You might remember from a few posts back that I summed up my aims for this year in three phrases:
~ See what I can achieve
~ Challenge myself
~ Suprise myself
You might also remember that at the tail end of last year I started working through the Couch to 5K programme, and that buried in my list of things I wanted to work on this year was "Run a parkrun"? well this morning I decided to double-up those two things AND deal with today's #EED0118 effort by making my final C25K run of the programme our local parkrun. Now before I go any further, I should say that several folk had said to me "don't for goodness sake do Harlow for your first one - it's a devil of a course!" - it's held in our Town Park which is absolutely gorgeous but VERY hilly - and so far I've done almost nothing with hills...so I've spent the last few weeks wandering through the parkrun pages on t'interweb for the surrounding area and debating which one to do. Settled on one in a town slightly south of here - then realised that it meant faffing about with paying to park. Looked at another one a few miles west but don't really know the area...and eventually just thought "How bad can it be?"and decided to do Harlow anyway. Walked across with MrEH (there for moral support - not running!), nearly bottled out when I first got there as there were PROPER RUNNERS there and I was terrified and wondered what on earth I was thinking. MrEH reminded me that I KNEW there would be people slower than me, that I knew I could do the distance, and that if I needed to walk I knew there was no shame in that - except of course I'd decided to tie it up with that final C25K run hadn't I which meant NO WALKING!
Newcomers briefing was called and instantly set my mind at rest as it was so friendly and I liked the fact that it wasn't just first timers gathered together but regular parkrunners who were at Harlow for the first time ("Tourists" in parkrun language) although I was a bit freaked to see two "London Marathon" running jackets among the group - eek! The main briefing was made rather tricky to hear by some folk around me who obviously decided that as they'd heard it all before it was fine to talk right through it but I managed to grab the salient points from it thankfully, then we gathered at the start and suddenly the people in front were starting to run and we were off! Running with other people for the first time was odd - I was terribly conscious of not wanting to get in people's way and so I'd set myself up right towards the back, but in fact I could have gone quite a bit further forwards with no issue. I was also terribly conscious of not being drawn into going off too quickly which of course inevitably lead to me going off slower than I needed to instead - a couple of minutes in I realised I was going slower than my usual pace and picked it up a bit. The run is 2 x 2k laps followed by one partial lap of 1k to finish, undulating up and down all the way - and about two thirds of the way round the 2k lap is what will now be known as #ThatHill - I'm familiar with it as we puff our way up it every time we walk back from the station to home. In other words - it feels steep when you just walk up it. It was as we approached it for the first time that I realised that it looked like it was part of the course...but no, hang on....oh hell it is! It was also exceptionally muddy which REALLY didn't help - I slogged up it, feet slipping and sliding all over the shop, and finally reached the top absolutely gasping for breath - thankfully from the top the course levels out a bit allowing you time to catch your breath before a short downhill takes you back to the beginning of lap 2. Needless to say I ran the whole of lap 2 positively DREADING the wretched hill! Second time round at least I knew what it was like - not entirely sure that helped but I was at least prepared for the worst of the mud and knowing I didn't have to do it again I was able to power myself up it a bit more effectively as I was less concerned about not having enough left in my legs & lungs to finish! The short lap to finish proved pretty much no problem at all and I was well able for a sprint (downhill - bless them!) to the finish. Oh the feeling as you cross the line that first time - just amazing!
My time for that first one was under 32 minutes - which for a hilly course I'm really pleased with. (My own Strava timing knocked a few seconds off that as I only clicked start when I actually started running) Had I properly grasped where the final short lap took me I could have kicked on a bit more for that too. I now know that I definitely need to build some hills into my running - and I'd like to start doing some speed work too to see how I get on with upping my pace a bit. Was I right to do that one as a first parkrun effort? Honestly probably yes - had I not then I would have avoided it for a long while I suspect and it would have turned into a "Big Thing" so in spite of #ThatHill I'm glad I did it! (There's also a degree of kudos in having a hilly home course apparently, and as someone else pointed out it means everywhere that's not hilly feels far easier!). Do I want to do it again? Yes! No question about it - I can see why folk say it's addictive as I just want to beat that time now. I'd like to have a go at some otherparkruns too - maybe when we're away places. I'd like to run a "proper" 5k as well - and am eyeing up the idea of a run at the Olympic Park at the moment as that's such a special venue it would be amazing to do a run there! For all those assuming that I want to go on to 10k distance though - no, certainly not at the moment anyway and honestly, probably not at all. For me wanting to run was in part laziness - it's a mighty good way of burning off some calories in a short space of time, and in part because it was something I'd always thought I couldn't do - and that had started to annoy me. I've got no great burning ambition to run any great distances although I would now like to see how fast I can get over 5k - that idea quite grabs me. The very idea that I can run 3 miles without stopping to walk is more than enough for me, though! (Although earning a blingy medal or two is right up there now!)