Over before it began

Sod dementia, let’s play swing ball

WHAT A WEEKEND!

Regular consumers of this occasionally literal (occasionally literary) ramble through our lives will have noticed I started a “Creative Writing” course….

Well, the course has gone back…… Whilst I’m sure it’s fabulous, it most certainly isn’t for me. Writing lies as fact on topics I don’t enjoy to get ‘paid’ by publications I would rather not support isn’t really where I want to pitch myself…..

And who was I kidding anyway!

Hey ho.

Anyway……

 

The Bank Holiday weekend…..

Lots of time with my beautiful step daughters, their betrothed, our wonderfully energy giving grandchildren and, of course, my breathtakingly beautiful wife. She really is the spark that lights everything that’s fabulous in my life. Even my father-in-law, Frank was up for it – “sod dementia, let’s play swing ball”!

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Pre-race coffees

AND…. On Sunday our old gang went on a road trip to Casterbridge Half Marathon. So that’s yours truly and Nicky (the afore mentioned HOT wife) along with blog veteran, Martin in full silver fox / cheeky monkey mode, Jan too, fresh from the Manchester Half Marathon the previous Sunday. Our support crew were Gloria, another blog regular, and Jan’s lovely Mum, Linda.

 

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Jan managed to find the silver fox loitering in a layby

We met at a fairly civilised hour and convoyed our way to Dorchester.

 

Considering we are such social wallflowers, it’s amazing how many old friends we bumped into  – like Kiernan, an old mate from Portsmouth, dropping in to do a half marathon on his way to his family holiday in Cornwall.

The Dorchester Marathon and Casterbridge Half are road events (and those roads are mostly closed) organised by those masters of the Dorset trails, White Star Running.

 

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Martin, Jan & Nicky demonstrating their thorough warm up routine

If you fancy a road marathon or half, but with the feel of a trail event, beautiful scenery, a festival like atmosphere and a few cheeky hills, then this is for you.

 

With 1600 runners across the two distances, the campsite was buzzing and the car park field was being marshalled like clockwork.

 

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No, Martin, keep your shorts up until you’re out of sight!

Plenty of portaloos, food and drink stalls and a massive marquee promising fun and frolics later in the evening for the runners and campers.

 

The marathon was sent on its way as we made our first trip to the plastic tardis shaped relief cubicles and followed that up with a traditional pre race coffee.

It was good to be back in banter mode with the gang and before we knew it the rain from earlier had given way to glorious sunshine and we were heading for the start line of our race.

 

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Lovely to bump into Kiernan

I had a race plan – run as fast as I thought I could until I couldn’t and then run slower, or if I thought I could run a bit faster then I’d run faster, or slower, depending on what I felt like doing. So, just run basically.

 

Regular readers will know I have trouble remembering details of my runs. I remember lots of bits but not necessarily in the right order.

 

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Ready for the off

So here’s how my race went: 10, 9, 8…….GO! The mayor sent us on our way. For once I ran about as hard as I intended and quickly found my stride amongst others running my pace. We spread out across the closed roads (closed roads!), soaked up the sunshine, enjoyed the wonderful Dorset countryside and ran up. And down. And up. There is barely a flat section. No monster hills particularly, one very long one and a naughty steeper one near the end, but lots of them.

 

There were marshals at every junction, fabulous aid stations and the infamous White Star Love Station. The marathon joined the half marathon route with about 6 miles to go (I think!) and I was quite pleased that only one marathoner steamed past me before the end.

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Marathon winner Steve Way was already comfortable in the winner’s deck chair by the time I crossed the line!

That was the legend that is Steve Way, always supporting road races in the South West, he skipped past us on his way to 2h28m in his last big mileage effort before having a crack at getting gold in Comrades in two weeks time. The runner next to me was moved to exclaim “that’s beautiful to watch!” as Steve sped away.

 

 

 

 

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This young man showed me a clean pair of heels in the home straight!

Apart from getting drawn into an unsuccessful attempt to outsprint someone many (10s of) years my junior, my own race was uneventful. This ultra training has really taught me to chill out, as has running with Nicky, who never, ever starts too quickly. So, whilst I felt like I’d ran it hard, I was always in control. Lovely.

 

There was a fabulous atmosphere at the finish which was helped by the races starting an hour apart, so there was a constant stream of runners getting royally cheered home. I saw Martin come steaming home, then Nicky and then Jan.

The weather was so glorious, we set up on the grass and enjoyed the atmosphere for an hour or so, Martin unable to resist unleashing his well thought out ‘balls’ jokes as he parted with some hard earned dosh for some of the cake stall’s protein balls.

The blog has fallen behind this week, so I’ll leave you with some lovely images from this great race, and some more from our fantastic family Bank Holiday Monday

 

 

There are no ‘cheats’

slicing through the fatigue of life

Nope.

My two favourite hobbies. The one I tend to do alone and the one I sometimes do alone but MUCH prefer it if my beautiful wife is doing it with me.

“Of what do you witter now?” I hear you cry…..

Writing, of course, and running, naturally. Although keen observers have rarely described me as running ‘naturally’!

Anyway, it turns out you can’t just pitch up with your pen or your trainers and instantly be a published author or complete a marathon.

Nope.

You’ve got to write.

You’ve got to run.

Luckily for me I REALLY enjoy running and I REALLY enjoy writing.

Phew!

It all depends what I want my hobbies to give me back.

I could run like Forrest Gump (and there’s plenty who’d suggest I already do!) and still never become an ‘elite’ athlete but I will always get so much pleasure from each and every step.

Writing, on the other hand, well, there might just be a chance of writing becoming a double edged sword, slicing backwards and forwards through the fatigue of life. Yes, with some focus and commitment, writing might just open a few doors.

So what does a man who is regularly barely able to drag his aching feet high enough to stand on the bulging demands and pressures on his time trying to squeeze them into the available hours do?

Signs up for a Creative Writing course. Naturally…….

Wish me luck…….

Tour De Bay (a dog run tale in 23 pictures)

This uber-cool chap was rather shy

_20180520_155954768086746304069619.jpgI left home this morning thinking I’d maybe run a few local loops to trudge out a bunch of miles and tick that ‘long run’ box.

Luckily, I changed my mind as I closed the gate and watched my intrepid, half iron distance training, inspirational and quite beautiful lady wife Nicky, peddle off into the sunrise.

Planning to arrive home to coincide with her ‘transition’ to runner after her ride gave me 3 hours to play with. Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will be familiar with the term ‘dog run’ – a run where the route is determined by spur of the moment decisions or sudden urges to investigate new paths (as introduced by the lovely chaps on the Running Commentary Podcast)

So, to give you guys a break from my words….. 23 pictures (one from each mile) of todays run…

 

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Mile 1 : 6am Preston Sea Front

 

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Mile 2: Rik Mayall’s spirit lives on – Hollicombe Woods

 

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Mile 3: Cockington looking splendid

 

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Mile 4: out into open countryside

 

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Mile 5: Heading towards Occombe

 

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Mile 6: Going up! Pictures never do the hills justice

 

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Mile 7: Marvelous Mowed Marldon Meadow

 

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Mile 8: What a view from above Marldon

 

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Mile 9: Old childhood stomping ground in Blagdon

 

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Mile 10: Collaton St Mary Church and a quick ‘Hi’ to my much missed sister x

 

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Mile 11: More childhood memories around Yalberton

 

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Mile 12: Not the most inspiring, but this well worn gateway has inspired a scene in my book…

 

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Mile 13: Many a selfie in this spot on the coast path

 

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Mile 14: MORE steps

 

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Mile 15: A rather serious expression eating my biscuits on the prom at Goodrington

 

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Mile 16: Our local Victoria Park looking splendid

 

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Mile 17: Never a chore to shuffle around Oldway Mansion’s trails

 

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Mile 18: I found me one of them there triathletes!

 

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Mile 19: Sharing the coast path with the most beautiful lady on earth x

 

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Mile 20: This uber-cool chap was rather shy but happy to be featured in the blog

 

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Mile 21: The lovely community garden at Goodrington

 

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Mile 22: How much for a boating lake?

 

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Mile 23: The end – all smiles after 4h30m of sunny sweating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

I do think it will polarise like Marmite

After three wonderful, exhilarating, life affirming years of marriage to Nicky, my world, my reason, my soul mate, I find myself reflecting on just why she has transformed my life, my whole being.

There are reasons by the bucket load.

Just one example: Books. At various times during my life I’ve been a keen reader. But, it has taken sharing a space with someone who KNOWS how to live in the pages of whatever is in your hands, someone who isn’t afraid to say “I can’t wait to get back to my book”, someone who will happily share two hours in a book shop.

One of our most prized possessions is our Waterstones loyalty card, eagerly watching the stamping at the till as we approach yet another £10 discount.

Wonderfully, also, we don’t do genres, we aren’t confined to fiction or non-fiction. Believe it or not we don’t just read about running, cycling and swimming!

As our ‘to be read’ pile starts to diminish we both start mentally preparing our justifications to unleash another armful of tomes onto the counter on our next pilgrimage.

Books. Yup. We like them.

Anyway, I’m waffling……

I’ve finished a couple of books in the last two weeks, and as I declared on ‘the other blog’ I intend to only write reviews of those I’ve thourougly enjoyed.

I picked up White Tears by Hari Kunzru after having seen off a more standard thriller Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi. Bussi’s latest work was a great, pacey, page turning who-dunnit-and-why thriller. Enjoyable but perhaps I was ready for something which challenged me further, explored a bit of me.

Well White Tears has certainly done that. A tale of friendship, of hurt, of obsession of darkness which explores its characters to their core.

The geeky lad, playing with technology, exploring sound, forms an unlikely alliance with the cool student. Popular and confident, from an extraordinarily wealthy family, Carter sees Seth to be the curve that closes the circle of his craving.

Carter collects and is absorbed by old blues and rare black music, chasing those rare catalogue numbers on fragile 78s.

Seth’s gathering of obscure sounds using his own obscure technological creations, combined with the scratchy tones of obscure blues recordings becomes an art form in itself.

A chance collision of old and new from their increasingly fractious teamwork sends both their worlds into chaos.

And the story too.

As tragedy and mayhem crowd in on him, Seth’s life becomes a search for the reason behind the cursed recording.

Hooking up with old blues collectors, Carter’s sister, crazy chess players and the characters living in the home of the poor man’s blues, in the deep south.

It is a tale of a young man barely clinging to sanity, told in an increasingly anxious tone as Kunzru dares the reader to turn each page.

Tragedies of old play throughout the challenge of today as Seth is increasingly sucked into the characters behind the torture that created the ‘cursed’ recording.

An exploration into the extremities of the power of music, its role in racial divisions, class conflict and the souls of us all, White Tears is a broken record of a tortured tale. I read it in less than a week, fighting sleep in my urgency to go with Seth to the next town, the next chapter.

Wonderfully following no formula or fitting with any agenda or genre, I would unreservedly recommend it. I do think it will polarise, like Marmite, but I do love a bit of Marmite…….

(No) Jacket Required

Luke and Adam appeared to be wading into the sea

Sporting a shiny new MOT certificate the trusty Micra bumped across the field to be directed into a lovely parking space by the familiar face of Jamie.

Jamie has featured in this blog on numerous occasions as he tends to be omnipresent in the local trail running community.

And here he was, at the crack of dawn marshalling the car park for Pure Trail’s Race The Tide.

Good job he was. “Take your kit for inspection at the registration tent Kev”

Ahhh. I immediately remembered NOT packing my running jacket…..

 

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Sharing a coffee with Jamie

So, as I collected my race number and tucked Jamie’s jacket into my running pack after he had saved the day, the sun was already beating ahead of the 8am start. Hopefully I won’t be needing it I mused as I poured myself a coffee from my flask and humbly offered Jamie a cup as a thoroughly inedaquate thank you.

There was a healthy looking gathering of far better organised athletes than I mulling around the start line as I sauntered into the pack.

It’s not the same on the start line without Nicky, I can’t lie. I absolutely love running and enjoy many a solo hour on the trails but there’s nothing quite like lining up with my beautiful lady wife for these scenic trail events.

In the circumstances, Nicky on a powerful recovery from a calf injury and focusing on her Half Iron Distance triathlon in a months time, she was happy to be tackling the 16 mile version whilst I faced the full blown 29.

With Nicky, along with fellow Half competitors Martin & Abi, plus our ever present supporter, Gloria, arriving some time later, I wasn’t my most organised self, in fact, without Nicky guiding me, I did well to be dressed, and was still mentally checking I’d got everything I wanted to take in my running pack as we set off into the Flete Estate.

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I was sure it said ‘fast and flat’ on the flyer….

I’d been originally training for a 60 mile event this weekend, as regular blog readers will know, so the theory was I should be ‘comfortable’ with the prospect of tackling half the distance….

Having enjoyed the Half Marathon last year (check out the blog HERE), I was looking forward to once again enjoying the runnable trails through the Estate alongside the River Erme. Once over the upstream bridge, the route winds its way back towards the sea before the marathon route splits off and heads off towards the River Avon.

Running through woodland, river trails, farmland, footpaths and quiet lanes, this really is trail runners heaven. And the best was yet to come.

Regular readers will know, I am rubbish at recalling accurate mile by mile, blow by blow accounts of my runs, so forgive me if I ramble randomly…..

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Nobody was going hungry or thirsty!

So heading towards the sea again, running periodically with some great company – Gus, David and Rebecca, we caught up with two more runners. Luke and Adam, both regulars on the trail running scene, who appeared to be wading into the sea!! They believed they had already reached the point at which they should be ‘racing the tide’ and had taken on the fast moving current.

 

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Luke survived his ‘extra’ water crossing

 

They decided to backtrack and helpfully gestured us to not take the same path as them, which meant we momentarily snuck past them as they squelched across the sand. There was much hilarity and banter as we crossed the sand and headed for Burgh Island. The Island is accessible without getting your feet wet at low tide and we got bemused, even admiring glances, from day trippers as we climbed up for our loop of the island.

 

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I don’t know WHY we run here

This is truly a breath taking area of natural beauty and it was a treat to be enjoying it all in such glorious weather. Off the beach, we came to one of the fabulous aid stations. Further adding to the lovely family atmosphere generated by Pure Trail events, this food market of a checkpoint was manned by the parents of one of the Pure Trail’s event organisers. I managed to get a picture of Steve’s Mum and Dad which, in the case of his Mum, is quite a rarity.

So, fuelled again by coke, water melon and Jaffa cakes, I set off to enjoy the coast path between Bigbury and the actual ‘Race The Tide’ crossing at Mothercombe.

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Gus mulling over the selection of food on other!

Gus and I had barely started saying “So, poles, do they really help……” when Luke deftly produced his and sped past us up the next grassy hill!

We reached the crossing of the Erme with plenty of time to spare before the incoming tide arrived and we ventured onto the next section of glorious coastline. The route is so beautiful, demanding for sure, but stunning, that as we turned back in land after about 23 miles, I started to feel a twinge of sadness that we’d reached the final 10km….

Every aid station we passed was stuffed with such a wonderful array of goodies, it would be easy to pile weight on DURING the run. The watermelon though, wow, how utterly refreshing was that!

Turning back along the Erme Estuary for the final trudge back up to the finish line, I had a wave of pride at my performance. Not because of the time I’d taken, or the position I’d finished, but because I seem to be getting so much better at judging my effort level to get maximum pleasure out of my time out on the course.

*NOTE FROM NICKY – He’s also under strict instructions not to end up in the medic’s tent like after his Eden Marathon ‘efforts’!

And what a course.

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Thank you to the organisers for this picture, I almost look like an afferlete!

Due to the way the different distances of the day’s races were timed, I managed to cross the line about a minute before, our great friend, Martin, a regular feature in this blog. He hadn’t been with us last year and I just knew he was going to be waxing lyrical, in his sexy brummie twang, about how gorgeous the route is. And he was, he also loved it

Another great friend, Gloria, had enjoyed a lovely walk and paddle in the Erme before setting herself in prime position for finish line photos.

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Nicky & Abi – wearing the smiles of a happy run

Before long Abi, another great friend, fresh from her marathon debut in London, and Nicky, were giggling their way through a mock sprint finish to the line. They had nattered and munched and selfied their way around the beautiful route and Abi declared it her new favourite race!

The School House Café literally next door to the event field, was our destination for mammoth cakes and happy musings of a wonderful day.

Asked how much I enjoyed it, I declared it to be, out of all the events I’ve ever tackled WITHOUT Nicky by my side, it is my absolute favourite. Pure Trail give their events that feeling of being involved in something quite epic, whilst keeping the atmosphere of hanging out with your mates and family. The route was well thought out and maximised this incredible location, the marshals and organisers were all smiles and supportive, with so many experienced trail and ultra runners on the ‘staff’ for the day, the participants were more than safe and catered for.

I was sooooo busy enjoying the views I forgot to take much in the way of photographs but hope I’ve captured the flavour of a wonderful day.

FOOTNOTE – After 107 blog posts, you’d think I’d start to understand WordPress a bit better. apologies for some of the picture captions!

 

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FOOTNOTE 2 – my quads were loving this today!!!!

 

You Can’t Play An Instrument On This Bus

the search for the creative soul in all of us

Bob Marley’s message will never die….

So, if I want to be a writer…..

I need to write…

And read, read lots, read a wide and diverse range of material….

But most of all write……

Regular readers may remember I’m writing a book? Well, it’s wheels are a-rollin’ again as *** & **** build towards a fateful moment in Chapter Three………

It only takes one lovely comment about the blog and my belief in my work swells. There’s been a few this week, THANK YOU, and I’m rather proud….

Inspiration too from an interview with Nikesh Shukla, his passion for his own writing and for the search for the creative soul in all of us is delightful. He edited the extraordinary collections of essays, THE GOOD IMMIGRANT, one of the most important, challenging, emotional and exploratory books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. One of those reads which left me feeling like I had somehow grown as a human being as a result of consuming it.

A rather lovely, ironic moment, as I spotted a ‘typo’ in Writer magazine whilst reading this interview.

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So, I’ll leave you to your weekend and get back to ******* where *** and **** are about to experience ****** ******. Clackety-clack

This book WILL happen…… #dogsthatdontlookliketheirowners

(This year, I’m keeping a list of my reading in THE BOOK LISTS 2018)

(In case you’re wondering, the ***’s are protecting you from too many spoilers about the book….)

 

Parkrun: What does it mean to you?

they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me

Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.

We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.

2018-04-28 09.27.18Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.

Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.

Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which  people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.

I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.

Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.

 

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The local clubs are always well represented at our local Parkrun

I can only report what I find.

I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.

 

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“Nothing but smiles” could be these guy’s three words

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.

But not always.

I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.

Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.

Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.

Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.

She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”

She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.

I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.

My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!

These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.

Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.

A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.

As I say, I can only report what I see.

Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.

Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.

But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!

And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.

A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.

The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!

Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.

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