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Lloyd parkrun

A break from tradition as I left the safety blanket of running the Serpentine New Year’s Day 10k as part of the Eagles club championship series and instead met Other Dan for an early morning drive through London to deepest darkest Croydon. We’re slowly working our way to Lon-done (running every parkrun within the M25) and our ‘to do map’ doesn’t have many pins left (8 before today for me) but they’re all dotted on the diagonal opposite side of town. We’ve been avoiding these buggers for a while because, while they are generally easy to get to, the traffic on the way home is a pain and Mrs Dan gives me “The Look” when I am late back (for some reason she looks at our Lon-done crusade as an act of madness).

New Year’s Day gives the opportunity to complete that rare feat, the parkrun double. It was with heavy heart that saw me tucked up in bed before midnight and out of the door to drive through London spotting casualties not enjoying the morning after the night before. In fact we only saw one man having a morning nightmare. We sat at a red light watching the guy staggering backwards, forwards, and side-to-side by a small section of fencing while he clung to small bag of beers like his life depended on it. Sir, we salute your dedication to getting so drunk that you’re probably still wandering through London in a daze.

We had made the effort to check out the Lloyd parkrun course description and read blog posts by copy7t and abradypus, which is a rare occurrence for us. We tend to take the Captain Kirk shoot from the hip approach and hope for the best. What did we learn? It was going to be muddy and hilly undulating. Great. Just what we wanted for part one of our parkrun double.

The start, finish, and car park are all next to Lloyd Park Pavilion, which is close to Lloyd Park tram stop. No problem securing a parking space and we changed into our trail shoes before joining the new runners briefing (where all the new runners seemed to be visitors also taking the opportunity to rack up a double). The Run Director then gave a spirited welcome to everyone before setting us off for two anti-clockwise laps of the park.

Other Dan did the gentlemanly thing of slowing down his pace to run with me. I like to refer to this as laughing at my ability to keep up any reasonable form of running fitness. The first lap was notable for slipping & sliding over the first undulations before struggling up the muddy hill. Spikes would have been a better choice for this course. We also made several wrong attempts to guess what the strange medal baskets were that we spotted around the park (it turns out they are part of London’s only 18 hole disc gold course).

I had made the wild pre-run boast that this was a 26 minute course. The first lap was over 14 minutes so that was a bit dumb of me. The slope sliding was taking its toll on my calves to the extent that I had to walk the hill on the second lap as it felt like someone had set fire to the back of my legs. Thankfully the pain was short-lived and we ran in through the finish funnel with Other Dan taking the accolade of finishing before me for our first 2016 parkrun.

We didn’t have time to hang around but the event team had been kind to lay on food & drinks for the special occasion. It would have been rude not to have munched some home-made flapjacks and say thank you so that’s what we did before changing shoes and driving onto part two of our double day. Many thanks to the wonderful volunteers for staging the New Year’s Day event.

2015: A Running Dan Year in Review

Happy Birthday Running Dan Blog! It’s now 4 years to the day that I started this blog.

I was on holiday in Japan when I kick started this blogging adventure but this year I am at home in the UK sheltering from the wind & rain. I did collect The Son from Heathrow airport earlier though as he returned from his solo journey to visit our Japanese family across Christmas. It’s a shame that I misread his flight details and wasn’t at the airport when he landed… oh dear… nothing like a panic drive to the airport in a bid to get there before he cleared arrivals. I failed miserably.

It’s time to review the running goals that I set back on January 4th. I was out injured due to surgery when I set my 2015 goals and I’m glad to say that I stayed injury free and in good health throughout the year.

Complete Three Marathons

My plan was to train for a PB at the Kent Roadrunner Marathon while using the Brighton Marathon and Three Forts Marathon as training runs. The best laid plans and all that. The training was bang on track and I had a great time running Brighton as you can tell by the video that I made. I even managed my second sub-4 marathon without trying.

With hindsight I should have taken more time off after Brighton to recover as I rushed back and the soreness developed into niggles that disrupted the rest of my training. I also enjoyed Brighton too much and running didn’t seem the same again afterwards. The Three Forts was a tough slog through fog on hilly trails when I hadn’t put in enough training. Kent Roadrunner was a nightmare as the wheels imploded half way around and Other Dan laughed as he accompanied me through the misery.

Grade: C+

Goal achieved but not as enjoyable as it should have been.

Run My First Ultra

Running played second fiddle to life for the second half of 2015. I withdrew from the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 due to general tiredness and lethargy. Technically the Three Forts is longer than the classic marathon distance but it doesn’t make it an ultra in my book. In January 2015 I am taking place in the Country to Capital ultra. I haven’t trained properly, I’m back to ‘tubby’ status, and life continues to get in the way of running. I’m really looking forward to it.

Grade: F

Another entry for my big bag of FAIL.

Run a sub 1 hour 38 minute Half-Marathon

Head hung in shame.  I ran the Great Bentley Half as part of my recovery from surgery and marathon training. I ran the Ealing Half without any training. Nowhere near a new PB.

Grade: F

Any space left in that big bag of FAIL?

Help The Son Complete His 50th parkrun

Last year I noted that it would be easier to find the Holy Grail than to get The Son out of bed on a Saturday morning to go running with me at parkrun. However, he was on 41 completed parkruns so how hard could it be to get him running 5km nine times through 2015? Near impossible it turns out. He ran at South Oxhey parkrun in January and then Gunnersbury parkrun in May. That’s it. Two parkruns completed for a total of 43 completed runs. I fought the bed and the bed won.

Grade: F

I may as well set a goal for 2016 that I’ll finish first at Bushy parkrun while running with my pet unicorn.

Complete All London parkrun Events

We’re still not Lon-done but not far to go. parkrun tourism has been good through the year and I enter 2016 with 70 completed events and 9 to complete the Lon-done set. Tomorrow I’m meeting Other Dan to run Llyod pakrun and Bromley parkrun as a New Years Day double.

Grade: B-

So close but so far.

Continue to Volunteer

I loved volunteering through 2015. At times I have up running so I could volunteer more. My Sunday longs runs became shorter so I could volunteer at Pitshanger junior parkrun, I took photos at Summer League rather than run, and I dropped out of the Eagles 10k so I could shadow the run director and take over the reigns in 2016.

Grade: A-

Loved, loved, loved volunteering.

Run and Blog Through Juneathon

Ahem. Nothing to see here. Carry on moving.

Grade: F

Blogging about anything was generally a failure. Editing together GoPro video failed. Running failed.

Lose 10kg of Weight

Boom! Weight lost through exercise and eating a healthy balanced diet. Boom! I was slim and zipping my way round races. Then I lost my running mojo and put it all back on with extra whipped cream and a cherry on top. Why is bacon sooooooooooooooo nice?

Grade: D-

It’s not rocket science is it? Eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise. I’ve done this twice now and yo-yo’d back to where I started.

Run a sub 20 parkrun 5k

Seriously? Was I smoking crack when I set my 2015 goals? My PB stays at 21:48 from *cough* February 2013 a million years ago and my fastest time from 2015 is *ahem* 23:34. It’s easy to know how to run fast but it ain’t gonna happen unless you train for it. I’m going to look in the mirror and give myself a stern talking to for 2016.

Grade: F

I need a bigger boat. A bigger boat to hold my big bag of FAIL.

Run a sub 45 10k

It would help if I ran a 10k race in 2015 to record a result. No training, no racing, and no result.

Grade: F

Nothing to see here on the good ship FAIL.

Blog Throughout the Year

Nope. Shakes head in disgust.

Grade: D-

Some new posts. A heap of incomplete draft posts. A couple of videos.

Enjoy Running with a Smile on my Face

The one goal that I did fully meet. I might not have run as much as I would have like but when I did, there was always a smile and I was always happy. Even on the bad runs (and don’t let anyone tell you that there aren’t bad runs).

I have said that life has got in the way this year. Family, friends, and work. Tragedy experienced across all of them. In all honesty it’s been a tough year. The toughness that bites into your soul and continues kicking you even when you’re down. I’ve learned to truly appreciate how important it is to keep your family around you, to spend time with relatives, and to help everyone stay healthy.

Grade: B+

Group hug.

 

Christmas Day parkrun

northalaxmas01

A Christmas Day free from The Son (enjoying himself in Japan), my grandparents (visiting family in Wales), and my mum (enjoying a cruise on the Amazon) so our first festive period together with no commitments. Mrs Dan announced that she would go with me to Northala Fields parkrun on Christmas morning. This would be her third parkrun at her third different parkrun location.

I put Mrs Dan under strict instructions to follow a walk-run strategy and to keep pace with me rather than sprinting off for the first 200 metres. Her first parkrun experience at Bushy Park saw her excitedly run the first 500 metres as quickly as possible and then walk most of the remaining 4500 metres in a worn out sulk. I tried to curb her natural enthusiasm on her second parkrun experience at Gunnersbury Park but of course she knew best…. and did exactly the same as before.

This time we jogged together for 500 metres, walked for a few minutes, and repeated until we finished. She still moaned her way around though, Mrs Dan clearly doesn’t like long distance running. I kept telling her that 5km isn’t a log distance but she gave me *the look* and that was the end of that conversation. The finish funnel appeared, finally, and Mrs Dan suddenly sprang to life and sprinted the last section. She took my by surprise and that’s why she finished ahead of me. Nothing to do with her being able to sprint faster than me. Honest.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped the Running Dan household enjoy a Christmas Day run together.

Wimpole Estate parkrun

I’m still not sure how I managed to wake up early as planned and make the solo drive to Wimpole Estate parkrun. My parkrun tourism is littered with good intentions, those Friday nights where I pick a new location to visit but then wake up with a massive case of the ‘can’t be arsed’ before going back to sleep and visiting a local parkrun.

Other Dan was feeding his cross-country fetish so I made the lonely journey to the Wimpole Estate. It did look like a cracking venue though, as the National Trust venues tend to be, so maybe that conquered my need to stay wrapped in duvet land.

There’s plenty of parking as befits a National Trust property and, more importantly, some nice toilets near the start. I went for a warm-up jog around the pathways and green area directly in front of Wimpole Hall. I then attended the new runner briefing to find out that we should stick to the pathways during the parkrun and not go onto any of the protected grass areas. The same grass areas I had jogged on a bit while taking in the majesty of the house. Sorry Wimpole Estate, my knuckles have been lightly tapped with a wooden ruler as punishment.

This is the first parkrun where there’s been a separate start line for runners accompanying their canine pals. There are a lot of eager dog runners at this one and they set off a hundred or so metres ahead of the main pack of runners. This gives the dogs the freedom to bark & bound their way on the first path with their running human, where they take a slightly different route to the pursuing pack of runners.

The course is trail over grass and pathways, crossing fields of grazing cows and sheep. The dog course kept to the edge of the livestock fields so at times I caught up and crossed paths with the dog runners. There’s one notable hill on the course, which I decided to walk up so I could take in the view of the surrounding countryside.

It’s a one lap course taking in the grounds of Wimpole Estate where the finish brings you back in front of the house and through the finishers funnel. I didn’t have time to hang around as Mrs dan & The Son were expecting me back for a prior commitment but there is a café available near the finish.

Pymmes parkrun

Other Dan said he didn’t have the time to stray too far from home. I asked whether that was Northala Fields parkrun or Pymmes parkrun distance time and he confirmed that touring was on to Pymmes. We’ve been saving this one for a while. It’s relatively near & easy to drive to, it’s relatively fast, and it has a relatively small field of runners. Time it right and you have the chance of a high finishing position.

There’s plenty of parking on the adjoining road to the park and there’s a toilet block next to the finish area. The course is 3 laps of the park with Other Dan speeding into the distance while I pootled round trying to calculate whether I could beat all the female finishers for a second consecutive week. The answer to that question was a resounding no. I did go sub-25 for the first time in ages though.

Pymmes is a strange little parkrun. The usual friendly volunteers, a nice open park, no nearby parkrun events, and plenty of housing nearby. Not so many runners though. That doesn’t really matter; in fact I like the smaller events much more than the big events. It’s a strange one though.

Only 8 parkruns to go until I an Londone :-) We’ve got our eye on a New Years Day double to tick two of them off.

Sunday XC League – Trent Park

What a difference a year makes. My first appearance at Trent Park was the corresponding fixture in 2013. The day after the Eagles Christmas party. I felt awful and the fumes floating around our tube carriage was enough to get fellow passengers pissed as a newt. Scroll forward 12 months and I struggled round the course once more, feeling ill and approaching (what I didn’t know at the time) surgery to deal with… a not very pleasant medical problem.

Our beleaguered team of runners gathered on the Acton Town platform to descend on the Piccadilly line train to the end of the line Cockfosters. One of our team once again reeked like a brewery but didn’t have the excuse of the Christmas party to fall back on. Shoes were examined, spikes smothered in Vaseline & screwed in, and tales of cross-country mishaps of races past discussed.

We claimed our patch of grass near the start of the race and went our separate way for toilet visits, warm-ups, and checking out the state of the course. A quick team photo and we were huddled at the start line for a run briefing that wasn’t audible at the back of the pack and then we were off. Runners streamed along the top of the field before a sharp right took us down to the bottom for the field with the first uphill looming. I would like to tell the story of a fit again Running Dan picking off the runners and gradually rising through the pack but that would be a fib. I started near the back, overtook a few on the first km, and then tussled with a few runners until the end. Sometimes overtaking and sometimes being overtaken.

It’s a challenging course to get the lungs screaming. A lap of the starting field, which includes a down & up section, before heading out for two laps of the nearby woods. I remembered the big muddy hill near the start that saps the legs as you approach the finish but I forgot how undulating the ‘flat’ woodland section was. That’s the joy of cross-country though, multi terrain with mud and hills aplenty.

I huffed and puffed my way round until a last minute sprint saw me overtake no-one before I crossed the finish line. This wasn’t a race of glory but it was great fun and sets the scene for a winter of muddy racing before spring marathon training.

  • Garmin time: 0:43:58
  • Race time: 0:43.59
  • Combined position: 386 / 495
  • Men position: 284 / 319

Beckton parkrun

The usual Friday night exchange of messages with Other Dan as we chose where to visit on parkrunday. I was shattered from a long working week and a planned peaceful Friday night at home descended into yet another evening of working remotely to deal with a last minute customer request. An extra hour in bed followed by a visit to Gunnersbury or Northala Fields would have been fine for me but Other Dan leapt straight in with Beckton parkrun. Decisions made on transport (tube from hanger Lane), meeting time (7:43am), and no discussion on the course (it’s not important, right?).

Our public transport journey took us to Prince Albert DLR station. All fine so far. Neither of us checked for directions although both of us knew it was near by. Of course we choose the wrong way and ended by with a panic jog warm-up until we found the park and all the runners huddled in a small iron bar gated undercover section.

The locals were extremely friendly and we had a little chat before everyone was led out to the start line. Our journey across London had started out in heavy snowfall and it was cold and wet by the time we made it to East London so the warm layers stayed on until the last moment.

The route takes in two laps of the park, consisting of grass parkland and tarmac paths. Neither of us checked the course description beforehand so were wearing road shoes on wet and slippery grass. Oh well. I counted the runners. 1-2-3-4… 22-23-24. Hang on a minute. I could get a high finishing position if I put some effort in. The run started and I counted under 10 runners ahead of me so sticking in the same position would mean my first top 10 finish since… well… since I managed it once before at Old Deer Park.

I had no idea where the course went so I tucked in behind a guy who looked like he knew what was going on. We slid across the grass sections and sighed with relief as the tarmac path took us along the “tunnel” and around the “big lamppost”. With the first lap complete, it meant I knew where to run for the last lap but the pace was about right for my level of fitness so stayed in the same place. The first female finisher overtook me briefly but my local pacemaker put the hammer down and I followed. A top 10 finishing position (9th) and in front of all the female finishers. It’s the small inconsequential things in life that give you the greatest pleasure.

Hot drinks and biscuits were provided for free at the finish by the event team, which meant we stayed for a friendly chat. This is a small gem of a parkrun and the regulars should hold and cherish the perfectly formed community that they’ve put together. It reminded me of Wormwood Scrubs parkrun. A small field of runners and volunteers who truly embrace the parkrun spirit.

Alice Holt parkrun

All by myself, I went parkrunning all by myself. Other Dan is saving his legs this year so each Met League fixture clash leaves me with the choice of staying home for a nearby parkrun or casting the net further afield. This week I made the drive to the beautiful Alice Holt Forest to run at Alice Holt parkrun.

My satnav was playing its usual tricks and taking me nowhere near my intended destination. Thankfully there are plenty of signs for Go Ape, which I correctly guessed would be at Alice Holt Forest, so followed them all the way into the car park. I can’t remember the exact parking charge but it was reasonable and there was plenty of parking spaces available.

Winter weather is slowly descending so all the runners and volunteers were taking shelter from the rain wherever they could. I implanted myself under a wooden structure, where the event team had setup, and stood there for the run briefing. The start line is nearby so it wasn’t long before we were of running and the rain even began to die away.

It’s a two lap course through the forest, a mixture of Black Park parkrun and Lanhydrock parkrun, with forest trails, woodland streams, and a smattering of hills. I was running behind a father and his young daughter, who had earlier been introduced as running their 100th (father) and 50th (daughter) parkrun. The girl was seeking out every puddle and stomping through them with wild abandonment. Her legs and back were covered in mud but she was clearly having the time of her life. Good on her.

I ran gently round, taking in the scenery and cursing the hill. The run was soon over and I made a brief pit-stop into the café (conveniently next to the finish area) for a home made flapjack before driving home. I’ve marked this one down for a summer return as it’s a lovely place to run.

Aldenham parkrun

Aldenham parkrun started on the 20th June 2015 and we decided to save a ‘nearby’ London event (it’s inside the M25) for a rainy day. Along came our rainy day where our time was restricted but we still wanted to visit a new parkrun. We’d done our homework on this one and knew that site parking is a mouth-watering £4.50 so we drove round the outside and found road side parking with a 10 minute walk to the park. There’s a fine balance between supporting the local services and making parkrun affordable. Public transport is a tricky one for this location as well unfortunately.

The number of runners is low and that’s understandable based on the remote location and the parking charges. However, that doesn’t make the event any less worthwhile than any other parkrun. There are plenty of small parkruns out there, Wormwood Scrubs and Pymmes spring to mind, but they still embrace the parkrun ethos, they still have a wonderful community, and they’re still fantastic places to visit.

There was even a guy in the start area that came over to say hello because he recognised me from the videos I put together for the Gade Valley 20 and Brighton Marathon. He had run at both and found my YouTube channel from the Gade Valley video that I posted on their Facebook page. It was nice for someone to take the time to say hello based on something I posted online.

The route takes in two laps of the reservoir, taking in a short tarmac section and then woodland trail. On the first lap I realised that I had run here before; a training run on a day when I took The Son to a midweek exam some years back. I enjoyed my run with plenty of good mornings to the other site users as I passed.

We stayed for a drink and a snack at the small café, which is located next to the start / finish area. A lovely parkrun that would benefit from an agreement for reduced parking charges for parkrun users.

Ridgeway Run

Overweight, unfit, and barely running. None of which are valid reasons to stop a last-minute sign-up for the Ridgeway Run trail race.

I spotted an old Facebook post on the Eagles page and could not resist a hilly countryside run. The race is organised by Tring Running Club and usually held on the second Sunday in October. It’s a 15km run, over a scenic route mainly on footpaths and bridleways with stunning Chiltern views. I knew it was in the same area as Tring parkrun, which I loved, so figured I would enjoy this as well.

Race HQ is at the local cricket club where there was ample parking, even with kids football taking place at the same place. I arrived early (as usual) so had plenty of time to wander around after collecting my race pack and pinning my number onto my top. I also had the chance to use the portaloo before the inevitable queues formed. Other Eagles began to arrive, which gave us the opportunity to compare shoe choices, talk tactics, and generally talk running.

There’s a 5-10 minute walk from race HQ to the start line and there’s no facilities at the start area other than a handily placed wheat field (great for the men, not so great for the women) plus the pathway which provided space for a gentle warm-up jog. Note that the start is fairly narrow so if you’re racing this one and want a strong time or finishing position, then you’ll need to elbow your way through the crowd cross-country style. Or get there early. Or learn to fly.

The route starts on a tarmac path that leads up to a road crossing, which was expertly marshaled to halt the traffic so the stampeding runners could cross, before heading up onto the footpaths. The seemingly never-ending uphill footpath. My pace slowed but I was determined not to walk this early in a race so latched onto the runner ahead of me and kept the legs moving. I also didn’t fancy being the numpty walking up a narrow path, holding up everyone behind me.

The ups finally turned into rolling pathways and bridleways that provided spectacular Chiltern views. I had been gradually catching up with a Eagles vest and I overtook him as I grabbed some water at the first drinks station. He would normally be way ahead of me but racing cross-country the day before and, more importantly, getting steaming drunk the night before for his birthday took its toll. I couldn’t resist giving him a cheery wave & smile as I glided serenely plodded past.

I hit my trail running groove along the ridgeway where I began to reel in the runners ahead of me. I might be unfit but the love of trails sits deep in my bones and my legs knew how to respond. In the distance I could see a deep descent approaching, which gave me another chance to overtake as I released the hand brake, leant forward, and stormed down the hill. What goes up, down, up, down on a trail race typically means more up and I could see runners snaking upwards for the next mile. I gritted my teeth, ran a bit, then thought bollocks to this and walked a bit so I could look round to take in the stunning scenery.

A game of cat & mouse with another Eagle over the last few miles saw me catch-up in the woodland before being firmly smacked once we hit the tarmac. It turns out that she isn’t a confident woodland tree root dodger like me and was holding back until there was firm footing.

The finish was back at the cricket club where I managed to overtake a few people in the last few hundred metres. Drink, fruit, and a Ridgeway technical tee were handed out at the end and the shirt is pretty good so I’ve worn it a few times since the race. The Ridgeway Run ticks all my running boxes: technical trails, hills, stunning views, brilliant organisation by a friendly running club, and awesome weather. I’ll be back in 2016 for more of the same… fingers crossed about the weather.

About Me

I am a hopeless running addict, karate student and internet geek who lives in London with Mrs Dan and The Son. I write about the trials and tribulations of my marathon training alongside some of my thoughts on previous races and the general goings on in all things running.

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