Daft Runners London Series – Introduction and Burgess Parkrun! 4th January

We spent quite the period of time journeying around the United Kingdom during 2019. That was lots of fun of course, but it did give us a thought: perhaps there are some fun running opportunities closer to home? Perhaps we don’t need to brave the trains, planes or automobiles to get our running freak on.

Everything needs a bit of branding nowadays, so we thought we’d label our new plans for 2020 under the exciting title of: The Daft Runners London Series (cue dramatic music)! As part of this series we intend to run in every London Borough (33 in all), preferably at an event such as a Parkrun. At the same time, we hope to find some other, local hidden gems to share with you all.

So our first park run of the year is….Burgess Park! Admittedly that was obvious from the title. We rocked up after a quick journey on the tube to find a refreshingly busy start line on a surprisingly sunny day. It then occured to us that it was the first Park Run of the year, which explained all the keen runners with their New Year resolutions!

After a quick verbal tour of the park run by one of the kind volunteers, and an internal pep talk, we were off. Burgess Park is…well…lovely. There’s a long straight to start and finish of around 1km that tapers to an underpass, bit of a choke point, midway through. Then you take a sharp left turn and circle round the lake and rejoin the straight. Very picturesque indeed!

We also had the chance to see the quick runners (you know who you are) loop back round. I find it’s always interesting to see the more elite types as they sprint their hearts out. The nominated speaker at the start of the race had suggested giving them a high five. They did not look receptive to such an idea! We also had some mid-race entertainment from the local wildlife.

Pugilistic geese aside, I was extremely proud of this result, not only because we explored a new Park Run, but because I personally passed three prams during the run. Usually it’s the other way round, so it’s nice to get my own back a little (I know, they’re still much fitter than I am).

To round things off, we then had an exploratory run deep into south west London, following the Northern line past all the Clapham Common stations. It turns out a busy London highway isn’t quite as pleasant running as Burgess Park. Something to work on in the future.

Until the next Park Run!

Podcast link.

Mentions

Events mentioned in this episode:
Burgess Parkrun – Event Link

Podcast link.

2019 – Year in Review

Well. 2019. What a year of ups and downs. We started off with a breathless 10k in Stratford and ended it quaffing beer while running two circuits around Wimbledon park. Not too many ups there I suppose, but the middle of the year saw us striding across the hills around Edinburgh, the Isle of Arran, Snowdon, the South Downs, Liege in Belgium and…um….Benfleet in Essex.

So what have we learned? Not much personally. My Garmin says I’ve run around 1,300 kilometres this year with a total elevation gain of 15,387 metres. However, I’m not that much quicker and I haven’t really lost that much weight; and the weight I did lose wasn’t from running!  

However, we have had a great time doing it. Which is what counts really.

Favourite Moments

So what were our favourite moments? Finishing any race always releases a huge high. Especially the longer and more challenging ones. Sometimes there are also specific moments that transcend the race itself. Below are some highlights, but there are many more:

  • The moment I realised I could make peanut butter & jam sandwiches at the first rest stop on the Ultra Tour of Arran.
  • The moment I finished the Ultra Tour of Arran.
  • Both Craft Half-Marathons round Wimbledon Park.
  • Man vs. Mountain at Snowdon where a number of Hen Parties (?!) cheered our descent down the Llanberis Path.
  • When a fellow runner ascended the 374 stairs at the Montagne de Beuren in Liege (see below) dressed as Thunderbird One. Well, a five-metre replica made from cardboard.
  • The entirety of the Beer Lover’s Marathon in Belgium.
  • Watching all the fit runners pass by as they made their way through a double lap of the Dirty Weekend obstacle course. Well deserved applause.
  • Running over Morecombe Bay at low tide as a visible new weather front rushed in. The mist obscured everything apart from the petrified river bed before it started raining sideways. Surprisingly invigorating.
Thunderbirds are go? At least they gave you a cheeky beer at the bottom.

Worst Moments

A mixture here. Most of these really came from mistakes we made, from poor preparation to dodgy nutrition strategies and just being tired.

  • Vanguard marathon. Who’d have thought Croydon would be close to so many hills!? Well, anyone with a map. Never underestimate a race.
  • That time I was scrambling on the Ultra Tour of Arran and managed to face plant upwards into a rock. Somehow.
  • The two times I slipped acrobatically and landed on my rear end in front of other appreciative runners (Ultra Tour of Edinburgh & Deer Stalker).
  • When energy gels suddenly became my gut’s worst enemy midway through the Tring Ultra-Marathon.
  • When we had to drop down to the half-marathon distance during the Steyning Stinger (I blame Storm Gareth!).

Worst Bonking Moments (keep your mind out the gutters!)

A special ‘worst moment’ category here. For those not in the know, bonking is that awful feeling you get circa two plus hours into a run and suddenly you can’t take another step. Like someone has reached inside and pulled out all the happiness. There are more scientific ways of phrasing this of course, but that’s how it feels to me.

  • The second pit stop at the Ultra Tour of Edinburgh.
  • Every pit stop at Man Vs Coast.
  • The second steep climb during Man Vs Lakes.

Thankfully each time I managed to miraculously recover by stuffing my face and I learned to pre-emptively eat something before a particularly strenuous climb appeared. Maybe that’s why I haven’t lost any weight!

Anyway, here’s to 2020!

The Craft Half – 17th February 2019

Distance – 13.1 miles over two laps
Course – mostly trail with a bit of running over concrete paths

Beer. Sweet, hoppy marvellousness responsible for making many of social engagements more entertaining (for me). I quite like beer and I quite like running. I also quite like having beer after running. But the two don’t really mix at the same time. Or do they…? That was the question posed by the Craft Half: a half-marathon in two laps round Wimbledon Common featuring frequent pit stops for mature liquid refreshment.

Out of all the races we’d run so far in 2019, this was the one I felt the most prepared for. I had a few 10ks under my belt as well as some 13-14 mile training runs and I was regularly practicing my beer drinking. In fact, I made sure I had a couple of craft beers the evening before to ensure my palate was prepared. Nothing had been left to chance.

So we rocked up late morning before the run started, queued to collect our t-shirts/race numbers and enjoyed the late morning sun as the start time drew nearer.

What ensued was possibly the most fun I’ve had while running. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this for everyone and it’s important to note that you should always drink sensibly. But the beer was excellent with just a bit of running inbetween stops (three every loop).

We strategised that we would be quicker if we picked up our beers at each stop and then walked while we drank quickly. We then tried running and drinking. We finally realised that it was much more fun to have a chat with our fellow competitors/ Wimbledon Wombles at each stop than focus on the running. By the end, we were enjoying a nice leisurely walk to the finish line. This was probably the only race where I’d be proud of a DNF and we had even lapped one set of astute runners.

The course itself was a pleasant trail with some initial hills over the first couple of miles before we hit the main park itself. We were greeted with some delight by various day trippers who were also enjoying the sun. Obviously we weren’t the only ones who had considered running and drinking beer to be contradictory.

We did get a little bit lost at one point, but any sense of usual panic about losing time was absent and we just enjoyed trying to pick-up the trail of inebriated looking joggers.

Organisation – 10/10
Beer stops every few miles. They nailed it.

Race goodies – 10/10
Lots of beer. 🙂

Race route – 3/10
Just a couple of loops round Wimbledon Common. Very pleasant but not particularly challenging.

Adventure status – 6/10
The beer elevated the adventure status of the race.

We had a huge amount of fun during this race and will definitely be doing it again. It also drew our attention to another run we’re planning later during the year: the
Beer Lovers’ Marathon in Liege. Something to look forward to!

Hadleigh Legacy 10k – Race Report – 27th January 2019

Distance – 10k over 2 laps
Course – Rocky, trail & mud

Benfleet. Not a name that makes you immediately think of running, or anything really (sorry Benfleet). So what were we doing early morning on a Sunday, sans coffee and at an isolated and graffitied train station in Essex? Well, this sleepy seaside location is home to a certain prominent mountain bike course featured in the the London 2012 Olympic Games. The race promo from the organisers (Castle Point Joggers) had promised hills, more hills, mud and more mud! How could we resist?!

This race appeared to literally be a steeper challenge than our previous ones in Crystal Palace and Stratford and, being on the coast, it was very windy! The race reception was a quick cab journey away and we hustled into the warmth to queue for food and coffee. Rather than have my usual unhealthy treat after the race, I went with one before…

If you’re wondering if I regretted this by the end of the race, you’d be right.

So pre-race nutrition was going well, but how about training? I’d failed to do much after the Stratford 10k, so was keen to make sure I improved on that record at least. I’d managed to attend a couple of pilates classes in a belated attempt to improve my core strength, which I think was likely behind many of my niggles. With a couple of mid-week runs tacked on, I felt relatively ok.

With the sound of Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over The World, we started running. The organisers certainly weren’t wrong on the hills. We immediately plunged down a trail that had obviously been frequented by mountain bikes moments earlier and then curved round to go right back up the hill, which was pitted with interesting points of scenery like boulders/ concrete tunnels that I imagine muddy bike tires would make short work of. One thing I did enjoy in-between gasping for air was seeing the crowd trail off in front of me and behind as I progressed along the course.

Making the top of each hill was greeted with a windy applause; probably sarcastic as I definitely walked a fair bit. But these sections were balanced by some fun descents. I had some running battles with a few racers of a similar pace, but by the second lap we were having a good natured joke about the hills. Finally I neared the end and there was just a penultimate weaving hill climb and then a straight run up to the finish line.

At the end my watch read 9.25km, but to be honest I was thankful it wasn’t the full 10k. With over 200 metres of elevation gain, it was truly a challenging course. Probably quite entertaining with a mountain bike as well. I don’t think my enhanced core strength had helped, or my mid-week runs. Back to the training drawing board!

Organisation – 10/10
Well organised with a nearby cafe with junk food for me. Perfect. Brave wardens considering the wind as well.

Race goodies – 4/10
Jaffa cakes were on hand, but I’d had my treat already.

Race route – 6/10
Very challenging and great training for the start of the year. Lots of hills but not that much mud.

Adventure status – 4/10
A seagull looked at me funny at the station.

After the race we grabbed a lift back to the station and opted to wait for our train in a cosy pub instead of the windy station. The Anchor Inn was friendly, warm and had some tasty ales; as well as being 600 years old. Looks like there were at least two interesting things in Benfleet after all.

Crystal Palace 10k – Race Report – 13th January 2019

Distance – 10k over 2 laps
Course – Various (concrete, trail & gravel)

Another week, another race. Since my valiant running the week before at Stratford, my training hadn’t necessarily gone very well – in fact, I hadn’t done any at all, despite my best intentions. This will be the key for me in our upcoming programme and the driver for how much pain I’m going to be in. To start getting fitter, you need to be training at least a few times a week (running, cross-training, stretching, etc) rather than just a single outing at the weekend.

Today’s race was the Crystal Palace 10k, which incorporated two laps of Crystal Palace’s picturesque park. So not only would I get a look at some pleasant scenery while flitting between fellow park goers, I could also test myself against the substantial hill the park precariously balances on.

I took a different tack relative to the race at Stratford. Rather than start at my 10k pace and try and hold it, I thought I’d take it easy over the first few kilometres before pushing it. This strategy ended up working quite well as, ignoring an initial climb, it was pretty much downhill for a few kilometres. I managed to run my quickest kilometre (mildly proud) according to my new watch, assisted by my substantial bulk & gravity. Running downhill is definitely an acquired taste and something I took a while to get used to. I don’t think my knees necessarily agree. Either way, it was funny to uncontrollably rush past better runners and then see them run past me again on the hills.

My tactical (read lazy) approach allowed me to conserve my energy for the second lap, which I ran quicker by about 30 seconds per kilometre. I just had enough gas to have a cheeky sprint at the end as well.

Conserving energy mode

After such a strenuous run, it was only fair to treat myself. There is a fabulous café at Crystal Palace station called Brown And Green that I heartily recommend.

Nom nom nom…

Just like the Queen Elizabeth 10k, this was a nice, local run, but a bit of a step-up because of the hill. But hills are good!

Organisation – 10/10
RunThrough staff were nice and the race was well stewarded. Free photos published on facebook as well.

Race goodies – 4/10
Some low pH water. Not quite sure what’s going on there.

Race route – 6/10
I enjoyed the route and the hill was challenging…both times.

Adventure status – 3/10
Crystal Palace is slightly more adventurous than Stratford.

How about two runs?

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10k – Race Report – 5th January 2019

Distance – 10k over 3 laps
Course – Gravel/Concrete path

In some ways this race was the epitome of my approach to running. I stayed up too late drinking, woke-up with a hangover, had to run for my train without any breakfast and somehow found time to get really cold pre-race. However, post-race I still felt like I enjoyed myself?!

For those of you who don’t know (i.e. everyone), I’ve dabbled with running for over 10 years. I got some decent times under my belt early on, but have never quite ascended to those great heights since. 2019 was going to be different. Right?

Right. So I’ve decided with some friends to do something different. 2019 is going to be a year of daft adventure running. And not the kind where I nearly die during each race (like previous years). I am going to run and conquer all before me, from the snowy knolls of Scotland to the verdant hills of the South Downs.

Either way, I was relatively excited for my first race of the year. With much larger challenges awaiting, this would give me a chance to evaluate exactly how fit I was. I’d had a few training runs before and after the new year started, but nothing that would put pressure on my clogged arteries like a cheeky 10k tour of Queen Elizabeth’s park at speed. Well, speed might be exaggerating it a little bit.

The race was well organised and nearby public transport, so was easy to get to, despite the large security presence before a West Ham match. I had booked this race with some trepidation (not because of the West Ham fans of course!) as I’m not necessarily a fan of doing laps. I’m very much of the opinion that having a visual cue of how much I’ve got left to run is slightly miserable. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The park was nice with a number of small hills and the weather was perfect for running: not too hot nor too cold.

The first lap passed by with the usual panicked gasping for air before I settled into my 10k running pace (with slightly less panicked gasping). There was a bit of headwind along certain parts of the course, but despite this, the second and third laps quickly followed the first. I initially thought I’d started too quickly in terms of my pace, but somehow managed to keep it fairly consistent. For future reference, I might try and copy some of my fellow runners and have a quick jog before I start. The pre-race ritual has always seemed an arcane art full of superstition and rumour, which I’ve never particularly engaged with. The one relatively challenging part of the race was a twisting path up a hill near the end that allowed me to eyeball those in front and, retrospectively, my pursuers.

As I stumbled over the finish line, my attention turned to picking up my medal and the post-race snacks, which were plentiful. However, unsated and still hung over, I turned to the Stratford Westfield food court. Much to my chagrin, the West Ham game was soon to start with hungry fans and the normal Saturday morning shoppers gathering to feed. I’ve genuinely never seen a queue that long for KFC and I’ve experienced my fair share of waiting for fried chicken. Maybe next time.

I’ve also put together an arbitrary and senseless rating system, which I’ll be using as we run more races. I reserve the right to change, delete and generally mess around with it as the year progresses!

Organisation – 10/10
The race organiser arranges over a hundred events each year and it shows.

Race goodies – 5/10
Good for a 10k race. Caramel bar for the win.

Race route – 5/10
While the route was varied and the park pleasant enough, you’re still running laps on concrete.

Adventure status – 2/10
It is in Stratford – sorry!

In summary, this was a fun race, great for first timers or those looking to get a regular 10k run under their belts. I’d certainly run it again if I needed to register some kilometers at speed. I wouldn’t if I wanted KFC after the race. I always want KFC after a race.