Tag Archives: parkrun

Photo of Race Angels

Angels with Sweaty Faces

It all started with an innocuous message on Messenger. “Hiya! What’s your diary like 8th April?”  A quick check of the family calendar on the wall revealed that it was currently clear but it was in the middle of the kids’ Easter holidays so there was always the possibility that we would go to Scotland.

So I replied: “Intriguing…should I clear my diary?” Well, came the reply, I’m looking for a Race Angel to help out at Manchester Marathon that day…

Now let’s rewind and explain a bit more before we go on. I had seen the Race Angels at races before. I had even been offered some help from a lovely lady in their trademark orange T shirts during the Wirral half marathon (yes, the one I did in 2 hours and 4 seconds – still gutted about those 5 seconds!) I saw them more recently at Conwy Half Marathon but thankfully didn’t need their help.

Race Angels is the brainchild of Adrienne Hall. She did her first marathon at Chester in 2013 and was a couple of miles from the end, finding the going a bit tough when she asked a spectator how far she had to go. Despite not being in running clothes or shoes, he ran with Adrienne for a little bit and told her she didn’t have far to go. Adrienne then repaid the favour at the Dublin Rock and Roll half marathon by encouraging someone to finish. He told her she was his angel and the concept was born.

I decided that it was too good an opportunity to turn down and the diary now had a very important event in it. Arrangements were made to share a lift with Peter (another Race Angel virgin!) and Julie (her second outing as a Race Angel). As we discussed after, because we hadn’t met before, it was like a weird blind date, but with it being the running community, we all got on famously and a big thanks to Julie for doing all the driving with an extra early start.

I joked beforehand that I would get all the race atmosphere without any of the performance nerves. However I still got the night before nerves that I would miss my alarm and kept waking up during the night. When the alarm went off at 5.15 am, I was very bleary eyed.

Race Angels in Warrington

The T shirt handing over ceremony!

We met up with Adrienne and Geoff in Liverpool and travelled in convoy to Warrington to meet Darren, Clare and Stephen, making up the entire team of 8 for the day. Race Angel T shirts were handed over in the car park of a Warrington hotel and then we were on our way to Manchester.

We set up shop at around mile 24. There was a water station opposite a pub where we stationed ourselves. We ran to the start to see the runners go off and lend our support.

A much needed coffee on our way back to our position at mile 24 and we were ready to put our halos on and spring into action. It felt quite privileged to see the front runners, not something I normally see in a race. It was astonishing to watch them running at a pace I would be hard pushed to sustain during a parkrun.

Photo of Race Angels

We always wanted to be on the stage!

Peter would not forgive me if I didn’t mention this: among the front runners, there were so many men with bleeding nipples, it was unbelievable. I grimaced every time I saw one and Peter thought this was hilarious so I started to laugh too. But honestly there were so many. Have they not heard of Vaseline? The pain must have been unreal.

Finally I was summoned to help. A lady in a Knowsley Harriers vest (I think) asked me to run with her as she was trying to get Good For Age qualification. Luckily I was on fresh legs so I managed to pull out my best 10K pace and saw her to mile 25 when she ran on, hopefully a bit revitalised, although I don’t know how she managed that pace at that point in the race.

From there on in, I barely stopped for the next 4 hours. I lost count of the number of people I helped but I remember that I ran with 7 people who were very emotional. Much like myself at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon last year, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming and I think that it’s the body’s way of releasing that tension and allowing you to get on with the job. I used that experience and tried to make them feel that it was not silly to be emotional at this point, that loads of us had got emotional during a marathon and, more importantly, they were now at mile 25 and only just over a mile to go. Other people were not so emotional but were perhaps tired and if their race had not gone to plan, maybe a bit disappointed so hopefully a friendly chat and a walk alongside them would be a pick me up.

#Visorclub rules!

I really enjoyed seeing a lot of my Twitter buddies. It was like a who’s who of the UKrunchat group! Colin and Keith Johnstone, Helen Bly, Anthony Hughes, Michele Taylor, Paul Addicott and Phil Jeffries doing their sterling work as pacers, and Michele Whiffen, and who took this great pic of us. Others waved as they went past, too many of you to mention.

All the Race Angels were working equally hard and I barely saw any of them until I stopped around 3pm. When I checked my Garmin, including the run to the start and back, I had covered nearly 16 miles! No wonder I felt tired. Nothing that a late lunch wouldn’t sort though as we watched the (rather luxurious!) sweeper bus come through.

When I said yes to Adrienne’s message, hand on heart, I didn’t really think it through. I like running, and I like meeting people so it seemed a good fit for me. So the icing on the cake came when, that evening, my social media went into overdrive with lovely comments from runners who we had helped. It felt very rewarding to hear that we had made a difference to someone’s race experience.

Hats off to Adrienne for creating a wonderful concept; proof that the running community is stuffed full of amazing people. I’ll be back at Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon proudly wearing my orange T shirt. Check out the Race Angels page on Facebook and on Twitter @RaceAngels to see if they will be at your next race!

A new race on my doorstep? On a route on which I regularly train? Flat course? Loads of my running friends doing it too? Sounded good to me. Which explains why on a Friday night at the end of September I found myself signing up for the inaugural Wirral Way Half Marathon on 8 January 2017 and joining in on lots of excited chatter on social media.

I have done a January half marathon before – see my related blog post below for my review of the 4 Villages half marathon last year which I loved doing. I felt I couldn’t do both (although I wish I had now!) so I thought to myself that the Wirral Way Half Marathon had better be pretty special. I signed up to an ASICS plan (you can find them online) which tailors the training to your goals and time available and I started training at the end of October (once I had recovered from the Metric Marathon).

Photo of Loch Creran

Scotland – a place where the scenery is good for the soul

Training was going pretty well until the week before Christmas when I came down with a cold. Luckily it wasn’t a truly nasty cold. I was able to carry on with the preparations for Christmas and I “only” lost a week’s training. We also went to Scotland for Christmas and Storms Barbara and Connor meant that I lost a little bit more time. On the plus side, I enjoyed a long run on the Oban to Fort William cycle path. There’s nothing like running in very picturesque surroundings to boost the spirit.

Back home to the Wirral to the pre-race information or in my case, the lack of it. I had to rely on my parkrun buddies to forward it to me. As other people noted, it didn’t fill me with confidence because it was full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (so I had better make sure this blog post is perfect on both fronts!).  The race organisers weren’t able to secure closure of the roads at the crossing points so that meant that these were being manned by marshals and we may have to stop. I wouldn’t have put my safety over a PB but I really wanted that sub 2 hour half marathon.

Photo of AM and parkrun buddies

Parkrun buddies Brian and Gemma looking good at the start of the race

Surprisingly the race day weather was good. Very little wind, about 6 degrees and only very light rain was forecast.  The absence of wind was a decisive factor in my decision on the morning of the race to push for the PB even with the road crossings.

The nice thing about racing locally is knowing a lot of people also doing the race. So there were lots of familiar faces in the car park at Hooton station where the race was to start. The difference with this race was that the start times were staggered as the start of the course was very narrow. There were quite a few people I knew in my 9.30am wave start so was happy to chat to them as we waited to start. I did get hemmed in at the beginning so that my first kilometre was 6.26 minutes but after that I managed to get clear and started to pass people. Much more satisfying to pick people off in a race than being passed anyway.

Photo of AM at Wirral Way HM

4 miles in and feeling good…(photo credit to Paul Avison)

The “southern” parts of the Wirral way were not entirely unknown to me as I have been on every part of it before at some point. However, I haven’t been on them for a long time so they were “fresh” to me and I enjoyed this element of the race. At 4 miles in, I was feeling pretty good, doing a reasonable pace and felt that I could run all day.

The light rain started soon after and I regretted my decision not to wear my peaked cap. But it was quite cooling so I pushed on. I thought that I might struggle going past the finish at around 9-10 miles but as there were loads of friends out supporting, it was quite a boost. Only 3 miles to go and still on course for sub 2 hours!

Just one and half miles later, I nearly lost the plot at Cubbins Green. I thought we were just turning round there but staying on the path. So when we had to run down onto the Green itself with its bumpy grass and muddy climb up back to the path, I lost precious time and my inner critic (my chimp!) told me that it was no good and to abandon all hope of a sub 2 hour finish.  I really had to pull it together and told that little voice to shut up, that we were doing this or else! Sheer determination got me to the finish in 1 hour 59 minutes and 38 seconds. Finally achieved the goal, and it felt good.

Photo of medal from Wirral way Half Marathon

First bling of 2017

Great to see so many people at the finish and I was able to share out my yummy cupcakes I had arranged for my birthday (it was the day before). Most people were tucking into the hog roast laid on at the finish but I stuck to cake. The medal was pretty ,if a little small, and the red T shirt made a nice change although my only small gripe with this was that it didn’t refer specifically to the Wirral Way so please take note race organisers if you read this! Otherwise I thought this was a great race which surpassed initial expectations. Most of my friends had a positive experience too.

The great thing about the running community is how supportive it is and this race was no exception. Thanks to my Mersey Tri friends Collette and Sue for picking me up and taking me to the start, thanks to my parkrun buddies for support before the race, thanks to my running group friends for their support on the course and, most of all, thanks to my family, who would rather be doing other stuff than coming out on cold January morning to support a mad woman who is obsessed with running 13.1 miles in under 2 hours!

Photo of AM and family

At the finish with Adventurous Son and Daughter – “Euuw mummy you’re all wet!”

 

 

 

 

 

Running with and guiding a blind runner

Adventurous Mum asked me to write a guest blog about what it is like to guide and run with a blind person. My name is Phillip Stanley, an average runner and novice triathlete. (Adventurous Mum says: Phil is being modest here as he can run a sub 47 min 10k. And he’s a 2nd Dan Black belt in Tae Kwon Do where we first met!)

Phil and Ben at parkrun

All smiles before parkrun

My friend, Ben Darby lost his sight when he was 3 years old although he does retain a little vision. The first thing to say is that running with Ben is a pleasure and, while it comes with responsibilities, it has many benefits for me. Ben is approaching his mid-30s and I am moving too quickly towards my mid-50s. He is stronger and faster – and has run all distances including two marathons.

Ben estimates that through training and races he’s had 30+ guides, including a number of attractive ladies – what an operator! Ben likes running with me because he trusts that I will keep him safe and give him the space and support to do what he loves most doing – running. Building that level of trust, helped by constant communication provides the foundations of guiding.

We are both members of Run Wirral, and use routes very familiar to Ben so he has computed road layouts and potential hazards. My job is to remind him of kerbsides, wheelie bins, overhanging branches, lamp posts, animals, and what people are doing around him. He holds onto my elbow so that as necessary I can pull him the right direction (well most of the time). Along the way I describe the route or street name. This is vital when it is dark.

At races, his main worry is making sure that we meet in good time so that he can drop off his bag, go to the toilet and get into the runners’ corral. I let him know when we are about to go and as we approach the start line to start his watch. He obsesses about times like most runners.

Phil and Ben at Liverpool HM

Phil and Ben at mile 9 of the Liverpool Half Marathon

The first part of any race is to find space and get into a rhythm, and of course it is crowded, so we could take about 10 minutes to get settled. Apart from alerting Ben to any potential dangers, I describe landmarks we pass or people we know just to say hello. We are easily recognisable with our names on the front of our vests along with Ben’s ‘Blind Runner’. We hear lots of encouraging remarks, and Ben laughs when people say how wonderful it is he can run – little knowing how fast he can be.

Apart from the business end of being a guide, the friendship has developed by the things we talk about when we are running. Ben is a warm, caring person but has a mischievous sense of humour. We cover everything from sports; family; the people we know; or what we have been up to in the past week. Since I love the sound of my voice, Ben listens patiently to my long stories which go off on tangents – and my stressful day at work. It’s good to share stuff and the time passes. You really get to know a person when running with them. As we approach the finishing line and I see space, it’s like letting a dog off the lead as he sprints to the finish – and that lad can run quickly.

Ben and I have made a lot of friends through running. We are a community. He has helped me to get stronger and his encouragement has meant I have achieved some great times. He keeps me going when I feel tired, as pictures of us show – him, smiling, happy to be running; me grimacing, digging in at times. What did I say earlier? There are mutual benefits to this relationship. I am the type of runner who thrives better on reacting to external stimuli and as I run past scenery, fellow runners or act as a guide, I perform better.

In my life, I meet negative people who moan about things. I would like to introduce them to Ben to show how he has to overcome barriers every day. He is happy when he can run and I am happy to guide him. Long may it continue – and hopefully more PBs along the way.

Not just parkrun tourists…

We went away to Edinburgh last weekend to meet up with our niece, Meagan. She is on an adventure of her own as she is having a gap year before college and working as an intern at the Scottish Association of Marine Science near Oban. She is a keen swimmer and runner so I was very happy to have a partner in crime for the weekend activities.

Photo of Cramond

Windswept and interesting – Cramond Prom

First stop: Edinburgh parkrun. The weather forecast was not promising but the course is nice and flat along the prom at Cramond.  There were about 350 people there all ready to brave the best the Scottish weather could throw at us. Strong headwind, rain, icy darts of sleet on our faces and temperature not really getting above 3 degrees Celsius. The course is an out and back along the prom so was grateful again to turn round and have the wind behind us on the home straight (see my post on the Mad Dog 10K). The Forth Road and Rail Bridge could just be seen in the distance, spurring me on to the finish. Not a PB according to my parkrun stats as this is a full 5 km unlike my home parkrun in Birkenhead but my Garmin trumpeted a new PB of 26:36 so I had to be happy with that.

AM and Meagan

Smiling before parkrun..if only we had known how strong the wind was going to be…

This was Meagan’s first experience of parkrun and I think she was impressed that so many people would get together on this basis and arrange a free event. With weather like that, she admitted she may not have got out for a run otherwise! I didn’t disagree with her.

Sunday now means long run day to me. The last time I was in Edinburgh I ran out to Portobello beach as this follows the marathon route. I had only been to Portobello once before in my life with my Dad when we came to Edinburgh to watch the World Pipe Band championships so there was some nostalgia involved in going there. So I went there again. It’s a great place, nice prom with cafes, vans selling coffees and a wide range of human experience on display from families playing in the park, dog walkers, runners like me, and in this case, open water swimmers in the sea! In February!! I was very much in awe of their adventurous spirit.

AM at Portobello

Portobello beach – swimmers behind me!

Meagan came with me for part of the run and then had a mini adventure of her own as she took a wrong turn on the way back. She successfully navigated her way back thankfully. Neglectful aunt!

We then continued our Edinburgh adventure with a hike up Arthurs Seat, the impressive volcanic hill behind Edinburgh. I was concerned for my leg muscles after running 10 miles out to Portobello and back. But climb it we did and the views were worth it. All of Edinburgh was laid out before us and right out to sea along the Firth of Forth. Adventurous Twins were more interested in playing in the thin layer of snow than the view. Maybe one day they will learn to appreciate the beauty of the natural world around them; meanwhile who could begrudge them some snow fun seeing as we have had some atrocious weather but precious little snow.

Arthur's seat

Are we really going to climb this?

Tamsin on Arthur's Seat

Can it be? Is it really…snow?

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Monday, like fitness tourists, we made a trip to the Commonwealth pool. I went last summer so that I could experience swimming in a 50 metre pool. Sadly, the pool was divided up into two 25 metre pools on Monday so the kids didn’t get that experience. It is a beautiful pool; clean and because it is so big, not crowded at all even through it was half term. There were diving lessons going on in the diving pool which Adventurous daughter wanted to try. The rest of us looked in awe at how high the 5 metre board is.

The moral of this post is that running and fitness can take you to places you may not have visited. I would never have gone to Cramond had it not been for parkrun. Running to Portobello brought back happy memories of my Dad. Climbing Arthur’s Seat was a great shared experience that I hope my kids will say “Do you remember that time we went up Arthur’s Seat with Meagan?” I now love running as a great way to explore places and see a bit more of them than I would otherwise have done. Google maps built into phones make the process a whole lot easier too, especially if it is a place with which you are not too familiar.

Do you run when you are away from home? Are you a parkrun tourist? Any stories to share?