Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Parkrun and a Half

Occasionally, I come up with an idea that's inspired. Sometimes - due to my over-enthusiastic head - those ideas turn out halfway through to be ridiculous, not inspired. This one was borderline. My sister had been going on about the South Downs Half Marathon for a few months, the the seed had been planted but since it has been quite some time since I've run a half, I wasn't sure I was fully up for it.

In amongst this period of time, a parkrun had begun at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, very conveniently where the SDHM started. I thought, if anything, I could go and do the parkrun then plonk myself down and cheer my big sis on. Then, over the last month I got myself back into running and with a couple of steady 10 milers in the bag, I decided that the half marathon was possible. This was the point that the wild enthusiasm kicked in and the great idea emerged: if you're going all the way over there, why not just do both?

The psychology of running never ceases to amaze me. I lined up at the parkrun start with a plan, this was a warm up. I would run it easy, no stress, no sweat, no drama. We set off on the first loop, an uphill slog, but as we turned right onto the downhill, I couldn't help myself. I bounded gleefully down the grassy slope and got myself into a quicker rhythm that just seemed to carry over to the undulating bottom section. I was still running a good minute over 5k pace but that was a good minute and a bit under the "warm up" pace I'd planned. In fact, if I'd planned to run at that pace I think I would have ended up not enjoying myself anywhere near as much. The second, longer loop takes in even more of the uphill and I was slowly picking people off that had started walking. I came to the finish feeling fresh and comfortable, even having run quicker than I thought I would.

Butser Hill, the run started by heading up to that
pylon you can see in the distance
We had twenty minutes to spare before the half was due to begin, so made our way over. As we mingled with other runners in the starting area, we had a good opportunity to spend time gazing upwards at Butser Hill. This would be the first bit of the run, and it was big. Within minutes, people were already walking. I managed to keep going up until the first bottleneck, a gate about three quarters of the way up. It was a good chance to recover and I managed to just about get myself going again.

The loop at the top of Butser Hill included a number of stiles and kissing gates, all where big bottlenecks were forming. Impatient runners were risking life and limb, clambering over barbed wire fences and deviating from the route to save themselves a few seconds. As a proud Brit I was embracing the whole polite queuing thing and enjoying the spectacular views, there's a lot to be said for this chilled out racing malarkey.

Ignoring the hill behind us at the start..
The run back down Butser Hill was incredible, the legs were unleashed and span into a frenzy as I made up for some of the time spent stood still. That feeling didn't last long though, the hills just kept on coming. At around 4 miles I was running back up the hill I'd run up twice during parkrun, and it suddenly felt a lot harder. Very few people were running, so I felt okay about breaking into a power walk, and actually managed to overtake those still trying to jog by doing so.

This set the precedent for nearly every hill. There were so many of them and very, very few were attempting to run. I would march up and run down. I did start to lose the will to live a bit at around 8.5 miles. The climb was so long I felt like I'd morphed into a hiker in lycra but just as I was due a sense of humour failure, the path cut left and we were rewarded with a long, gentle descent down a shaded forest track. It was just what the legs needed: a little injection of speed.

Crazy haired, but happy to have finished
A couple more huge hills came after that but as we were into the last few miles I jogged as much as I could up the hills and marched energetically whenever I needed to. The last mile and a half was an absolute dream and probably the flattest bit of the whole course. It was certainly a relief to see the finish line and I crossed it in somewhere around 2 hours and 20 minutes. It was my slowest half marathon by quite a way but I loved it, and the combination of running and walking meant my muscles weren't entirely ruined given the distance I'd covered. I was a proud little sis as my sister came storming through not long after, looking fantastic!

Maybe it had been a ridiculous idea, but it had paid off.. and I am freshly inspired. Time for some research to see if any other parkruns have conveniently close half marathons happening soon?!

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