Lark in the park

Posted on: 21 Nov 2017

So that’s what all the fuss is about.  I guess over a million runners can’t be wrong, so on Saturday I finally broke my parkrun duck and headed to Sandwell Valley in West Bromwich for a 5k dash in the drizzle.

My brother has got back into running recently and clocked up about 20 parkrun events since then, getting his time down to under 30 minutes.  He said he wanted to try Sandwell, which only started two weeks ago.

Although I don’t live nearby, I do work less than a mile from the valley and run there frequently when I’m training.  As the name suggests, there are a few hills to tackle and plenty of picturesque trails.  It’s also a place we remember fondly from our childhood years as our grandma’s house used to overlook neighbouring Dartmouth Park.

So we agreed to meet up and my sister in law offered to tag along so she could keep an eye on Izzy while we ran.  Getting a six year old up and out of the house for 8am sounds simple enough, but no matter how early you set the alarm it always seems to be a mad rush!

Nevertheless we made it in time and there was plenty of parking near the start.  Just under 200 ran, slightly down on its inaugural week but still decent for a new event.  The weather probably didn’t help – dull and cold, plus the drizzle was now turning into proper rain.  Oh winter running, how I’ve missed you…

I said in my last post I wasn’t sure about participating, but I felt OK having done a couple of gentle three mile ‘shakedown’ runs during the week.  My thigh was nowhere near as tight, but I took a few minutes to properly warm up just in case.

What to do then…  Take it easy and just enjoy the experience, or get near the front and have a crack at a decent time?  Oh what the heck, let’s go for it and forget about injuries for a day.

Off we went, bang on 9am.  I was familiar with most of the route from countless training runs so knew what to expect in terms of the surface (a mix of tarmac and pathways) and terrain (quite up and down). 

Despite some congestion at the start, things soon thinned out and I got into my stride.  The first mile bleeped out at 7:02 (sorry, I don’t do kilometres!) – I was very pleased with that, although wondered if it might be too much too soon.

But I needn’t have worried.  Spurred on by a closing gap to two runners in front of me, and twitchy about another behind who was chasing me down, I gritted my teeth and kept up the pace.  Mile two was 7:07 and the third 7:08. 

Just a sprint to the line now and we’re done.  I’d lost my place to the guy behind me, but effectively taken it back by catching one of the runners in front, which felt good.  It’s such a refreshing change to run alongside other people when more often than not you train alone.

I was hoping the time would be quick, perhaps even threatening my PB.  It had certainly caught my two supporters by surprise, because they were still making their way back from the playground as I hit the final corner!  A distant wave and cry of ‘go on daddy’ and that was that – job done.    

The parkrun volunteer handed me my token and I took a nervous look at my Garmin.  It was claiming a 5k record of 22:01 (six second improvement), but an overall course time of 22:34.  Either way, I was a happy boy.  Perhaps the course was a little long (a few other people said so as we chatted in a nearby coffee shop afterwards), but in the grand scheme of things it really doesn’t matter.

What I was most surprised about was my position – 22nd overall and 4th in my age group.  Not too shabby for a debut run!

My brother came home a few minutes later and got another sub-30, which is great considering the course and conditions.  He’s now got his sights set on a 10 miler and then a half marathon and hopefully that means a few more events where we can meet up and share our enjoyment of the sport.

Am I glad I decided to run?  Definitely.  Did it hurt?  Later that day, yes, but not out on the course.  Will I be back?  Absolutely.   Now, where can I get one of those natty orange shirts from…


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