How we managed to complete 50 Parkruns

50clubThis weekend both Rach and I hit a milestone as we completed our 50th parkrun.  I figured I’d write a little thing about how I got here and the people who inspired me along the way

For those who have never heard of Parkrun its an amazing idea. Basically you register on their website for free. You’ll get a bar-code that you print off and take with you to one of their runs. They have hundreds around the UK, and even some in other countries. You all start together, usually around 300 people depending on the run, and you run the 5k route. When you finish you cross the line and are given a token with another bar-code. You take your bar-code and the bar-code you’ve been given to a scanner who scans them and gives you back your bar-code, and a few hours later you get a text and email with your official time. Its a great way to track improvements on a standard course.

I first heard about Parkrun in 2013. I’d been chatting with someone on twitter when my follower Alan mentioned it while I was talking to someone about 10ks

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I’d tried to get into running several times over the past few years. It was my favourite of my training activities in my pre uni days, before I discovered booze and stopped any kind of physical activity for about 10-15 years. Our previous attempts to get into it had been pretty stop start. I’d managed to get Rach to do a couple of 10ks in 2012 but she absolutely hated them and afterwards I found it hard to keep the training going.

Alan mentioned Parkrun loads over the next few months but it took until a fateful day in February when I was pretty bored and looking for something to do on a weekend

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With that, I was started. Our first run was a bit of a nightmare. We weren’t fully prepared, we weren’t used to running, but we got up, we did it and we finished

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It took 2 weeks for us to get back out, and I knocked 3 and a half minutes from our times. Rach was even weirdly enjoying it. The girl who had always hated running suddenly found it enjoyable. I think it activated some kind of competitive bone in her body. She even ended up doing a run solo in Coventry.

We began running every Saturday, primarily at Worsely unless one of us was away for a weekend, where Rach would do Brueton neat her mums house, or when we did Newport parkrun near my mums.

After about 15 parkruns I’d decided to treat myself to a pair of new trainers so we got down to Sweatshop. While there we noticed they did some social runs through the week with one from Salford Quays on a Wednesday being of particular interest. And thats where we met this motley crew

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We first met Martin, Steph and Dunc at the wednesday runs. Along with Liam, Cat and the other staff who came out running with us they helped us find more PBs. Rach was first to hit a sub 30 run on 16/8 and it took me a month to catch her and get a sub 30 myself. I can still remember the first time I ran a sub 30 and running next to Liam who was tail running and saying how I wasn’t going to go over 30 again. He was assuring me that I probably would, but I shouldn’t get disheartened when I do as when you run you have ups and downs.

I’ll also always remember something Martin said to me around this time. He used to very often run off in front of us on the runs, and then come back to whoever was last (which was often me) before running off again. One week he came back to me at the back and as we were near the end he was jogging out with me. I asked him about how far he’d done, and he said about 5 miles. I was only on 3, so I said “wow you’ve run so much better than me” and he said “No, that’s not true. If you could have run 5 miles tonight then you would have run 5 miles. We’ve both run for half an hour as hard as we could. Don’t underestimate your own achievements”. Its always stood with me, and whenever I’ve got my mum or anyone else out to run its always been one of the things I’ve tried to pass on.

The Wednesday Sweatshop runs really helped developed us as runners and I cant say enough for them. Liam would plan out the routes and we managed to get a number of nice running routes out that I still run today on my own. Him and Cat were fantastic at offering advice when needed. Unfortunately at just before Christmas they stopped the Wednesday runs as they couldn’t free up the staff. I cant say how disappointed this made me and Rach. We wouldnt have been the runners we are now without those runs – we even offered to help cover the runs with Martin but unfortunately it died out.

15720916347_2bd51d4d43_oAs a Sweatshop run anyway – we arranged separately with Martin and Dunc at this time to keep running. The very first week we ran without Sweatshop was the first time Rach and I had ever done intervals – thanks Martin. It was at this point we started bonding with Dunc and Martin a lot more. We started really smashing out the runs, and I pulled out an amazing 28:17 after a Martin assisted sprint finish on a pacer.

In the run up to Christmas I had a few injuries and missed some runs. We were up to 32 runs by that point, with my PB still that 28:17 while Rach was knocking squarely on 29:00. Over Christmas we didn’t stall out running, managing to go out on Christmas day, then two days later at the usual Saturday then did two runs on New Years day by driving between two Parkruns. We did 4 Parkruns in 7 days in the end, and it was a great way to spend Christmas and New Year.

By this point Steph had long since abandoned the four of us (Me, Rach, Dunc and Martin) to join Chorlton Runners, but that didnt deter us from arranging seperate sessions as Martin and Dunc stepped up their marathon training. It was at the end of January on a trip away that Rach and I got engaged, but also managed to film this epic running video in Philadelphia….

 

Thats a cracker.

After Philly I had a number of illnesses and injuries that allowed Rach to pull slightly away in the number of runs. She was also nailing it – on one week I got injured while running and ended up limping to a 35:476 while Rach absolutely smashed in and got a PB of 27:27. We even did a 10k during this period and Rach, who had only ever done 2 10ks in her entire life and was convinved she’d never get under an hour smashed her best ever time with a 57:41. I was suffering and I have to be honest I’m still really annoyed that my time was 1:01:52 as I was still feeling ill. After getting better I ended up then hurting my knee, and its taken me till mid April to get back on the horse and start racking the times to get competitive with Rach again

AThe_PRATs01__1__vectorizeds we got nearer the 50 mark there was another development. While Rach and I agreeing to get engaged seemed big news, the forming of a bond between myself, Rach, Martin and Dunc was even bigger news. Despite Stephs original suggestion of Carrington Offroad Cantering Kneejerkers, we ended up going for the Park Running Amateur Trotters. The PRATs instead of the COCKs. I have to admit, shouting “Come on you Prats!” at Martin and Dunc as they completed the Manchester Marathon was an absolute delight.

We’ve since set up our own website (www.RunWithThePrats.co.uk), had our photo taken with Jo Pavey (see the website), had our own logo designed (the little fella to the right) and we’re waiting on sizes to put an order in for some kit. How sad are we?

In the run up to our 50th we’ve really been nailing the runs. 10k hasnt been a massive obstacle anymore – we regulary complete it in training (and under the hour I should note) along with plenty of interval sessions. With only a few to go we both did a 28 minute run at Pennington which is our least favourite course, then I bagged a PB of 27:27 to even the overall PB going into our final run. I’d also got a 5k pb at one of our other training runs, The Great Run local, of 27:22, which Rach then bettered with a time of 27:18 just 2 days before our 50th.

For our 50th we decided to do Warrington Parkrun. Through the course of our 49 Parkruns we’ve done a total of 9 courses. Over half of our runs have been at Worsley which is our local course, with second most runs being done at South Manchester which I really like but Rach hates (possibly too many Chorlton Runners?). We’d only done 3 runs each at Warrington but its become a firm favourite – its a flat course, theres no laps, and the people there are amazingly friendly. They also have a cake stall at the end – its everything you’d want on a Saturday morning.

I’m not going to lie, on the morning of our 50th I wasnt well. I’d had to pull out midway through our Thursday run as Rach absolutely smashed in a PB with a dicky tummy. It seemed my guts had decided that the two poo rule was in order, as although I’d had one before leaving when we were halfway to pick up Martin I realised I needed to go again. Maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the spicy burrito we had the night before, but all I knew was I needed the toilet.

So of course Martin kept us waiting a few minutes.

When he showed up I anxiously shuffled in my seat before telling Rach that when we got to the park, I was pulling up at the gate and running in the toilet. Meanwhile in the back Rach was giving it the big one – she was feeling good and positive and could smell a PB. I hope she meant Personal Best rather than Pooey Bottom. We pulled up at the gate, I jumped out, ran in the toilet to find one cubicle, lights not working and only half a toilet seat. Thank god there was toilet paper. Under the light of my new Garmin I managed to drop the kids at the pool and get out of there.

We got a pre race pic, and moved closer to the front than we ever had been before

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And when I say close to the front, we were literally just behind Martin and almost no one else. One thing with Parkrun is we always start midfield and I always think that loses us maybe 5-10 seconds just getting over the line – but we were PB hunting.

By the way Strava (and you can find me here on Strava) do a brilliant bit on their site called Flybys that allows you to see a flyby of a run. If you’d like to see ours, its here –  http://labs.strava.com/flyby/viewer/#305414346,cyA0EiNUNBI=

The first KM we put in a shift – a bit too fast to be honest. I was glancing at my watch and we were running a bit too fast. I made it 5:09 for the first k, which was way above speed (thats just under 26 minute pace) so I gave Rach a nod to slow down.

But you cant slow the Beast.

Rach set off and I started to lag behind her. I cant deny at this point I did get a bit disheartened. I figured it was because I was ill, I was dehydrated, it was too hot, that man was running in my way – a whole host of excuses as to why she was nailing it and I wasn’t. I dug in watching her drift away determined not to let it get too far. We got to the 2k mark with her about 5-10 seconds away from me.

18818_10155618206240245_2623465037564699737_nWe headed onto the Rugby field and I knew this was my time to react, a guy overtook me and I stuck just behind him before pulling level with him and going past him. As I did he said something but I didn’t hear what and I couldn’t respond anyway – I’m running too hard to talk damn it- so I just nodded and said yeah mate.

I inched closer to Rach and as we headed back onto a long straight I pulled up next to her, then realised the proper PRAT etiquette for pulling up next to someone, so I dropped back behind her and then pulled next to her with a pat on the bottom. I could see she was struggling, but I could also see that on my watch it was saying that we were on for almost a sub 27 run. My watch said we needed about a 5:25 in the last K.

It was at this moment I must take a side bar and say about one of the things I love about Parkrun. The people. With us growing closer to the end and both struggling, I could see a mother with her 3 young kids standing at the side cheering everyone on. She was holding her youngest in her arms who was waving at the runners. As you can see from the pics Rach and I were wearing 50 badges that Martin had got us and as we got near I started to wave and the kids got really excited and shouted “Happy Birthday!”, while the youngest one shouted “HABBY BIRBDAY” and got really excited that someone was waving back at them. It totally spurred Rach and I on and made us forget that we were really struggling

I tried to pull Rach up with me but she was flagging so sent me on. As I rounded the corner into the loop the loop zig zag part that ends the run I saw one of the worst sights you can see as a PRAT.

It was Martin.

And he was coming for me.

11205600_872294606196838_6569010183895346729_nMartin had already romped home in a 21:08 finish so was coming back to sweep us up. Now we love Martin to bits, but he’s also a taskmaster and wont let you flag at the end of a run no matter how much you want to. So seeing him run towards me was a nightmare.

Till he ran past me.

What a relief – he was heading for Rach who I knew was just a few seconds behind. I was hoping that he’d grab her and help her push to catch me and I had images of Rach and I crossing the line hand in hand with a joint PB on our 50th run.

However little did I realise that Rach also saw Martin coming towards her and started shouting “Go help Chris” so that he’d come drag me in instead of her.

Thanks Rach.

So with Martin alongside me I wasnt going to slow – but I had absolutely no more in me, I ran and ran and crossed the line almost falling in a heap till I bumped into the guy who finished in front of me, then looked down at my Garmin and saw

27:04

Rach came over shortly after and said hers showed 27:08. Now yeah, thats a PB each. But all we could both talk about was how close we’d come to the sub 27 mark and that it could only be a run or two away. It was amazing really to me after, thinking how much we both struggled to get sub 30 for ages, and now we were standing talking about how we were disappointed to have only knocked 10-15 seconds off our PBs as we felt we could get sub 30. Of course we’d have to wait for the proper times but we knew we’d probably be close to what our watches said as we’d crossed them not that long after going across the line

Martin asked his typical question of “Did you have those seconds in your legs” and we both agreed we didnt. I didnt even feel like I had another second, I’d given my all in that run and anything else I had had been left in the toilet pre race. I didnt have another second.

Then the results came in

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WHY DIDN’T I HAVE ANOTHER SECOND IN MY LEGS. SURELY I HAD A SECOND

(I didn’t)

Oh well.. there’s always next week. And another… and another… till we get to 100 Parkruns. Then 250. Then 500………

On a slightly cool note tho if you paid attention (and I’m not shocked if you didn’t), my first ever Parkrun I finished in a time of 37:00. In 50 Parkruns I’ve knocked exactly 10 minutes off my time – AMAZING!

THANK YOU TO THESE LOVELY PEOPLE

So in conclusion thanks to everyone who helped us get to 50 runs.

  • Thanks to Alan on twitter who I’ve never met, but who I would have never started Parkrun without. You may often be a troll, but there’s a good lad in there and I still like seeing how you’ve done after a run every Saturday.
  • Thanks to Martin, you’ve been a great coach and hopefully we’ll not end up falling out over twitter like Rach always expects us to. And I’ll try to come to the hand occasionally (wait, that sounds wrong, must remember to remove this before posting it). Oh and thanks to Hannah (the little Prat) and Claire who put up with us taking you out running all the time.
  • Thanks to Dunc, you’re an inspiration mate. Its great seeing Martin do well on marathons, but he’s a mentalist where as you’re a normal bloke like me and seeing you do them makes me think I could one day too. Plus you’re bloody hilarious. I still cant get over you asking olympic gold winning athlete Jo Pavey to take a picture of us
  • Thanks to Steph. You may be a Chorlton runner, but we still love you! I love seeing you improve and nailing those long runs. Just maybe drop the gold and yellow yeah?
  • Thanks to Liam and Cat and the Sweatshop Chill Factore team. You guys really helped us to develop as runners, and without you guys we wouldnt be where we are today. Its good seeing you at the Parkruns – dont be strangers!
  • Thanks to all the people at Parkrun and the various runs we’ve done. Its an amazing thing you do and I try to reccomend it to everyone. I know of at least 7 people who did their first parkrun because of me, and I hope maybe someone who has never done one and reads this blog does one.
  • Thanks to Rach. I wouldnt have kept up the running without you. Its been great seeing you go from the girl who hated running to being the ultra competitive beast you are now. I mean I struggled to get you out for a 5k, an when we did a 10k you told me that was the only one you’d ever do – and now youre signing us up for half and full marathons you mentalist!

 

Links

If you’d like to follow me on Strava you can find me here (please give me kudos I love kudos)
My Parkrun profile is here
My twitter is here
The Prats website is here