The parkrun Chrome extension

I love the parkrun Chrome extension so much I thought it deserved it’s own post(!)

I first heard saw people mentioning the extension on the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page about a month ago.  I refrained from downloading the extension for all of about 3 days before giving in and adding it to the desktop computer in our office.

I would strongly advise downloading it if you love challenges, data, stats and all things geeky from a running perspective, as I enjoy spending ages looking at how to tick off the next part of a challenge now!  It has definitely helped respark my enthusiasm for getting back out there on a Saturday morning again.

After you have downloaded the extension and first click through to your personal page, you are greeted with your name along with the number of events you have run and a whole host of badges underneath this information.

parkrun Chrome extension badges

Working from top-bottom, left-right my badges are as follows; 100+ events run, Strava user, tourist, New Year’s Day Double event, Bronze Level Obsessive (having run more than 30 parkruns during one year), Marshal, Tail Walker, Pacer, Photographer, Barcode scanner, UK event.

Underneath the badges a general overview of event times are given across all courses.

parkrun chrome extension overall statsI quite like that my best times between 2013-2018 have alternated between 26:xx and 28:xx each year!  It almost makes me not want to put any effort in at the remaining 2018 parkruns just to keep the pattern going!

After this comes the challenges, – the fun part!

First up, is the tourist challenge – one taken on by so many parkrunners already.  Once you reach 20 different events (I achieved this right at the start of the year), you can claim your Cow Cowl so that other parkrun tourists can spot you as you are out running different events, which I think makes for a great conversation starter.

Cowell club parkrun chrome extension challengesThe Cowell Club underneath is similar, but for the hardcore tourist – traveling to 100 different events or more.

The Alphabeteer Challenge is one that I’ve heard a few people take on recently, including Anna, who only has a couple more letters to tick off.

parkrun chrome extension alphabeteer challengeThere isn’t currently a parkrun starting with the letter ‘X’ so there are only 25 events to run to tick off this challenge.  Annoyingly, quite a lot of the events I’ve run have the same letter, so I’m not even halfway through this challenge yet.  (Kettering/Kings Lynn, March/Milton Keynes/Market Harborough, Wimpole Estate/Wolverhampton…)

The Single-Ton and Double-Ton challenges are all about completing 100/200+ events all at just the one course.

parkrun chrome extension singleton challengeI was surprised that I had completed 45 events at Northampton to be honest.  It felt like it took me forever to hit that magic 50 total events milestone a couple of years ago, and now I’ve run nearly that many just in Northampton!

Stopwatch Bingo is one of my favourite of the challenges.  The idea is to collect finishing times with all of the seconds between 00-59.

parkrun chrome extension Stopwatch Bingo challengeI’m only 11 away from completing this one but really annoyingly it’s not a challenge you can plan to complete, as there is no guarantee my Garmin time will match that precisely of the parkrun stopwatch!

The Pirates! and Stayin’ Alive challenges are just for a bit of fun.
Seven Cs and an R for the Pirates! challenge, and three Bs and three Gs for Stayin’ Alive.

parkrun chrome extension pirates challengeI’m slowly working my way through the Cs, but we have no Gs anywhere near where we live.  I think I might have to base our next holiday break around a G parkrun!

Compass Club is fairly self explanatory…running events which start with each each of the four compass points; North, South, East and West.

parkrun chrome extension Compass challengeObviously I’ve already ticked off Northampton, I guess South could be Southampton, East…Eastleigh?  West…Westmill?

The Full Ponty is about completing the three ‘Ponty*’ events, and Bushy Pilgimage is about heading down to complete the event where parkrun first began.

parkrun chrome extension the full pontyI’m not sure I’ll get to complete The Full Ponty, as all the Ponty runs are far away from me.  Bushy is also a fair distance to travel, but I would love to complete this event one day.  I know that it’s one of the largest (the largest?) of the parkrun events, with more than one finishing funnel there are that many runners.

The NYD Double – on New Year’s Day numerous parkruns across the country pair up to stagger the start times of their events, meaning that on that one day of the year you are able to run more than one event.

Groundhog Day – this award is given to someone who finishes a parkrun event in the same time for two back-to-back weeks in the same location!

parkrun chrome extension NYD double challengeRunning the NYD Double has become a bit of a tradition for me over the past few years.  I first heard about the double back in 2015 on New Year’s Eve after having already consumed a little too much drink and having already stayed up a little too late, but I’ve made it for the challenge the last three years.

I’m not sure Groundhog Day is even possible?!

Underneath this is displayed the Regionnaire Challenge; where every parkrun in the world is listed under different Region headings.

Some of the regions are quite large, and where I live is right in the middle of a couple of the regions, so I’m still a long way from completing any of these.  For example, I have only completed 9/65 events in the East of England region.

Next up, the Bronze, Silver and Gold Level Obsessive badges are for regular parkrunners who can commit to completing more than 30 (Bronze level), 40 (Silver) or 50 (Gold) events within a year.

parkrun chrome extension Bronze Level Obsessive challengeI think the Bronze Level is a fairly achievable challenge for me most years.  40 would be doable at a push, but I’m not sure I would be able to commit to 50 Saturday mornings in a year.  It’s too stressful parkrunning before rushing off to a wedding or Christening!

Just before displaying all of your personal event runs at the bottom of the page, your volunteer roles are shown.

parkrun chrome extension Volunteer challengeOne of my targets for this year was to volunteer more at parkrun and give something back to the lovely community.  I’ve already volunteered as pacer (30 minutes) and barcode scanner in 2018 and I’m looking forward to trying a few more of these roles out over the coming months.

Have you downloaded the Chrome extension?
Which is your favourite of the challenges?
Do you know anybody who has actually completed the Groundhog Day challenge?!

 

 

 

 

More parkrun tourism and the new Chrome extension

This year has been a bit of a weird one when it comes to running and racing.  Since starting weekend nightshifts last December I’ve had to turn all of my usual plans on their head.

It’s hard enough getting round for parkrun on a Saturday morning when you have a toddler, but when it comes on the back of a nine hour shift finishing at 7am…all I want to do is sleep!

Two weeks ago I wasn’t needed in work on the Friday night, as there were enough staff in already.  So I headed over to the fairly new parkrun in Northampton – Sixfields Upton.  The event started up just after Christmas and several of us have been holding back from going along too soon, so that the volunteer team weren’t rushed off their feet with large numbers of runners when the event was still in it’s early days.

The extra parkrun in town hasn’t seemed to affect numbers of runners at the Northampton Racecourse event though which still regularly hosts more than 500 runners on a Saturday morning.

Laura, Oscar and Me at the Sixfields Upton parkrun

Dan decided that he would also like to parkrun at Sixfields Upton as he wasn’t traveling back for a Wolves game that morning.  We took Oscar along in his buggy and walked over for the start of the event where we met Laura.  I’d worn road shoes as the parkrun website said that the event was held entirely on tracks and paths, but in actual fact it was incredibly boggy and muddy out there and I was a little upset that my super clean road shoes ended up covered in so much mud by the end of the event!  It also caused a few problems when runners refusing to go through puddles stopped dead in front of Oscar’s buggy.  It wasn’t just the occasional runner who stopped to daintily pick their way round the puddles so I had to really be on my toes.  A handful of runners even leaped back almost into us as water splashed up towards them.  I have no idea how I managed to not clip anybody with the front wheel of the buggy!!!

This was the state of my trainers and legs post run…(!)

Muddy legs after Sixfields Upton parkrun

It’s a very different event to the Northampton one, which is perfect.  Nobody wants two very similar events right next to each other!

I think I’ll probably stick to the original Northampton parkrun course on weekends when I run with Oscar though, as it was a little nerve-wracking trying not to bump into anybody on route with the buggy.

Laura, Oscar and Me at Sixfields Upton parkrunDespite starting from the back of the pack we glided past Dan with nearly a mile to go.  Oscar spotted Dan from way back and began shouting “Dadda!” in his direction.  Although this changed to baa-ing at sheep as we passed them instead.

Laura, Oscar and Me at the Sixfields Upton parkrun

Sneakily, Dan saved just enough for a sprint finish and pipped the three of us on the finishing straight.  We’ll beat him next time though!

Oscar and Me at the Sixfields Upton parkrun

Dan, Oscar and Me at Sixfields Upton parkrun

Official time: 31:34
Position: 147/238
Gender position: 44/106
Age category position: 11/17

Oscar then enjoyed a good forty minutes of kicking a football around the car park before we headed home to enjoy the rest of the day.

Oscar playing football in the car park

I had booked off this last weekend from my nightshift job.  Over the next few months I am also working as a coursework moderator for a GCSE exam board.  (Who needs one part time job when you can fit three in alongside life as a full time Mum?!)  As it will be my first year working as a moderator I was advised to attend a day-long course in Coventry before scripts for the 20 schools I’ve been assigned to start to come in for checking.

I was so excited to see that my course didn’t start until 10am on Saturday morning, and that the course location was less than 4 miles away from a parkrun I’d not run before!  I WILL tick off some more parkrun tourism this year, despite having run all parkruns within an hour radius of my house now!

It was super hot on the morning and even though I’d brought along a towel and packet of wet wipes I decided (already sweltering by 8:15am!) that I was going to just jog around the parkrun at at a 10mm pace so as not to get too sweaty for my meeting which followed.

Coventry parkrun

I ended up arriving super early (This really makes a change for me!) and so went for a lovely wander/explore of the park and off to find the toilets, which didn’t appear to be open.  I wasn’t desperate, so figured I’d be fine for another hour until I arrived at my course location.

Coventry parkrun is fairly similar in size to my local event, Northampton, although set in a much larger park.  Volunteers helpfully set out signs along the start lineup indicating where to stand in relation to the time you expected to finish in.  As the briefing had overrun slightly, we ended up heading down to the start a little late and so I decided to run at 9mm pace instead, figuring that I was going to get sweaty no matter what…better to be on time to my training course if I could be!  I ended up standing just behind the 28 minute board, although frustratingly heard two separate groups of runners declare that they would never run a 28 minute parkrun that day but at least they wouldn’t spend so much time weaving near the start if they started from that position.  In actual fact, I spent the first mile overtaking other runners, despite running at the correct pace for a 28 minute time.

Coventry parkrun start line

Interestingly I read somewhere that this year runners declared their goal time for Brighton Marathon during the expo, rather than when they initially signed up for the race, which was potentially a year earlier.  This a great idea as it reduces the number of people overoptimistic (or underoptimistic) about their finishing times, already knowing how their training has gone for the race before finalising their goal.

The Coventry course is a really flat one with a tiny hill at the far end of the park, and a long, very gradual downhill which follows.  It’s easy to get into a rhythm and the course never felt too busy, despite the overtaking at the start.

By the last mile I really needed a wee, and on scanning my barcode had to race off to the now-open toilets before rushing back to my car.

Official time: 28:40
Position: 331/675
Gender position: 62/273
Age category position: 30/83

Typically I then took a wrong turn when driving to the training course and then as I burst through the doors with two minutes to spare I was met by a rather unhelpful receptionist who not only couldn’t find me on the list because I’d stated ‘Computing’ instead of ‘ICT’, but proceeded to send me to the wrong room after I’d changed out of my running gear and having hurriedly wet wiped the sweat from my face!  The course lecturer found me wandering the corridors ten minutes later looking for the correct room, blaming the receptionist for telling me the wrong location!
I had a very enjoyable day learning about how the coursework moderation system works.  I do love learning and miss being in a classroom environment so often since finishing my last teaching position.

I’m working again this weekend and Dan is away on the Saturday but I’m already eyeing up my next spot of parkrun tourism for the following week.  The parkrun Chrome Extension isn’t helping my addiction…!

I plan on writing about the Chrome extension in more detail at some point (I’m on the computer at my Dad’s house tonight) but it is just so addictive!

How many different parkrun events have you run?
Do you ever run before work/meetings?

Summer has finally arrived and changes to my race plans

The hundred miler I entered last year is now seven weeks away…Seven weeks!

But first, how absolutely lovely is it to finally have full on sunshine after so many weeks of doom and gloom and all that heavy snow in March?!

Oscar and I had a day out planned at a sand and water outdoor area a few miles away today but my car wouldn’t start this morning so I had to check it in at the garage – crushing our plans for the morning.  Although we couldn’t make it to the water park we did still make time to get outside in the garden this morning where Oscar happily held my hand for a good twenty minutes whilst stirring various sticks through the weed in our garden pond!

Oscar by the pondOscar by the pondWe have big plans for our garden this year.  When we bought our house three years ago we didn’t have a child, but our garden is definitely not one I would describe as child friendly at the moment.  (See picture below.)

New house garden(Picture taken just before we moved in to the house – long before the garden became overgrown with weeds and the bushes grew out of control!)

Our pond definitely needs a cover on it now that Oscar is toddling around and we hope to remove the monkey puzzle tree which has grown out of control at the back of the garden, putting everything to the right of the path to grass for Oscar to play on.  Wish me luck.  It’s going to be a big job over the next few months whilst trying to keep a very active toddler busy!

Bella joined us outside earlier and rolled around in the sunny patches on the brickwork most of the morning!

Bella in the garden

I can’t wait to get some sunshine trail miles in and Dan has promised that when he gets home from work this evening the three of us can head out on a family run with Oscar in the running buggy.

Dan, Oscar and I on a buggy run togetherDan said that he would like to get some more running in the other week and now that the nights are lighter again as long as we head straight out as soon as he returns home from work (6:20pm-ish) we can fit 5-6 miles in before getting Oscar ready for bed.  We went for our first family evening run together the week before I ran SDW50 and it was so nice to spend time together as a family whilst I was getting some miles in my legs.  Oscar loves being out in the buggy with both of us and you can hear him constantly singing away and pointing things out that he can see along his ride!

I did have my alarm set for another 5am wakeup call this morning, but a late night last night and backlog of lack of sleep over the past six months meant that my miles this morning needed to be replaced by an extra hour of sleep, so snoozed my alarm and rolled over for another hour instead.

I have arranged to meet up with a few other ladies from the Run Mummy Run Facebook group for some early morning runs over the coming weeks and I’m hoping this will help to encourage me to get out for some of my miles first thing in the day.  I much prefer running in the mornings and feel so much better for it for the rest of the day then.  The poor weather and dark nights has meant that my early morning runs have been mainly on the treadmill this Winter, and there’s nothing more depressing than a solo treadmill run in a silent, dark house when you’re feeling tired!  I’m looking forward to being able to chat running once more!

Dan has also promised that he will ask at work if he can adjust his hours for a Thursday – meaning that he will start and finish earlier, giving him time to get home and take over Oscar from me, allowing me to get out on a club run in time.  I’ve really missed running with other club runners since Dan has been at this job and I would love to be able to get back out there again.

So, back at the end of last year when I sat down with my race calendar for 2018, achieving a marathon PB and completing a 100 mile ultra were the two big goals right at the very top of my list.

Fast forward a few months and I am now less than three weeks away from running the Milton Keynes Marathon and less than eight weeks away from the South Downs Way 100.

Following my performance at the SDW50 a fortnight ago I feel fully prepared for the 100.  It was a real confidence boost that I achieved a time I hadn’t thought I was capable of, even though I didn’t actually ‘race’ the 50 event, slowing in places as I was concerned my calf injury might reappear.  Touch wood, all being well, I am feeling fairly confident of completing the 100 at the start of June, provided no outsider issues ruin the day – heat, nutritional, etc.  I’ve been talking tactics and times with some of the guys from my club who have finished the SDW100 in the past and every time it’s mentioned I can feel my excitement about the event continue to grow!

The marathon is a different ball game though.
Ultramarathons are all about tactics – getting your nutrition right and keeping moving, knowing which sections to walk and where to pick up the pace.  Road marathons are a more pressured environment and can be time-driven.  My continuous runs haven’t been very continuous and I haven’t completed as many longer runs as I would have liked throughout this training cycle.  The plan I roughly put together for this training cycle was based very loosely on the Hanson’s Marathon Method and I am certain that this is a plan I would do well using when training solely for a marathon, – I just haven’t had the full opportunity to do so yet!  Last year I ended up traveling back to Norfolk to visit my Mum several times during each week and this time round the plan could never have my full focus as the bigger goal has always been about running 100 miles.

I want a sub 4h 30m marathon this year, but I don’t think I will achieve that at Milton Keynes next month, and I don’t want to break myself by trying.  I no longer plan on tapering for the marathon and instead plan to treat it as a long training run (with other people, and a shiny new medal!).  I have been running strongly on my runs, and so, (with a current marathon PB I am aware doesn’t do my running justice) know that a new PB is perhaps possible even if I don’t ‘race’ the event as such.  But if not, that’s OK too.  My new target for the sub 4h 30m marathon is going to be a marathon at the end of September/start of October (still to decide which one) meaning I will be able to focus on solid training purely for the marathon over the Summer months when I won’t be persuaded to run other races (as it will be out of race season) and when I will be able to run outside rather than on the treadmill for the majority of my runs as it is already light by 6am in the mornings.

Have you changed your goal races for the season before?
Do you prefer Summer or Winter running?
How is your garden currently looking after such a rough Winter?

A tightening for GFA London marathon times

I have serious marathon envy at the moment.  April is the month of the year in terms of marathon running.  It’s the when London hosts one of the six World Marathon Majors and everybody in the country becomes interested in running and marathons, whether they run themselves or not!

I’ve had so much fun tracking everybody’s marathon adventures online over the weekend at Brighton and Boston.  So many amazing times being achieved!  I’m not sure I can wait until May when my marathon rolls round!

Obviously there are so many other great marathon events to be enjoyed.  It’s not all about London, despite what some people might think!  I have heard the phrase “I’d run a marathon one day if I can run London.” so many times from non runners.  I was lucky enough to gain a place in my running club VLM ballot and take part in the race in 2014 and really enjoyed my experience, much more than I ever expected to.  I’m really glad I did get the opportunity to run London that year as I’m not sure if I will have another chance now that there have been so many changes made to the way runners gain a place for the event.

The most popular form of entry for seasoned runners is via Good For Age entry.

New times have been released today which runners must achieve in order to gain a ‘Good for Age’ (GFA) entry to the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2019.

London Marathon Good For Age (GFA) times 2019(Image taken from the VMLM website)

The main changes appear to affect men wishing to qualify.  As a senior male you would now need to run a marathon starting with a 2:xx:xx in order to take up a spot using this entry system.  As a runner at a large running club, just six of our members ever have run a sub 3 hour marathon.  Several of the age categories have also been split down further than in previous years.  For example, a female falling into the Women Age 40-49 category would have had to achieve a sub 3:50 time in order to receive a guaranteed GFA place at London next weekend.  This category has now been split between 40-44 (sub 3:50) and 45-49 (sub 3:53).

Another big change, probably even more noteworthy than the actual qualifying times is that achieving these times no longer guarantees you a spot at the London Marathon the following year.  There are a maximum of 3,000 female GFA spots and 3,000 male GFA spots available for the 2019 event.  If more than 6,000 runners apply for a GFA position, then ‘the qualifying time will be reduced evenly across the age group categories listed above until 3,000 runners of that gender are accepted’.  Meaning that you may have worked super hard to achieve a 3:44 qualifying marathon time as a senior female runner, only for the goalposts to be moved after you have submitted your entry, due to high numbers of other runners also applying for a place and you may not actually end up with a race place at all.

Another change is that although as in previous years you will still be able to defer your GFA place by a year if unable to take your place up for the year you originally entered, you will most likely have to prove you are still capable of running a GFA time.  The qualifying period moves to the January of the year before you run the race.  So, for example – You run a marathon in a GFA time in December 2017, granting you a GFA place in April 2019.  You wind up injured so defer your place, but the race you qualified at is no longer in the qualifying time period before London 2020, as this will become 1st January 2018 – 12th August 2019.  You can keep your guaranteed deferred position, but only if you run another qualifying marathon time before August 2019.
I can see this rule hitting women much harder than men.  I know several female runners who have qualified for a GFA position, but then deferred their place when they have fallen pregnant.  It might then be potentially much harder for these women to bounce back quickly enough to prove still worthy of a GFA place.

Like last time changes were made to the entry requirements it seems these changes have come at the wrong time for many.  Right in the thick of marathon season, when runners have set target times at races in order to achieve a GFA entry to London Marathon for 2019.  Running 5-10 minutes faster than planned when you are talking about marathon times of just 3 hours is actually a huge difference and I imagine plenty of runners will blow up trying to achieve times they haven’t trained for, or hit their original targets which now fall short of gaining a guaranteed place in next year’s event.

Several runners may have already run their target Spring Marathon by this point and achieved what they thought to be a qualifying time, but now no longer is.

The VMLM website advises that due to the new changes, all hopeful runners of the event also make sure to enter into the general ballot when it opens at the end of the month, as unless they have run a marathon a large chunk under the qualifying time for their age category they will not be guaranteed a place for 2019.

It has been incredibly difficult to enter London Marathon via the general ballot in recent years.  In 2015, the ballot system for the 2016 event changed.  In previous years, the ballot for the following year opened a week after that year’s marathon had finished and remained open until 125,000 wannabe runners had entered their names into the metaphorical hat.  In 2015 though, the lottery system changed and the ballot entry system remained open for five whole days, meaning that in total, twice as many (247,069) wannabes were in the hat ready for the draw to take place months later for even less places in the race.  The VMLM website stated that this change was made to reflect the large number of people previously unable to enter due to ‘religious holidays, shift work, family commitments and other reasons’.

In total, there are 50,000 places issued for the race each year.  (Apparently just 35,000 of this number make it to the start line on race day for one reason or another.)

This number accounts for ballot entries, the high number of charity entries, elites and the list of Good For Age (GFA) and Championship start runners.  Basically, your chances of getting in through the ballot are very small indeed.  Allegedly the quality of runners we have in the UK has increased substantially over recent years and so a few years back, the GFA guidelines were tightened and have now been tightened once more.

London marathon medal 2014

I won my 2014 place through my running club ballot.  Every affiliated running club in the UK is issued a number of ballot places dependent upon the number of runners in their club.  In the past, our club had always been allocated four places, but in 2015, despite membership numbers increasing, we were offered just three and this year we were down to 2 places.

VLM number

The most common way to gain a place in the London Marathon has become via a charity place.  I hope to run for a cancer charity in 2019 – a decision I made last year, long before all of these recent changes had been announced.  Running for charity isn’t something that is accessible to all though.  As a regular runner with a couple of jobs and a young family I know that I would struggle to find the additional time to fundraise alongside training on back-to-back years.  I will need to be creative in my fundraising.  Having run several ultramarathons (hopefully including also a 100 mile event by next year) people aren’t going to be so willing to dig into their pockets just to sponsor me to run the race.

So, there we have it.  I’ve rambled on a lot about the Good For Age changes, but in all honesty they don’t really affect me a huge amount.  The only hope I ever have of running a GFA place is if I am accidentally entered as a 65 year old.  I might stand a chance then!

As it’s a long while until I turn 65 I’ll be checking out some other UK marathons to add to my bucket list for the next couple of years.  Chester is currently sounding really appealing for the Autumn…

Have you run the London Marathon before?
What do you make of the new changes to entry for 2019?
If you have run a marathon before, which was your favourite?