In my blog post about my first five parkruns, I told the story of how I unexpectedly beat my 5k personal best at Highbury Fields parkrun. This post outlines what happened in my next five parkruns, where I got some unexpected personal bests and lost a whole run.
Parkrun 6 — Edinburgh (Cramond) — 14 December 2019
Buoyed by my performance in London, I wondered how I would get on at the flatter, wider Cramond course. I wrote previously about how comfortable I found Cramond parkrun, and I’ve heard it said that many people set their personal bests on this course because it’s so flat.
I avoided the steady (slow) start of my previous Edinburgh parkrun, but still found myself getting caught in the inevitable bottleneck that occurs at the start. Once I started finding gaps though, I powered on through, and my first kilometre was a speedy 4:33 — 9 seconds faster than my first kilometre at Highbury Fields.
I pushed harder than I have done for a long time. I was doing that noisy breathing thing, which I tend to avoid. But I was determined to push myself.
My pace fluctuated a little, but each kilometre was consistent overall. My final official time was 23:39 — a new personal best!
However, according to Strava, I didn’t set my fastest-ever 5k. How so? According to Strava, my run at Highbury Fields was in fact 5.29km long. So my fastest 5k remains with the Highbury Fields run. But my parkrun personal best was now with Edinburgh.
Parkrun 7 — Oriam — 21 December 2019
The following week I bravely returned to Oriam. The last time I went there, I arrived at the course late, attempted to join in from the back, but got lost because I didn’t know the course.
This time, I made sure to arrive with plenty of time in hand. So I was finally able to participate in the Oriam parkrun properly.
According to Strava, this course is rather on the short side, clocking in at just 4.87km. But it’s not the sort of place you would set a personal best.
It’s a moderately tough trail course. Hilly, muddy and narrow, it offers a different sort of challenge to the other parkruns I’ve participated in.
In that context, I was pleased with my time of 24:55, which was still better than my first four parkruns.
Parkrun 8 — Edinburgh (Cramond) — Christmas Day parkrun!
Parkrun is like church for atheists. It’s a big gathering of people — some of whom you may know, most of whom you don’t. It gives you a reason to get out of bed on a weekend morning. It sort of stops you from going overboard the night before. It’s a great community vibe. Just none of that God stuff.
So what better way to spend Christmas Day than at parkrun? A staggering 968 people participated. I did so wearing a Santa hat and beard.
Before the run, we met with Alex’s school friend Eleanor, who had told us about the Christmas Day parkrun in the first place.
Given the circumstances, I wasn’t particularly concentrating on going fast. I was just there to be part of it.
With almost 1,000 people participating, that traditional bottleneck was even worse than usual. I was barely going faster than walking pace for the first ¼km. Even as gaps opened up, I could still see masses of people ahead of me, as far as I could see along the promenade.
After ½km I was able to pick up the pace. My first kilometre took me 4:59. Thereafter I was able to run in the 4:30s. I wasn’t pushing hard, so I was running much more consistently than my previous run at Cramond.
Not that I knew anything about my pace at the time. As I crossed the finish line and stopped Strava, I was astonished to see my time logged as 23:38 — within a second of my previous personal best.
The official results came through very late on Christmas Day. But when they did, I learned that I had indeed set a new personal best! I got clogged up at the start, I wasn’t trying that hard, and I was dressed as Santa! Weird, but a sign of how much my fitness is improving.
Parkrun 9 — Kirkcaldy — 28 December 2019
I had a packed day in my hometown. A lads’ night out had already been planned for the evening. Lunch with other friends was coincidentally scheduled for the same day.
It didn’t take long for someone to suggest I should go to Kirkcaldy early to do parkrun as well! So I set the alarm bright and early to walk to the train station and catch the train in time to get to Kirkcaldy before 9am.
Engineering works at Haymarket made the whole train situation uncertain. But in the end, my train arrived without a hitch and my nervousness about missing the start abated. I met my friends Eleanor and Ross with plenty of time to spare.
Kirkcaldy parkrun takes place at Beveridge Park, which is one of the things I miss most about Kirkcaldy. I grew up just round the corner from it, and I spent a lot of my youth there. Playing as a child, causing mischief as a teenager, and regularly walking around it while I was a student.
Beveridge Park used to feel vast when I was younger. But to this runner now, it turns out to be quite short. In fact, you need to do two laps and a lap of the boating lake to complete the 5k course.
Eleanor has become quite a dedicated runner, and she wanted to start near the front to avoid the bottleneck problem. I was more concerned about trying out my Christmas present for the first time — bone conduction headphones.
Starting near the front at parkrun was a new experience for me. I was still fiddling with my phone trying to start Strava and a podcast at the same time, not really realising that being near the front meant that I could actually start running when the run began.
“3, 2, 1, go!” was shouted, and before I knew it Eleanor had zipped off into the distance almost without me realising. It was like something from a cartoon.
I was not used to being around the competitive fast people, and I ill-advisedly attempted to match their speed. I even overtook people up to the first big corner. At this point, according to Strava, my pace was 2:38/km — totally unsustainable.
At the back of the park there is a hill, which always felt big to me when I was young. I wasn’t looking forward to running it, but in the end it wasn’t so bad.
Nevertheless, my overall pace was rather more sluggish than it had been on Christmas Day.
My official time was 24:00. That’s not to be sniffed at, but I was a little disappointed not to improve on my effortless personal best from a few days before. On the plus side, my finishing position of 50th was my best-ever, despite there being a bigger field than at Oriam.
Meanwhile, Eleanor set the jaw-dropping time of 21:41 and was the fastest woman. Ross was a little out of practice and finished a little behind me. But it’s all about the experience of course, and I think we all had a great time, even if Eleanor and Ross seemed reluctant to let me take a selfie of us.
Parkrun X — The missing Portobello parkrun — 4 January 2020
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have a goal for 2020 of completing my 50th parkrun. I noted how this meant that I couldn’t afford to miss many parkruns this year.
A New Year’s Day parkrun took place at Portobello, but I fell ill overnight, and I probably wouldn’t have felt up to it anyway.
Instead, I made it out to Portobello on 4 January to embark on a happy 2020 of parkrunning.
I took the 24 minute cycle there, arriving in plenty of time. I felt good, and I was looking out trying out my new Garmin watch for the first time. I had treated myself to it a few days beforehand.
But shortly after I arrived at the park, I realised that I’d forgotten my barcode! 😭 Parkrun policy is no barcode, no time. It was too late to do anything about it, so I just ran anyway and made do without the official time.
According to my watch, I ran it in 24:09. And according to the token, I finished 119th. This made it not my fastest parkrun, but comfortably faster than my previous best at this course, which was 25:35.
Not that it counts really because my parkrun profile still says I’ve only done nine parkruns.
I also ducked out of parkrun on 11 January — partly because the weather was too windy for me to cycle anywhere, and partly because I had other stuff to do anyway.
So there we have it. I started off 2020 with an ambitious goal of doing pretty much as many parkruns as possible. And out of a possible three so far, I have officially done none of them.
However, I still feel good about my goals for the year. Having ended up getting a new fitness watch, I’ve caught the bug. I’m now doing a training programme to build me up to completing a 10k in 45 minutes by the end of April.
Friends have also persuaded me to do a half marathon. I’ll aim to do this sometime later in the year.
If I have the time on top of all the running, I’m also thinking about doing Pedal for Scotland this year!
If that all goes well, I have an even more ambitious plan for 2021… 🏊