Hey there everyone! This is ME! Like the t-shirt?! Irish-John has a lot to answer for I know there are lots of us graduating this weekend and I promised to do a write up about Park Run - apologies it's a bit of an essay. This is the Swindon one, at Lydiard Park, where Fabulous450 ran the other day but we do the other end. It's an 'average' difficulty regarding gradient changes. So, today was the big day - graduation!
The park's manager is incredibly pro-Park run so we have our own parking field every Saturday morning. It costs £2 for 2 hours, but as I go often I get an annual pass for just this park for £45 - saves queuing at the machines. I cocked up this morning as I was too excited and I forget to take my barcode with me, nor a bottle of water.
Park up and follow everyone else to the gathering point outside the cafe. There is a gazebo. If you are new to PR then get there a bit earlier than 9am and listen to the briefing. They'll explain the route and whether you should run on the left or right of the path to allow the faster runners through. Swindon is a 2-lap circuit.
Some PRs set off at exactly 9am and others, like ours, do all the talking and so on so we normally start 9:10, or even later. If you know roughly when that is you can do the walk warm up while you wait to start properly - which is what I did today. Mid-programme I'd start in walk. The announcements are then made while you line up and pick your pace-runner. The pacers run with a tabard and the time they will be finishing at. We normally have a 45 minuter but not today - it's all run on volunteers. I stood close to the 40 minute guy based on previous experiences doing my Run 3 of the week during the event.
OK - so for those that are worried there are all super-athletes and everyone is a racing-snake physique - take a look at the people in the photos and chill out. People with prams, nervous first-starters, older runners - it's not competitive with anyone but yourself.
So finally the countdown commences and we are GO! Start your music, un-pause MJ, or your trainer, get the watch running and then you're off! Typically, some will start too quickly, let them go! Keep your eyes off everyone and just do what you've always done, or stick with the pacer.
This is the first one I've done running right at the start but my experiences from walking the first 5 minutes served me well. I realised soon the 40 minute pacer had set off too fast. I stuck to my guns and the play-list helped. Up the first incline the noobs started walking. Some people start doing the Park runs by running downhill sections and walking uphill sections - which is fine - you soon get to spot who is doing what. So I keep my cadence to the music and am so relieved my legs feel better than they have for weeks! Now is NOT the time to push it, though!
Towards the end of the first lap the fast guys and girls are coming past. Each week I've got a bit further round before being lapped and it's nice to see my own progress. They are amazingly quick. I don't even notice the incline towards the end of the first lap. The Marshalls en-route are all cheering and clapping and it's good form to gasp a 'Thank....you!' with a smile as you trot past them. But here at Swindon there is a very special lady that helps direct you at the end of the first lap. Jo is the most amazingly bubbly, enthusiastic cheerleader - and she knows I'm graduating today, so I get clapped at and cheered as I turn to do the second lap.
The field has thinned out and you'll find yourself running with people you'll tend to clock every week. For these 9 weeks I've noticed some of these guys ahead of me before, because I've walked the first 5 minutes. Now I'm running with them. The pacer has finally realised he's gone too quickly and is walking - ah-ha! Gotcha! I'm still a few yards back but its all the gentle uphill to half-way round the second lap. I've got the playlist almost spot-on, finally, so ELO 'Rock and roll is king' and Portugals 'Feel it still' follow some Taylor Swift 'Shake it off'. Knew I'd need that towards the end. Just before I turn the last corner to run downhill (mostly) to the end of the second lap and the finish, MJ signs off on the app. I almost cry! I will miss him! But I keep running. I am comfortable, getting my wind back, and I catch the 40 minute pacer just as I need to get up the last incline to where Jo is again.
I am met by hollers of encouragement from Jo who also lets everyone else know - including the pacer - that this is my C25k graduation and the first time I've not walked for the whole park run. The pacer say's we should be about 15 or 20 seconds under the 40 minutes. Not what I was aiming for today so it's a bonus! Right - everything is feeling brilliant so lets sprint the last 30m to the finish! Here we go! GO! Touch the chequered flag on the wheelie bin and I'm done. YAAAAY! The volunteers but the bin make a note of the time.
Walk along the little funnel, careful not to go past anyone or we don't get the right time. You are then given a little bar-code token with your finishing place on it - I'm 330-ish! Then you walk back to the cafe bit and there are volunteers there with bar-code scanner. So you hand them the finisher token you were just given, and your personal bar-code (if you've not been a complete idiot and forgotten it like I have).
And now you can do your walk warm-down, grab a free jelly baby and grab a coffee if you like (Park runners get a discount after in the cafe at Swindon). I also walk back up the course and thank the volunteers on my warm-down. The 40 minutes pacer gives me a hug and congratulates me and we get some photos.
What happens in the background is the times that were recorded by the wheelie bin get matched with your finishing position and linked with your personal barcode. It's all be up on the website later so you can see how you've done week-on-week.
So that's it! I went back to the car for a stretch. My unofficial time was 39:15, which is a PB, but I wasn't really aiming for a PB - I just wanted to run the 30 minutes and if I felt well enough to run the whole thing.
It's an amazing feeling - a real celebration today - and I thought of everyone I've commented on and have supported and encouraged me too. THANK YOU everyone! Thank you for this forum and the awesome support I've been given. And if you are only part-way through this programme YOU CAN DO IT - YOUR WAY!