Best guest blog ever: Okanagan parkrun (by @abradysis)

When my evil twin*, abradypus, posted a Facebook link to the new Canadian parkruns, and tagged me in it, my heart sank. I was going to have to get up off my couch and drive an hour to do a parkrun, and I only had 11 days to psych myself up. I have managed to avoid them so far, citing a lack of local runs to join, but it looked like that excuse was off the table. An hour is no barrier to a parkrun tourist like she-who-thinks-nothing-of flying-off-to-Iceland-or-Poland-or Canada-for-a-quick-jaunt-around-a-park.

I am not a runner, so I told her I would walk it. I checked out the times of the last finishers on various parkruns, and decided that I might be able to keep up, and started the couch to 5k training plan. I trotted off on week one, only to realize that at the end of the 30 mins, I had only gone 3.1k. New plan required. For week 2, I finished the podcast, then walked to make up the 5k. 53 minutes. I then tried doing 2 podcasts back to back, with the 90 sec run/ 2 min walk cycles, and managed to get down to 46 mins. Still slowest than the last finishers. Hmmm. Checked the website, it says you can join in whatever your pace. I hope they know that I’m taking that to heart.

I turned up in plenty of time, and parked at the finish car park. I walked over to the race start and was there in plenty of time. I chatted to someone else who seemed to be there by herself, while looking around at the collection of very experienced fit people with lots of kit, and tried to remind myself that I knew I could make it round 5k. At 9am, the introductions started. 1st Canadian park run, very exciting, people from parkrun UK as well as the local organisers.

The start is under a bridge, for when it rains. No rain today however. 22 degrees, glorious sunshine. The route is on a gravel path along the side of Mission Creek, and there is plenty of shade, which is just as well. After going under the second bridge, I started to see people coming back towards me, so I was hopeful of reaching the turnaround spot, but it seemed very far away. On the way back, the route crosses to the other side, and other than the climb up and over one bridge, and under another, the path is more-or-less flat.

I don’t know my official time, because it hasn’t been posted yet, but I’m sure its a PB🙂


*Not actually my twin. I’m 19 months older than her. She is, however, Evil.

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Race report: Tooting Inverse Duathlon

The Tooting Inverse Duathlon is a strange creature.  It starts with a five mile ride that takes you along Merton High Street to the joy that is Cycle Superhighway 7.  You follow CS7 up to Tooting Bec Station before peeling right along Tooting Bec Road to Tooting Bec Common.  As it isn’t a closed road event, this leg is a little stop/start with traffic lights, but as this leg takes place in one of the 36 hours in the week when the red route is actually operational, the cycle superhighway is largely unencumbered with parked cars and about as pleasant to ride along as it ever gets.

At Tooting Bec Common you rack your bike at one of the two cycle hoops by Tooting Bec Café (make sure you’re in the lead group, because the next nearest cycle hoops are back at Tooting Bec Station, giving you the option of trying to find suitable railings or walking the last section of the route).  Once your bike is secured, you make your way back towards a large group of single sport athletes who are only interested in the second of the three legs – a 5km run (single sporters) or walk (multi sporters) around the common.

This second leg, three triangular laps on a mixture of tarmac and cinder paths, gets underway with a mass start.  It is extremely well marshalled, though getting lapped less than halfway round the first lap can be a little demoralising, as can hearing “nearly there” being called out to all the people on lap 3 while you are still on your second lap.  However, that aside, it’s an enjoyable enough experience.  At the end of this leg, you scan in at the mandatory checkpoint before catching your breath and refuelling at the café aid station.

Once you’ve refuelled, you return to your bike and set off on the third and final leg.  This follows the route of leg 1 as far as Merton Abbey Mills, giving you a great opportunity to experience CS7 outside the 36 hours of red route enforcement, when good weaving skills are essential as the bulk of the route has disappeared underneath parked cars.  Once at Merton Abbey Mills you peel off onto the Wandle Trail for a few hundred yards before joining a prime example of the London Cycle Network, with its dual features of intermittent signage and frequent slalom barriers.

My overall time for the event was a less-than-impressive 4 hours and 59 minutes as I discovered, at the end of an extremely entertaining refreshment stop, that I had lost my bike key somewhere on the common, so I had to beg a lift home, pick up my spare key, take the bus to Morden, the tube to Tooting Bec and then walk back to the café before I could start my final leg.

Despite its oddities, this is an event which I would happily repeat, though probably only if I could persuade others to join me for leg two.




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What a waste

Lakeland 100 has been my focus pretty much all year and with one misstep it has been taken away from me.

When I think of the time that I devoted to learning the terrain: the evenings at pretty much each and every Cumbrian YHA; the hours with my Peak District friends as I journeyed to and from the lakes; the days spent collecting Wainwrights.  

When I consider the outlay on kit: the fast pack for my 8 day course recce; the oh-so-comfortable new race pack; the shoes which have all but eliminated toe blisters.  

When I reflect on the people I’ve met: the parkrunner in Workington who was happy to share his tales of Lakeland 50 and 100; the staff and guests at the YHAs with their knowledge of and passion for the Lakes; the woman kind enough to offer a stranger a lift to and from her local parkrun.

All of that time, money and energy.*

What a complete and utter waste of** six months. 

* Pure, unadulterated joy***.

** Fabulous

*** With just a soupçon of terror thrown in.

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The picture of G Louise A

There’s a portrait of me in our attic.  It’s in the middle of a monumental hissy fit, has destroyed everything within touching distance and is looking around for more stuff to throw.

I’m hoping it finds what it needs because I re-sprained my ankle on Saturday and will not be running Lakeland 100.

The last time I sprained my ankle was about fifteen months ago in the run up to Paris marathon and the Centurion grand slam.  The physio was clear: it was a bad sprain and I risked serious damage if I ran on it.  My coach was equally clear: running on a sprained ankle might well be doable, if pain allowed, but twist it again before it had healed and I’d regret it.  I put my fingers over my ears, laced trainers over my ankle strapping and stuck to my plan.  I wanted my grand slam and ligaments be damned.

This time the situation is different. With less than two weeks until Lakeland, no amount of denial is going to make my ankle race worthy and if I don’t stop the rot now, next time could be far worse. This time I’m going to follow the physio’s advice*.  This time I’m going to address the underlying issue and commit to rehab exercises**. This time I’m going be sensible***.

Just so long as that portrait keeps screaming.

* One week at a time, bargaining all the way.

** Where have I heard that before?

*** I am not a onion of idiocy. I am not an onion of idiocy. I am not an onion of idiocy.

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Sittingbourne parkrun and the Black Ranscombe Challenge

It seemed like a stroke of genius at 3.14am.  My plan had a 30 mile full kit run on Sunday 10th July, and the Black Ranscombe Challenge on 9th July started at 4pm.  That meant that I could run 30 undulating miles with aid stations to test my race day nutrition and with the last hour in the dark to test my new head torch.  It was essentially what was in the plan, just 18 hours early, and it would cut out all the procrastination.  Of which there would probably be lots.

It seemed like a stroke of genius at 3.14am.  As I ran round Sittingbourne parkrun in the morning, with empty legs which made the essentially flat and firm course feel as though it were hilly and knee deep in treacle, I was less sure that the decision was a wise one.  As I sat in the pub catching up with a couple of tourists I haven’t seen for a while, the temptation to head home to doze in the hammock was tangible.

In the end what stopped me, aside from having to explain my decision to the ferocious Mr Elson* was that it was a challenge event.  Go home now and I forfeited my entry fee completely.  Run a single lap and I would at least get a few bars of chocolate and a can of beer for my troubles.

I bit the bullet and headed for race HQ, where the Summer Ranscombe  Challenge was in full flow.  I watched as runners came and went, wilting in the heat, and chatted as I waited to spot Kathy Brown, designer of the parkrun tourist Cow Cowl which has made touring a whole heap more sociable.


Kathy Brown – the mover and shaker behind the Cow Cowl

I’ll let you into a secret: I am a genius, at least I am at 3.14am.  7 undulating laps; 30.4 miles; kit, race day nutrition and new head torch tested.  The shorts I was thinking of wearing didn’t stand up to 7 hours of running (nether chafing had me walking like a cowboy by the time I made it home), my shoes are fine, my headtorch is great (but I need to make sure I pack it carefully so I don’t spend three swearing minutes trying to untangle the various strings) and with minimal loss of pace over the seven laps, I think my nutrition is as good as it’s going to get.  I survived the 14 separate encounters with herds of cows (2 herds, 7 laps, a gazillion glowing eyes), proved yet again that I’m perfectly happy with my own thoughts (though the repeated encounters with other runners on the out and back sections were very welcome) and can now settle down on the sofa with the cat with a clear conscience to enjoy the first day of my taper.

Job done.

* The Mr Elson in my head who bolsters my flagging mojo and gets me out the door with threats of dire consequences if I slack.  Not to be confused with the actual Mr Elson who merely clears his throat pointedly in the presence of sloth induced slacking.

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Aversion therapy

In the absence of a cat, I was able to overcome my morning slump and was out on the road by just after nine.  My plan, hastily cobbled together last night after reading the weather forecast, was to pick off the Wainwrights from Great Borne to Haystacks before picking up the Lakeland 100 route at Scarth Gap and dropping back down into Buttermere.  If all went to plan, I’d be off the tops before the rain set in.

As I made my way along the ridge, I passed a party of five teenage boys, each with a full rucksack bulging with camping equipment.  They chatted as they walked, and seemed to be having a reasonable time.  I spared them a thought as I picked my way down the end of the ridge and again as I clambered up Haystacks, glad I was sporting nothing more cumbersome than my running pack.

By the time I came down Haystacks, the rain had set in and the path was considerably slicker than it had been.  I’d just descended one of the disguised staircases* when I came across the party again.  I waited as they passed me, looking a little daunted by the scramble ahead.  “This is the worst day of my life”, said the last of them as he passed.

It broke my heart.

What muppet decided that the best way to introduce a new generation to the joy of the great outdoors and the beauty** of the Lake District was to say “Go out and experience it.  But be sure to start off with a full day expedition whatever the weather.  Oh and make sure you spend your nights under canvas.  And what ever you do don’t do circular routes from your base, but carry everything with you in a large, unwieldy pack because that’s the only way you’ll have an authentic experience.  Anything else is cheating.”?

My money’s on a muppet who wants to keep the Lake District to himself, because if even one of those kids returns it will be a miracle.

* it’s not a rock face, it’s a path.

** beautiful

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I’ve got a slump on.  I could quite happily ensconce myself on the youth hostel sofa and while away the day with a book.  I won’t, of course. There isn’t a cat. 

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