The Scribbler

22 January 2012

The best runs aren’t always your fastest

We were celebrating Newcastle parkrun’s 2nd birthday this weekend, so any excuse for cake and celebration! And you just know that meant I had to be there.

The plan was for the run as normal and then parkrun celebrations with cake, hot drinks and presentations in the nearby Royal Grammar School afterwards, complete with special guest Mark Allison, aka Run Geordie Run.

Mark Allison - Run Geordie Run

Mark Allison - Run Geordie Run

For anyone who doesn’t know, Mark is something of a local hero. In 2011, he ran an epic 3,100 miles across America in 100 days, and raised over £100,000 for two North East charities – St Benedict’s Hospice and the Children’s Foundation. In 2013 he’s taking on the even tougher challenge of running across Australia.

He’s a real hero of mine. I loved reading his blogs and catching up on his twitter feed as he was running and was very disappointed to miss an opportunity to shake his hand when he came in to give a talk at a work event last year.

On Saturday, after his first ever parkrun, he spoke with much humour about the challenges, highs and lows of his amazing achievement. It was inspirational stuff and the parkrun crew were hanging on his every word. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s put some thoughts in some heads. I did get to shake his hand this time. I hope some of his determination rubs off.

It’s not usual for there to be prizes at parkrun, but it was a tradition started by our first race director Niyc Pidgeon and it’s great to see it continue. There are prizes for the highest points scorers and some more light-hearted awards, nominated by parkrun regulars. I discovered we had a duathlon champion – someone who takes on the role of lead bike around the course and then runs parkrun in an impressive 36 minutes.

Parkrun regulars also showed their support to the volunteers who make our runs possible. There’s a hardcore team of volunteers at Newcastle who really are the backbone of this community and make sure a growing number of people can enjoy a weekly timed run on the Town Moor.

So what about the run? For me, it was one of my most enjoyable runs. I’d offered to pace Danielle, a runner I’ve made friends with on Twitter at sub 30 pace for a new PB. It was great to finally meet her and it gave me a chance to run, but at a sensible pace.

It’s quite a responsibility to pace another runner, especially one you don’t know very well, and conditions were rather challenging, with gusty winds making it hard going over the exposed stretches. And it didn’t help that in messing around with pace and speed on my Garmin, I’d actually switched it back to miles rather than kilometres, so I had to do some working out in my head, without letting on to Danielle.

I figured 9:30 min miles would see us right and checked my watch at the 1k sign. Even with a tough start into a headwind we were spot on at 5:55 for the first kilometre.

As we turned into the shelter of the trees along Grandstand Road, I encouraged her to pick it up a little, and actually pushed the pace a bit too hard towards the middle of the run, recording a 9:04 mile along the way, but Danielle stuck with it and was running really well. I kept offering little nudges of encouragement and positive messages.

The rough ground between 3 and 4k always saps your legs and your mental commitment to a fast time and it was made even more difficult by a ferocious headwind as we turned into the last kilometre. Still we kept going and although at times, Danielle was struggling a little with her breathing, she found a way to get it together.

As we approached the last corner I reassured her that she had it in the bag and we powered for the line. It was a brilliant run in far from ideal conditions and I felt really proud that Danielle had done what she set out to do. Here’s her version of events.

As we were waiting to get our barcodes and tokens scanned, another lady tapped me on the shoulder to say that she’d tucked in behind us, listening to me and it had helped her too. Well that just made me feel 100 feet tall.

I’m not the fastest runner, but I’ve benefited from so much advice and encouragement from other runners and have, in my turn been paced to some challenging times by faster runners. So I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end. And it feels even better to be on the giving one.

I guess I just love that feeling of achieving something, knowing what it takes to do it and how positive a force it can be for boosting your confidence. And it’s great when others can feel that too.

More pictures and video of the parkrun celebrations on Newcastle parkrun’s facebook page

Stats and stuff:
3.1 miles 29:03
1) – 1m – 9:19(9:19/m) – 102cal
2) – 1m – 9:04(9:04/m) – 104cal
3) – 1m – 9:57(9:57/m) – 103cal
4) – 0.1m – 44(7:13/m) – 10cal

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