Last weekend we headed down to Center Parcs in Whinfell Forest to celebrate Owain’s mum's 60th Birthday. It was a great weekend spent with the Williams’ brood and think it is the first time we have all got together since our wedding. A couple of days before we left we did what most of you probably do when you go away, we checked to see if there was a local parkrun nearby and, as it happened, there is!
Penrith parkrun is just 4 miles away from Center Parcs – perfect! Owain had hoped to run there as a warm up but it would have meant running along a dual carriageway so instead we drove, much safer! Obviously, since the parkrun is south of the border, it started at the unsociable hour of 9am. This really messed with our timings. It might only be 30 mins of a difference but it felt really really early – particularly since we were still in the hot tub at 11pm the night before.
As well as getting our first proper taste of parkrun tourism, we were also going to celebrate our 50th parkrun. This had originally been planned for the New Year but the weather was against us with cancelled runs. We had thought about waiting and getting our 50th at Edinburgh or Portobello but we didn’t know when we could next fit one in and couldn't miss running a new parkrun that was literally just up the road from where we were staying.
We arrived in plenty of time, probably a bit too much time and met the race director and a couple of locals who all made us feel very welcome. We had posted on their Facebook page to say we were heading along so it was nice that they had looked out for us. The reason we had got there early was Owain wanted to get a warm up in before the first timers briefing. Unfortunately, we hadn’t appreciated that they don't do first timers briefings! Everyone simply gathered round the pavilion at the start of the race, which actually worked better as it meant we were standing together for our 50th run cheers.
Just before we started, I did a couple of strides and then found out that not only was this a very flat course, the local running club were also using it as a championship counter race!
The course is mostly on grass / hard trail so I decided to pull on my Inov-8 X-Talon 200s. Looking around at others up the front of the run, this was a good choice - just as well as I hadn't packed my racing flats!
With a quick good luck kiss to Mandy and a short countdown to the race start, we were off.
I would normally get my foot right on the start line but there was no chance of that. A lot of club vests were in front of me and, since I was the newbie, I thought I’d just sit back and wait to see how the run unfolded.
The course is two laps of the playing fields and so I used the first half of the first lap as my warm up. I sat back in the crowd and counted that I was sitting about 25th. The front runners were already making a gap up front and I was picking my way through the other runners, just enjoying myself and stretching my legs.
The course runs up next to the River Eamont and then has you cross over a small bridge which leads you on to a private road. I made up a couple of places here, feeling strong and confident I could keep my place.
I came past the pavilion to start the second lap and counted I'd made up my position to 13th. I was happy with that but still felt I was catching the small group of 3 runners ahead of me.
Pushing after them I got back to the river and one of the marshals gave me really encouraging words - "Well done Owain, you can catch them, you're pulling them in", that was all I needed, I went chasing with just over half of the lap to go.
We came back on to the road and I got past one of the guys and kept on chasing the next two.
With maybe 1/2 mile to go I was now ahead of the group, one of the guys had come with me and we were giving it everything, passing a couple of other runners and pushing hard.
Unfortunately, he managed to get past me in the final 50 metres or so but I crossed the line and was over the moon with a 7th place, especially since I had started so far back.
My time of 18: 33 was a bit slower than I was expecting, it felt much faster but that's more a reflection on my fitness than anything else.
I congratulated those who were running around about my pace and then headed out back along the course to cheer Mandy in.
Having had my thyroid medication changed recently, I have been struggling and my runs have been a bit sporadic over the last few weeks so the run for me was simply about getting out and enjoying my 50th. After the briefing, we headed to the start line and I was surprised at how quickly we were off. As Owain said, the start of the course is around the playing fields on a small trail path but for most of this first section I had to run on the grass as it was so busy. Thankfully it had been dry and so there were no issues with the terrain.
As some of you may know, I have been doing the 6 week Improve My Running Course with Matt Holland (which I will blog about separately) so I was trying to focus on technique and purposely didn’t look at my watch. The only time I thought about my pace was coming round the second section of the first lap. I could see the front runners sprinting through the pack and had a sudden thought that I could be lapped so tried to pick it up a bit just to get through the half way point! Thankfully I got through unscathed.
As I made my way round the top corner of my second lap I heard Owain give me a shout so knew that he had finished, although didn’t think to look at my time to see how he had got on. By the second lap, the crowds had thinned out although I was conscious of one runner who seemed to be on my shoulder the whole way round. I did slow up going through an open gate to let her through before me but she seemed fine sitting behind me.
The second part of the course has a few corners and bends and it was quite nice to see Owain at these points as I took the opportunity to try and focus again on technique. As I came to the final section, it was lovely to get a shout from Alison, a local runner who was there celebrating her 100th parkrun, all at Penrith. This final section takes you on to the grass to the finish funnel and it was privy to one of my very few competitive sprint finishes. As I said, I had heard someone on my shoulder all the way round and her family had joined her at this point, encouraging her to push to the finish. I thought it only fair that we should finish the run in our same positions with me in front. She did come up to me at the end thanking me saying that she had never ran the course before so was grateful to me for my pacing and showing her around the course – not realising that I had never ran it before either.
We'd both highly recommend this parkrun. It’s a nice terrain with a few turns to keep it interesting. Once you are finished there are showers available in the pavilion as well as tea, coffee and home baking! Just remember to take a wee donation with you.
It was a really great way to celebrate our 50th parkrun. Thanks Penrith parkrun!