Just another parkrun

Yesterday I ran at Oak Hill parkrun where my sister Cathy is a regular. We had planned to run it together anticipating that it would be her 50th parkrun, but unfortunately life intervened and it was actually her 49th parkrun overall (and 41st at her home run). So, just another parkrun.

This was my 40th parkrun and my 4th at Oak Hill. I first ran at Oak Hill in October 2012, in just my 7th parkrun, and I recorded 20:32 in a non PB attempt. At the time my 5k PB stood at 20:12 and I improved it a week later to 19:50; both these at Dulwich. I returned twice in May this year; running an easy 24:58 at the beginning of the month and a 23:05 at the end pacing my sister to a 26 second PB of 23:04. Having recognised the potential of the course in 2012 – it is distinctly flatter than my own home run at Dulwich – I planned yesterday’s run as a PB attempt.


Oak Hill parkrun: Two and three quarter anti clockwise laps, only 7 metre elevation difference between lowest point (just before the start, marked green) and highest point (approximately opposite start on return side of the lap) and just a couple of sharp turns.

Knowing that the alternate course was much less PB friendly I checked out whether there were any planned changes …tweet 001tweet 002

Even as I opened a BBC weather tab in my browser the parkrun weather fairy most politely joined the conversation, waving his/her wand, and offered to help …tweet 005

My only concern centred around the parkrun weather fairy’s definition of “cold”. It transpired that the forecast temperature for 9:00am on parkrun day was zero degrees Celsius. Hmm … Before I had time to contemplate this further a regular Oak Hill runner got in touch about a member of the Oak Hill parkrun community …tweet 003

I had also tweeted my target time of 18:45 …tweet 004

I had heard a little about the planned purple event from my sister and decided to wear something subtly appropriate; as much as anything to show general solidarity with the parkrun community since I don’t know Henry myself.


Something suitably subtly egotistical …
[ images and my original t-shirt courtesy of Xempo ]

Come parkrun day morning my sister, her husband and my nephew had all confirmed that they were parkrunning and so we jogged the mile and a bit from their home to Oak Hill Park together. The morning was crisp and clear and the forecast zero degrees was believable with frost visible on many surfaces. Arriving at the park in good time I continued my warm up around the course by way of assessing the surface. Unfortunately frost was visible on many parts of the course and although I didn’t slip, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to accelerate hard or take turns sharply. There was one particular segment about 900m from the start – which we would traverse three times on the two and three quarter lap route – where there was small, muddy, partially frozen puddle. It was too big to attempt to jump over in the conditions and as I exited it I found the next several steps were compromised by the semi-frozen mud coating the sole of my shoe and leaving me with almost no grip until those steps passed and the lubricant had been deposited on the clean, dry tarmac beyond the puddle …

Nonetheless I completed my warm up without incident and having assembled at the finish line we walked en masse to the start line as seems to be Oak Hill parkrun tradition.

2014 12 13 - parkrun start line

En masse to the start line …
[ image Claire Sliwerski ]

As the run briefing came to an end I took up a start position on the shoulder of, and said hello to, a runner at the front whom my sister had pointed out as being Rebecca and of similar pace to me. I was glad to have started well forward since the course is run entirely on paths of approximately the width shown above. I set out to hold on to the runners in front whilst testing out the surface at as close to my goal pace of 3:45/km as seemed reasonable.

I found that I had to ease into and out of bends both in terms of pace and racing line. When running in a straight line I felt relatively ok, but I didn’t want to test the limits of my grip anywhere close to the point of actually slipping. Attempting to check my Garmin early on proved difficult; firstly my eyes were watering profusely due to the cold and also I couldn’t spare the time to distract my eyes and attention from the challenge of staying on my feet. Managing to decipher three fifty something or other I decided to abandon Garmin checks and simply run by feel as tempered by the conditions.

I found the muddy puddle much as I’d left it on my warm up: Positioned about halfway down the Southern side of the lap it fell on a slight bend, just after a subtle change in camber and just before a short climb up to the high point of the course. I focussed on minimizing any change in speed or direction so that the lack of grip wouldn’t be too critical. I found that as I started the climb I had almost no grip at all and slowed significantly as I took tentative steps and waited for my grip to return. Within the expected ten or so steps it did and I ran along the high ridge before turning down the most significant decline – a 4 metre descent over 100 metres – to pass the finish line for the first time. Knowing what to expect I felt more relaxed entering the second lap and passed Rebecca and another much younger runner shortly afterwards. Or it may have been a lap later. What I do remember is that the muddy puddle was easier the second time around, but that on the third and final pass – by which time I’d been lapping runners for some time – the mud had spread significantly up the incline. This time I slowed more than I had even the first time … And had to wait and wait for my shoes to regain grip … When finally they did it felt as though I had almost come to a stop. By now threading through and around numerous other runners I ran along the high ridge for the final time and used the decline to finish as fast as possible.

2014 12 13 - Oak Hill parkrun

Passing the finish line for the second time, with one full lap to go. I think. I really hope I didn’t look like this after only three quarters of a lap.
[ image Claire Sliwerski ]

I stopped my watch at 19:15 and official results later confirmed this. I’m totally satisfied with this in context and on my warm down with my sister I was already excitedly expressing my hope that next Spring or Summer I’ll be able to parkrun at Oak Hill for two or three weeks consecutively and extract the true potential from the course. I noted that my average HR for today’s time was 151 compared to other recent 5k events where I have recorded an average HR of 158 to 160. I’m sure at least 18:45 is achievable …

It’s a great feeling to finish in good company. Although I often arrive and depart from parkruns and races on my own, my friends and the community of parkrun always makes me feel welcome. And the special company of family before, during and after yesterday’s run was a real treat. We all enjoyed our parkruns and the subsequent planning and anticipation of our next events. And I really should mention that my nephew casually recorded a 45 second PB in today’s conditions!

2014 12 13 - post parkrun

It’s a great feeling to finish in good company:
Rebecca, another purple runner, my sister, yours truly and my nephew.
[ image Claire Sliwerski ]

So, yes, just another parkrun.

race data summary

finish time 19:15
splits pace
3:53, 3:51, 3:54, 3:53, 3:44
approx HR
146, 150, 152, 153, 155
biometric summary average HR – 151
max HR – 159 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 191
approx start weight – 67.5kg
positions overall – 4 out of 117
gender – 4 out of 78
category VM45-49 – 1 out of 12


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