The detritus of a Button Monkey

08 Oct

100th parkrun

Note: I started writing this in 2017 and never got round to finishing it. I have now made it past 160 and still in love with parkrun. Better late than never!

I have been running for about 3 and a half years. When I started, 1 mile was a struggle and left me with a pain in my knees. Since I have have started running, I have done road and off-road half marathons, road marathons and an 45 mile ultra. during this journey, I have clocked up 100 parkruns. To celebrate, I decided to run my 100th wearing all of the tops I have learnt from running. This is the story behind my journey and a little detail about each top.

The impetus to get me running was a growing realisation that I needed to get fit after years of inactivity and hotel dinners as well as my brother trying to get various members of the family running the Great South Run that year. I entered and started to secretly train more.

The Laycock 10km by Relish Running Races was my first ever race. The pain from my knees meant I struggled with stairs for several days. The large number of fences that you needed to go over really disrupted my running but also gave me plenty of mini rests too. I also bumped into Wendy and Steve who would indirectly influence my running story in such a major way.

One of the problems I found in my early running days was trying to measure some progress. I had seen numerous posts from Wendy about parkrun so I googled it. I found out what it was and realised that there was one walking distance from my house. So on 27th September, 2014, I did my first parkrun. It was event 31 and had only 85 people. One month later, I did the Great South Run. I finished in 1:48:03. Not fast but very happy that I managed to finish. But again, my knee pain came back with a vengence.

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The next step on my journey was to join a running club. I had seen various signs for Emmersons Green Running Club around my estate. I read about the club and found out that I could get a discount on entering races. I was initially concerned that as I was working away from home a lot, it wouldn’t be right joining the club just to get the discount and never participate in clubs runs. I joined and I remember my first ever run was a progression run around Pomphrey Hill which I had come quite familiar with. I can remember feeling annoyed as I had been away all week and ended up doing something i do on a Saturday anyway. I wore this top as my outer layer as it seemed apt to start with my running cub as they have played such a supportive role in my journey

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The next race was the Cotswold Way Relay. This was a major step outside my comfort zone. I put myself forward for Stage 1 with a romantic notion of doing the entire route in order. So far, I am still on track. Cotswold Way would be the longest thing I had done and also the first time I had run off-road. The stage had some two large climbs. That year the club entered three teams, a woman’s team, a men’s team and a veteran men’s team. Ruth kept me company and we managed to finish though outside the cut-off time. In hindsight, I think the Cotswold Way gave me a passion for running on trails more so than the Relish races did.

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Next stop, Bristol Half Marathon. A step into the unknown! The course has a long out and back section on the Portway which can tough on the mind as you see so many runners on the wayback and you think the turn must be soon and it drags on and on. I found the finish hard as I knew where it was and every time we got closer to the finish line, I got my hopes up only to see them dashed.

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Then the race that sort of started it. Great South Run. Only 10 miles so it really was the first race I did that I felt comfortable I could finish. Nice and steady and enjoyed seeing parts of Portsmouth normally hidden away.

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Doynton. What can I saw about Doynton? What a race! It is called a hard half for a reason. Loved every mud section of the race. I took a Go-pro round with me to capture the fun. It produced my most watched video.

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After Doynton, another D, Dursley. The initial climb out of Dursley never seemed to end. First race I ever did where I needed the help of a rope to get up a climb. Not because is was that step, because it was so muddy and there was no grip at all. Suffered with exhaustion towards the end. Used up all my gels and the tank was still empty. Great views but no cake walk!

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Next up, Bath Half. Came in to the race thinking I could be well. Training was good. Was aware that the race wouldn’t be a tour of the nice parts of Bath. Which is a good thing considering some of the hills in Bath!!!! One toilet break and taking off a layer of clothing slowed me down but gave me confidence that sub 2 hours could come soon.

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At this point, I had made the decision to enter the Green Man Ultra. 46 miles  of road and mud around Bristol. It was still a long way off. The Bath Half gave me confidence that the Cardiff Half just a few weeks later could be the springboard to sub 2 hours. So much went wrong… The rain came down and washed away any hope of a PB. My knee went around halfway around and the last 5 miles of the race were a real struggle. Got very close to pulling out when I saw some friends on the other side of the street cheering me on. Even though the race itself was a disaster, it gave me hope. I didn’t quit. I went through a taste of what could happen to me and I kept going.

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Next achievement was hitting my first parkrun milestone. 50!

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Time for another Cotswold Relay stage. Another stage where I didn’t finish within the cutoff. Another amazing experience off-road.

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Time to embrace a new challenge. Have only run as far as a half marathon. Signed up with friends for a 24-hour relay race. How many 10km laps would my body take before it fell apart? Was an amazing weekend and have gone back year after year. Either as part of a team or solo.

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Time for my first ever marathon. Was going to have Chester as my first. Then I got worried, what about if I got injured? So I entered another one just to make sure I could finish the year with a marathon under my belt. Doing a marathon in August wasn’t my best idea!!!! Another finish, more confidence for GMU.

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Chester. The marathon that I had planned to be my first. Drove up the night before. Great race, so well supported. Ran, walked to a new marathon PB. Though not under 5 hours, I didn’t mind. More miles under my belt. More progress towards GMU looming in March the following year.

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Enter the Sodbury Slog. Had no idea what this race was when I entered. Always held on Remembrance Day so is a fairly sombre race. Has some nasty sections, boggy doesn’t do it justice. Have a look for yourself.

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As another year roles over, another visit to Doynton. This time the cold weather tamed the mud to a certain extent. Always a cracking race regardless of the conditions.

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Green Man had arrived. Wow. Some amazing views and I finished. I finished outside the cut-off but only just. This was a struggle. Various people  gave me encouragement around the course. Angus (Pictured below) came out on the day to give me some encouragement. I suspect as long as Green Man is still held, I suspect I will be entering it.

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Time for my third Cotswold Relay stage. It think it was the first time I actually finished within the cut-off!!! Third year running it and stages 1,2 and 3 now run in order. Slowly heading towards doing all 10 in order. Hope the race carries on long enough for me to complete all 10.

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Second visit to Conti for 24 hours of relay action. The heavens opened and never let up. Mentally this race broke me. First lap in the race at dusk was just about doable. Doing the second lap in the dark with really slippery conditions took its toll on me. I couldn’t face a third lap.

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Next important shirt, my purple parkrun top! By this point, I had become a run director at Pomphrey Hill. I love parkrun and love the people who embrace parkrun.

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My last top? My Pomphrey Hill top of course! Pomphrey has given me so many happy memories, it had to be my last top.

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And when I finished? I was overcome with emotion. My parkrun journey isn’t over and probably won’t ever finish, even if I can’t run as you can always walk or volunteer!

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