“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
In a rather-obvious-but-we’re-going-to-go-with-it-anyway attempt to shoehorn some Dickens into this blog, I have borrowed the opening of A Tale of Two Cities to describe my recent Parkrun experience. Quite what Charles (we would be on first name terms, I’m sure) would have thought about his exemplary prose being used to describe my dash around a muddy field in the pouring rain will have to remain one of the mysteries of literature. I hope he would have approved.
Last Saturday started with a bit of a panic. Rolling over in bed I opened an eye and peered at the clock. 8:05. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. I was meant to be up at least half an hour ago. Parkrun starts in 55 minutes.
Out of bed, drink some water, find some clothes, put clothes on, try to find something to eat, have another go at putting clothes on, stuff two digestive biscuits in my mouth, drink some more water, stuff more digestive biscuits in my pocket, “where are my shoes?”, find shoes where I left them the day before, grab some spare clothes, leave the house. This was not exactly how I had planned my pre-Parkrun preparations.
I made it to the Plym Valley by ten to nine, leaving just enough time for a short warm-up jog before the start of the run. Well, I say run. We lined up across a field that looked more like the top of a chocolate fudge cake than it did a place to go running. Thick, oozing mud awaited us, with the promise of deep puddles throughout and a small lake at the far end of the course.
The countdown was given and we were off. Sort of. My legs were moving, but I would hesitate to say that I made any great strides forward. As I lolloped across the first few metres, sliding and sticking in equal measure, the man to my left went down heavily, face first into the mud. I passed a shoe and then a confused-looking runner heading back through the crowd in search of her footwear. I survived the mud field and emerged into the land of puddles. I soon gave up any pretence of being able to jump over them and surrendered myself to plunging into the icy water. Shoes and socks soaking. Legs, torso, arms and face splattered with mud. We had been going about a minute and a half.
And it was great fun!
The rain started. A heavy rain that soaked me to the skin and made my clothes hang heavily on my body. My glasses were speckled with wet, muddy drops and, about half way around the first loop, they steamed up completely. I ran, slipped and stumbled onward in a foggy, muddy mist of my own making. Along the canal, up The Hill, carefully down the other side and back into the field of mud for a final loop. Passing the last volunteer he bellowed encouragement at me: “You’re not breathing hard enough. Run faster!” Spurred on by his admonishment I asked my legs for a little bit more. They pumped faster, my feet moved in a blur and I failed spectacularly to go any quicker through the mud. Maximum effort, minimum achievement.
Results-wise, this was my worst time for the Plymvalley Parkrun, but it was also one of the best times I had enjoyed at a Parkrun. Although I understand that there were several regulars missing there were still 97 runners, which is a really encouraging turnout on a wet Saturday morning. That so many people were prepared to endure the conditions is a great endorsement of the Parkrun experience.
On the plus side, I was only 10 seconds slower than my first Plymvalley Parkrun (which was run in much drier conditions in September), so I was encouraged that my recent 5k training plan may be starting to pay off.
Back home I finally had time for the breakfast I had missed in my rush to get out of the house. Midfields Granola are a Devon-based company that make a range of cereals and I really like their original granola. I am not a fan of milk on cereal, preferring orange juice, and this really works well with their granola, adding a fruitiness to the mixture of oat flakes, wheat flakes, seeds and nuts. They manage to avoid the common pitfall whereby clusters of cereal are lumped together with sugar and, instead, allow the individual ingredients to shine. If you are looking for a new breakfast cereal, I would recommend trying Midfields.
Fed and watered? Check.
Time to get on with the rest of my weekend…