Wednesday, 27 November 2019

We all have our reasons for running, but to lend to this conversation I'll share mine.

parkrun is saving my life.

Yes, that sounds dramatic, but indulge me if you will.

It was regular runner Anne JOHNS who encouraged me to come to Bedworth for their 4th event back on 17th February 2018. It was snowing quite heavily and I wasn't sure if I could even run 5km, I was cold, I was miserable, but I did, and from there an obsession and friendships grew. 

Fast forward to November 2018 and for the sake of this piece, I'll give you the abridged version. My husband moved back to Ireland for work, leaving me solo parenting 3 kiddies (1,3&5) in the UK, with no other family around. I have always been very open about my struggles with my mental health, but this was the most lonely, isolating and challenging thing I have ever faced.

The realisation hit me on New Years Eve 2018 as I was sharing bottle of Prosecco with Graham Norton and his guests, that I may not talk to another adult for a few days. Then I noticed one of the Bedworth core team say she was going to a parkrun event on FB. I had heard of the NYDD (New Year Day Double, the one day of the year, you can register at two runs in the one day), but hadn't had the time to research it (3 kids leaves you very little time to do anything). So in a little bit of stalker fashion, I decided to do the same two New Years Day Runs that the team were doing.

I'd never ran with a buggy before, the kids were excited, and I was nervous. New place, about 1000 people, and me and my 3 kids.

Finishing his first parkrun, Sutton, NewYear's Day

Running together

Wonky Bear, Da and I at Bushy, Dublin

10km roadrace with Rathangan Runners

NYDD - Kingsbury Waterpark

I did it, Fionn moaned, but his little face when he crossed the finish line was worth it. The other two enjoyed the ride around the beautiful Sutton Park.

Then it was on to Kingsburry. I wasn't going to go, Fionn was tired, I was tired, but then 500m from the end of the run I saw the Bedworth team, and they asked if I was going. That was it, decision made, now how to make it work. I strapped the baby into the carrier and strapped the older two into the buggy and ran. (Ok, I didn't run, I trudged)

 I could hear people questioning my sanity. I was questioning my sanity, but that was when it hit me, I was doing it for my sanity.

I got back to the car, and as it turned out, amidst the hundreds, I was parked beside the Bedworth Team. One of the girls ran over and gave me a hug and said happy new year. That was the only person I hugged until my husband got back for a visit over a week later.

That day I made the decision I was going to run. And if the options were to run with the kids or not at all, I guess Ill be running with the kids. There were weeks where if I didn't go to parkrun I wouldn't actually speak to anyone I knew. So I went, and despite how long it took to get around everyone was always warm, and welcoming and encouraging. There was always a friendly face, and a chat.

The 9 months by myself in England I found solace in Bedworth on a Saturday morning. I more often than not arrived with 3 kids in tow, and no-one ever batted an eyelid. On days when I questioned my sanity leaving the house with 3 boys, 5 and under, the team at Bedworth always made me feel at ease and so welcome.

The week came to move and I booked a Sunday boat to allow me run at Dishly, Loughborough for the With Me Now Pow Wow (an independent podcast all about parkrun). The voices of Danny NORMAN and Nicola FORWOOD became so familiar I knew I couldn't leave the UK without meeting them. 

Since moving back to Ireland, I've kept up the obsession. 
First was the question of where my home run should be. I am in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, so equi-distance from Mountlucas, Naas and Vickerstown. I'm officially registered bat Naas although I've only ran there once, they're all beautiful runs and have their own special things going for them. I've also joined the local running club, something I'd have never had the confidence to do without parkrun. Every time I'm out, I can't help but scope out potential new parkrun routes around the local area. 

The fact we're living together as a family again, means I can explore a bit more, I've ran at 16 different venues in Ireland and I plan to tick every run in the country off over the next few years. My parkrun map of Ireland takes pride of place on the wall at home. Every weekend, no matter what starts with parkrun. I've ran on Hen Weekends, Girly City Breaks, the morning of weddings, I just wouldn't feel right without it. I've also set myself a short term goal of running 50 parkruns this year. And despite having to take a weekend job last month, I'm still on track to do it.

Everyone's parkrun story is different, but I think we can all benefit from a free, weekly, timed run. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

A Quarter Cowell

I was excited to travel to Limerick for a hen party this weekend. The opportunity to catch up with some friends, but also the chance to run at a new parkrun, my 25th different venue. 

I set off from home in the dark, popped The Boat House University of Limerick in the sat Nov, and made the 90minute journey. I arrived early, 9am to find ample free parking and toilets available in the sports hall. 

I was greeted by a friendly bunch of volunteers setting up the course, including Event Director and parkrun Ambassador Shona NÍ FHLOINN. The course was explained as one small lap, followed by three bigger laps. There was also mention of a hill. Not a welcome word on a four lap course!! 

The day was warmer than expected, and I regretted my base layer under my shirt. More experienced runners of Limerick made use of the tarp left by the start area and discarded hoodies and jackets after lap one. 

It may not have been as cold, but the parkrun weather fairies could only hold back the rain for so long. The two cheery marshalls provided a breath of fresh air on an otherwise dreary morning.

The layout of the course meant we passed each marshal a number of times, something I always think is lovely, as you get to make little jokes each time you see them.

There was so much going on, even for 9.30am on a Saturday morning. The rowing club were preparing for a competition and The All Ireland Scholarship Awards Ceremony was being held on campus. Had I know Joe Schmidt was in attendance I might have tried to blag my way in. The Limerick Hurling Academy were in full swing, training at the pavilion where we had coffee and toast afterwards. It really is a beautiful facility to be available to runners.

I noticed different features as we looped along the river and through the trees. Old cottages still lived in, were a charming contrast to the imposing modern architecture of the bridge across the river Shannon.  The students' accommodation was also an interesting blend of concrete and wood finished structures. 

There were two narrow sections where kissing gates once stood that were the only tricky bits to navigate. It's for this reason I don't think Limerick is a buggy friendly course. Least not for the double or large wheeled running buggies I'm used to using. 

The course is otherwise very easy to run on, a combination of concrete and easy trail, with some twists and turns and up and down bridges. I only really noticed the aforementioned hill on lap 4 as the legs began to tire. 

I was astonished to be over taken on lap 2 by the font runner. He was flying, and there was a whisper of a new course record as he crossed the line, but he didn't scan his barcode so there was no official time recorded. And unfortunately that's the rule, no barcode, no result, no exception! 

The rest of the front runners over took on lap 3, and it's a great sight to see people run so beautifully. 

And now for my favourite part, being the stats geek that I am. 

119 people congregated at Limerick parkrun for event #198
The runners were mostly male with a M:F split of almost 3:2
10 people were new to the course, of which 6 were new to parkrun including Conor CROWLEY (25:38) who I spoke to at the start (welcome to your new obsession!!) 
An amazing 20 people recorded PBs, including Joanne WHITFIELD (32:47), Sharon LUCEY (26:32), Gerard MC MAHON (31:21) and Mike GRIFFIN (20:50)

The first recorded men home were
Martin PHILLIPS (19:04), followed by two JM runners, Thomas MCCARTHY (19:13) and Filip PIOTROWSKI (20:13)

The ladies were lead by ED Shona NÍ FHLOINN (20:17), followed by Caroline KELLY (21:12) for her first run at Limerick. The top 3 ladies was rounded off by Antoinette COLEMAN (21:56)

I always love seeing how many children take part in parkrun, and this week was no different. The 14 Juniors were great!

There were no milestones, or age category records this week.

The oldest runner on the course was VM75-79 David TOCHER (32:30) and the most experienced runner was Liam KIELY (24:33) with 154 runs to his name.

Unfortunately 13  people registered as unknown, #DFYB

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone I met on Saturday morning. You are a credit to your community and the parkrun family. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

A very special mention has to go to my parkrunner of the week Adrian PIOTROWSKI (25:18) who bravely retrieved handfuls of tokens from a yucky, mucky drain after a little post run accident saw them spill, not only on the ground but down a shore. 

Thanks to the hi-vis heroes who's efforts made the event possible.

Alison FLYNN  • Ellen O' CONNOR  • Ger BUCKLEY • Irene LANE  • Kevin VAN SCHELT • Mark FELLNER  • Orla MULDOON • Thomas COLLINS

Thank you
Sharon Canavan