This morning started with a plan to walk to Dulwich parkrun; this being a change from my recent habit of catching a train there and running home. The plan lasted about 30 minutes from its inception when I was still in bed, where I had woken early enough for it to be a possibility, to its demise when I realised I had taken just a little too long to get my person in gear to make it practical. At this point, the Cyclist suggested that I cycle instead of reverting to public transport which, I thought, seemed reasonable. A little more faffing – with water, raisins, nuts (edible) and a pannier – prior to departure meant I arrived only just in time to fit in a warm up before parkrun started.

After parkrunning myself, cheering home many of the other runners and momentarily swapping shirts with another parkrunner – to check the sizing of his new parkrun apricot/orange t-shirt – I decided to meander a little on my cycle home. The continued combination of weather and activity enlivened me so much that I meandered further and wider taking in Crystal Palace, Addiscombe and Sydenham before taking a break in Ladywell Park. I enjoyed my water, raisins and nuts (edible) before returning much more directly home; primarily along the footpath that runs beside the railway line, and river Beck, from Ladywell to Beckenham.

Further invigorated by cereal topped with banana and sweet British strawberries, I have tried to capture the moment …

start time distance duration
ride 8:13 8.1km 32:41 home to Dulwich Park
run 8:47 2.0km 9:06 warm up
run 9:08 5.0km 20:21 Dulwich parkrun
ride 9:57 23.0km 1:14:38 Dulwich park to Ladywell Park
ride 11:23 7.4km 27:26 Ladywell Park to home

Sensually thrilled – by the combination of glorious weather, physical activity, parkrun competition and community, food and hydration – I am now feeling quite blissfully alive! 🙂

And wearing my own, bespoke, unoffical, parkrun t-shirt in celebration!

tshirt - unofficial parkrun

My own, bespoke, unofficial, parkrun t-shirt.

map - ride meander

I meandered further and wider taking in Crystal Palace, Addiscombe and Sydenham before taking a break in Ladywell Park

map - ride home

Directly home; primarily along the footpath that runs beside the railway line, and river Beck, from Ladywell to Beckenham.


Different cake

Parkrun cancellations are relatively rare and even when they do occur they are advertised on social media frequently and as far in advance as the decision allows. As a consequence of how rare they are, quite possibly encouraged by my laissez faire optimism, I rarely specifically check that an event is going ahead, and so perhaps I tempt fate a little more than I should. All of which is quite likely an over-elaborate introduction to explaining that my sister and I had arranged the she and her family sleep over on Friday night with a view to joining me at Dulwich parkrun yesterday for my first parkrun at age 50 and the first event in my #50at50 calendar. Fortunately I tweeted my anticipation on Friday night …

tweet 006
tweet 007

All of which is certainly an over-elaborate explanation of my first Bromley parkrun yesterday! The course in Norman Park is close to flat and yesterday we ran the Summer course which I understand contrasts with the Winter variant in that it includes more running on grass and a longer lap repeated just over two times.

It seems the tendonitis in my right ankle is continuing to recover and certainly my gradually increasing running has resulted in my cardiovascular fitness improving. My only concern as I approached the start was that I had some fluid on my right knee. It is only slight and I have concluded that I put my knees under excessive stress whilst running the downhill section of the distinctly hilly Crystal Palace parkrun five weeks ago in 21:55, foolishly repeating the error at the same venue two weeks ago in 21:30. I set out yesterday simply intending to match the latter time on a much kinder course with three further weeks recovery under my belt. My sister hoped to improve her 22:16 5k PB set last year at Weymouth parkrun and my brother in law was aiming to run inside 26:00.

I learned that Bromley parkrun regularly provides pacers on the first Saturday of each month and yesterday there were pacers for most, possibly all, whole minute targets from 18 to 35 minutes. My sister and I set out agreeing to track the 22 minute pacer in the first instance. Quite soon, and as we had anticipated in a field of over 500, we lost contact with each other and I never did see the 22 minute pacer. As my run progressed I felt comfortable and noted I was running just inside 21:30 pace. I was somewhat surprised to hear my watch chime 4k and, finding myself comfortable and so close to home, raised my pace just a little. Shortly after I noticed the 21 minute pacer just ahead and raised my pace a little more to ensure I caught up before the finish.

As soon as I had finished and stopped my watch I turned back to wait at the finishing line for my sister. She seemed to appear very quickly …

I love parkrun! I have said this many times, tweeted the hashtag (#loveparkrun) many, many times and may even have blogged it more than once. As a positive, open, welcoming community it surprises and warms me afresh each time I return. Whether that community is the online social media parkrun community pointing out the cancellation at Dulwich, and also tweeting advice about parking at Norman Park, or the first parkrunner I spoke with who outlined the Summer and Winter courses, or the friend from Dulwich parkrun I met at the start who shared some exciting news relating to a potential new local parkrun or the pacers who contributed so much to so many people*. Not least, lest I forget, my sister …

event statistics

my sister 21:50 PB – 26s improvement!
my brother in law 25:25 – 17s outside PB
me first event of my #50at50 year
100th event across all disciplines 🙂

race data summary

offiical finish time 20:50
target 21:30 – 0:40 inside
splits pace
biometric summary average HR – 155
max HR – 169 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 179
approx start weight – 71.1kg

* Or the friendly faces of the organisers of my running club who were volunteering operating the run timers at the finish line. Or the 23 minute pacer who kindly explained his technique for pacing other runners and how to volunteer myself as a pacer in the future.

Short and sweet

A couple of days ago I decided to run at Dulwich parkrun this weekend. My race at last weekend’s Paddock Wood Half was very hard from half way and initially – both during the race and for some time afterwards – I had been somewhat disappointed with my inability to produce the performance I was looking for. Yesterday I read some feedback from a clubmate to the effect that many runners had struggled with the windy conditions in the latter stages of the race and the consensus of opinion was that this had added about one and half minutes to the times recorded. This encouraged me considerably – I finished in a time 1:27 slower than my target – and, although I realised it was a little too soon to expect a fast performance, I set myself an optimistic target of 18:50 for this morning – a 3 second PB if achieved. I was more circumspect on Twitter:

2015-04-04 11.40.13

I was almost the first person to ‘the parkrun bench’ where Dulwich parkrunners meet. The lone runner already sitting on the bench and I chatted about the parkrun phenomenon of everyone arriving just in time. As an habitual late arriver to races I like that arriving a similar time before a parkrun is almost outrageously early. Within another group of early arrivers I saw a face I knew; I had run with Neil, from South London Harriers, at Track Coulsdon in late 2013 when he had paced me to the first of my 800m PBs set during that period. Having renewed our acquaintance he set off for a warm up with his clubmates and few moments later, once I’d woken up my Garmin, I did the same.

I luxuriated in my earliness with a 10 minute warm up including a few hundred metres at race pace and some final dynamic stretches and then took shelter from the light, but cold, wind in the now substantial pre run briefing crowd. A warm welcome later I removed my final layers as we were directed to the start line. I had just tucked in a few runners back from the front when, with a concise “ready, set, go!”, we were off. Dulwich parkrun consists of three essentially equal laps and there is usually a volunteer calling splits at each pass of the start/finish. A call of “6:15” allowed me to retain my optimism for another 1600m or so, until I heard “12:50” and acknowledged my reality. I was re-passed in the final kilometre by a runner who, for little reason beyond that he was wearing a similar black top and haircut, I thought might be my sometime rival from Paddock Wood. The briefest of breathless conversations after we crossed the line – him still in front despite my final sprint – confirmed that actually he was not.

I was handed finish token number 17 and, once I had recovered sufficiently, I removed my personal barcode tag from my shoe and handed both gratefully to one of the volunteers on scanning duty. I checked my watch to find I had run 19:15 – not quite as short or sweet as I had hoped – and then spent the next 20 minutes or so watching and cheering the remaining runners as they arrived. I love sprint finishers, friends arriving in parallel, children leaving parents in their wake. I watched as regular Run Director Jenny crossed the line with her daughter “It’s her first, full 5k!”. I chatted again with Neil and we exchanged our unofficial finish times “I hope I might be just inside 17:00”! (My exclamation point.) Fortunately, at parkrun, everyone is amazing.

The start/finish was being packed away and most of the runners had already left for home. I started a conversation with a runner whom I recognised from a previous Dulwich parkrun post run coffee. I remembered him particularly because he is one of the few runners who always finishes well ahead of me within my age group. I was hopeful that when I move up to VM50-54 later this year I would leave him behind and so have an opportunity to record a first finish within my age group … It turned out that he moves up to VM50-54 a few months before I do! Ah well. We spoke of running, injury, cadence and form before joining the results processing team and helping to sort the finish tokens. This may even have helped ensure that my result text was already on my phone when I got back to my car 🙂

2015-04-04 11.19.01

I had run 19:15 – not quite as short, or sweet, as I had hoped.

Thank you parkrun. [I really like the recent (?) tweak to the notification text to include acknowledgement of volunteers.]

My pleasure.

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

“parkrun isn’t a race, it’s a state of mind”

Last Saturday I had planned to run my first Bromley parkrun, but for a combination of reasons changed my mind the night before and switched to my geographically closest parkrun – Crystal Palace. I ran the couple of kilometres from home and arrived in Crystal Palace Park with 5 minutes or so to spare. Pretty early by my standards, I passed through the parkrun start line and continued my easy run to the end of the avenue of trees which frames the starting straight before doubling back.

My experience of parkrun, primarily at Dulwich with an increasingly generous dash of Crystal Palace recently, is that arriving even only 10 minutes early can quite easily lead to the conclusion that one is in the wrong place or the wrong time zone. Parkrunners seem to materialise out of the ether just in time. At first this seemed a bit disorganised to me, but now … With only a minute or so to go to the 9:00 start, I arrived back at a still very quiet start line. There were perhaps four or five of us at the most. As I came to a stop and the conclusion that this week’s event must have been cancelled I fell easily into conversation with the others.

One woman had come for her first parkrun “with a barcode and everything!” accompanied, I think, by her more parkrun experienced friend. One man, tallish and around my age, was sporting shiny new racing flats and I wondered aloud whether he was the individual who always ensures I’m at least second finisher in my age group at Crystal Palace. By exchanging names it was established that he, Tony, wasn’t said individual, but that nonetheless we were relatively well matched and would try a freedom run together.

From a running point of view I was surprised at just how well I ran given that I wasn’t within the normal congregation of parkrunners and, taking into account my statistical obsession, that I wasn’t going to be rewarded with an official time. I probably backed off a little in the final kilometre, but still finished within 30 seconds of my course PB. I recorded a lap point on my watch for my own time and left it running as I turned to see Tony pressing hard in the final part of the slightly uphill finish straight, held out my arm as a finishing line and encouraged him home. I stopped my watch and whilst we were both still recovering the other parkrunners we’d seen at the start briefly joined us and wondered aloud whether they fancied another lap …

Having regained the power of fluent conversation Tony and I contemplated our respective runs as we ambled across the park in the direction of some of his belongings that he’d creatively stashed in the undergrowth when he’d realised there were going to be no parkrun volunteers to leave them with. We then went our separate ways.

At no point did I consider being annoyed with parkrun “it’s supposed to be every Saturday at 9:00 isn’t it?” or with myself for not checking twitter, facebook or the parkrun website for cancellation information. I wasn’t frustrated that I’d missed a count towards my parkrun 50 club t-shirt or that I’d not had an opportunity to improve my course PB or that I missed running within a large group of similarly able runners. All these things are my strongest conscious motivators for parkrunning. And yet parkrunday 23 November was not a disappointment, it was one of my favourite parkruns.

Somehow today’s @theparkrunshow tweet and particularly the accompanying image, below, encouraged my thoughts to coalesce.


“parkrun isn’t a race, it’s a state of mind”