now throbbing with tightness and the pelvis aching a fair amount too. I was pleased though that there was no problems in the back / hip area. I am still running in a constant fear that something is going to go wrong again, so putting in three quickish miles is a good confidence booster in that respect.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, it is off to the cycling club for another reliability ride. Hopefully the legs will recover a bit, otherwise it’s going to be a hard slog!