Christmas and New Year

Christmas and New Year’s Day are good opportunities for some extra parkrunning and some tourism too – many parkruns choose to run on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day, and provided that’s not a Saturday, then there is scope for four parkruns in eight days (in my case with two extra runs thrown in as part of the overall plan).

This year that started on Saturday 23rd December. Owing to an issue with a supermarket delivery on Friday evening, we had to toss a coin to see who had to stay in for the rescheduled shopping, and I won the toss and had a nice trip over to Storeys Field parkrun on the western edge of Cambridge. This is almost flat on firm paths, as part of a new development – and the only parkrun where you can see quidditch rings on the way from the car.

Coach Stephen’s training plan called for 6km today, so after collecting my finish token, knowing that the tailwalker was a good way behind me, I immediately did my extra kilometre, and was somewhat horrified when I got back to find I must have misjudged my lead, and that the finish funnel had disappeared, the team had packed up, and were on the verge of disappearing (maybe for some quidditch) – the results had already been uploaded, but they kindly scanned my token and barcode, and uploaded my result as a separate batch of one.

This year, as we were visiting my Dad, we had decided to go to Nonsuch parkrun on Christmas Day, partly because it’s fairly close to his apartment, and partly because the name has always amused me. Although Stephen had been through the park in 2006 when walking the London Loop, neither of us had been here for parkrun. We walked across the park to near the mansion where there was a large gathering of people in various versions of Christmas clothing. Stephen ran at his own pace and went back to the car to give the dogs a stretch of legs while I made my way around the parkland – some tarmac, a lot of grass and a little squelchiness.

Christmas all done and dusted. Stephen had planned a wonderful overnight stay in London, where we went to a delicious Austrian restaurant (my Hungarian grandmother would have thoroughly approved of the food!) followed by seeing the Back to the Future musical which I thoroughly recommend. The following morning was Saturday which of course is parkrunday, and we jogged from our hotel near Stratford International over to Hackney Marshes, being the only one in the area which Stephen hadn’t yet run.

We were a bit worried that it would be a mudbath in view of our recent weather, an expectation thoroughly reinforced by the first-timer’s briefing, but were pleasantly surprised to find only two very short muddy sections, the route being part tarmac along one of the channels of the River Lea, and the rest being reasonably firm grass around some of the 88 football pitches on the Marshes. (They’re not actually very marshy any longer, having been drained and the level of the land having been raised with rubble from buildings demolished by bombing in WWII.)

Today, the runners who had turned out on an uninspiringly dull and drizzly morning were a fairly fast bunch, and all disappeared into the distance – I’m used to being near the back, but usually there are a few people between me and the tailwalker, but not today. The tailwalker’s role is to ensure no-one is last, and make people of all abilities and speeds feel welcome at parkrun, and they will sometimes encourage the people at the back if it seems wanted, or just to stay behind them out of the way and finish last so that even the slowest of runners or walkers is not the ‘last one back’. Today’s volunteer seemed in a bit of a hurry and kept jogging ahead of my right shoulder which was slightly irritating, but Stephen and I did our best to ignore him – I wasn’t going to go any faster with the extra 2km to run back to the hotel afterwards making 9km in total! We were cheered over the line and after getting our tokens scanned, the morning’s running quickly continued back to the hotel – with the motivation of a cooked breakfast to come.

The River Lea to the right: those people in front are not parkrunners so the next nearest parkrunner is out of sight – all too common near or at the back.

On the way to parkrun, I had identified a promising section where there would be a gentle downhill bit where Stephen could run ahead, and I could then sprint (relatively speaking!) down the slope with the Olympic velodrome providing a nice backdrop. I think he got a really great photo here, where you can see I have even achieved the slow runner’s aim for a photo – the ‘flying feet’ where both feet are off the ground so you are most definitely running!

The parkrun festive season ended with the extra New Year’s Day parkrun, where we had decided a slightly complex plan of running at Sizewell in Suffolk, followed by me dropping Stephen off to join friends for a bellringing outing for the rest of the day. Sizewell is a very nice parkrun: technically speaking it’s a seaside run, but due to the enormous grassy sand dunes it did manage the impressive feat of being within sound of the sea but not actually in sight for any but the most fleeting glimpse. However, amazingly, the sun was shining and we had another good run to start the New Year: the advantage of being on sandy grass is that it remains dry underfoot after rain, and though trail runs are often a bit slower, I ran at a good pace today – a great start to the year.

About to cross the finish line at Sizewell

Just under 16 weeks to go: onwards to the next stage of marathon training!

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