Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE talks Parkrun

BOAD

Solent University’s¬†huge lecture theatre screen¬†gave the 100 + guests attending an evening with Mr Parkrun himself, Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE the opportunity to watch and hear from a man¬†who has realised his running vision. Hosting the evening was Mathew Fleet (who’d invited me) a lecturer at Solent, a fellow Fareham Crusader and an avid parkrun enthusiast.

Mathew underlined just how parkrun Southsea has had a huge positive effect on his family with photos of him running with his daughters and his brother, a nice personal touch when introducing Paul. The photo below is of our host, our speaker and the funky Solent University.

MATTPAUL

The running community were out in force this evening, bloggers, parkrun directors, junior parkrun directors, running event organisers, dedicated parkrun volunteers and park runners. I recognised a good ten people from our local area.

What I liked most about the evening was that Paul Sinton-Hewitt (lets go with PSH) charted the emergence of parkrun right up to its current position of potential world domination with frequent references to the many contributors that make up the slices of  a parkrun pie.

Naturally a large slice is PSH himself, he currently holds the title of Founder which seems to suits him very well in that he can spend time talking to audiences such as ours, while still having an influence on the wider activities of this ever expanding phenomenon.

The parkrun pie first came out of the oven on October 2nd 2004 with 13 runners attending the Bushy Park time trial. This free, timed, 5K run with results and coffee to follow was pretty much the same as it is today. It expanded through the London suburbs, spread to Leeds via Marathon Talks Tom Williams, through the UK and around the world.

The ingredients for¬†the parkrun pie¬†haven’t really changed from the list PSH cooked up in 2014. Community running for¬†absolutely anyone in the community, no charges and an open invite to return whenever it suits you.

From listening to PSH he talked with both affection and¬†pride regarding probably the biggest slice of the parkrun pie, the volunteers.¬†After all the runs quite simply wouldn’t function without these guys. When he said parkruns were free in every sense of the word ultimately I guess volunteers are free to come and go but they appear to have built up their own separate community. Paul used the phrase “giving something back” which sums up the volunteers contribution.

He mentioned the fact that naturally runners volunteered but many of the people who contribute never run themselves.

With PSH developing the registration system from his IT background then this really did enable him to keep everything at the grass roots level. Paul also acknowledged that the post run coffee and conversations were as much a part of the volunteering as the encouragement.

I’ve only volunteered once but I must admit but they certainly were “giving” me all I needed.

untitled

Finally the runners, walkers and joggers slice of the pie comes in all sorts of flavours . PSH noted the positives, female participation is higher in parkruns than club races, families run together, Dads cheer on their wives and kids, both parents look on with pride at the junior parkruns, buggy and dog runners are welcome, disabled runners are catered for and the list goes on and on.

The nature of a weekly event means progress can be measured from walking to jogging to running. Whether this translates into entering races is more of an invitation than an expected consequence.

Most importantly a parkrun is just that, a run, through pleasant surroundings and not a race. PSH clearly felt this was a major key to its success.

With parkruns in prisons, parkruns in less advantaged areas and doctors being urged to prescribe the running social engagement of parkruns rather than pills the future looks bright.

So in summary his audience listened with 100% attention and followed it up with a variety of interesting questions. I intend to post this blog to as many non running social media outlets as running ones because¬†parkrun has so much to offer the people that haven’t discovered it. Thanks for reading.

ALL

Generally speaking pies are frowned upon were healthy living is concerned but the parkrun pie has changed lives, probably extended lives and developed a community that’s free to access at 9am every Saturday.

An inspiring evening from an inspiring man.

PSH …….Mr Parkrun, thank you.

 

 

South Downs Marathon #hills

sdmapp

When you set your alarm call for 5.15am you know it’s going to be a long day but more importantly you know you’ve committed yourself to a challenging day. What’s life without challenges ….. boring¬†!!

Running along the South Downs Way guarantees you amazing views of¬†the countryside that haven’t changed a great deal for decades.¬†Time stands still on the Downs and that’s why trail runners love it, what you can’t avoid are the hills. Some 3,000 feet of elevation awaited us. This will be my second marathon in three weeks after the great Dorchester marathon.

With Slindon college being our starting point 209 Events had organised coaches to drive us from the finish at Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) to the start. I boarded our coach with Fran and Rachel from Fareham Crusaders who also ran the Dorchester marathon three weeks previously. I offered a few thoughts from running the race in 2015 and as we arrived there were menacing clouds above the college.

We quickly bumped into Hayley from Gosport Road runners and Emma Bird from Pompey Joggers. Emma has reached the dizzy hights¬†of a 100 mile run and Hayley has been accumulations a few marathons recently. Completing the line up was Mark Highland¬†who I’d met¬†for the first time last week.

sdwstart

Hayley’s GRR yellow kit was a contrast to the black clouds above the college ūüôā

The first task of the day is to work your way up onto the top of the Downs, this combines four miles and nearly 500 feet of climbing. I spotted both Hayley and Emma ahead of me on the initial country lane but as we started the climb they eased away. The contrasting open field tracks and oppressive humid woods meant for an interesting introduction to the day.

I’ve learned that if you need to walk three miles into a marathon it doesn’t mean you’ve failed it means you are spreading out your energy.

Once onto the Downs the familiar chalky trail with flint stones poking out at random intervals meant you do need to keep half an eye on where you’re running as well as marvelling at the views for miles.

Talking of views the South Downs don’t need arrows to signpost a hill,¬†you quite simply can’t miss them. This beauty just kept giving and giving at around 7 & half miles.

sdwhillss

I couldn’t resist stopping for a second to take this photo. Runners disappearing over the horizon as far as the eye can see. The camera may not show the gradient quite so well but this is another 300 feet or so. Hill two on the profile below.

sdwprofile

With¬†ten miles fast approaching my drinks strategy of 500ml an hour was going well due to the humidity as much as the sunshine. The half way drinks station¬†offers a bitter sweet mixture of refilling your drinks and the prospect of the third big hill in the distance. I took this photo a little too early but the trail ahead winds its way up the lighter green fields towards the horizon that isn’t forested.

sdwhill

Setting off on this third hill I knew half of it was tarmac and the remainder harder going rougher trail. Course knowledge can be invaluable on these occasions. I made the most of the tarmac and used fast walking where appropriate.

At this point I think its worth pointing out that walking can actually be quite constructive. I eat my energy bar and collected my thoughts as to what remained, as well as the pace I’d need to finish under five hours.

The next section between 17.5 and 20 miles has a steep grassy hill followed by a shorter chalk hill that’s very rough underfoot. These 2 1/2 miles would go a long way to what my final average time was. These are hills where everyone around you is walking, everyone is grimacing and¬†there’s very little talking.¬†A fast walk can be quite effective and¬†I overtook a few runners.

Leaving the 20 mile National Trust Harting Down feed station I¬†had again used the walk to calculate what¬†I’d needed to¬†do on the undulating smaller “cheeky” hills that remained.¬†Timing wise I was ahead of schedule and there was still the bonus of the last mile being largely downhill.

The last 6,5,4,3 miles did hurt but I was gaining in confidence and emotion because 2015’s¬†4.58 looked very achievable. At mile 25¬†we reached the glorious downhill into QECP !!

I crossed the line in 4 hours 52 minutes which I was very pleased with. My SKINS socks had done me proud on my first marathon wearing them. For a full write up on SKINS take a look on the menu of my blog.

sdwme

Marathons are a metaphor for life ….¬†it’s testing, you are in it for the long haul but ultimately you get out of it what you put in. Thank you 209 Events for an emotional, hard and rewarding experience.

Thanks to Emma who cheered me in after her amazing 4.19 time and to Nick from Alton Sports who I also chatted to after the finish.¬†A huge well done to Mark with his fabulous 3.43 and Hayley with 4.37 . Equally well done to Fran and Rachel for their heroic 5.48’s on a tough course¬†were on the brave actually entered never mind finished.

sdwnick

It was all smiles after my second marathon in three weeks. Running off road is scenic, exhilarating and¬†challenging but most of all it’s so rewarding. The sense of achievement¬†to take on mother nature and come out smiling is what its all about.

And finally ……….. free race photos are always a bonus !!

meme

Happy trail running,¬†I run off road, we run off road ūüôā

Weekend Warriors

 

mark

From my point of view I have a week to go until the South Downs marathon but this short blog is more about the wider¬†sporting community that were out in force for the Centurion South Downs 100 mile race¬† …… “The Weekend Warriors” !!

I’d planned my last taper run from Queen Elizabeth Country Park to Harting Down and back. Through the power of social media I’d run these twelve miles with Mark Highland (pictured above and also running the marathon next week)¬†and meet Graham Carter (pictured below) at one of¬†the impressive aid stations along the #SDW100 route. I’ve only chatted on¬†twitter / facebook with these chaps so it was great to finally meet them.

graham

Within the hundred mile runners ( Winchester to Eastbourne) I was keen to cheer on as many as possible and especially¬†Fareham Crusaders men’s captain Paul Pickford (pictured below).

paulAfter meeting Mark in the car park as well as Aaron, James and Paula from Fareham Crusaders who were also out run supporting we set off. The outward six miles will be the final six in next weeks marathon so this was a great familiarisation exercise.

The stunning countyside views coupled with the sunshine meant the undulating terrain was run with good spirits. This following photo amused me with a tree that had fallen across the trail but in typical National Trust fashion it had been made a feature of.

logs

Graham would be marshalling his Centurion aid station for some hours so hats off to him and all the other volunteers for this commitment to the running community. We chatted about the day ahead and then carried on our running.

All went to plan with the runners heading towards us on our return route. We clapped and cheered the eventual¬†winner and¬†probably a hundred ultra runners that included Stephen from Film My Run and our very own running clubs Paul Pickford at the QECP aid station. At this point the runners had done about a marathon, distance wise !! Paul finished in 25 1/2 hours …. fantastic.

What a commitment, one hundred miles !!! Wow ūüôā Congratulations to everyone that finished. Naturally you don’t need to run 100 miles to be a warrior, but it probably helps, especially if that meant 12,700 feet of elevation and for many running overnight #amazing

With my marathon a week away the prospect of virtually four in a row takes some processing. What a mental and physical challenge these guys took on.

Today’s weekend warriors included racing runners, training runners and¬†aid station volunteers. Added to this mountain bikers, walkers and hikers all out on the Downs.

In summary ………… get outdoors,¬†you’ll feel so much better for it ūüôā

#weekend #warriors