Halloween – who’s scared of a PB?

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Don’t you just love an Autumn run?

I can’t say my Hanley Park Run antics today were in any way worthy of the Halloween theme – unless you count the most tenuous of links with the urge to throw up.

Pushing myself running tends to push certain bodily functions into the equation but thankfully that didn’t happen and another Personal Best was achieved!

The nausea kicked in after one zealously-tackled hill and again after finishing (I always feel compelled to redeem my slow self with a sprint at the end).

The Park Run I go to deploys pacers on the last Saturday of every month – so I’d got in the mind-set of following one.

Alas, there were none in my exact target range! (Though that’s a future plan..)

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Pacers are deployed once a month

So I picked a trio of women from Stoke F.I.T. (Friends In Training) who did finish about 45 seconds ahead of me in the end.

Two of them kept up a steady babble of conversation which, when I was close enough to hear it, I tried to use to take my mind off my exertions!

We were overtaken by a family in fancy dress – now being overtaken always feels crap anyway, but when they’re in fancy dress?

A former colleague remembers the humiliation of being overtaken by Batman in the London Marathon and I myself have been bettered by Mr Potato Head in the Robin Hood Half in Nottingham, a race in which Scooby Doo regularly provides an indicator as to when it’s time to dig deep!

Back to Park Run and I watched the receding skeleton wings on the boy, with dad in a cloak – I also knew he was wearing a mask (reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”) which made him sound like he was talking through a snorkel when, previously, he loomed behind us en famille

Image courtesy of ajround.com

 

I had some hunch I’d done a good time when one of the organisers at the finish shouted “C’mon Emma?” – and looked a bit surprised to see me.

My Guerrilla training has contributed not only to a couple of personal bests in the last few weeks but also knocking a good couple of minutes off my previous time, so it would appear I have discovered the alchemy necessary to produce Personal Best “gold”.

I caught up with the Stoke F.I.T. trio and said I’d used them as pacemakers, hoped they didn’t mind and thanked them.

I felt I’d somehow “gate-crashed” their run  but Laura, the first woman I spoke to, said that was fine – and to be honest, I don’t think they’d been too aware of my presence.

She said the chat, between two of them, had been aimed at taking the silent third one’s mind of her running (I think she had a bit of hip pain or something).

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Stoke F.I.T. members (seen here at a summer event!) have a brilliant club ethos

Laura added something like if you could speak about seven words a sentence without gasping whilst running then that’s a fair indicator your breathing’s okay.

Despite the fact that I normally talk a lot, I couldn’t have uttered one word at that pace!

Another of the trio, Kirsty, emphasised the point was to be helpful and nobody is ever left alone on a Stoke F.I.T. training run – they’ll come back for you if need be.

This generosity of spirit is not just confined to team-mates, it extends to other runners too.

“It’s the club ethos. You can always tell if someone’s a ‘Fitter’ ‘cos that’s what we do”.

Once I’d fuelled up with tea and hot buttered toast at the Park Run Café, I joined another “Fitter” on the walk home, and got more running advice.

Lee advised me to “push from my glutes” (buttock muscles!) when running up hills (“it’s easier to push than pull”).

Isn’t it amazing? Slow or not, I’ve loved running since I was a teenager and I’m still learning!

 

 

 

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Where’s That Duck?

This has got to be my happiest post since I started blogging.

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A young runner honks the duck to mark a personal best

Yesterday I ran a ParkRun personal best.

Believe you me I thought I would never improve – but I smashed my last time by a minute!

The last time I visited ParkRun, a broken bone in my foot simply meant I was unable to run.

It was then, however, I learned for the first time that, when you run a personal best, you get to Honk The Duck!

Even once my recovery was sufficient for me to start running again, concerns about finishing near the back – or, God forbid, even last – kept me away from Hanley ParkRun since March. And that’s nearly a year ago.

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At the start

 

Getting into the mind-set is everything – but I find this quote from John Bingham can help:

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

So, run I did.

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That’s him

 

Personally I really think the Guerrilla training really does help – particularly my least-favourite bit, the cardio!

The three-mile course does have quite a sharp hill right at the start, before you’re really into your stride.

Most times I immediately feel my lungs/heart protesting as the rest of the group surges ahead, but today that didn’t happen.

 

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Real live ParkRun ducks!

Needless to say, the support you get on the way round from marshals and other runners is fantastic – and towards the end a guy I know came back for me, and accompanied me on the last section, before letting me sprint to the finish.

Any duck-honking traditionally happens when you’re still at the bandstand, before said duck is packed away along with all the other equipment.

However, that only really applies to those who have timed themselves, as opposed to people like me who wait to get the result texted to them. I want to be accurate!

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Bryn’s daughter Millie was race director (here they are organising the data ready to send out)

 

By the time this happened I was sitting in the ParkRun “café” (a church hall), drinking tea and eating hot buttered toast!

Today my body gets a High Five from me for its ability to fully recover.

And it was a special day for the kids involved in ParkRun too – all the volunteer positions were manned by youngsters, who had an adult present where applicable.

Director of the Hanley event Bryn Holmes explained: “Well, we often have juniors that volunteer on a weekly basis so we decided to have juniors like the event director, all the way down to the marshals, the scanners – and even down to the ticket sorting-out…”

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Poppy, seven, sorts out the tickets after the run

 

“Hopefully one of the event directors of the future would’ve been here today – you never know!”

He admitted it was mainly the idea of his 11-year-old daughter Millie, who, with another girl, got to be run director – addressing the 232 runners before they all set off.

She admitted: “Yes I was nervous, because it could’ve all gone wrong! It was fun, but kind of harder than I expected.”

You can find out more about Hanley ParkRun here.

Honk That Duck

I’ve finally grasped the nettle – and visited ParkRun.

They're off!
They’re off!

Basically, for the uninitiated, it’s a 5km (just over 3 miles) run which is timed – all you have to do is register on the website and print-out the barcode it gives you.

I could see the runners rounding the first bend even from the road.

Despite it being nearly a month since the fracture I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever run again!

When you get a Personal Best you get to squeeze the duck and make him honk!
When you get a Personal Best you get to squeeze the duck and make him honk!

In the band-stand I joined Natalie, who’s studying Sports Therapy at university.

“You’ve got to take your time, with the healing process,” she told me.

 “It is difficult, but it’s nature isn’t it? You’ve just got to let it take its time, because there’s no point you going back too early – you could fracture it again.”

Do You Feel It Too? (Photo by Peter Morgan)
Do you feel it too?
(Photo by Peter Morgan)

She added that I’d need the help of physiotherapists too; “Once the bone has knitted you’re going to have damaged areas, (around it) you’re going to have to work on those.”

Another woman – Sarah – appeared at my side – “Where’s the ParkRun duck? I’ve got a personal best!”

Despite having done around 14 ParkRuns, I wasn’t aware of this.

When I get my next Personal Best I won't be celebrating alone
Honk me!

Yup, you grab that duck and you honk him!

Once this was done, I joined Sarah in the ParkRun café, on this occasion a church hall.

Exercise has figured very prominently in her weight loss regime: “I don’t think I’d have lost as much as I have without my running. I’ve still got two stone to go, but I’m hoping if I just keep running it’ll come off eventually.”

So how would she cope if she couldn’t run? “I would be devastated! I’m just starting to get to that point where I’m actually feeling fit – so I’d feel well gutted.”

Alison, another runner, has had problems with shin-splints and, since having her two young sons, sometimes has issues with her hips and back (“It’s very frustrating when you’ve got very limited time, and you’re a busy mum and working, then that’s the one thing that you’ve got and you realise you can’t run”).

Dogs can join in too
Dogs can join in too

She has this advice for those who, like me, have been told that rest is the only cure: “It depends on what the rest is. It could be rest from any physical activity, the jumping up and down stuff –  so, although I’d be resting, I’d still be doing Pilates, I could go for a swim. You know, it’s finding the alternative activity and having the flexibility in your own mind.”

Feeling decidedly more positive, I’ve now resolved to remain part of the ParkRun community through marshalling.

And one day, well, I’m determined I’ll get another PB – and honk that duck!

For more ParkRun info click here