MTR#24: 7 miles, hill reps and a parkrun rant!

2016-04-12 21.27.40After a few days off following my 401 Challenge marathon on Friday, feeling a bit bleurgh after finally catching Tom’s cold, and after much deliberating, I eventually decided I would go for a run after all last night. And I thoroughly enjoyed it – funny how that happens!! I even went 2 miles further than the 5 miles I’d planned, and threw in some hill reps for good measure! After 3 days off, my legs felt super springy and it turns out I’m really not that ill after all…

Perhaps part of the reason I eventually had a really good run was to burn off some anger following some really quite shocking news concerning parkrun.

2016-04-09 08.59.42If you’ve never heard of parkrun, it’s a free, timed 5km run that happens in parks all over the country (and indeed the world!) at 9am every single Saturday. It’s absolutely brilliant – I actually volunteered as a marshall at my local event in Redditch on Saturday past. Parkrun UK is the non-profit organisation that oversees the events, and through sponsorship by a few companies they are able to provide each event with basic safety equipment such as hi-vis vests for marshals and route markers, and the basic timing equipment needed to ensure every runner who wants one gets a time for their run. This keeps runners coming back week after week as they try to better themselves and chase that elusive PB.

Other than sponsors providing this basic equipment, no money is received by local organisers: each and every one of the 395 events is entirely run by unpaid volunteers, and takes place in free-to-use public parks. A big part of parkrun is that it is, and always will be absolutely free for absolutely anyone to take part. It is all-inclusive for able-bodied and disabled runners, children, elderly people, people who run with dogs and prams, everyone. It’s no wonder more and more parkruns are popping up all over the country (a new one started in Stratford-upon-Avon just a few weeks ago!), and numbers of parkrunners are growing by the week.

But one stupid, stupid parish council in Bristol has decided to ruin it all for the parkrunners of Little Stoke. They have been threatening for months to impose a fee for Little Stoke parkrun to use the park, (unfoundedly) claiming that as “an organisation with paid directors, fund raisers and sponsors”, it would be unfair to expect the tax-paying residents of Stoke Gifford parish to cover the (undefined) costs of the “wear and tear” that parkrunners (allegedly) cause to the park. You can read their full, ridiculous statement, with Parkrun UK’s very fair and logical responses here.

I must confess I never thought this ludicrous proposal would go ahead, but last night, at a Stoke Gifford Parish Council meeting, the motion to charge parkrun to use the park was passed by 6 votes to 4. I am dumbfounded.

I take particular umbrage with two of the parish council’s points. Firstly, the suggestion that parkrun should pay for park maintenance because it is an organised event with paid directors. As with any large organisation, whether for profit or not, of course some paid staff are needed – that website isn’t going to get updated by itself and the logistics of managing over 8,000 volunteers each week isn’t going to happen by magic! The number of people on parkrun UK’s payroll? 12, including the founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt who was awarded a CBE in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours (because, y’know, if the monarch of our country thinks you’re doing a great job, that’s kind of a big deal).

But, as mentioned above, each and every one of the events is managed at the local level by unpaid volunteers. Parkrun is a non-profit organisation. Any money left over after paying 12 people their wages goes back into parkrun events. By Stoke Gifford’s logic, it would seem fine by them if 300 runners just decided to get together for a run but didn’t call it ‘parkrun’! (This would also surely be far less safe!) Likewise, if they have a problem with giving free community access to organisations with paid staff, then they should also take a cut from poppy and Big Issue sellers, or charge nannies and childminders for using the park.

The second thing I am stunned by is the insinuation that the goodly people of Stoke Gifford should not have to pay for park repairs caused by the “many” Little Stoke parkrunners who come from outside of the parish. FFS! Parks are meant to be used! What is the point of any of us paying council tax or parish precepts to maintain parks if no-one ever bloody uses them, and who gives a flying fig if – gasp! – outsiders from 5 miles down the road come to enjoy them as well! In reality, almost half of Little Stoke’s regulars live within the Stoke Gifford parish, and 60% live less than 3 miles from the park. Apart from a few visitors or parkrun tourists, the rest are likely to live in a very nearby area of Bristol, because if you travel much further away you’ll find another parkrun that is closer to home. Heavens forbid anyone should use a park in a different postcode to the one they live in! I live 7 miles away from my nearest parkrun and that’s in a completely different county!

Sadly, it looks like the end for Little Stoke parkrun. Standing true to parkrun’s values, they refuse to accept the fees that the council wants to impose, so are looking to move to another venue. In the meantime, the runners who used to enjoy their Saturday morning run around Little Stoke (and the children who used to enjoy their Sunday morning junior parkrun) will have to run without the safety and camaraderie of the parkrun banner, or drive to another parkrun nearby. Such a shame!


MTR#23: 2nd 401 Challenge marathon!


At the start

The absolutely amazing Ben Smith was in Stratford-upon-Avon today, so I just ran a marathon with him…

For those of you who might never have heard of Ben Smith or have a clue what I’m talking about, let me rewind.

On 1st September last year, a bloke from Bristol called Ben Smith began his epic ‘401 Challenge‘ – a challenge to run 401 marathons in 401 days. That’s 401 MARATHONS IN 401 DAYS. Not to belittle what Eddie Izzard recently achieved in his 27-marathons-in-27-days challenge for Sport Relief – and to be fair he did it in South Africa where some days he was running in 40ºC+ heat – but what Ben is doing is absolutely incredible.

Why 401? I think I am telling this right…but basically, after weighing up the various endurance running world records, Ben decided to smash the previous record for the most consecutive marathons by doing a round 400. Then someone dared him to do a victory lap on day 401, so the 401 Challenge was born! He’s aiming to raise £250,000 for two great anti-bullying charities: Stonewall and Kidscape.

If you want to donate some money to his causes, you can text BEN to 70660 to donate £5, or you can donate online here, or buy some 401 merch here.


Sopping wet, half a marathon down, half to go!

Anyway, I heard about Ben through good old Facebook, and met up with him in December last year to run what I thought would be part of his 102nd marathon in Worcester. I ended up doing the whole thing. It was bloody brilliant. Ben runs at the pace of the slowest runner in the group, stops for lunch and whenever anyone needs to, and Just. Keeps. Going.

So, going back to my opening line, the absolutely amazing Ben Smith was in Stratford-upon-Avon today, so I just ran a marathon with him – again!

The route was more or less the Stratford half marathon route, except we started and finished each loop at Stratford Sports Club and stopped at The Old Tramway for lunch. It’s funny – and I guess shows how much progress I have made in the last year – because there’s a notorious hill on the Stratford HM route, which I remember very well from when I did the HM last year, but d’you know what? I barely noticed it today – and I did it twice! I mean, I *noticed* it, but it was more than manageable!

We faced all weathers today! It looked pretty gloomy when I left this morning, so I had my 401 Challenge long-sleeved running shirt on, topped with my rain jacket, which was – at that point- wholly unnecessary. The jacket came off after around 4 miles as I was too hot. At around 8 miles I phoned Tom, who I knew was heading into Stratford, and asked if he could bring me a running vest as I was absolutely boiling. About 2 miles later the heavens opened and we all got completely drenched! So the running vest (which the wonderful Tom very kindly brought me) was needed not to keep me cool but because everything else was soaked! The sun came out again in the afternoon, and made a lovely end to a lovely day, meeting lots of new and lovely running people.

Extra special kudos to a 50-something year old guy called James who has only been running for 6 months, and only ever run 6 miles before – he completed the whole marathon! What a legend!

MTR#22: Soggy 6 with Run Alcester

2016-04-06 19.39.24A blogger called ‘BeckyRunsBackwards’ ‘liked’ my blog post from yesterday (hello if you’re reading today!), so today I reciprocated and read some of her blog posts. She’d written a nice article about why it’s good to run in the rain…which was wholly appropriate for today’s weather!

Although it was dry when we, the Run Alcester gang, set off this evening, it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and we were battling against a torrential downpour! It was pretty cold (so unlike yesterday’s balmy run!) and I was glad I had my jacket on, but I absolutely loved it! 🙂

We ran pretty much the same route that Becky and I did last night, but backwards. Although it’s a tough hill, I do like the track up to and along past Oversley Castle 🙂

Really enjoying running with these other guys and gals – I’m usually one of the slowest ones there, but the fact that everyone else is going faster than me pushes me to go faster too – 9.40 min miles today! 🙂

MTR#21: 6 fab miles…until…

2016-04-05 20.38.08Yet again I wasn’t really feeling in the mood for a run, especially after running 17 miles on Sunday, and then umpiring a netball match last night! But, it’s Tuesday, which is run-with-Becky day, so off we trotted into the sunny evening.

And I loved it! The weather was perfect for running, we did a lovely route, and for some reason my legs felt amazing! The only thing that spoiled it was that about 4 miles in I really needed a wee!! Cut what should have been a 7 mile run short by a mile so I could go to the loo – knew I shouldn’t have had that cup of tea half an hour before going out!

I’m not too worried about it though – the main thing is that I really enjoyed the run in the end, and I’m encouraged by how good I felt (until the needing-a-wee bit)!


MTR#20: 17 miles!

2016-04-03 19.07.31The day of the week I dread, then love…long run day!

Today’s target was 17 miles, which I am pleased to say I accomplished, though I am bloody knackered now!

I did take a couple of very short walking breaks, one for which I paused my Garmin so that’s not reflected in the total mileage. This happened a couple of miles in while I took a few minutes to call the police!! As I ran along a country lane I was noticed a car parked up by a farm gate on the side of the road. As I approached it, the four chavvy-looking young lads inside all started shouting to their friend in a field to get back in the car. Odd. Even odder was that as I ran past them, they all tried to hide their faces from me – the lad in the field, who I noticed was carrying a black bag of some sort, even attempting to hide behind a tree (though I clearly saw him!). I’m not sure what they were up to, but they were behaving very suspiciously so I noted the car’s registration plate number and dobbed em in a few metres down the road!

After all that excitement, the rest of the run was fairly uneventful; I just kept on plodding. I actually felt pretty amazing at around the 8-9 mile point – which was ace because that was a particularly hilly bit of the route – but at about 13-14 miles the tiredness really started to kick in (even after my second very short walk-break to eat a chocolate bar). By the end of the run I was achy and tired, but still I did it!

I’m told that, apparently, I will eventually start to feel like I did at 8-9 miles, when I get to 14-15 miles. I look forward to that as I really can’t imagine running another 9 miles on top of what I did today!

MTR#19: 5 miles (but was supposed to be 10)

Just wasn’t feeling it tonight. I’d swapped the 10 mile run I was supposed to do mid-week with the shorter run on my plan for today, but when it came down to it I just didn’t have the oomph today. I decided to go off road for the first time in ages, which might not have been the best idea. My ankles hurt, my legs were tired and I seemed to stumble over every rock and tree root. Actually, once I got out of the woods (literally and metaphorically!) and back on the tarmac I felt much better, but by what little enthusiasm I had by that point had just vanished, so I just did 5 miles and called it a day.

I guess there has to be at least one bad run in every training plan, right?! I also failed on the 5×50 Challenge yesterday. Normally Thursday night would be netball training night, but it was cancelled for the Easter holidays so I ended up just working late instead – not good! I’m not too bothered by missing a day of the Challenge – I’m doing more than an average of 5km a day anyway!

Didn’t even have the mojo to take a selfie today, sorry!

MTR#18: 6 miles with Run Alcester

2016-03-30 19.47.03Garmin and Strava say I only did 5.7 miles tonight, but that’s because I ran down the road to meet the Run Alcester crew, paused my watch and then forgot to switch it back on again for a little while. I also paused it when we got to our finish point and my GPS switched off so it didn’t record my jog back home either. I probably did about 6.2 miles in all, but whatevs, I know I covered the distance!

Good run with the group tonight! Met some new people, and after weeks of running round the houses in the dark we were finally able to go on some country lanes, which was really nice as a group.


MTR#17: 7 rainy, then sunshiney miles with Becky

2016-03-29 19.22.53It was pouring hard with rain when Becky came to collect me for our run tonight, and I wasn’t all that up for it if I’m honest! Fortunately, the rain soon dried up and the sun came out, so even though I was a bit hot in my rain jacket, by the end I actually enjoyed it. It’s nice to have some lighter evenings now that the clocks have changed!

Another 7.4 miles done – and looking at my total mileage for the year so far (180.7 miles!) I’m wondering if I might even be able to attempt the 1000 mile challenge again this year…I wasn’t going to, because I didn’t run that much in January or February, but I seem to have made up for it in March! At this rate I’d only have to do 91 miles a month to make it…!

5×50 Day 2: Yoga cop out

The bank holiday has gone so fast! :-/ Still, we did have a lovely evening with friends last night and consequently I was a little bit “tired” again today (am I sounding like an alcoholic?!) so I didn’t run.

But, I couldn’t skip out on the 5×50 Challenge – especially seeing as it’s only day 2! – so I did a 30 minute yoga video while waiting for my dinner to cook. It was quite a gentle stretchy one, so maybe a bit of a cop-out, but I really do need to stretch more often so I’m OK with it! And I did run 16 bloody miles yesterday!

MTR#16: 16 hilly miles


That is the face of a very tired woman.

Happy Easter and welcome to British Summer Time!

I’d been dreading this run all week as I knew I’d probably have to do it on my own, without my running buddy Becky to keep me sane! I meant to do it yesterday, but then beer happened on Friday night so yesterday I was mostly, er, hibernating. At least I’ve now earned the dinner and drinks we’re having with friends tonight (if I can stay awake!)!

Tell you what, 16 miles is a bloody long way!!! And, unlike last week’s largely flat 15 miles, this week I ran a pretty hilly route to test myself. I have no idea what the course profile of the Worcester marathon is like, so I thought I’d better do some hill training! I also forgot to go out and buy some energy gels in the week, so I took a chocolate biscuit with me for energy – not the ideal thing to try and eat while running along, but at least I had something to keep me going – and it didn’t give me a stitch or upset my tummy so all’s good.

My legs feel really tired now, and it’s almost unfeasible to think that I will have to run another 10 miles on top of what I did today in just 8 weeks time! On the other hand, once I’d got over the half marathon mark today, I found it easier – mentally speaking – to keep going, because I knew I could run 15 miles, and what was one more little mile? The hardest bit was probably the first 5 or 6 miles when I still had double-digit mileage left to go.

Oh, and today being the day the clocks went forward for British Summer Time also means it’s the first day of the 5×50 Challenge 2016! I had ummed and ahhed about whether or not I was actually going to sign up for it this year, but I’ve decided I will after all. Between marathon training and netball matches I’ve got most days of the week covered for exercise anyway, so on those days where I don’t have anything particular to do I’ll try and get better at stretching and active recovery.