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Discussion Starter #1
Before today I had done 32 parkruns, but the bulk of those were in 2012 and 2013. I only did 3 in 2014 and 2 so far in 2015 (before today). I got out of the habit of doing them regularly when I changed to a job where I worked on Saturdays. Now that I am in a normal job again, I have not got back into the habit, tending to spend the weekends doing long runs and long bike rides.

So, now that my Autumn marathon is over I have decided to do a parkrun tour over the next few months, until I can no longer fit parkruns in around training for the Spring marathon.

There are 18 parkruns in the North-East, so I'm going to try to get round quite a few this Winter.

The idea is not to run a PB every week, as my PB is on one of the faster courses, but to try and run the best time possible for the course, and to get into as many fastest 500 lists as possible. With some parkruns the standard is too high for me to reasonably achieve this, for example, at Newcastle I would have to be running low 18s!

Today I commenced Le Tour de parkrun as follows:

Gibside parkrun

As I did a marathon last weekend, and a 5k PB the weekend before, I had no intention of going for a PB, so I decided to get the toughest north-east parkrun out of the way right at the start of the tour.

Gibside Park is in the Derwent Valley, on a significant slope. The course is on a rough footpaths and woodland trails with significant climbs and descents. It is only a small parkrun - today there were 56 competitors.

The first mistake I made today was forgetting my Garmin, so I had to faff around with Endomondo on my phone, meaning I didn't know what time I'd ran until the results came out.

After an initial scramble to get my phone back in my pocket when the race director said go, I settled into my running and it quickly became apparent I was inside the top 10 and I couldn't hear anyone close behind. There was one lady ahead of me but I was hoping I could reel her in. Alas it was not to be.

At about 1 mile I got caught and passed by a lad going significantly faster than me. I can only assume he started slowly for some reason. He went on to pass several more people after me.

On the long hill up to a turn-around point at 2 miles I was passed by another gentleman. As we approached the turn-around I was counting everyone in front and realised I was in 10th, so was hoping to hang on. Once round the turn-around the lady in front hurtled back down the hill more quickly than me and extended her lead. Once it flattened out again with about 0.5 miles to go, she slowed down but I had insufficient space to catch her, but managed to halve the gap, coming in 14 seconds behind her.

Fortunately no others overtook me so I finished in 10th place and 2nd lady. The standard to get into the fastest 500 was around 24.5 minutes. I went for a 45 minute jog after the run and by the time I arrived at home the email result had arrived and my time was 23:53, so I'm in the fastest 500! :)

This may seem pretty slow by my standards but to put it into perspective, even the winner did not run a sub-20. Only 4 runners were under 22 minutes. Last week one chap got under 20 minutes, with a further 3 under 22.

Endomondo tells me it was 518 feet of ascent. I then did a further 771 feet of ascent in my 45 minute jog round the park afterwards.

Next week I will do a flatter one...
 

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Wow thats pretty hilly for a parkrun!! Nice idea Claire. I work all ost Saturdays and rarely get the chance. Wish i could do more.
 

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Nice one. If like to do as many of the North East ones as I can, so I'll read your reports with interest. I haven't done Gibside since they changed the course, the new one looks more interesting than the old one. I did a night run there earlier this year, which was great fun, but the toughest, hilliest thing I've ever done.

Other than that, I've done Gateshead (my regular), Newcastle (not keen- too busy and I find the course boring), Riverside (really nice, good pb course) and South Shields (a really lovely run once you get past the first stretch along the road).
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Durham parkrun

Today Le Tour took me to Durham, a very attractive place to run, though a very hilly city. Fortunately, the parkrun is situated in University sports grounds down by the river and is pretty flat. I had checked out the course and the profile and although it looked fairly flat (with the exception of 3 distinct short but sharp lumps), it was clear from the satellite imagery that much of the course is on grass, so it probably wouldn't be especially fast.

So getting a PB would almost certainly be out of the question, especially only 3 weeks after a PB on a hard tarmac course. Also, the standard to get into the fastest 500 is well under 20 minutes, so that was out of the question too.

So, I decided just to run it as fast as possible, with no set pace in mind.

The run starts on the athletics track behind the sports centre and does approximately one and half laps of the track. This is only a 4-lane track, so I made sure I was well towards the front so I didn't get stuck in a bottleneck.

So the first part was fine, the crowd becoming spread out quite quickly on the track. After about 600 metres we left the track and ran across the grass for much of the remainder of the first kilometre. This first k clocked in around 4:15. We then moved from the grass field onto the riverside path. The surface was better here, but still just a footpath with a stony surface. After a few hundred metres we reached the first lump in the course - the footbridge across the river leading to the sports field. Weirdly the planks on this bridge we not flat but were all rounded, so difficult to run on. They also moved underfoot and were quite noisy.

Once on the other side we ran straight onto the rugby/football pitches, and the course took us round the edge of several of these, on grass for around 1.5k. Kilometres 2 and 3 were slow, so I reached the 3k marker in around 13:30, so began to think even getting under 22:30 might be difficult.

The third kilometre ended just as we left the pitches and went back onto riverside path. This took us back towards the wobbly bridge, but straight past it for a few hundred metres to a turn-around point. The second 'lump' was at the turn-around point, which involved running up a short hill and doing a loop before heading back to the footbridge.

Then it was back over the wobbly bridge before retracing our steps back down the riverside path, then back onto grass for about 300 metres before finishing next to the track. Fortunately the 4th and 5th k were faster than the 2nd and 3rd and I managed to cross the line in 22:27 - not a blisteringly fast time, but I was happy with my position in the field, namely:

1st in VW35 category out of 15.
7th lady out of 136.
57th out of 359 overall.

Once I'd chilled and stretched a bit I went for an easy run along the river. One of the reasons I have rarely ran parkruns in the past is that I have been unable to justify running such a short distance on a weekend day. So I am trying to do one hour easy after parkrun, then a proper long run on a Sunday, to bulk up the mileage a bit. However, I am finding it really hard to run after a parkrun. Last week I managed only 45 minutes, this week it was 55 minutes. I'm sure it will get easier if I persevere though, and will be beneficial in the long run (excuse the pun) to get my legs used to running when tired.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Well, a bit of a disappointing morning this morning. I intended to go to South Shields parkrun, which would be about a 40 minute drive, so I planned to leave the house at 08:00. I set my alarm for 07:00, or so I thought, but clearly must not have pressed 'Save' or something, because I woke up naturally well after eight so missed the opportunity. I went for a few miles easy in the torrential rain instead.

With a race last weekend and another next weekend, it will be 3 weeks in a row without a parkrun, so the Tour is a bit dead in the water at the moment. I hope to do parkruns on 21st and 28th Nov but they are X-country days so I will probably stay fairly local.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Will you be coming to Darlington Parkrun?? That's my local one, I run there every week xx
Yes definitely. I used to live in Darlington so I'm quite looking forward to that one. I'm actually considering it for New Year's Day as they are starting and 10:30 and I'd like to do a double. So perhaps Riverside in Ch-le-St at 09:00, then there should be enough time for me to get to Darlington for 10:30. Riverside haven't confirmed they are doing a New Year parkrun, but they did last year.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Druridge Bay parkrun

So, after a 3 week gap I finally managed to get back to Le Tour.

Due to the fact that I had a cross-country race in Durham at 13:10, I had to keep the parkrun local, to give me time to get showered and have some lunch in between the two races.

So I decided to nip to Druridge Bay. This is my nearest parkrun but it is only the second time I've done it. The first time was a year ago and I was first lady. It's a two-lap course of the lake at Druridge Bay Country Park. It's pretty flat but because it's trail it's not an especially fast course due to the softer surface.

On the drive there my car thermometer was reading 1.5C, and I drove through quite a snow shower on the way. It was quite windy as well so didn't look good. At the last minute I bottled my t-shirt and shorts plan and wore a long-sleeved top instead (although still with shorts). I also wore gloves. How pathetic!

I lined up quite near the front and had a look at the other ladies about. No-one immediately stood out as potentially speedy. Most of the faster runners would be saving themselves for cross-country, of course.

So I led from the start in the ladies race, but got passed after about half a mile by a lass moving quite quick. But then she got a little way in front of me and ceased moving away so I didn't get too concerned. Then before we'd even reached a mile she started to slow and when we reached the only significant lump in the course, she slowed significantly and I moved past.

There was a lot of standing water on the course, so that slowed things down a bit, but even so I was a bit surprised my first mile was as much as 7:17 - especially since I thought I'd gone off too fast. After that each successive mile was a bit quicker - I think that is the first time I've actually got faster during a 5k.

Luckily it only snowed once and very briefly during the race, but my feet were soaked through and legs also very cold and wet from all the splashing through flooded sections.

I finished in 22:39, 1st lady out of 29 and 13th out of 79 overall. Relatively speaking I think that might be my best ever finishing position.

Next week I have cross-country again so if I do a parkrun it will also have to be a local one. So I will probably do Whitley Bay, which I haven't done for a couple of years but used to be my regular one. Also not a fast course, so I won't be expecting a PB.

I will probably visit one of the fast courses in December in order to try to get a sub-21 before the end of 2015.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Here are some photos of me taken at Druridge on Saturday.

Towards end of first lap:



Towards end of second lap:



Approaching finish line (completely airborne):

 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Whitley Bay parkrun

This week I chose another very local parkrun as I had cross-country again at 13:10. I also had to get to the XC early as it was organised by my club, and my other half was marshalling.

So I got up early and popped down to Whitley Bay. This used to be my local parkrun, but the last time I had done it was March 2013. My course best was 23:32. This was when I was running just under 23 minutes for 5k on a flat course. I was hoping to improve greatly on this.

Whitley Bay is a strange course. It is a lapped course, although the laps are not identical. The section from the start to 1.9km is the same as from 2.7km to 4.6km, if that makes sense. The course swaps several times between the lower and the upper promenade, the ups and downs being quite short and steep. This makes kilometres 2 and 5 significantly tougher than the others.

My plan was to try and hit my best 5k pace (around 6:40-6:45 target) on the easy sections and just take it easy up the climbs.

It was a pretty cold morning and also very windy, so not great for a fast time. On arriving at the event I found the usual loos were out of service, so had to jog down to the Rendezvous Cafe, meaning I ended up with a 1.2 mile warm-up. By then I felt I could get away with short sleeves so I dropped my long sleeved top and gloves back at my car and jogged to the start.

The run starts from the corner of a large concrete square on the upper prom. This does mean there is a bit of bottlenecking as everyone converges from a wide space to a narrow space. To my surprise the run director did not warn us of the start and draw us up to the start line, so we ended up running from where we were stood in the square. This meant I had to put in quite a bit of effort to get past the many slower runners/small children/dogs etc... who had somehow gotten in front of me.

About 400 metres into the run, the route goes down the first slope onto the lower prom, where it widens right out. I got into a rhythm here and tried to assess the situation ahead - I estimated about 35-40 people were in front of me and I could only see one woman. She was well ahead having obviously gotten off to a much better start than me.

About 1.3 km in the route turns left to head up to and across 'The Golden Bridge'. This is the tricky section of the route as it goes onto gravel, the bridge itself is very narrow and it is then followed by a short but quite significant climb up to the main road, before following the pavement for a short section. We then turn back downhill for a short breather to take us back to the lower promenade. Unfortunately this is immediately followed by a hard right up another steep slope onto the path along the upper promenade.

It was on this section on the 3rd kilometre that I passed the lady I could see ahead of me. I had been gradually closing her down the whole time. After passing through the start we then repeated the first 1.9km again. On the second time along the lower prom, I could tell that I had not dropped the other lady, as I could hear her breathing just a few steps behind me. I was also not convinced there were no other females ahead. As we approached the Golden Bridge for the second time, I decided to bin my 'take it easy up the hill' approach as she was still right behind. The marshal at the end of the bridge confirmed I was first lady. I then belted up the gravel path and luckily this was enough to draw out a big enough lead over the second lady.

Back down to the prom and instead of hard right, it was soft right to run along the lower prom in the opposite direction to those still on their 4th kilometre. I was just trying to hold on as best I could hoping the second lady didn't have a sprint finish. She didn't. Phew!

I finished in 22:03, 34th out of 277 overall and 1st lady out of 90. This was my first time as first lady at Whitley Bay and was only possible as all the fast lasses were sensibly saving themselves for cross-country. Nonetheless it meant a lot to me as this used to be my home run.

Much to my delight, having checked runbritain rankings today, I find that it has gone in as my 3rd counting race and improved my handicap from 10.4 to 10.2. This means I've improved by 1.3 in around the last 8 weeks, so perhaps I have a chance of getting into single figures before the end of the year.

I'll be giving parkrun a miss next week. I have a 5 mile race I want to do, although I am suffering from shin splints so may have to take some complete rest. Either way I will not do a parkrun next week. My plan is to go for a PB attempt in 2 weeks time, possible at Hartlepool which I have heard is a fast course.
 

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so how does it feel up there to be the first lady of of 90? :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
so how does it feel up there to be the first lady of of 90? :)
Very good! Last weekend I was first out of 29 and mentioned that it was my highest relative finishing position ever, both in the ladies race and overall. But yesterday at Whitley Bay was even better. Seems crazy. It would never happen on a normal Saturday, it was just because it was a cross-country day, but it's still really nice.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Great report Claire, and great running! Good luck for your PB attempt :)
Well, I hope I can still go ahead with the PB attempt, but I've decided to take a break from running as the shin issue has really become too painful for me to sensibly continue running on it. I did 14 miles easy on Sunday, and was in quite a bit of discomfort, especially for the first half of the run. The second half was not too bad, perhaps because everything had frozen.

Then yesterday evening I tried to do my usual 6 miles easy. The pain was significantly worse than my Sunday long run, and I decided to bin it after 4 miles.

If I can't even manage 6 miles easy then it's probably time to accept I need to rest it completely, at least until the pain and swelling subside.

If I am not up and running in time for the PB attempt I will try to get one in before the end of September, as I really want to be sub-21 by the end of 2015 to keep my trend of knocking a minute off per year going.
 
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