Sometimes, there’s loads to talk about when we talk about running. And sometimes it’s just a case of getting out there most days, grinding out some miles and getting the job done. And that’s what my running has mostly been lately, which is solid but doesn’t make for particularly exciting blogging. However there have been a couple of cool runs lately that are worth talking about.
Last week, I met up with two ladies to run at a nearby nature reserve, Morgan’s Hill. I met both L and A via a Facebook ladies running group and I’ve run with them individually before so it was really nice to meet up with them again. They are both getting into Canicross so bought their dogs with them. I love running with dogs, so this was awesome.
On that note, I have no idea if Canicross is a thing in America as my US running friends all (logically) preferred cats but it basically seems to be trail running with dogs, with the dogs attached at the waist via a harness. It’s quite the thing here – one guy recently ran a parkrun 5k in 12.24 attached to his dog. Anyway…the thing to note about running with friends attached to dogs is that your friends FLY, mutt-propelled, up hills effortlessly leaving you huffing and puffing in their wake! It was hilarious. They were kind enough to wait for me at the top of each hill.
I need a spaniel.
We had a lovely run. It was quite cold and very blustery but as long as we ran, we were okay. The paths ran through various fields and along the Wansdyke. A few times we ran through fields of cows, but L is a farmer’s daughter so I stuck close to her and pretended to be chill. And we ended up at the top of a hill by the Cherhill Monument, which I’ve been dying to check out for weeks now. The views were great. It was a really good morning.
Then, last weekend, we headed over to Newbury to do parkrun. Newbury is about 40 minutes east of Marlborough, and we met up with friends from our old jobs, including my former boss! Newbury’s parkrun is notable for people of my generation because it’s held on Greenham Common. This was an old Air Force base which, in the 1980s, was used by the US military to hold nuclear weapons during the Cold War. In protest, women chained themselves to the fence around the base and then camped at the base for nearly twenty years until the weapons were finally removed. This was part of the backdrop to my childhood so I was fascinated to finally go there.
Greenham Common is public parkland now and it’s beautiful. The morning was bitterly cold, below freezing, but with bright sunshine. The puddles were frozen over and the Dude delighted in cracking them. We gathered on the old runway, about 300 runners in total, and we caught up with our friends before the run started.
I wanted to run this hard to see what I could do. A month or two ago, I ran Salisbury parkrun in 26.30, I wanted to get this closer to 26. On a whim, I handed my Garmin to the Dude so I ran watchless.
The route was lovely – one big sweeping loop around part of the common. The sun was bright and cold, perfect running weather. I was feeling really good. This parkrun is big enough to have pacers, and I ended up running next to one of them. I purposefully didn’t ask what his goal-time was, I just tried to stick with him but another lady DID ask and he said he was the 25-minute pacer. A little fast for me, but I was doing okay so I thought I’d hang with him as long as I could.
I hung with him for just over two miles before he effortlessly started drifting ahead. I stuck my head down and tried to just push on. I was working hard but not killing myself. In the final mile there are two hills – nothing significant on a normal run but a little brutal in the last stages of a 5k. But I pushed up them as hard as I could and saw the finish chute in the distance. Push push push and then happily through the finish line.
In the absence of a Garmin, I asked the bloke in front of me what his time had been and he was 25.46. I was pretty chuffed with that.
My old boss arrived a minute later (ha), then his lovely wife and then we had the long (long) wait for my boys. The Husband had promised the Dude a pack of his precious football trading cards if he ran the whole way. The Dude duly DID run the whole way but at a seriously glacial pace until the final 100 yards which he blitzed Olympic-style, crushing his dad and making everyone think that it was the Husband who had held his son back. The Dude loves doing that.
My final time was 25.47. That’s about a minute off my PR but a good chunk off where I was in September so I’m happy with that. It was really good to run hard with no pressure, really good to run in such a lovely place (this is my new favourite parkrun course) and good to see our old friends.
So as I continue to plod on, day after day, under grey arctic skies, I’ll enjoy the endorphins that come from running new places with new friends and running hard in the winter sunshine. It was a good week.