Tag Archives: towneley

A Home Run

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After a week of gorgeous half term weather, I found myself dreaming of rain last Sunday morning. Unfortunately it turned out that my prayers weren’t to be answered and I woke up to a glorious blue sky. Hmmm, not really the best conditions for running 10,000 metres.
FullSizeRenderSo here we were, round 2 of my 2016 running challenge. A 10k race in my hometown of Burnley. Despite the heat, I was really looking forward to the run. We all piled into the car at about 8.30am – Adam, the boys and me. The start and finish of the run was in one of Dylan’s favourite parks so he was happy to come along and watch. He even joined in with my pre-race breakfast of porridge and honey.
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It was a very different affair compared with 2 weeks ago in Manchester. Instead of 35,000 people taking part, there were about 1500 in Burnley. Waiting to start I chatted to ex-work colleagues and saw old friends. It had a real community feel to it. A lot of people turned up to the start to see us all off, but it wasn’t too busy that Adam and the boys could stand by one of the barriers and wave as I went past. It was a great boost to see their smiling faces (although Jude was apparently very upset to see me fly past without stopping!)

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And so we were off. And typical of the Burnley landscape we were almost straight into a hill. In contrast to the Manchester 10k which was relatively flat, this course was one of many hills. On the flipside though, whenever you run up, you have to run down! At least our first hill was under the shade of the Towneley Park woods.

I looked back at my description of the Manchester 10k. I used the words busy and hot a lot. Thankfully Burnley wasn’t too busy and I was able to run without the fear of tripping over someone’s ankles. But hot it definitely was! Sunny to be more precise. To be honest, weather and terrain-wise, Manchester was much much easier. But guess what, I managed to beat by Manchester time by 16 seconds. And broke the magic hour mark, woo hoo!!

IMG_0948Although the run was harder, it was easily a prettier run to experience. Knowing the area helped as I knew what to expect at almost every turn. The last stretch was (again) on a hill which was a really tough finish. But with about 200 metres to go, I saw my own personal cheerleaders waving to give me that last surge of energy. As I ran past, Dylan handed me a bunch of dandelions. I don’t know who had the bigger smile at that point, him or me! It gave me the push to attempt a sprint finish – meaning that I crossed the line at 59 mins 50 seconds. Even though it only took a couple of minutes for my time to come through as a text message, I knew from looking at my watch that I had more or less beaten my personal target. I almost cried with relief!

Cue to pick up my finishers t-shirt and goody bag. I saw a one of my work colleagues who had run 2 weeks before and also got a better time.  There was clearly something in the Lancashire air pushing us along.

I got big hugs all round when I met up with Adam and the boys a few minutes later. I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a good finishers photo with Dylan and Jude but they had other ideas. Bless them, they were ready to go home!

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Reflecting afterwards on the run, it was really hard. But all the effort was worth it to have Dylan and Jude watch me finish, and then to get a PB in the bag. They don’t know why I am running yet but they will someday soon. The medal will be tucked away in Ewan’s memory box which is where I’ve decided I will put all my running memorabilia. It feels like the right place, where he can look after it.

Now, onwards and upwards to the half marathon. I’ve proved I can go half the distance this year, so it’s time to step up the training. Wish me luck!

If you would like to sponsor me, please visit my fundraising page. All amounts are gratefully received, however big or small.
www.justgiving.com/running4ewan

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Eight Reasons to Love Parkrun

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Yesterday morning I completed my eighth parkrun. New Year’s resolutions and all, I decided if I was going to get off my backside and start running properly this year, I needed to start as I meant to go on. I’ve written about my first parkrun here and also about how I want to do the Great North Run this year to raise money for SANDS in Ewan’s memory.

Eight parkrun’s isn’t a huge accomplishment but it’s one I am proud of as I haven’t run much over the past couple of years. Anyway I’ve decided to compile a list of the reasons (so far) why I love parkrun and hopefully motivate others take part too.

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A great start to the weekend

Gone are the days when Saturday mornings are spent in bed till noon, nursing a hangover. If I’m lucky, it’s a 7am wake up call and I’m straight into mum mode. So it doesn’t feel a huge effort to get myself ready for a 9am run seeing as I’ve been up at least 2 hours already. Ok the run feels tough when I’m doing it, but afterwards, I have a sense of achievement. I get on with my day feeling rather smug wondering how many other people have a 5k under their belt by 10am?

 

It’s free

Perfect for a tight northerner like me! No expensive gym memberships or class subscriptions required. Parkrun doesn’t cost a penny.

 

The great outdoors

I’ve never been one for gyms. Sorry, it’s just not for me. If I’m going to run, I want to be out and about and get fresh air into my lungs. All parkruns are, believe it or not …. in parks! My local run is in the beautiful surroundings of Towneley Park in Burnley, Lancashire. I’m sure there are equally stunning locations up and down the country. It’s good for the soul to spend time outdoors, whatever the weather.

 

Motivation

I can’t imagine getting up on a Saturday morning and motivating myself to go out for a 5k run. In fact, I am not good a motivating myself to run full stop. I generally find that I can only run when I have a goal to work towards. Getting fit after having my babies was one goal. Running a charity 10k or half marathon has been another. I find it hard to get out otherwise. I don’t tend to run just for pleasure.

Parkrun is helping to be that motivation. It gives me something to look forward to and work towards. This New Year I am aiming to get out for two runs during the week, hoping that it will improve my Saturday parkrun times.

There is also the motivation to beat the person in front, to improve on each run and chase that PB.

 

Volunteers

Each parkrun is run entirely by volunteers. Now I would be impressed if that just applied to one or two parkruns. But it applies to every single parkrun. Hats off to all those who turn up before 9am to be assigned a role and then stand there in all weathers, marshalling and (most importantly) clapping and encouraging us runners on. And of course, the runs wouldn’t take place without them.

 

Family

Parkrun is a real family affair. Each time I have taken part, I have seen plenty of younger children running (I am talking 5, 6, 7 year olds!) with their mums, dads, grandma’s and grandad’s. I can’t think there would be many other regular opportunities where this can happen. It is such an uplifting sight.

Even babies can take part …. well kind of. A few parents run with buggies (those special 3 wheeled ones designed for bumpy terrain). Someone I know is a good 5 minutes faster than me … with her 18 month old in the buggy. That’s kind of embarrassing really.

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Thanks to my parents I’ve managed to run with Adam a couple of times

Each week there are hundreds of photographs posted on the local parkrun Facebook page. It is really wonderful to see so many happy kids, of all ages, enjoying themselves with friends and family, getting fit and keeping healthy. I hope that maybe when my active, almost 4 year old gets a bit older, he will be keen to take part too.

 

Technology & Timing

I am blown away by the technology used. It is absolutely amazing!!! Starting from the moment you sign up to parkrun, you get a unique running number and a barcode. You print off your barcode (in a handy credit card size) and bring it with you. At the end of the run you get a tag which tells you your position (in the race). This is then collected and your barcode is scanned.

IMG_7156Between 2-4 hours later, a text message is sent with your time and position. I think it’s great how quickly this arrives, but it feels like forever when you are waiting to find out whether you have beaten your PB or not!

You can then go onto the website or Facebook page of your local parkrun and delve into the statistics even further. How many people took part? (In my case) How many women? This gives you an idea of how well placed (or not) you are. For example, you may have come 30th overall, but be the first female home (for the record that has never happened to me, nor is ever likely!). There is also an Age Grading (now for the science bit). This is compiled using your time and the world record for your sex and age group to produce a score. The higher your score (a percentage), the better you are. It just helps if you want to compare yourself to other runners who are a different age or sex.

It’s baffling the amount of stats available and you can look at all your past runs and compare times. And for a free event? It’s nothing short of miraculous.

 

Community

The word community means so many things when it comes to parkrun. From the army of volunteers to the hundreds who turn up each week. Although I’ve taken part in such a small number, I think at every run I’ve ended up talking to one or more stranger. It could be about the weather or if we were happy with our times. Maybe to encourage someone who has stopped to walk, or to tell someone their laces are untied! I spent one run chatting away to a woman with two dogs. My time wasn’t very good but I had lots of fun.

I’ve seen colleagues from work, friends from school, and even my junior school teacher who first encouraged me to start running.

It’s great to see such a huge variety of people gathered together; different ages, abilities and backgrounds. All sharing in one common goal.

 

If you are a parkrunner, do you have anything else to add? If you aren’t, I hope I’ve convinced you to take it up in 2016. To find your nearest parkrun, check out the parkrun website

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Before my first parkrun. Don’t know why I looked so nervous!

 

 

My First Parkrun

My first Fit & Active post. On Saturday, I was up bright and early (nothing unusual there), I donned my running gear and drove to Burnley’s Towneley Park to take part in the phenomenon that is ‘parkrun’. It’s now nearly 6 months since Jude was born and I am slowly but surely trying to get back into shape. Let’s get this straight. I’m not an elite athlete, but I’m not a novice runner either. Confession: I ran a marathon once, so I do have some running experience. However over the last few years I haven’t been in the habit of running regularly. So I’ve decided to do something about it.

If you haven’t heard about parkrun before, let me enlighten you (if you have, skip to the next paragraph!). Starting in 2004, parkrun was set up as a weekly 5k timed race for local runners in Bushy Park, London run by volunteers. Over the next few years it expanded to different locations in the UK with everyone meeting at the same time, 9am on a Saturday morning. Eleven years on, parkrun now takes place in a 10 other countries including South Africa, Russia and the USA and is still run by volunteers.

Anyone can sign up and register. It takes a few minutes on the parkrun.org website and then you are emailed your personal ID along with a barcode. In order to take part you just have to turn up with your printed barcode. Thanks to my crafty mother, mine is even laminated! Once registered, you can take part in any parkrun … in the world!

There are hundreds of events in the UK alone, and in my locality (the North West) there are over 30 to choose from. Although my local event is Pendle, I chose the Burnley parkrun which is just a few miles further away because a) it attracts more runners (so it’s easier to get lost in the crowd), b) I know the park really well having walked, run and played there both as a child and parent and c) it is a slightly easier route.

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Towneley Hall

Towneley Park is a beautiful location. Locals refer to it as the jewel in Burnley’s crown. On a sunny and ever so slightly chilly Saturday morning, it didn’t disappoint. I parked up and as my husband recommended, just followed the crowd of runners. I had that nervous feeling in my tummy walking up the ‘avenue’ to Towneley Hall. Initially it seems as though everyone looks like an A grade, Olympic standard athlete. Whilst there were some very lean and fit people there, on looking around a bit I saw a few more runners like myself – slightly shabby running gear (you know the cheap stuff from Sports Direct) and maybe carrying a bit of extra weight around the middle!

There were a couple of announcements before the race got underway. Because the course route has recently changed, one person gave a quick explanation to us newbies and anyone who hadn’t run it before. The person in charge (or the one with the megaphone at least!) then announced the pace runners. These were 6 volunteer runners with bright yellow tabards and numbers on the back, representing the time they were going to complete the course in – 20, 22, 24, 26, 28 and 30 minutes. I completely ignored everyone except the 30 minute pace runner – there was no way I was getting anywhere near the others.

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At the start. My slightly nervous smile!

Before I knew it, the sound went to signal the start of the race. And we were off! I kept to the back and just settled down to follow everyone. I am not a fast runner by any stretch of the imagination. I can sprint, but only for about 20 metres maximum. I would call myself a plodder. I am the person you might drive past on the road and feel a bit sorry for, thinking I have been running for an hour (when in fact it has been 10 minutes). Anyway I decided not to go hell for leather and instead settled into my ploddy pace.

The race is about 2 ½ loops of the same route. This means that approximately 7 minutes in, the slower runners (like me) start to see the much faster runners on their way back towards us, already having doubled the distance we have run. It could be slightly demoralising. However I pretended they were just super-humans and ‘normal’ me put my head down and plodded on.

I won’t bore you with every inch of the race. Suffice it to say that I finished. Not in the most spectacular time, but I finished all the same. And I was happy. Happy to get off the mark and get my first parkrun under my belt. I received my timing chip and handed my barcode (in all its laminated glory) to be scanned. I knew it wouldn’t be till later on that day that I would find out my time and position in the race.

As I was walking to the car park, I bumped into my old primary school teacher. He was always one of my favourite teachers and actually encouraged me to run at the age of 8. I reminded him that he would take a group of us cross country running in the dead of winter in the pouring rain. We gave up our lunchtimes willingly and voluntarily! I felt slightly embarrassed when on discussing the race he told me he had completed it in around 24 minutes. The guy is almost twice my age! I knew that I was a good 7 or 8 minutes behind that.

A couple of hours later I received a text message. My time was 31 minutes and 32 seconds. Not bad I guess for a first effort. My aim was around 30 minutes, so I wasn’t too far behind. I now I can focus on beating that in races to come. As well as the text, there is a webpage with all the day’s statistics. You can see how many took part (254), your position (176th), the winner (not me) and their time (17 minutes 12 seconds!!!!). I could also see that there were 100 women who took part and I was 52nd (hmm not bad). You can also see every other runner’s statistics if you are bored and want to look at that level of detail (I did …. Just for a nosey and research purposes obviously!).

So that was it, my first parkrun complete. I am hoping, childcare permitting, to do many more. Actually, if I had one of those fancy off-road buggies, I could take Baby Rainbow Jude with me, but I don’t. Children are welcome too. I know someone who takes her 7 year old (and he gets a better time than me), but under 11’s have to be under adult supervision at all times. Maybe I’ll wait until Dylan is a bit older, and in the meantime concentrate on smashing the 30 minute barrier!

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