Part 1: parkrun
There was only one place to be this parkrunday. Anyone who was anyone would be there. Richard McChesney, ED of the first New Zealand parkrun, was running his 250th parkrun; Colin Brassington was returning from injury to run his 200th; Jonathan Pegg was also clocking up his 200th run; and even King Danny was rumoured to be putting in an appearance.
Where was this parkrun hotspot? The brand new parkrun at Maidenhead.
So where did I go? Cassiobury event number 4. Where I had an absolute blast.
It wasn’t without its hiccoughs. I met Vanessa on the tube and we arrived in Watford with time to spare. Or so we thought. We ambled off in the direction of the loos only to find that they don’t open until 10:30am in Winter. Eeek! A mad dash back to Watford station to use their facilities was followed by an anxious run back to the start line (at the far end of the park), watching the assembled runners and hoping that they stayed put for long enough for us to get there. We made it by the skin of our teeth just as the run briefing was concluding, and before we’d had the chance to catch our breath, we were off.
For me, Cassiobury was going to be miles 1 to 3 of a 17 miler*, so I set off gently and chatted all the way around, appreciating the maraca-wielding marshal, the beautiful setting, the not-quite-flat-tarmac course and the company of strangers. As we started lap two (of two and a large half), a woman** coasted past followed about a minute later by a succession of speedy looking men. We resisted the urge to chase them*** and settled down to enjoy the last lap.
Once we’d finished, Vanessa and I headed off to the café with the lady**** I’d been chatting to all the way around the parkrun. I stretched out my mug of hot chocolate for as long as possible, took advantage of the facilities and then headed off towards the canal for my extra miles.
* I’d planned ahead, and had permission to enjoy a hot chocolate between parkrunning and longrunning.
** Claire Hallissey. 26 parkruns at 13 different venues. Sub-17 at Cardiff. Sub-20 everywhere but Tring. Coo!
*** It wasn’t difficult.
**** Melissa. Post-parkrun results stalking wins again.
Part 2: Cassiobury to Hayes & Harlington along the Grand Union Canal
What can I say? It was pretty, unrelentingly flat (barring a couple of steep bridges), largely firm underfoot, navigationally simple (one road crossing in 16 miles), and had so many public transport links that I could have bailed at miles 2, 4, 8, 11 or 14. I won’t say I wasn’t tempted, as my brief was to run miles 9 to 14 at sub-marathon pace and my legs were more than a little unhappy with the idea, but I did manage to talk them into submission with promises of a whole day on the sofa* and they pretty much delivered in the end.
* Lies. I’d a four hour run to get them out on the following day.
Part 3: Harting Downs to Cocking and beyond (and back again)
After clocking up 19 miles on Saturday, the last thing I fancied today was a four hour hilly run, even with the lure of walking* the climbs. Fortunately, my desire to write “Done” in my training plan overcame my inertia and I was rewarded with a glorious day out on the South Downs.
There was sunshine, there were great views**, there was minimal wind, and there were enough horse-riders, runners, cyclists and walkers out to keep it interesting without being cluttered. And just as 2 1/2 hours ticked up and I was thinking “Oh no, I still have an hour and a half to go”, there was a chance encounter with Chalky, pacing impatiently in a car park, who asked me to keep an eye out for three walkers with a black Labrador and to please tell them to get a move on if I saw them. It’s amazing how much more quickly 20 minutes passes when you’re focussing on passing pedestrians rather than on your feet!
* Sorry. Power hiking.
** And I even noticed a couple of them.