Returning from the Tour of Britain / holiday on Wednesday 21st August any thoughts of a relaxing couple of weeks with little or no running soon dissipated with the continuing good form compelling me to get out there and keep on running. The day after getting home I did a club run which included 4 miles of threshold pace which wound up being 5:43 mile average with the final two miles run at 5:25 and 5:23!
There was finally a day’s rest on the Friday before I headed to Belton House parkrun on the Saturday. With seven miles already in the legs I had little expectations of a fast time. However with a rabbit just ahead of me for much of the run and not paying any real attention to my lap splits (I don’t tend to reset the Garmin at the start of a parkrun) I had little idea until I got home that I’d run something quite quick and saw that I was one second off my parkrun best on Strava. The official time of 17:01 was indeed one second off my Belton House parkrun PB and again frustratingly close to that sub 17 clocking!
The next day I ran the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon course with a mile and a half or so either side of the course. Pleasingly and with not much effort (Z2 HR on the flat Z3 on the two big hills) I averaged 6:37 for the 16 mile run. There was though some warning signs in a bit of a tight left hamstring which led to a tight calf so the following day it was a Zwift session only on the new Inssbruck course. The Tuesday saw the Witham Wheelers Hill Climb Championships. I rode 24 miles getting to Harby Hill and warming up, before going full gas for the three quarters of a mile effort. I went out far too hard too early and died a thousand deaths at the end. Slower than my effort a couple of years earlier I wound up third and a bit disappointed. The 19 mile ride home with Stephen was quite fun as the light rapidly disappeared and we raced as fast as possible to get back to Grantham before darkness totally fell!
After an easy run and Zwift on the Wednesday, Thursday saw more easy Zwifting in the morning followed by the Grantham Running Club Handicap 10K in the evening. I have no chance of winning, so I treated the event as a solid run – 5 miles at marathon HR and the final mile at half marathon HR or thereabouts. The result: 35:55 and 35 seconds quicker than in 2017. Pleasing! Friday and work saw an enforced rest before Belton House parkrun on Saturday. Again there was seven miles before doing the parkrun itself. Buoyed by the quick time seven days earlier I made more of a concerted effort to break 17 minutes. Despite a fair crack I fell a little short, clocking 17:06. I think this was partly due to coming first by around 90 seconds and having nothing to run or chase down. A steady three miles home and I clocked a half marathon distance in 1:24:03.
The following day was the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon, rescheduled from it’s postponement back in March when the Beast from the East swept through Grantham town. Despite having an entry I was unable to officially take part – work on the Italian Grand Prix had to take preference. Thanks to the race organisers at GAC I was able to pick up my number and set off to run the course at 8:45, well ahead of the 10:30 start time. I ran the course steadily, picking up the effort a touch in the final miles but never putting in a full effort. I clocked 1:23:40 which, largely due to the rapidly rising temperatures, would have seen me finish in the top five in the race itself. I was somewhat grateful I was unable to race!
The week prior to the Two Counties Half Marathon did at least have something of a taper in mind, although I went into the race with the mindset that the target races would be the Great Eastern Half in October and the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K in November – so the mileage didn’t really drop much, although the intensity of effort did. There was Zwift in the morning on Monday, followed by a 12 mile club run in the evening, five miles run at a steady lick along the canal. Tuesday saw an easy ten miles in the morning with a Zwift race in the evening. Wednesday morning saw me running up the toughest climb in the area – Minnett’s Hill – in preparation for a hilly half. I didn’t go full gas, but it felt pretty easy, inspiring some confidence. Thursday had more Zwift racing in the morning followed by a 11 mile club run in the evening, where I ran hard down Casthorpe Hill to practice the start of the race on Sunday. Friday saw a day off and the beginning of a mild cold. It wasn’t severe enough to stop me doing parkrun on Saturday, which I ran progressively after a very easy start, picking up the pace and the places to finish third in 18:40 or so. I would have liked the heart rate to have been a touch lower and the chest a little less tight, but I was fairly confident the cold wouldn’t hinder me too much.
For our penultimate stop on our grand tour of northern Britain we headed 200 miles south from the Highlands via the mostly beautiful, at times challenging, A82, and the less scenic but undeniably easier to drive M74, which magically became the M6 as we returned to England and stayed at Dalston Hall Caravan Site, where a misjudgement over the height of the barrier very nearly wrote off our caravan!
Dalston is a large village around 4 miles southwest of Carlisle. Home of a Nestle factory ‘which has been on the outskirts of the village since 1952, processing 65 million litres of milk each year, and almost one billion sachets of Nescafe Cafe Menu products’ there was also a very nice fish and chip shop which we visited on the Saturday night!
Lying north of the Lake District, there was no shortage of places to visit on our short stay. We enjoyed Wordsworth’s house in Cockermouth, which happened to have a festival on that day (Our third on our trip!).
We visited Keswick for perhaps the fifth time – we really enjoyed the Puzzling Place – a museum crammed with mind bending illusions and puzzles.
From there we headed to Moss Force and Knott Rigg on Newlands Pass near Buttermere for some enjoyable Lake District hill scrambling and challenging driving. Carlisle provided a welcome playground for the kids who were beginning to tire of daily walks and we left Carlisle thinking that we definitely need to return to the Lake District again for a longer than three night stay.
Day 16 – Friday 17th August 2018 – Into Carlisle and Out Again
After the long drive south back into England I wanted little more than a simple, uncomplicated afternoon ten mile run with perhaps the odd sight or two to enjoy. The first issue was that the road on which the Caravan Park lay, was a fairly busy, fast B-Road, with plenty of traffic heading out of Carlisle towards somewhere. I wanted to head to Carlisle itself but didn’t fancy running on the road. Thankfully the owner of the caravan park told me there was a footpath that ran to a cycle path that ran all the way to Carlisle and beyond.
Cycle paths are great for uncomplicated running I thought, so at a few minutes before 4 pm I headed off, under fairly leaden skies but, for the time being, dry. The route to the cycle path was quite a fun affair – across a golf course, down through some woodlands, along a well manicured grass path in a field, through another section of woodland before popping out on the main B Road just before Dalston, but right next to a private road which, if you headed along, through the self operated level crossing (a first for me!) headed to the long awaited cycle path. This sounds simple but required a fair amount of stopping and Google Map checking to assure myself that I was going in the right direction.
All this twisting and turning meant, at 8:02, the first mile was pretty slow, but once on the cycle path the pace naturally lowered to or just under 7 minute miles. I was though, having discovered that day there was a parkrun in Carlisle taking place on Saturday morning, taking it deliberately easy.
The path ran alongside a fairly quiet railway, at times it got very close to the railway – close enough to almost be able to touch a passing train if you were to be so stupid. I wasn’t so I carried on running. Arriving at the small village of Cummersdale I was briefly running on road before joining another path that was a little more undulating having left the path of the railway and instead copying the path of the River Caldew.
After five miles of running I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever reach Carlisle, but the welcoming sight of a signpost for Carlisle Castle assured me that I was indeed in the heart of the city.
Crossing a pedestrian bridge I stopped briefly to take a photo of the outside of the castle. Behind me was a the busy A595 which didn’t look to fun to run along so with some more Google mapping I cut into the heart of Carlisle, passing the Cathedral and through the pedestrianised shopping centre.
I then got a little lost trying to get myself on the Dalston Road which I figured may just take me back to Dalston where I was staying. Things weren’t helped by a squally shower making things decidedly unpleasant for a while before things calmed down, but didn’t exactly brighten up.
I ran along Dalston Road for a couple of miles, where in total I managed to notch up a trio of 7:11 miles. At a set of roadworks I noted that I could take a quiet road back to the small village of Cummersdale where I reckoned I could rejoin the cycle path back to the Caravan Park rather than face running on the busy main road back during the heart of a Friday evening rush hour.
Once I’d worked out that I could follow the road down to the main cycle path and ignore the foot paths across muddy fields, it was with some relief that I was back on the cycle path, where I knocked out a couple of easy six fifty something miles to bring me back to to the Caravan Park via the twists and turns of the unofficial footpath of the golf course. A ten and a third mile done with the minimum of energy expenditure followed by the plushest showers I’ve ever used at a Caravan Park! Happy Days!
Best Strava Segment Performance: Richie to pirelli lane – 36th/490
Day 17 – Saturday 18th August 2018 – Five miles then Carlisle parkrun (1st, 17:59), five miles to end it.
Unlike the Tees Barrage parkrun in Stockton that I was aware of in advance of us setting off on holiday, I genuinely wasn’t aware that there was a parkrun in Carlisle until a day or so before arriving at Dalston. I really don’t know why I didn’t think there would be a parkrun in a city, but it never crossed my mind.
Once I knew there was, there was the logistics of trying to get to it by running and not driving. Fortunately it was only three and a half miles away – as long as I ran on the busy B road from Dalston into Carlisle, a mile or so would have me running on the road. I reckoned that, at just after 8 am, the traffic would not be so bad and thankfully I was proved correct, with less than a handful of cars passing me, all able to give me plenty of space as they passed.
Considering I had to run through some back streets to make it to the park, I got to Chance’s Park, venue of Carlisle parkrun, relatively smoothly. I did double check with a pair in high-vis bibs that I was in the right place, they assured me I was and I relaxed somewhat. I chatted briefly to another pair of parkrun tourists, our paths would cross later, before heading off for a couple more miles or so working my way around the park, using the toilet facilities, and generally trying to kill half an hour or so before the 5K run began. The pre-parkrun miles were all run at a relaxed pace, the slowest 7:40, the quickest a 7 flat as I ended with a few strides to try and wake the legs.
The pre-run brief for first timers to Carlisle was far briefer than the one I enjoyed at Stockton. There was no map, no real information on where the course went other than it was three laps and we were shown where it began and finished. I had a fair idea of where we went, but I thought it would be prudent, whatever the pace, to not attempt to lead (if such a thing was possible) until the end of the opening lap. There was an intriguing aside from the marshal who pointed out that a lot of the Strava uploads from the parkrun showed the course to be 3.2 miles (5K is 3.1 miles), but was confident that the course was indeed exactly 5K. (I also overheard a couple of regulars who said the course was definitely long as it had been changed slightly from what it was originally).
At a few minutes past nine I lined up at the front of the 260 odd strong field and waited for the next pre-run biref to commence and finish. Finally at around 9:05 we were on our way. There was the usual surge of runners to the front, I was probably only just in the top ten after 300 meters, but slowly worked my way through to sit fourth at the back of a group of four.
The three lap parkrun was a twisty affair, partly run on grass, partly on footpaths, fairly constantly undulating and for today, pretty windy. It was reminiscent of a cross country course minus mud and spikes and with more tarmac – for which I was grateful. It was a good example of a parkrun in a regular kind of park. After all the definition of what constitutes a park has been stretched somewhat over the years to allow a parkrun to take place.
I stayed fourth until we reached the bottom of the park and made a hairpin bend that took us climbing back up a longish drag. I was confident I knew where the course went from here and felt the pace slow a touch so I pushed on and took the lead near the top of the hill, enjoying the immediate gradual downhill run following a hairpin which meant the pace naturally picked up. I went through a mile in 5:43, which I was pleased with given the undulating twisty nature of the course.
As I turned again sharp left to begin the second lap I tried my best to relax and enjoy the run. Halfway around the second lap before tackling the main climb again, I reckon I only had a few seconds on the second placed runner, by the time I reached the top it had pushed out to 15 or so and I knew that, barring disaster, first place was assured. The second mile was 5:35 and my legs felt great, bounding with confidence and purpose.
The final lap was much the same as the second, I was strongest of the field on the climb and extended my lead further. By now the biggest issue was back markers, of which there were many on a three lap course and on narrow pavements were tough to navigate at times. The third mile was a 5:36 and it was a very long 0.1 of a mile (as it was 0.2) of slightly uncomfortable slightly uphill running to the finish line. I finished first in 17:59, 38 seconds clear of the second placed runner. Given my splits I expected a bit quicker time but, I do believe the course was indeed a touch long.
I hung around a few minutes to clap some of the runners behind me home. The tourists I met earlier in the morning came home in a low 20 minutes, which for the girl as a 15-17 junior was very impressive – especially on her first parkrun attempt. She did however feel she was robbed of a position by another runner and I decided to leave before the argument got potentially heated.
Returning to a comfortable pace I made my way back to the Caravan Site. I reckoned the busy B road was indeed looking quite busy so I opted, as I had the day before, to take the left hand turn down to Cummersdale and the bicycle path back to Dalston. This meant that the run was as near as it can be half marathon distance by the time I’d run a lap or two of the caravan park. The average was a pleasing 6:49 and all was good, even if the legs felt pretty tired by the end. It was my third first place at parkrun in a row and I knew that, although the times suggested otherwise, there was some pleasing form arriving in the legs.
Best Strava Segment Performance: Carlisle Parkrun – 17th/1216
Day 18 – Sunday 19th August 2018 – Wet Dalston Loop
For the final run in Dalston I decided to head into Dalston itself, pick a road and see where it would take me, hopefully making a loop out of the run rather than an out and back. As it was 8:30 am on a Sunday morning I reckoned I could safely make the 200 meters or so of road without pavement before making it into Dalston. This I managed to do, running for a mile or so through the large village waiting patiently for the legs to wake up, stopping a the church to take a photo which kind of matched the vintage ones in the nearby fish and chip shop the evening before.
You may spot the pavement is wet and indeed it was raining, lightly at first and gradually intensifying during the run with heavy bursts of precipitation that eased and then returned for the entirety of the run. Fortunately it wasn’t cold, indeed the rain had apparently been blown in by the back end of a tropical storm, so it was actually almost as pleasant as running in the rain can be.
Through Dalston I spotted a sign for a footpath and cycle path so I took that, which went briefly went through park before leading to a bridge and a private road containing an old factory and then some very pleasant looking houses alongside a stream, one of which was guarded by Fred Flintstone!
I found myself popped out at the other end of Dalston. A quick look at Google Maps showed that if I went up a short hill and turned right, there was a quiet country lane that could lead to more country lanes and the possibility of a loop. I ran along this road for a couple of miles, occasionally stopping to see when this road or roads that would allow me to loop around would appear.
I stopped at some houses with a very old looking sign post that included the familiar names of Dalston, Carlisle, Penrith, and Crown Inn. How odd I thought to myself that a pub would be advertised on a road sign post. I know there are examples of this – the road known as the Cat and Fiddle is the pub on top ofhill upon which it sits upon is one that springs to mind, but still, I can’t think of many other instances where a pub is so ingrained in the landscape it merits a place on a road sign. I did though wonder, with the sign being so old, whether it still existed.
So I continued along the road for another mile and a half which took me to a set of cross roads with just one solitary building, which was The Crown Inn. It was not the most spectacular pub, looking a little tired – although most would with the weather I was running in. After a brief stop I turned left and headed towards Durdar. The pace picked up, having struggled to break 7 minute miles I was not running 6:30 and quicker. It was only when I got back and checked the elevation profile did I realise that I had been climbing ever so gently 300 feet for the opening five miles of the run, and was now doing the same but going downhill.
What struck me about this road to Durdar, although it was almost totally devoid of road traffic and had no road markings, it had the hallmarks of a road that was once much busier. Wide enough to almost be an A road with junctions here and there that suggested that this road was once much busier. Indeed around half a mile further along the road was another pub, which had clearly closed some years ago and was in a state of some disrepair. I haven’t been able to confirm it but I can only assume that, pre-M6, this road may have been a far busier, more important road taking drivers north or south – hence the sign posted pub on a crossroads in the middle of nowhere with another not far along the road, both convenient stopping points for the long distance driver. I guess once the M6 arrived this road ceased to have any vital purpose other than taking drivers from one village to the next and, perhaps, taking some slack if there is ever a drama on the nearby M6.
I made it to Durdar with eight miles on the clock and turned left at the cross roads. This road back to Dalston was just as wide as the one I was on, but was still a busy popular road judging by the volume of traffic on it. I can’t say it was the most pleasant experience running on this busy road for three miles or so, in the rain, constantly changing from one side of the road to the other to keep myself visible to traffic on the bends and hills.
It was a relief at 11 miles when I returned to the house guarded by Fred Flinstone and the footpath I’d left some miles earlier. I could relax and head back to the caravan site. I opted at the end of the run to take the unofficial footpath through the golf course once again to my caravan, to make the run a second consecutive half marathon effort. Rather eerily I clocked 13.13 miles (exactly the same as the day before) in 1:29:35, just four seconds slower than the day before. A sub 3 marathon clocked over the 24 hours!
With that run done it was farewell to Carlisle and on to the final destination of the holiday – Yorkshire!
During the winter I get plenty of opportunity to take part in Belton House parkrun. I very often run it as part of a long run, so rarely get to run it full gas – at best it’s half marathon HR. I wasn’t expecting to take part in Belton House parkrun #111 as it was a Grand Prix Saturday, but Friday afternoon practice at Baku made me aware that the timetable was a little different from regular European races, meaning I had a crucial extra hour in the morning, meaning I could take get in a quick parkrun before hot footing it back home to begin work.
The weather could not be much different from six days earlier at the London Marathon – light rain, a light to steady breeze and temperatures maxing out at around 7C. It could have been near perfect for Marathon running: in around ten years I may get over the injustice of the unseasonably warm weather we were subjected to for 26.2 miles. In near full winter gear I made the very late decision to add a t-shirt to the thermal top I was already wearing – chance would have it it was the 2018 London Marathon finishers’ t-shirt I’d put in the top of my running drawer.
The shortest distance to run to parkrun for me is just over two miles, I decided to loop a bit longer making it nearer four by the time I lined up the start. More than plenty who were there, but compared to some of my long runs over the winter, where I had 15 or more miles already clocked up, I felt like I’d barely run at all.
Running with music pumping into my headphones, like I regularly do, I changed from a Prince playlist (Fantastic, but trying to smash a 5:30 mile to Do Me Baby is kind of tricky!) to my running/spinning playlist, reserved for events where some pumping tunes are required to help keep a good tempo. I kept the earphones out to hear the pre-run briefing before hitting play as the short countdown commenced and we were on our way.
I often find myself outside the top 15 for the opening km or so of parkrun, but the legs must have felt reasonable (Or the field was a little lethargic) as I was soon into third place, already miles behind the rapidly improving junior runner William Tucker, but closer than usual to the regular man being pulled along by dog combo, who often starts quick before fading a touch.
Neither were of much concern to me – I genuinely care little what position I am in a parkrun as it’s not a race. What was concerning me was that the Tiny Tempah track that had began my parkrun had been abruptly replaced by something quite awful which I had to pause for fear of corrupting my mind. I later found to be Michael Buble, accidentally put on by my wife back at home using Spotify on Alexa. To correct this heinous mistake would have meant getting my phone out which, while running comfortably below six minute miles, was not practicable. So I had to make do with the relative sound of silence.
Persistent rain meant the gravel track out to the Lion Gates was a bit of a splash fest, although it has been worse. The same could be said for the rest of the grass 2.5km loop, which was wet, but not as slippy and muddy as it has been this winter. Leaving the gravel path and onto the grass, Chris Limmer came onto my shoulder. He is training for a 100 mile race this Saturday, but his diet of long runs seems to be paying dividends for his 5K pace, as he has had some good runs in recent weeks.
His presence must have seen me pick up the pace for we soon caught and passed man with dog as we ran alongside the golf course. Along the ‘back straight’ where the mole hills make running a bit of a nightmare. Chris pulled past me. Tucking into his slipstream I had visions of this being New Years Eve v2, where Greg Southern and I paced each other around to my course PB of 17:00.
Letting Chris take the pace for a minute or so I pulled back past him and just increased the pace slightly. Unfortunately for the benefit of a quicker time, Chris was just unable to stick to my tail and I eased slowly ahead. We had clocked 5:38 for the first mile, but heading off the gravel path on the second lap back towards the golf course, Garmin flashed a 5:25 mile.
On a good day I’d be able to maintain that pace for the rest of the parkrun. At that moment I just began to feel the marathon in my legs and also in my mind and I just had to let the pace slip a touch. It wasn’t a killer final mile but it was certainly a bit of an effort to get to the finish. 5:38 was the third mile split with barely any sprint finish to speak of. William finished first in a cracking course PB of 17:01, I came home second in 17:27, with Chris third in 17:41.
I didn’t have long to recover for I had a couple of miles to run to get home so I could begin work. I was able to correct the Spotify issue and had the pumped up running tracks to help me home. The final run stats came in at 9.5 miles at 6:19 average, with the parkrun the fastest at Belton House since January 2017. So much for taking it easy after the marathon! In all seriousness, hopefully it bodes well for a good summer of racing. I think I am in fairly good shape and if I can avoid injury and illness some good things are possible.
As alluded to at the end of the recently written Rockingham Duathlon, two days after the event I was broken to the point that I took a full week off running, then ran two or three times with pain in the left hip, before succumbing to a bad cold that wiped me out for the rest of November.
December was a month spent very much on turbo trainer and with Zwift especially, the odd foray into running was a mostly social exercise with the running club and not particularly satisfactory, suffering during the run with hip pain and long afterwards, affecting my walking and general day to day activities with the back frequently locking up while performing the most trivial of tasks. The GRC Christmas lights run was a highlight, the Christmas Eve run, coming the day after a fairly positive parkrun (first in 17:54) a low point as I was quite clearly a hobbling mess unable to run within a minute per mile of what I am capable of.
If pre Christmas was bad, post Christmas was worse yet. In Minehead on the 28th I managed, just, seven miles which involved both the legs cramping up in a manner I’d not experienced since just after the London Marathon. Two days later I ran Minehead parkrun, something I had been really looking forward to but it turned into something of a disaster, hobbling all the way there, mustering a hard earned slowest time of the year (18:41 – good for third) which saw both legs cramp up again and forced a painful walk back to the caravan. The last run of the year on New Year’s Eve in Stroud was just a shambles – 3 painful slow miles with legs cramping and hip aching. I was at rock bottom.
I didn’t run until January 4th in the New Year – I was back on the turbo and the elliptical trainer. On the third I booked myself into Physio for the bad hip. In finding the physio I saw last time I found my notes for left hip pain (Like I have this time) which was caused by my right glute not firing properly. I thought I may try these exercises as there was nothing to lose, in addition to the exercises I got from a different physio that had eradicated the cramps I was now suffering again with. To my surprise after just two day’s exercises, the eleven mile club run on the 4th was the best I’d had in several months, with barely any discomfort in the hip.
I still saw the physio who declared the glutes as firing but just not doing their job very well and so putting huge strain on the hip flexors and other surrounding muscles. I got some more exercises to do and was told to not run for a week and come back in six days time. After six days on Zwift and another trip to the physio I was ready to run again. She said I could run a maximum of four miles for a week. I ran four miles on the first day and was so enthused by the lack of any discomfort in hips I ran 10k the following day, ten miles (Including parkrun) on the Saturday and a post ride brick 5k run on the Sunday – all pain free.
Happy that the hip was much improved I commenced with full training with the London Marathon in mind. The first set of 10 mile runs were quite hard work, the legs not used to running and more suited to cycling as well as being a fair bit overweight thanks to Christmas celebrations. The third week of January I ran 56 miles, the following week 61, and the next (including four days of February) 68 miles. The long run of 17 miles on January 28th was a fairly tortuous affair, but three days later I ran a good 16 miles on the Fraction Course and then on the Saturday was a most pleasing 20 mile run with 11 miles, a 17:34 parkrun, and 6 miles to finish at a 6:31 per mile average.
I was back in reasonable shape as I took a cut back week after three weeks of progression. I ran 5K after spinning on the Monday, a comfortable 10 mile progressive run with Stephen, who has become my Tuesday run partner of late, and 10 miles easy with the club on the Thursday. This has all been supplemented with regular Zwift sessions which has revitalised my hate affair with the turbo trainer, so much so I found myself racing online two days before the Turkey Trot, probably giving more than I intended to for the real race.
From a position at New Year’s End where I thought my running days were numbered, January and early February has gone really well. I’m quietly hopeful that although my form is a touch down on the same time in 2017, I can use the injury to my advantage and work to a peak right on the London Marathon date rather than perhaps two or three weeks before it. Only time will tell, of course. If there is one thing I know about running, it is that it is a fickle beast and you are only one run away from being totally injured and having to start all over again.
This has been written entirely in the third person for reasons I’m not entirely sure about. This is a true story, but some scenes have been made up embellished for dramatic purpose.
The inaugural Grantham Running Club parkrun tourist trip began with a short forty minute trip up the A52 and A6097 towards Nottingham and the 47th edition of the Gedling Country Park parkrun. Whether it was the rumour of hills aplenty, it being a bit too far away for just a parkrun, or I’ve got Belton House parkrun on my doorstop it turned out that the GRC group trip became just a couple’s getaway as Messrs Limmer and Kingston-Lee (MKL) set off on a fine late Spring morning to the former colliery, closed as recently as 1991.
Where there is a colliery there are usually hills and the transformation from coal pit to parkland has not reduced the abundance of (quite severe) elevation. MKL in stipulating the T&C of the tourist trip demanded a three mile warm up before parkrun itself, so Limmer duly obliged in parking at the secondary car park around a twenty minute walk from the start. Limmer thought about wearing his GRC vest on this tourist trip, but decided that breeze was a bit too chilly and thought better of it. MKL, staunch believer in not wearing club kit in anything other than a race, reminded himself and no one else that a parkrun is not a race but a ‘free-to-enter-timed 5k run’ and so went for the debut outing of the voluminous 2016 London Marathon finishers’ t-shirt.
A little stiff in the legs following Ben Smith’s marathon #247 in Grantham on the Wednesday and a couple of bike rides in between, MKL soon regretted the notion of an extended warm up as he staggered up the first 10% plus hill less than three minutes into the run. A mile or so later and the ascent of an even steeper, longer climb, he declared it a good time to stop and stretch. Feeling better for the five minute rest stretching routine, the intrepid duo headed to the start line via a couple of wrong turns and in so doing a couple more hills. Keen to let his GPS click over to 3 miles, thus having accurate mile splits for the parkrun without need to reset his Garmin, MKL made Limmer run back and forth somewhat aimlessly for a bit before the third mile was hit.
At the start, a good 20 minutes before the off, MKL was most relieved to see the promise on the Gedling parkrun website of there being no toilets was in fact a lie, for there were two Portaloos at the start line. Having feared an alfresco trip following a hefty portion of fish and chips the night before, this was as welcome a sight as water is to a man who has not had water nor a drink of any kind in a very long time.
Five minutes before the off and there was the usual playing down of expectations: Matthew ‘I ran two marathons in less than two weeks and had a stinking cold’ Kingston-Lee went for a happy to finish prediction; Chris ‘I’m running the Bosworth Half Marathon tomorrow’ plumped for happy to ‘jog’ around in 22 minutes’. they headed to the first timers and tourists briefing. The course was a single lap figure of eight which essentially circumnavigated a pair of large mounds with, for want of a better description, a cleavage to dive down. Twice. There were two main climbs on each mound, the marshal gleefully announced. The first is known locally as the Beast, the second is known as the Cobra!’ With that expectations were down graded accordingly to let’s see how it goes and 23-24 minutes will be fine.
The start came moments after the main briefing (Another Race Director having a Freudian slip, wishing everyone a good race, before hastily retracting and using the correct protocol of have a good free-to-enter timed 5k run). The opening 400 meters or so was all downhill and off shooting into the lead was Erdinger tri-suit man, who Limmer and MKL, using their well tuned who is the competition? eyes, correctly assessed was the man most likely to head to victory a first place finish.
The path was mostly gravel but it was in immaculate condition – not a rut nor pothole to worry losing your footing on. So it was that Erdinger Man (Later revealed to be Tom Vickery of Cambridge and Coleridge AC, taking part in his first ever parkrun) who covered the first half mile or so in what looked like sub 4 minute mile pace, already miles ahead of man being dragged along with manically over-excited canine assistance; man in yellow vest; man in orange vest; someone else, and MKL in sixth as the field turned sharp left to take in the Beast.
The Beast was pretty tough, twice as long as the hill at Melton and about as steep, far harder than anything at Newark, and certainly something to bring your average pace back down to reality after the lightning fast start. MKL loves a good hill almost as much as Limmer does, so it was no surprise, despite weary legs for the double barreled one to quickly take fifth and close in on the fourth placed runner. It was less of a surprise for MKL to turn round and see Mr ’22 minutes Bosworth etc..‘ close behind and patently not going to run 22 minutes, as the first mile was covered in 5:54. Once at the top of the hill there was pretty much the only section of flat on the course which was tempered by the stiff and somewhat chilly breeze. It was here that MKL took fourth place, which quickly became third when the over enthused dog lost all appetite for running when it spotted a small stream it could have a paddle in.
Parkun isn’t and never will be a race, but there was definitely no way MKL was going to let Limmer beat him at another parkrun following the let’s run together and then bugger off into the distance controversy of the Belton parkrun they both ran at back in the wintertime. So it was something close to full gas for MKL as the pair plunged back down the cleavage and traversed across the second mound. The second mile split came somewhere near the start of the second hill, a 5:42 for MKL showed the pair weren’t exactly hanging around.
The second hill was at least twice as long as the first hill, it began on a bearable ramp, then kicked up to around 12% for around 100 meters before briefly hitting a plateau. Normally you’d expect this would be the end of the hill but, around the corner, came another ramp up then, just when the legs were begging for mercy, there was a final short sharp climb. MKL was hanging by a thread but was relieved to maintain the gap on Limmer. The second placed runner was someway in the distance, Erdinger man had long since gone. He’d probably finished by now, happily quaffing away on his 0%, so you can drink it guilt free at 9 am, beverage.
So the final half mile was a case of letting gravity take over and falling down the hill, past the start line and to the finish, which nestled nicely at the top of the cleavage. MKL came home third in a time of 18:38, which is not that remarkable but is the 20th fastest ever time over the course. Limmer came home fourth in 18:57 (27th fastest ever). Erdinger Man, on his parkrun debut, lest we forget, ran 17:02 – the second fastest ever time at Gedling parkrun. Wait until he finds a flat course and sub 16 awaits! The second placed runner was just the wrong side of 18 minutes, the fact he ran 2:48 at London and was looking for a 2:38 performance shows this parkrun is no Ferry Meadows.
As is customary at the end of parkun there was chat among strangers, united in nothing more than having just spent no money at a timed 5k run. It turns out that Gedling parkrun, despite the very scenic surrounds and surface that is good underfoot all year round, rarely attracts that many runners as it just a little too hilly. Locals prefer to run at Colwick, which is just over a parkrun’s distance away and is apparently fast and flat – when it is not underwater.
With at least five minutes spent reflecting on the increasingly popular pastime among runners of where is the fastest parkrun? Limmer and MKL headed off for their warm down, which Matthew Kingston-Lee had stipulated, in writing, should be no less than four miles, so as to make the trip worthwhile. However the hills had taken their toll and Limmer was happy to call it a day with 2.3 miles covered. MKL was more bloody minded and ran around in circles around a field, then around a football pitch, then around a small car park before his Garmin told him that exactly 15km had been run in total. Less than the planned amount, but a special clause was invoked to declare it exactly the right amount for the training plan he had in mind.
Gedling parkrun is comfortably the hardest parkrun MKL and Limmer have ever run. Those who moan that Newark is too hilly need to head to Gedling and see what a hill really is. That said, it was arguably the most enjoyable parkrun for the GRC pair who both have a sadistic passion for steep gradients. The park is a joy to run at and the Gedling parkrun would be particularly recommended if you were training for a hilly race or just fancied a hard workout.
Course type: single lap, figure of 8.
Surface: Mostly wide gravel paths, some concrete path.
Toilets: Officially no. There were two Portaloos at the start.
Cafe: No. There is one nearby apparently.
Parking: No problem. If double the number turned up then it may become one.
Ratings (Out of 5):
PB Potential: 2
Accuracy: 3 (Limmer measured it as 3.2 miles) MKL declined to measure the course.
Congestion: 1 (Single lap course – 115 runners, happy days, no need to get the elbows out).
Beginner Friendly: 2 (Because it’s a tough course, not because the parkrun hosts aren’t friendly).
Overall: 4 (A must do parkrun for those who like a little challenge at a scenic location and also relish the opportunity to clock some hard pre and post parkrun miles).