Every week I’ve looked in envy at the pictures from Newcastle Parkrun. I’ve stalked the message board and become a fan on facebook, but I’ve never actually run it until now. Focusing on training for the Great North Run meant that I opted for a long run at the weekend and didn’t want to risk my legs on a short fast blast. But boy do I love a short, fast blast! And I love racing. Even the good natured, just competing against yourself racing of parkrun.
It’s suddenly turned to winter here in the North East. We’ve had storms, torrential rain, and today it was cold. Cold on the windswept exposed moor. Bye, bye summer shorts. Hello hoodies, buffs and gloves. But today it had to be my Fetch top. And it was a great race to introduce it.
I zoomed into town and headed to Exhibition Park, still keeping my hoodie on, but discarding it at the start as I chatted to Jeff and Rob. I was introduced to the legend that is Mr Henderson senior, still a youngster compared to the other vets preparing to run on some cracking looking legs. I want that to be me, still running and enjoying every minute when I’m in my 80s.
Jogging back to the start line, trying to keep warm, chatting with some of the other runners, comparing experiences from last weekend. And then a few quick stretches and trying to keep my legs warm, set the watch and, we’re off!
Crikey, they go off like the clappers don’t they? I feel like I’m passed by the whole field by the first turn, and part of me wants to give chase. With one thing and another, I haven’t run since the big race last Sunday, and the adrenaline’s up, but their pace is much too fast for me.
Just run your own race I tell myself and start to settle. I really don’t know how I’m going to feel today, shaking off the remnants of a cold and still needing to warm up my legs. But that’s one of the beauties of a first time out on a course, or a distance. No expectations and a guaranteed PB.
I overtake a couple of runners as we head out towards the gate, which boots my confidence a little, and I settle into a rhythm that feels tough, but manageable. I can hear my breathing, quite sharp and harsh, and I need to clear my throat a fair few times in the cold air.
I’ve forgotten to switch my Garmin back to km splits, but glance at the first marker and see 5.10. Crikey, that’s almost target 10k pace. Keep going girl.
The field thins out very quickly and I’m soon in my own space, no one running close behind me and those ahead too distant to target at this stage. I look into the distance and see a ribbon of runners streaming ahead. It feels good to be running again.
The 2nd kilometre’s quick too and I overtake a couple more runners as we turn down Grandstand Road. Warmer and more sheltered here, I love running beneath the trees in the dappled sunlight. As we turn in at the next gate, a girl over takes me, but doesn’t sprint away and I think, ‘I’ll have you at the finish’.
It’s starting to hurt a bit around now and I ease up a little to get my breathing back into order. I remember this stretch from last year’s 10k over the gravelly path. Then I was desperately hanging on to a runner wearing a Welsh Dragon on his shirt. Today, I’m just running and it feels good – tough, but good.
The 4k marker arrives just as I’m starting to drift off the pace a little and I think only 5 more minutes to run and try to push on. But this is a tough bit of the course, into the wind and I don’t seem to make much headway.
As the route snakes round and I start to understand where the finish is, I tell myself I’ll push after the last turn, but my legs have other ideas and kick up a gear before it comes. I start to stretch out, making the most of each stride as I start reeling in runners.
Pass the girl in the pink top and she’s not coming back at me. That couple up ahead – they’re too far away too catch aren’t they? Legs kick in another gear and the distance closes quickly. Power down, arms pumping. Where is this coming from? I don’t know, but it’s a race and I do like a sprint finish. A quick smile for the camera and over the line in 25.39. Wow! I hadn’t expected that.
Head down to catch my breath, and Jeff comes over to say well done. I look up, but can’t reply, and have to put my head down again to get my balance. What a great, exhilarating run.
Well it was a guaranteed PB, as I’d never timed myself over that distance before. And it’s confirmed what I pretty much decided in my head after this year’s Great North Run. I’m a speed demon. I like the short fast runs. And although I’d purposefully not set any expectations for myself for that run, after a week shuffling off a cold and no other training. I am very happy with that – particularly as the official time was 2 seconds faster.
Here’s what’s on my official Parkrun email: You finished in 88th place and were the 18th lady out of a field of 136 parkrunners and you came 2nd in your age category VW35-39. (OMG 2nd – in my category!) You achieved an age-graded score of 59.14%.
The trick now will be to do better each time. But I’m pretty confident I have that in me and it will be great training for the 10k, which will be my next target race in November. All in all, a very good day, topped off by another donation to my Great North Run fundraising for Sands .
I’ve just written the cheque for all my offline donations and posted it off this morning, bringing the total raised to £1,375.50. I’m very proud to have done that for Ava and from talking to lots of other people who have been affected by stillbirth or neonatal death, I know it will make a huge difference. So once thank you with all of my heart. Whether you gave money, or just good wishes, you helped me make a difference and remember a little sister with love.