Parkrun and fairy cakes

So this week has been pretty good all the way through and has definitely ended on a high. As I type this, drinking a cup of tea, I am delighted to tell you that this morning I completed my first Park Run.

I have been worried about it all week despite having good runs through the week in preparation.

Last Sunday, the Red Lady, God Daughter and myself, completed a very respectable 4.4k loop around the local area and again I was able to run much more than I walked. It’s a good loop and an enjoyable little run. Conversation was good (although mainly it was the Red Lady talking and me grunting in response as I don’t yet have “conversational running” nailed yet!) and I felt ok. For the first time, I attempted to run up the hill on the Bath Road. This is a very deceptive looking hill. In the car, you barely notice it, but running?….It’s hard. When we got near to the end of the loop the Red Lady gave me the option of looping round Sainsbury’s, going up the hill, or going home. Not wanting to lose face in front of God Daughter I chose the hill. As I set off, I was mentally slapping myself around the face for choosing the hill, but as I plodded off after my Running Squad, I reminded myself that at some point I was going to have to run up a hill, and I don’t want this to happen for the first time on the 10k.

The run up the hill was nothing short of horrendous. I was really only managing 20-25 second bursts before having to walk again and was using lamp-posts, house entrances, anything really, as markers. But I did run some of it. When I got to the top, I felt as though my heart was exploding out from my chest. It was a level of breathlessness that I haven’t really experienced since week 1 at the allotments, which seems a long time ago now. Still after a brief rest, we walked home.

I have been suffering a bit with extremely tight calf muscles. I haven’t really been doing a warm up as the bikini clad triathlete on the app simply makes you walk for 5 minutes as a warm up and then again as a cool down. The thing is, as I am now running for around 30-45 minutes, a 5 minute walk at the end (which I do enjoy – maybe it’s the relief of being able to stop?!) isn’t really cutting the mustard so to speak. Over a cup of tea with the Red Lady after our run, she introduced me to the foam roller, and lent me one to use. This has been equal parts brilliant and excruciatingly painful but seems to be doing the trick. The idea is to roll your leg over the foam roller, but using the weight of your body as leverage. The weight of my body although decreasing, is still substantial, so it works well and I am noticing a difference.

On Tuesday, Husband and I went out together for a lunchtime run for the first time since Black Friday. As promised and agreed, we mapped the 5k loop by the river and started at different sides so we would meet in the middle (ish) and then “high five” as we passed each other.  It was much warmer on Tuesday than any other day that I have run so far and so wardrobe was a bit of an issue (isn’t it always? I never seem to have anything to wear!). However, with limited options on kit at the moment, I wore my usual, but had to take my jacket off within about 500 metres of starting. I also didn’t have any water with me and I knew quickly that this had been a mistake. However, I did my best and made sure that I ran mainly and really only walked towards the end.

This was the first time I had tested out my new running playlist. On Monday evening, I researched on the internet “running songs” using the Jessie J track that seems to make me run faster, as a guide. As with most things running, I am baffled by the amount of information there is on the internet. I learnt that the Jessie J song has 149 beats per minute and so found an enormous list of songs that have the same beat, and spent a good hour or so creating my own playlist. Gary Barlow needs to up his game as sadly there is no Take That available (which makes me sad), but it does include some real corkers : Toni Basil “Hey Mickey” made me raise my arms “pom pom” style as I was passing Asda on my way back and a grey haired gentleman gave me the thumbs up whilst laughing. Hopefully with me rather than AT me, but frankly I didn’t care which it was. Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding out for a Hero” is also on there. Now that is a TUNE and importantly it makes me smile. When I’m in the final 1k, I need things that make me smile and music will always do the trick.

On Thursday evening, I ran with one of the Mums from Sporty Daughter’s football team who has also signed up for the 10k. We had discussed running together before and had made a plan. We did the same local loop as I had completed on the Sunday but this time I managed to nearly get up the hill in one go and only had to walk a tiny bit (20 paces as I counted them). I still had the same “heart exploding out of my chest feeling” at the top, but I did feel a sense of achievement in getting there. I am definitely going to have to start incorporating some hills into my training plan. (Did I just write that?! Who am I?)

I also now know without a doubt, that I definitely like running with other people. It worked very well with Football Mum indeed. She is quicker than me (I suspect everyone is), but I felt comforted by the fact that I could see her and she was only a bit in front of me (although I suspect that she was going slower than normal). She was also very encouraging and is a lovely lady. It was good.

Ideally I think I would like to run on my own once a week (using the app) and then twice a week with other people. The 10k is now 10 weeks away and I need to start increasing the distances I am covering meaning that I need to do a longer run at the weekend.

This week also saw the purchase of the Fitbit Surge, which is their running watch. A lovely lady I had met previously through the “This Mum Runs” Facebook group was selling one (she had used it only a few times but not got on with it) and Husband quickly gave permission for a purchase. I cannot tell you how happy this watch makes me. I do love a gadget and this watch is now measuring all sorts of things, most of which I don’t understand. So it was time to enlist the help of a specialist. Hockey Sister has a very dear friend who is a qualified personal trainer and is one of those people who is always running races, very fast indeed. I contacted her as my “Unofficial Trainer” and sent her some screenshots of my statistics and heartrate whilst running, amongst a few other things. She came back quickly with some very helpful information. I must tell you that her observation that my heart rate demonstrates that I am “working very hard for the majority of the run” made me laugh so much that I spat my tea out! That is an understatement. Will it ever be easy I wonder?

So back to the Park Run. Last night I was very nervous indeed. I had some pasta for tea and spent most of yesterday drinking water to ensure that hydration would not be a problem. I’d received the best text from the Red Lady earlier in the week which read “I’m staying with you Buddy, we’ll cross that line together” and I have to say that this did help quite a lot but I was still feeling anxious.

Husband, the Red Lady and myself were meeting Running Sister and Fitbit Sister at the site in Little Stoke (flattest course, very important) just before 9am in time for the race. Fitbit Sister and myself had traded quite a few texts on Friday night about what to wear, but in the end I went for the normal long sleeve top and high viz jacket. What we actually needed when we arrived this morning at 8.30am was a duvet as it was absolutely freezing. Husband was also cold (which is rare) so I know it wasn’t just a girl thing. Husband had asked a few of his friends along too as it was also his first Park Run and one of his oldest friends arrived, having run there from home. He does a lot of running (races, half marathons) and Husband was pleased to see him.

If you’ve never done a park run, or never heard of one (and let’s be honest, why would you unless you run, this was all alien to me 9 weeks ago) it is a truly brilliant thing. Races cost an alarming amount of money and the “Invoice of Pain” mounts up quickly. So far, the Bristol 10k, 5k colour run obstacle course and Westonbirt 10k (oh yes, forgot to tell you, I’ve signed up for that too now) have cost £70 which is not an insignificant amount of money.  Every week, across the UK, volunteers get up on a Saturday morning to man and ensure that the Park Run happens. It’s completely free because it’s run by volunteers. There are Marshalls all the way around (who clap and encourage you) and it’s timed and measured meaning each time you run one, you get an official time.  You have to sign up online and then you print off your barcode but that’s it. No money.

What a brilliant concept. Before we started, there was an introductory instructional chat by the, Irish rugby supporting, “Head Marshall” and a quick run through of the rules. We First Time Park Runners got a round of applause and then he asked if there was anyone there running their 50th or 100th Park Run? There wasn’t…..but wow! Will I be blogging in a year’s time to report to you how I just completed my 50th Park run?…..never say never.

Then we were off. 3 and a half laps of the park was 5k. Husband and I had already agreed that we wouldn’t run together so he ran off with his friend. Let’s not forget that this is only the 3rd time that he has run this year. He wanted to take it steady but I knew he was hoping to sprint finish.

Fitbit Sister and Running Sister went off ahead of us and the Red Lady and I were very close to the back. It was exciting to be there. A real race. There were LOTS of people there. Some people who took it very seriously, some recreational runners and some, like me, who were beginners. At the beginning of the second lap, we got lapped by some Elite runners. I knew it was going to happen, but felt a bit disappointed all the same.  The Red Lady (who by the way could have shaved many minutes off her time if she had run on without me) stuck to her word and didn’t leave my side. For this I will always be grateful as the whole experience was quite emotional. For a large part of the race we were at the back. A lovely thing happens at Park Run to whoever is at the back – a Marshall runs with you, chatting and encouraging you so you’re not on your own. I am sure that I will be at the back for a while, so this is reassuring.

Husband was just behind us as we finished our penultimate loop (he was finishing) and if he had sprinted, he would have overtaken me. He saw me and didn’t. I love him for not doing that and this has definitely spurred me on to get faster so he never has to make that decision again.

The final lap was very, very hard and I did have to run/walk a bit and used the trees as markers. However, I was determined not to walk the final stretch even though I was shattered. Running Sister and Fitbit Sister (who had already finished) were there cheering before we headed into the final straight which was great. As we entered the funnel at the finish, I burst into tears (why I am I crying all the time?!) with emotion and relief. I hugged my sister who was grinning at me. We were all grinning. My time was 46 minutes, 46 seconds which isn’t exactly a blistering pace, but who cares? I finished and I never would have thought that as I lumbered around the allotment all those weeks ago.

What a great way to start a Saturday.

As we got in the car, my fitbit buzzed 10000 steps. 10am and I’d already completed 10000 steps.

Since this morning, I have drunk around 8 pints of water (seriously, will I ever quench this thirst?!), had a nap at the cinema watching the Snoopy film (don’t go and see it, it’s rubbish) and the girls are now baking cupcakes. I’m going to eat one of those cupcakes, possibly even two. I may not replicate my 4 pound weightloss from last week, but I won’t be bothered. I am 41 and a Park Runner. Who’d have thought it?

ParkRun selfie