Poorly planned parkrun tourism

I’m working 10pm-7am every Friday night for the next month so any chances to fit in some parkrun tourism are going to be few and far between over the next few weeks. Last weekend was the last Wolves game of the season though, meaning that I should hopefully be able to fit in some more local parkruns again as there is no longer a need to rush back from work to nap before Dan travels back for the football on a Saturday lunchtime.

I had been dreading last weekend. Dan had prewarned me that he would need to leave early for the Wolves game on Saturday, as it was due to be a big turnout for the last game of the season. He would also be home later than usual, – after 8pm.  Cutting into my nap times at both ends of the day!

I try to sleep for an hour or so before getting ready for work to try and get me through the night, which does help somewhat, and can usually manage 2-3 hours of sleep the following morning before taking over with Oscar, but working weekend nightshifts is still far from an ideal situation at the moment.  (Especially as it’s stopping me from booking some of the races I want to enter at the moment too!)

I rocked up to work at 10pm on Friday night as usual. After my hour long nap before work on the first nightshift of the week I always struggle to get out of bed. It takes me a little while to fall asleep on Friday evenings as I will have usually slept normally the night before. When my alarm goes off at 8:40 I always end up snoozing it for five minutes and end up having to really drag myself out of bed when that second alarm cries out.

My manager was late in this week. When he arrived I nodded my head in his direction and carried on working the cream aisle which I tend to work on a Friday night. He made his way over and whispered “You’re not supposed to be in tonight!”  I was so sure I was and as we headed down to the office to check the rota I scrolled through the photos on my phone and found the picture I’d taken the previous month showing my hours.  I WAS due to work that night!  However I wasn’t on the main rota displayed in the office.
My manager said I was welcome to stay and work but that the department was already fairly well staffed for that night so I offered to go home, trading the inconvenience of me coming in for a shift I didn’t work for next Sunday off from work, as I’d forgotten to book off the night before Milton Keynes Marathon, which could have been interesting!  As it is, I’m still working Friday and Saturday night next weekend, then traveling to Norfolk for the christening of a friend’s baby on the Sunday afternoon.  Then returning to Northants on Sunday evening as I need to be in Milton Keynes by 9am on Monday to have my photo taken as one of the Milton Keynes Marathon ambassadors. (Why is my life always so busy and manic?!)

But, not working on Friday night this weekend meant that at least I would be able to fit in some tourism before the craziness of the next few weeks hits.  I had spoken to Laura earlier on the Friday who had mentioned that she was going to the fairly new Luton parkrun course to tick off some more parkrun tourism the following day.  After clocking out from work and before heading home I quickly typed ‘Luton parkrun’ into Google and saved the details for the following day, dropping Laura a quick message to say that I was no longer working and would join her at the Luton event.

I actually ended up not getting to bed until 11:30pm.  Oscar has had a bit of a cold this week and then woke at about 4am for half an hour or so, just wanting a cuddle.  He went back to bed without issue and was still sleeping when my alarm went a little later at 6:45am.

As I’m so used to doing now I took my running clothes downstairs and changed in the kitchen, messaging Laura to say I was on my way.

The Luton Wardown parkrun course is about an hour away from me but having not been there before, and not being the best at following directions I wanted to leave plenty of time to get there.  I arrived with lots of time to spare, hopping out of my car just after 8:30am.  I messaged Laura to let her know that I had arrived first.  (This NEVER happens!  I’m usually the one legging it over to the start line just in time to cross the line as someone is shouting ‘GO’!)  Laura replied to say that her satnav had broken so she had had to stop and pull up the directions on her phone but would be there shortly.

I found the toilets (nicest toilets I’ve been to at a parkrun before) and decided to run a warmup mile whilst I waited for Laura to arrive as the weather was pretty miserable – wet and chilly.

Following all the other runners I headed down towards the start, keeping an eye out for Laura on my way.  Still no sign of her.  I really hoped she’d managed to find it OK.  The briefing didn’t begin until 9am and I pushed my way through the group to try and spot Laura in the crowds.  Still couldn’t see her!

The briefing lasted a little while as there were several runners completing milestone parkruns and there was also information given about #runforMatt – an organised 0.6 miles following the parkrun to make up the mileage to 3.7 miles – the distance Matt Campbell had been from the finish line when he died at the London Marathon the previous weekend.  Everyone cheered for the 156th event and then we made our way down to the start line.

I’d spotted on the Luton Wardown Facebook page that the last Saturday of each month was their official pacer parkrun event and they had a large number of Pacers advertised for the run between 23-36 minutes. I had been feeling rather weary all week so decided to slot myself between the 29 and 30 minute pacers and just run a comfortable pace throughout.

Luton Wardown parkrun

 

(Photo from the Luton Wardown Facebook page)

It wasn’t until I was a mile in to the run that it clicked that the Race Director had mentioned it being the 156th event that day.  I remembered that Laura had said the parkrun event she had been going to this weekend had only been running for a few months and suddenly realised that there must be two parkruns in Luton and that Laura must have gone to the other one!  Whoops!  (In actual fact she had gone to Houghton Hall, just 3.9 miles up the road!)

The Luton Wardown course is three and a bit laps, with a quite long, gradual hill up a muddy slope which you run up four times in total.  It definitely isn’t a PB course!  On my second lap the guy in first place (wearing a London marathon t-shirt from the previous weekend) lapped me. I think seven runners lapped me before I began my final lap. I also began lapping people on my second lap as well.

Luton Wardown parkrun

(Photo from the Luton Wardown Facebook page)

I’m not a massive fan of several-lap courses but it is nice knowing where the hills are going to pop up and where to expect marshals/support on the way round.

The 29 minute pacer was still far into the distance as I completed my third lap. I glanced down at my watch to see that I would still finish a fair way under 29 minutes, but gave a final kick anyway.

Official time: 28:42
Position: 119/284
Gender position: 20/121
Age category position: 3/11

The weather had remained fairly miserable throughout. That horrible kind of drizzly rain where you end up feeling soaked despite barely noticing the rain coming down at the time.

This was my 107th parkrun and 23rd different course. I was hoping for another tick at Stopwatch Bingo but it wasn’t to be!

Wearing my cow cowl at Luton Wardown parkrun

My cow cowl had arrived earlier in the week though, so I made sure to wrap it around my wrist to indicate that I was a tourist.  I didn’t spot any others out there on the day, but I’m looking forward to spotting some more tourists at events now that I have my cowl too.

Wearing my cow cowl at Luton Wardown parkrun

If you have a cow cowl, how do you wear yours?
Have you ever (not) met someone at the wrong location before?!
Did you take part in the #runforMatt 3.7 miles at the weekend?

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?

A dizzy spell at parkrun

Last Saturday was my friend Laura’s 100th parkrun.  I had been given the Friday and Saturday night off from work that week in order to not be overtired for the Oakley 20 race that I had booked in on Sunday, so decided that I would volunteer at parkrun instead to support my friend.

Since working night shifts I’ve found it difficult to fit in a parkrun on a Saturday morning.  It involves changing in the back of my car, hanging around from 7am until 9am (or getting a few extra miles in before parkrun first), then rushing home to collect Oscar from Dan so that he can travel to Wolverhampton for the football at lunchtime.  The sensible head that rarely surfaces in me knows that it makes much more sense to head straight home following my night shift so that I can get a couple of hours sleep before Dan leaves and I am left in charge of an energetic toddler on my own for the day(!) so this is what I’ve been doing lately.  (Although I can’t wait until I can finish working nights and get back to parkrunning every week again!)

One of the volunteer roles I have always wanted to have a go at is barcode scanning.  It’s something a bit different to marshaling, which I have done so much of in the past.  I want to try out several different volunteer roles this year, and so when I spotted that there was still space for a barcode scanner last week, I put my name forward.  Last year, with a new baby I ended up not volunteering at all for parkrun.  I know when I first signed up to the event several years ago it was suggested that every parkrunner volunteered three times per year in order that the events could go ahead, so I felt a little bad that I was unable to help out as much as I would like.  This year I’m hoping to top up my list of volunteering roles and give something back again for all the support I received in being able to get out each week when I had a young baby.

To date I have volunteered in the following roles; marshal (twice), tail walker, pacer, photographer (twice) and now also barcode scanner.

It was a ridiculously cold day last Saturday, with The Beast from the East V2 on it’s way to Northamptonshire later that evening.  I wore my duvet(!) (a thick Superdry coat) over the top of several layers, along with stone jeans and a pair of gloves.  My body didn’t feel too cold with all of the layers on, but my fingers did start to lose feeling after a little while.

As well as running her 100th event that morning Laura had also volunteered to give the 1st timer briefing.

Laura and I volunteering at Northampton parkrunI was rather glad that I could keep my layers on after the briefing and clapped rather vigorously once the runners set off in order to try and keep my hands nice and warm.

I collected my barcode scanner and bucket, and appreciated being mistaken for one of the several Duke of Edinburgh students who had also volunteered that week.  So glad that I can still pass as someone 18 years younger than I actually am(!)

The first runner stormed through the finish after 17 minutes but problems with a dodgy printer meant that his barcode wouldn’t scan so we had to get his number jotted down the old fashioned way with pen and paper instead.  There were four of us on barcode scanning duty and so things were a little slow for me to begin with, but soon runners began flooding my way and I really enjoyed being able to chat to each one and congratulate them on their run as I scanned their barcodes.  Laura came through in just over 30 minutes and went to collect the tub of sweets she’d brought along to celebrate her 100th event.  She passed me a mini pack of Haribo Fangtastics and I continued to scan barcodes but I was very conscious that I was losing the feeling completely in my fingers.  I have Raynaud’s syndrome, losing the feeling in the tips of my fingers on both hands during the Winter months.  This isn’t normally an issue when I run as I find my hands heat up very quickly as I gain pace, but outside of running I find it hard to get them warm again.

Raynaud's syndrome - fingers(This is a picture of my right hand an hour after finishing marshaling duties – you can see that the tip of my index finger is still bright white!)

I bunched up the fingers of my left hand inside my glove to try and keep them warm which definitely helped, but I was unable to do the same with my right hand as, being right-handed I was using this hand to operate the scanner.

I started to feel a bit light-headed.  When I was younger I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope.  This basically means that I am prone to collapsing from triggers which are usually within my control.  If I worry myself over something or think about something I don’t like for a period of time, my body reacts by passing out.  I also pass out by if I am stood still for a long period of time as my blood will settle and not pump around the body very efficiently.  Combine the two factors and it’s a guaranteed blackout for me!  Dan and I went to see Stereophonics several years ago and things were fine until I realised that I had stood for quite a long while in the middle of a bunch of other fans with no way of getting out to sit down should I need to!

I couldn’t get how cold I was out of my head and began to worry that I had been stood still for too long, so I started to become restless and began tapping my feet.  I ripped into my packet of sweets, partly to try and distract myself from my thoughts and partly to up the sugar in my system.  I grabbed Laura and told her that I felt really nauseous and a little dizzy and said I needed to rest against the closest tree for a little while, but Laura must have seen the blood drain from my face and suggested she help me to the nearby bench instead.  As she helped guide me towards the bench I started to begin losing my sight – with tunnel vision and under-the-water echoy sounds, launching towards the side of the bench before I collapsed and cursing myself for wearing light coloured jeans on a day when it was actually muddy and there was a good chance that I might not make it to the bench!  I grasped onto the side of the bench and Laura called out for help.  Somehow a couple of other runners/marshals helped me onto the bench where I managed to lay out and slowly my vision and hearing returned to normal.

Several parkrunners stopped by to check that I was OK and see if there was anything that they could do to help.  Lovely people offered me lifts home and to help get me to my car and all along all I could think about was how much I was letting everyone down by not being able to finish the final 5 minutes of scanning and helping to clear away after the event!  The Run Director’s wife turned out to be a nurse so she came over and I tried to sit up.  I had intended on getting straight up and then heading back to my car but in actual fact it took me rather longer than I thought to adjust to just sitting up and so she told me that I wasn’t to drive home, but to call Dan to collect me instead, and then she insisted on walking me to Magee’s for a hot drink whilst I waited.  I couldn’t stop apologising.  Everybody was so lovely.

Magee Street hot chocolate

After my lie down and a hot chocolate from Magee’s I felt a fair bit better but I did take it easy the rest of the day and was very grateful that I was not due to work that evening.

It’s rubbish feeling rubbish!

What is your favourite parkrun volunteering role?
Do you suffer with Raynaud’s?
  It seems to be more and more common now.
Have you ever passed out before?