parkrun #55: Barking

Barking was my final parkrun of the year, 3rd ‘victory lap’ run, and mission more-than-complete on the 52 parkruns challenge.

They explained at the start that the course was 2 laps, and flat with ‘a slight incline’ in the middle of each lap. I readied myself for some kind of cliff-face climb, having learned from previous experience that this could be parkrun code for ‘this is going to be difficult’. But having now completed the course, I’m none-the-wiser as to where the slight incline actually was. Which makes Barking a very fast, flat course – on tarmac, so good at all times of year.

A large stretch of the course is alongside a long and narrow lake, and I was overtaken this week by a v-formation of flying geese. Barking is also home to some of those giant East London ducks that I saw at Valentines parkrun the other week. But these, fortunately, were either to slow or too lazy to overtake, leaving my dignity intact.


I’m running I’ve run a different parkrun each week of the year to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Please head over to my JustGiving page if you’re able to help out with sponsorship.

Many thanks to the hi-vis heroes at Barking, and across all of the parkruns I’ve done this year, for making the 52 parkrun challenge possible.



parkrun #25: Cambridge

I was joined on the 11th by Emma, Sophie, Nick and Tod the Dog, and we went to Milton Country Park for the Cambridge parkrun.


Me, Nick, Emma and Tod

The park has a lake which is open for swimming early on Saturday mornings, and Sophie suggested that we go for a pre-parkrun dip. I’d never been lake swimming before, but inspired by Miriam (who joined me for a couple of parkruns earlier in the year), thought it might be a good idea. Emma, Nick and Tod the Dog opted for a lie-in.

Sophie unfortunately slept in, so I ended up going on my own. My verdict on lake swimming is that it was initially embarrassing (who knew that the zip of a wetsuit is supposed to be at the back…?), then terrifying  (why is it so dark underwater?), and then not too bad. Maybe I’ll go again some time!

The swim-parkrun combination turned out to be a popular one, with lots of people heading out of the lake and over to the start line. Cambridge parkrun is very busy, and to make things easier on the overtaking they ask you to guess your time and stand in order at the start. Emma, Sophie, Tod and I hung back at the 35 minute mark, while Nick headed through to the front.

Sophie had run the course before and described it to us as an ‘ampersand’ shape, with a little lap round one side of the park, followed by two big laps round the other side and a final straight bit at the end. It’s entirely on paths, through trees and round two man-made lakes.

With all the people, this was a much scarier parkrun for Tod than his first (in Newark). We made our way round the first two laps very slowly, with the odd bit of stopping and leaping around as fast runners (including Nick) came past. By the third lap, the faster runners had finished, and we had a bit more space. Tod decided to up the pace as the rest of us struggled to keep up, meaning we managed quite a serious negative split. Our time of 33 minutes does not reflect how incredibly speedy we were for the last couple of kilometres! (See results)


Tod leads the way

We spent the rest of the day down by the river watching rowing at the Cambridge Bumps. Which was brilliant. Especially as Selwyn M1 overbumped to blades (translation: the team we were supporting won a lot). 🙂

Thanks very much to the volunteers at Cambridge parkrun. It’s a huge event to be putting on every week and all your efforts are very much appreciated!

Thanks also to Emma, Nick, Sophie and Tod for joining me – and I hope to see you all again soon.

Also great to meet Tony, who got in touch earlier in the year to warn me of a flaw in my original timetable. (Best not to go to Cambridge when the course is closed!)

I’m running a different parkrun every week of the year to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Please head over to my JustGiving page if you can spare any pennies for a great cause.

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The end.






parkrun #24: Fell Foot

Dave and I headed off to the Lake District for a half-term holiday last week. Setting off from London, the Lake District felt like a mistake. It was cold and raining, and we were expecting a bracing few days ahead. However, it got sunnier and sunnier as we headed up the M6, and by the time we got there it was clear that we really should have packed the sunscreen rather than the rain macs.

Handily (ok, not handily – this was entirely planned), we were close by to Fell Foot parkrun. Fell Foot is a national trust site at the bottom of Lake Windermere, with a super-pretty parkrun course.

The course is mostly on grass, with a bit of tarmac and a bit of gravel. It’s a figure of 8 lap, which you go round not quite twice, looping round a meadow and heading down to the edge of the lake. The views across the lake and mountains are stunning, and for relatively little effort in terms of hills on the parkrun itself.

Dave ran round with me until just before the end, when he sprinted off for the finish. We finished in 26.22 and 26.37 – see results. Other parkrunners sensibly took a post-parkrun dip in the lake to cool down.

Fell Foot

at the finish


Other highlights from the holiday included navigating with a hand-me-down guidebook from the 1980s (remarkably successful), and reading our books while floating around in a rowing boat in the middle of Lake Windermere. Highly recommended.


I’m running 52 different parkruns over the course of 2016 to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK. If you’re able to help out, please head over to my JustGiving page.

parkrun #16: Lincoln

This weekend I headed up to Lincoln to see my friend Miriam, and joined her for a very successful parkrun.

Lincoln is a flat 3-lap course, run entirely on tarmac. It’s partly round a small lake, partly through woodland, and partly round a field with a bandstand (which is where everyone meets at the start). There’s a narrow section towards the end of each lap, which can make it a bit difficult (but not impossible) to overtake.

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Pre-run: at the bandstand

We decided to run round separately. Miriam had done two practice parkruns back in January to prepare, but spent much of our journey there coming up with excuses for why she wouldn’t be able to run very quickly (and definitely wouldn’t finish in under 30 minutes).

I was much revived from last week, and finished in what I reckoned must be around 27 minutes. Once I’d gone through the finish funnel, I decided to try and find Miriam to join her for the last part of the run. I turned around ready to head back up the course, but saw she was actually pretty close behind and already on the final field section. This was excellent news as it meant that (a) she was surely going to get a PB, and (b) I didn’t have to run very much further.

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Post run: bit soggy, but clearly much happier than pre-run

After the run we headed to over the indoor bowls club for an in incredibly cheap and popular post-parkrun breakfast. We helped with some finish token sorting to get things ready for next week’s run. And felt quite self-satisfied about it too. 5k run and good deed done all before 11am on a Saturday.

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Finish token sorting 0:)

The rest of the day in Lincoln included (importantly) a trip to Ladbrokes for some unsuccessful betting on the Grand National, and (less importantly) a free Starbucks, very cheap lunch on a river barge and trip to a bargain warehouse.

Our results emails revealed that I got round the course in a solid 26.32, and Miriam had run more than 2 minutes quicker than her previous PB, finishing in 28.04. (See results)

Many thanks to the volunteers at Lincoln. It felt like a super-friendly event, with announcements on birthdays and milestone runs, a competition on which tourist had travelled furthest (not me), and an invitation to join a ‘parkrun cheering station’ at next week’s Lincoln 10k.

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Thanks to the volunteers 🙂

Next week I’ll be in nearby Newark, joined by my friend Emma and Tod the dog. And hopefully also Miriam…

I’m raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK over the course of the 52 runs. Please check out my JustGiving page if you’re able to help.

parkrun #13: Aldenham

From the biggest parkrun to one of the smallest. Aldenham has around 30 runners each week, compared to the thousand at Bushy.

I ran with my friends Avril and Chris, who were on their first parkrun (and first ever 5k). Avril chose Aldenham on the basis that it was round a lake, so must be flat and pretty. As a bonus, we found when we arrived that it’s on a farm, complete with sheep, ponies and petting zoo.

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Me, Avril and Chris. (None of us can take a decent selfie.)

The course itself is two laps round the lake, with a welcome short-cut on the second lap. The ground is slightly uneven and muddy in parts, which isn’t a problem if you’re happy to take the odd detour here-and-there, maybe more of a problem if your gunning for a PB.

We ran round at a slow but steady pace, finishing in just over 40 minutes. (Just under for Chris as he had a much better sprint finish than me or Avril!) I finished 35th, which was my best ever finishing position, and a big improvement on 365th last week. (Let me have this moment – no-one need mention that there were only 35 runners.) Results are up here: Aldenham 19.03.2016

The volunteer team were really welcoming and supportive. Many thanks for organising the event and for your encouragement on the course.

And most of all, congratulations to Avril and Chris on your first parkrun. I hope you’re still as keen as you were at our post-run coffee, and planning for your next event. (Particularly if it’s at nearby Harrow or South Oxhey which I’ve not done yet…)

Running with parkrun newbies is my absolute favourite, so if you’ve got in mind that you might like to try it out then please let me know.

Plea for help: I’m going to write up a special blog post on tips for beginners. What worked for you when you first started? What made you decide to run in the first place, what kept you motivated, what challenges came up and how did you deal with them? I know what worked for me, but it’s different for everyone, so very useful to get different points of view.

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Me, Avril and Pip the Pony

And finally – I’m raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK over the course of the year. Please see my JustGiving page page if you’re able to help.

parkrun #2: St Albans

I was not the most enthusiastic when I woke up on Saturday morning. It was dark, cold and raining, and my trainers were still wet from Mansfield’s water jumps.

St Albans though turned out to be well worth the effort. The course was very different to any I’ve done before, with 1km to a lake, 3 laps round, then 1km back.

By the time I was at the end of my first lap, the field had spread out so there was a continuous loop of people running round the lake and I couldn’t tell the front-runners from those at the back. I really liked that with such a small and open lap you could see all 300+ parkrunners rather than just the ten-or-so who match your pace.

St Albans

Running round the lake. Slight blurring most likely due to drizzle rather than speed.

The course is a quick one as it’s almost entirely flat, and (save for a very muddy finish) entirely on tarmac. I was pleased with a new ‘fastest time of 2016’, coming in at just under 25 minutes.

A special shout-out to the marshals for inspired words of encouragement such as ‘keep going – only 4.99km to go’, and ‘don’t slip – it’s muddy and we’ve not got any spare towels’.

See the results here: St Albans results 2 Jan

Next stop TBC. Probably Gadebridge unless anyone has any other suggestions?