I left home this morning thinking I’d maybe run a few local loops to trudge out a bunch of miles and tick that ‘long run’ box.
Luckily, I changed my mind as I closed the gate and watched my intrepid, half iron distance training, inspirational and quite beautiful lady wife Nicky, peddle off into the sunrise.
Planning to arrive home to coincide with her ‘transition’ to runner after her ride gave me 3 hours to play with. Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will be familiar with the term ‘dog run’ – a run where the route is determined by spur of the moment decisions or sudden urges to investigate new paths (as introduced by the lovely chaps on the Running Commentary Podcast)
So, to give you guys a break from my words….. 23 pictures (one from each mile) of todays run…
Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.
We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.
Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.
Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.
Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.
I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.
Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.
I can only report what I find.
I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.
But not always.
I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.
Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.
Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.
Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.
She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”
She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.
I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.
My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!
These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.
Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.
A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.
As I say, I can only report what I see.
Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.
Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.
But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!
And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.
A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.
The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!
Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.
So, we’ve been having #baconsandwichfriday for a while now. Well, the best customer ever raised the bar this week….
Which was the perfect set up for a packed long weekend.
Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will know this, but for newcomers (hello newcomers!) the general gist of this blog is to share the tales of adventure of myself and my wonderful lady wife, Nicky. Aside from the many yarns spun about running (and cycling and swimming in Nicky’s case) there are accounts of the tears, frustrations, challenges, occasional comedy and heartbreak of being carers for Nicky’s dad, Frank.
There’s the occasional opinion, but we try and avoid politics, I wax lyrical about my pride and privilege of being a step dad to Nicky’s gorgeous daughters and proud grandad to the three rugrats.
But mostly, though, it is a vehicle for me to tell the world how utterly blessed I am to get to spend my life with the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring lady in the whole wide world.
The Bank Holiday weekend.
Nicky and I made our Parkrun volunteer debuts this week – I got to stand in some long wet grass and cheer close to 300 participants as they rounded the cones about 2.5 miles in to their runs. Nicky had THREE jobs, holding up the ’25 minute’ placard to help the start line organise itself, then directing the runners out into the field after their two laps on the Velopark tarmac before she rushed over to become a barcode scanner to ensure everyone gets allocated their finishing time.
A wonderful thing is that there Parkrun, and the team at Torbay Velopark Parkrun is rightly proud of the fabulous atmosphere they have created. This weeks run director, Roger (and everyone else we have met) was so courteous, informative and clear and it was a real pleasure to become part of their ‘team’.
It won’t be the last time we help out.
Said run director, Roger, was to feature a couple more times on our Saturday…… As I chose a lovely slab chocolate orange cake in a splendid nearby café a bit later, I heard his dulcet tones ordering himself a coffee too. We had another brief chat and then Nicky and I enjoyed our refreshments and sauntered home.
So that was the last we would see of Roger until……. Saturday afternoon…… we went to Pennywell Farm for the Pennywell Pursuit 10k at teatime, a THHN charity event. There was Roger, yet again donning a hi-viz ready to be tail runner for this great race.
Where WOULD local running be without Roger?
Wow what a lovely event. Nearly 6 miles of quite brutal terrain on what is normally private land. Everybody arriving back at the finish line concurred “THAT WAS REALLY HARD”
With a dead phone and dead running watch I enjoyed toeing the start line ‘naked’ of technology. Feeling strong, I lined up near the front for a change and catapulted myself into the first bend on the gravel path with the leaders.
I reckon I was with them for, oooo, 10, maybe even 11 meters before my gasping for air gave me the clue I needed to realise I was probably going too fast.
The route is relentlessly up and down, across hoof ravaged fields and gorgeous woodland trails. The beauty took my mind of the constant battle for footing and breath. I absolutely love this sort of running.
With the lead group gone I just ran as hard as I could and was only overtaken by 2 or 3 more athletic chaps before getting back to the farm for the ‘sprint’ to the finish.
It turns out I was 12th!!
Nicky charged in shortly afterwards and we enjoyed a lovely burger before firing up the mini for home.
A truly smashing event with about 150 runners. It was very well supported, in particular, by Torbay Athletic Club, it was good to catch up with Steve, a good trail running mate who was their mascot for the day….
Whilst Nicky took herself off for a million miles on the bike, I set off across my local park and through the sleeping BMAD festival to get on Paignton beach and join the coast path to Brixham. I was holding back the effort level with creaky legs from the previous night’s trials on the trails and half an eye on next week’s ‘long’ marathon (Pure Trail’s Race The Tide, check it out HERE) which meant I could simply enjoy this glorious route.
Once in Brixham I ran through the setting of their Pirate Festival as it recovered from its Saturday excesses and past a visiting Spanish galleon.
I enjoy the coast path so much I simply ran to the end of Brixham breakwater then turned around and ran home again the same way. Check out the run HERE
So I’d had my long run, showered and was busy cutting the grass when Nicky arrived back from her epic cycle declaring “I’m bricking it, are you coming?”
Well I could hardly decline and whipped off my gardening shorts, whipped on my running kicks and we whipped out for a 3 mile run. Check it out HERE
Nicky’s a month or so away from her Cotswold 113 half iron-distance triathlon you see, hence the Brick sessions.
Not satisfied with our exercise for the day we headed off to Stoke Gabriel with Charlie (the Border Terrier, another regular in the blog) and found a little hidey place by the river to sun ourselves. Charlie mostly preferred the shade though….
Amyway – on to Bank Holiday Monday.
We haven’t done an epic walk together for so long. We certainly put that right.
Roughly based on a loop I’d ran the previous week, we indulged ourselves in a 20 mile hike in the belting sunshine around the glorious South Devon countryside. The trails and quiet lanes were sparsely populated meaning we got to enjoy the wonderful landscapes on offer without the Bank Holiday masses.
I’d taken Charlie for a 3 mile jog before we went as the forecast temperatures and length of the walk wouldn’t have been much fun for the little fella. Check out Charlie’s run HERE
We were out for 9 hours. One of the billion reasons I love and cherish every second of my blessed life with Nicky is that time simply becomes irrelevant when we are together. We never tire of each others’ company and Nicky never fails to amuse me, entertain me, inspire me and challenge me and I am humbly devoted to being everything I possibly an be for her too.
We didn’t even fight over the Jelly Babies. Saying that, I have to prove I’ve only taken 3 after I’ve double checked how many she has in her hand! We’ve been known to chase each other across fields for a bite of a Cadbury’s Crème Egg if we feel we’re owed it!
Check out the walk HERE
Anyway. There’s my Big Blog for the Big Weekend
Something lovely from the internet you say?
How about the YouTube channel of a very old friend, Clint, still making lovely acoustic covers of lovely songs………
But you are a motor mechanics garage, I mean, you have ramps and spanners and overalls and things. AND you did the MOT test. AND you did the last MOT test. Interestingly, even though the car has barely moved between the two tests, it has failed on DIFFERENT ITEMS. None of which, apparently, are within your remit to repair. For money. I mean, if, for example, you asked me to fit a patio, you’d be surprised if I said “Yes, I can see you need some hard-core compacting, a blinding of sand, some paving slabs and a mix or two of mortar. That’ll be £50 please, give me a ring when you’ve laid it and if it still isn’t laid probably, I’ll have another look at it and that’ll be another £50 please. And you still won’t have a patio. Because, and let’s see if we can define our roles here, I’M A BUILDER AND YOU’RE A CAR MECHANIC!!!”
I thought giving the business to a local independent outfit, in the village where I am, amongst other things, laying a patio (that’s what I do, you see), I could avoid missing time off work and if the car had any apparently minor faults, I would give them the trade and employ them to carry out the repairs.
I’ve been told I’ve got to let it go now…….. AND burrreeeeeeve….
So that’s something I’m not loving this week.
Something I am into this week? How about the fantastic blog by speedy Welsh runner Russell Bentley. Check it out HERE. Russell is a super quick runner with a great story and a fantastic writer to boot. We’re very similar – we’re both builders, we both own SH!TE cars, we both write and keep blogs and we both love a bit of running……. Ok his best marathon time is an hour quicker than mine and he is a mere child by comparison. Finishing 2nd in The Chester Half a week after running 2.29 in The London Marathon, he is a proper old school gutsy performer.
And my own running, well, really happy and enjoying lacing up the pumps. I cajoled my aching, aging limbs (the sand barrowing has taken its toll this week, along with the usual erratic sleep patterns!) from the warm snuggly duvet den and headed off to try and squeeze in our ‘go to’ 10 mile route in before work.
I decided to try and average about 8 minutes per mile and set my watch to just show me average pace and time. I do find that when I set off intending to run at a ‘tempo’ I need to put a bit more effort in to start with to get my heart and lungs working and then they are less likely to object to the effort level as the run goes on.
A bit like in last week’s Parkrun (Blog HERE), I was surprised as I admired the reflection my gangly, random running gait in the shiny windows of the newly converted Tesco Express and then glanced at my watch, to discover I was averaging 7m15s per mile, and I know this is about a mile into the run.
“I wonder how long I can keep this up?” my sleepy brain asked, sending a challenge to my creaking joints. About 9 miles was the rather surprising reply. And I did. Easing off for the last mile but still returning home in time to steal a kiss from my beautiful lady wife before she headed out for her day of adventure. Yup. Winning this morning.
So our weekend is looking lovely and full, we’ve both put our names down to volunteer at Parkrun on Saturday morning. Then at tea time on Saturday we’re off to have a crack at the Pennywell Pursuit 10k. Hoping for a longish trail run on Sunday and I also need to try and mend the NEW faults for my jalopy’s latest attempt at getting an M. O. feckin’ T.
Oh, and I’ll tell you what else Nicky and I did this week. We went to a running group. I know!! With other people and everything! We’re becoming quite the gregarious social animals…..
There’s a new 24 hour gym opening soon, literally down the road from us. Whilst we’re not really ‘gym’ people, they have started a running group. So we jogged down there on Monday after work and enjoyed a really good session incorporating a warm up, some drills and core work, some short fast efforts, some easy running and longer efforts. A bit of stretching too. Trainer, Lewis, has gathered a lovely friendly and varied group together and made the hour work for everyone and it felt lovely and inclusive. If anyone is local to us and wants to try it out it’s free – check out their Facebook stuff HERE.
We’re planning an epic Bank Holiday walk on Monday so will probably miss next week’s running group and will try and hobble there the following week. We’re doing the RACE THE TIDE the previous day (Nicky doing the 16 mile ‘half’ whilst I attempt the 29 mile ‘marathon’). We did the half last year and had a fabulous time – read all about it HERE.
All You Have To Do Is Dream sang Bob Dylan. Well, who’s to say he’s wrong. He sang quite a lot of words, and still does. Were you to compile every single lyric, poem or prose by the great folk poet, you’d have quite a tome.
I’ve been busy making some decisions to help me focus on those dreams which, ultimately, are the dreams which matter. Trying to avoid completely ‘outcome focussed’ goals.
I guess we all crave more leisure time, and maybe we can all be guilty of measuring the success of how we spend our time by the ‘outcomes’.
A bit of self-critical analysis has me thinking I’ve been a bit guilty of this in my writing. I mean, it’s absolutely lovely when readers engage with my wittering, and I really enjoy the process of creating content which might just give someone else pleasure.
BUT, I’ve found I’ve been putting myself under pressure to write a couple of regular articles for online publications, to deadlines. I fully appreciate that all budding writers start out as ‘amateurs’ and have to find the time to write around the real world of their ccommitments. BUT (again, starting a sentence with ‘BUT’! Lazy writing…) when we’re all so time poor, let’s focus on the things which give us most pleasure.
As regular blog readers will know I’m in the embryonic stages of writing a book (working title Dogs That Don’t Look Like Their Owners) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the process of researching my characters’ backgrounds and letting them reveal themselves to me. The plot thickness each day, I let the story meander around my head when I’m digging a hole at work, or plodding along the coast path.
The beauty of the book writing is that I am under no pressure to produce an ‘outcome’ in a specific time frame and so if I can write a bit, I will, if not then I won’t. And nobody will be any the wiser. Except a couple of people have said ‘So when are we going to see this book?’!
By coincidence, Nicky and I both came to similar conclusions about our training on Sunday morning. I set off for a long run as Nicky set off for her bike ride and we arrived home within a few minutes of each other three and a half hours later. We’d both made our routes up as we went along, concluding that, despite us both having ‘goal’ events we should definitely be making sure we enjoy every minute of our exercising. Check out my run HERE and Nicky’s ride HERE
Some views from my run…
The previous day, after a sleep deprived and extremely tiring and challenging week, we forfeited our endurance plans in exchange for coffee and a lie-in and jogged to our local Parkrun at the Torbay Velopark. It turns out, with a bit of rest and recovery, we’re both fitter and faster than we give ourselves credit for.
Nicky ran a Parkrun PB whilst I set off in pursuit of some fellow 50something chaps who are always around to share a run and a joke (and they normally whop me!). I astounded myself by running faster than for a year or more and snuck in front of all of them for a 1st Vet 50 finish. Rather chuffed I don’t mind admitting. Neil, (a very old friend) in particular, and I have shared plenty of bragging rights over the years and I have no doubt he’ll be claiming them back at the first opportunity!
So, like my running, my writing will be more about enjoying what I can do, when I can do it. Maybe, just maybe, like with my running, there’ll be the occasional ‘success’ in writing too. Whatever that looks like. But the true measure of success will be….. well, like this blog post, something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing.
Bob Dylan loves his writing, amongst a thousand prophetic and poetic quotes he says….
“Take care of all of your memories, you can’t relive them”
At every junction I selected a direction on Sunday’s run and hummed “Don’t think twice, it’s alright”.
The internet eh? Full of people. People you might like. People you might not. People you agree with. People you don’t.
Somehow, by applauding the decision to bring a great sporting event to Torbay, where I live, I was accused of being a Torbay Council stooge and anti free speech. That’s the price of engaging I guess.
The event? It’s the opening round of the 2018 season of The British Cycling Youth Circuit Series. Where young people come together to show their athletic prowess and bike handling skills. Read more HERE. I foolishly responded to the “but the bus route will be diverted” type whining on Facebook!!
Still reeling from Nicky’s injury and its unfortunate timing. I’ll be flying solo in the 2 Oceans and am determined to get that medal for both us.
It’s been a tiring week (I know, change the record!) what with Nicky taken down by the lurgy, my job being rather physical at the end of the week and poor Frank having a bit of trouble understanding day and night, or his television, or the mail…….. There’s no dressing it up, living with dementia is bloody exhausting for EVERYBODY.
So with Nicky battling injury and illness, Frank, poor Frank, and strangers accusing ME of being anti free speech, I thought I’d share my top 10 good things of the week….
Nicky, ever determined, inhibited by her cold, unable to run, the weather stopping cycling, popped into the pool and smashed out the required distance for a half ironman. Twice. Bosh!
My brother, Simon, travelling down from North Wales and taking me down in the Parkrun.
My Saturday long run – a total of 18 miles finishing with the said Parkrun – the 15 mile warm up might have finished off any chance I had of keeping up with him. Check it out HERE.
An old training partner, also Simon, the only person who was too hot on a Baltic day, who pitched up in a onesie.
Another Simon – Simon Ridley from Brixham Harriers, our good mate Jan, and all the amazing volunteers helping us around on such a cold day – what a great thing Parkrun is.
Nicky’s physio, Sam, getting to work in Paignton this morning, despite the very real risk that the snow will inhibit him getting home! He’s worked his hot-cross magic again, complimenting Nicky on her high pain threshold as he physically assaults her!
Snow – well it just looks so lovely (even if it’s quite possibly costing me a day’s money tomorrow!)
Charlie – for wearing a bowler hat, naturally.
Oh yes, today’s long run – 20 miles of biting Easterly gales, snow, ice, mud, mud, mud, hills, mud, steps – Check it out HERE
And writing, and reading, and jigsaws and the piano, our down time, our precious recuperation from the barrage of life…
All too often Nicky brings work home, either physically or psychologically. It goes with the territory unfortunately.
I occasionally bring work home too. We tend to burn mine though. Free heat. Nice. I think Nicky would be happy if we burned hers too!
My trainers have spent a bit of time in front of the burner lately as they’ve been sucking up the melting snow.
Double daying. Thats what I’m attempting in preparation for the T60. ‘T60?’ I hear you chime in unison. It’s a 60 mile, overnight run along the River Thames, finishing at the stone marking its source. There’s still places and you can read alllllll about it HERE.
So I did a lovely long challenging 25 miles on the compacted snow on Saturday (on STRAVA) and then a nervous 22 with Nicky (also on STRAVA) as she attempts to nurse her troublesome calf to the 2 Oceans Marathon……