Down with the kids

Posted on: 27 Feb 2019

It may only have been a couple of kilometres long and twice as slow as my usual pace, but I had one of my most satisfying runs in months on Sunday.

This was my first outing with Izzy to junior parkrun, a version of the weekly event we all know and love specifically for the under 14s.

I’ve been itching to get little one signed up for this ever since she ran one of the Great Run kids’ events with me just over a year ago, however the Sunday morning timeslot always clashed with her swimming lesson.

Not any more though – after progressing into the next group, swimming now moves to a Saturday morning.  So I got her registered, checked for local events (we have three within a reasonable distance) and took her shopping for some new trainers (because you can never have enough running kit, even at the tender age of eight!).

What’s really pleasing about the whole running thing is that the desire to try it is most definitely coming from her.  She’s clearly seen me taking on this and that event, coming home with another medal for the collection, occasionally celebrating a new PB, and wants to experience it too.

The question ‘did you win’ is always top of the list after a daddy run.  Trying to explain that coming in the top 15,000 in a field of 30,000 runners a la London Marathon represents a great performance isn’t easy…!  And breaking the news that weekly parkruns do not involve medals was also a bit tricky.

But now we’ve been along and experienced a parkrun together, I think she gets it.  Either that, or the promise of new trainers won her over and she’s decided to just keep quiet.

After the Saturday shopping trip, we took advantage of the glorious weather and went for a practice run.  There’s a nature reserve at the bottom of our road with tarmac pathways that are all relatively flat. 

She was eager to dash off, but I held her back and used the tried and tested run/walk technique.  We used lampposts as markers – walk to that one, run to that one, now walk one and run two and so on.  We also did a quarter of a mile nonstop and timed ourselves over one complete mile.  It took just under 14 minutes – really not bad, and quicker than the Great Mini Run in 2017.

The only let-down about the parkrun itself the next morning was the weather.  Overnight fog had failed to lift and it wasn’t especially warm.  Oh well, she’d better get used to this if regular running is on the agenda!

We chose Birches Valley at Cannock Chase, which is a 2km figure of eight course through the forest using trail paths, with a sneaky hill about a third of the way in.  Just under 70 kids took part, many with their parents.  We were also going to run together.

It was great fun, including a pre-run warm up, marshals offering high fives and loads of encouragement and a proper funnel finish where they get their tokens.  I clocked her mile split at 13:40 – already getting better – and overall she was 16:41 and p56. 

So definitely a proud dad day.  Not because of times or positions, but because of her attitude to it all – positive, enthusiastic and willing to listen.  We made a good team and hopefully over time I can build her up to run the entire distance. 

Who knows where it will lead, but for now we can just enjoy spending time together and sharing a hobby. 

Of course fun as they are, junior parkruns are not going to prepare me for a spring marathon.  Training for Brighton continues apace and the good news is that I’m pretty much over my cold (aka man flu) now. 

I skipped Tuesday training last week to help with recovery, but then made the most of two days off work to clock up some decent mileage.

Wednesday morning was a solid seven miler and then my long run at marathon pace covered 16 miles on the Thursday.  It was far from flat too, with a pretty relentless climb from Cannock town centre to the top of Hednesford Hills.  Total elevation gain was 677ft, which definitely gave the legs something to think about.

I decided to push to complete the rest of my scheduled miles the following morning, thereby freeing up my weekend for core work.  It was a slow and stiff four miler before work with quite a few protestations from that sore right hamstring.

However, things eased off the following morning and as I type now four days later that trend has continued.  I’m hopeful it’s on the mend, and even if it isn’t the discomfort seems to be controllable.

A further test will come in the morning – another 16 mile long run is due, which I’ll complete by leaving home early and running to work.  Tiring yes, but it’s a far cry from Manchester training this time last year when temperatures were usually sub-zero and runs often involved dodging snow showers. 

If spring really has sprung early, I don’t think you’ll find many marathon runners complaining!

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