…Triple RUN that is!
That’s right, The Running Princess got 2017 off to a
flying running start…
After ending 2016 with a Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve for my readers outside of Scotland!) parkrun, I was keen to begin 2017 as I mean to go on – by running! Steve began 2016 with what we refer to locally as the “New Year Triple”, and after being forced to watch from the sidelines with an injury, this year I wanted to put that one last piece of unfinished business to bed, while also getting a real handle on where my fitness is right now. The idea of a New Year challenge appealed to me and taking on three runs in the same day is something I’ve never done before (I’ve done two in a day on more than one occasion though!). With challenges like this the difficulty is less in the distance, and more in the stopping and starting whilst trying to keep warm so the legs don’t seize up!
And so, rather than take up the invitation of New Year drinks with some of our neighbours, we had a quiet, alcohol-free night at home, going to bed at our usual time ready to attack the 1st of January head on.
First up, a New Year’s Day parkrun at my usual event in Perth. I had taken it easy at the Hogmanay event, thinking in terms of endurance rather than speed with three runs ahead of me the following day. For me, anything between 24:00 and 24:30 would be my average time (sub-24 if I’m in really good form and I actually managed one of those a week before Christmas!) so given the strong winds and somewhat squelchy conditions on the grass section, I thought something in the 25:XX region would be fine. Finishing comfortably in 25:05 was therefore perfect and the ideal setup for the New Year Triple!
Arriving bright and early on New Year’s Day it was clear that it was going to be a busy parkrun, with lots of visitors from other nearby parkruns also looking to complete a double (or triple!) run. We wished friends a happy new year, listened to the briefing then got ready to run. I had my “endurance” head on again and was keeping an eye on my time to make sure I didn’t go any faster than the day before. It had been cold enough for frost overnight so the grass section was a bit firmer, but there hadn’t been a hard enough frost to really make much of a difference.
I slotted into a comfortable pace and kept it nice and even for the first two miles, but found myself naturally speeding up a bit in the third mile after the grass section. Then, as I got nearer to the finish, I became aware of a guy running right on my shoulder. He looked pretty done and despite the two further runs I had ahead of me, my competitive brain just couldn’t resist speeding up a bit for the last 0.1 to the finish to see what he had left. Yes, I dropped him, but after crossing the line he thanked me for keeping him going. Turned out he was feeling pretty done and ready to quit, but was hanging on to me to get to the finish, so I shook his hand and congratulated him on a good run. Me? I finished in 25:14 (an average of 8:09 per mile) and was happy that I paced it about right.
We left fairly swiftly to allow us a bit of time for a pitstop at home (the toilets in both of the parks we were visiting were shut because of the festive hours) which presented me with a few additional comfort options: I changed everything on my top half so as not to have to spend all day getting cold in sweaty kit, picked up the shoes I wanted for the other two runs (different terrains = different shoes; my podiatrist must be so proud!) and popped some other bits and pieces in a bag (change of socks and gloves to keep my extremities warm, change of running tights in case I wanted them, a hoody to keep me cosy and a couple of things to help tidy myself up a bit post-run!). Then it was time to set off for Dundee and parkrun no.2 (re-timed for 11:30am on this occasion).
The most exciting thing about this for me was that I’ve NEVER been to a different parkrun. Steve has been to three other parkruns (Dundee plus two in England) but despite friends and colleagues often suggesting I go to their local parkrun, I had never yet indulged in any parkrun tourism. That was all about to change…
Dundee parkrun takes place at Camperdown park, and while I may not have taken part in the parkrun there before, I do remember running in the Stroke Association Resolution Run there back in 2013 which used near enough the same course. Back then I was not long back to running after an injury and remember finding it tough, so I had it in mind to be pretty conservative since this was the filling in my sandwich of New Year runs.
Again, there were loads of people about and having glanced at the route map on their website I thought I’d best listen to the first timers’ briefing so I would have a rough idea of what to expect. After that, it was the regular briefing where the run director (in a kilt) welcomed everyone and, to a cacophony of barking from representatives of a local cani-cross club) asked, deadpan, if there were any dogs taking part! 🙂
I was having an issue with my wireless earphones so decided to forget about music and just enjoy the run since I was in a new environment. Camperdown is much more of a trail run than Perth, and is a lot more hilly. The run director had suggested that speedy runners from Perth could expect to add on about 1:30 to their time, and less speedy runners at least 2 minutes. Since I wasn’t planning to run hard, I estimated I’d be about 2 minutes slower than my run in Perth a couple of hours before.
The route began with a lovely (but all too brief) downhill stretch on a cinder path before turning off onto a trail. I got a nice splash of icy, muddy water as someone went by me but I soon warmed up as I carried on through the trees towards an uphill climb (the bit that saps the 2 minutes away from your time!). The course was then briefly flat before a short downhill, rejoining a parallel trail for the return with a lovely(?) uphill finish on part of the same cinder path we started on.
Despite having already run, I soon realised the benefit of all that trail running in November and early December as I was able to pass people on the hills and run strongly through the trail sections with my trusty new trail shoes. The uphill finish was a bit energy-sapping, but I still finished in 27:18, pretty much spot-on with the suggested +2 minutes and I felt that my effort levels were about the same. Two parkruns down, one more run to go!
Back in the car I removed my top layer, put on my warm hoody, took off my shoes and donned a pair of cosy socks for the half hour journey to Blairgowrie. The last thing I wanted was to get cold and my muscles to seize up before running again!
We, along with a few other lunatics who wanted to do the triple, were heading for the Blairgowrie New Year Fun Run which has now been taking place for over 30 years! I took part in this event in 2014 when I had the most awful toothache, so my expectations weren’t exactly high, but I do remember thinking it was a great event. For the bargain price of £2 you get a 6k run then warm up with some delicious soup. There are usually 200+ runners even with the variable weather conditions at this time of year and there is now the option of a walk as well (which heads off half an hour before the run).
With all of the logistics of getting from one event to the next, we knew we would be a little tight for time. We parked the car and walked up to the town hall where the race begins, with enough time to register (there’s no advance entry for this event) and nip to the toilets (indoors – luxury!) before everyone started to assemble for the run. I put on a different top layer and took a gel since there events were all too close together to really eat anything and I was getting hungry. I can confirm that taking a gel before a 6k fun run does get you some funny looks!
There were a few announcements from the organiser but I couldn’t really hear them properly since there were so many people bestowing new year greetings on others, so I figured I would go with starting to run when someone said, “go”, following the straightforward route and stopping when I got to the end. Foolproof! I suspect the announcements were telling us to run on the pavement since the roads were open, but since the pavements were quite busy most people ran on the road anyway for much of the route.
I’d sorted out the issue with my earphones and decided I would listen to some music on this one so that I would have a distraction if it got a bit tough! But as we set off on the main road out of Blairgowrie, I felt not too bad. I was surrounded by familiar faces so knew I was in about the “right” position and just kept on going, enjoying the experience.
After about a mile there’s a left turn onto the road going past the golf course, and despite a bit of an incline here I still managed to run a fairly even first two miles. At the top of the road we make another left to follow a roughly parallel road back into Blairgowrie, finishing right by where we had parked the car.
It was in the second half of the run that things started to get a bit harder. My legs felt much better than I had anticipated, but I was still on my third run of the day and there was a pretty brutal headwind on the way back into Blairgowrie (it had been raining when we arrived and I don’t think Mother Nature was quite done yet!). I gritted my teeth and tried to keep catching up with some runners in front of me.
The finish of the run is a bit deceptive, particularly if you don’t visit Blairgowrie much, as you make a sharpish left turn onto a side street and run towards the finish. I remember being caught out by this the last time when others began to speed up but I didn’t realise how close I was to the end. This time, I did a little better, but still had it in mind that I had to run a bit closer to 4 miles rather than the 3.8ish actually covered by the route. The third and fourth miles were affected a little by the headwind, but I still managed to run them pretty evenly, finishing the run in 30:54 (an average 8:09 per mile – exactly the same as run number 1 in Perth that morning. I’m nothing if not consistent!). There were prizes for the top ten males and females, and although I knew that wouldn’t be me, I overheard the organisers putting together their list and was surprised to realise that I wasn’t that far off the pace as the tenth female finished in 29:XX (they only take times for the top ten, so my timing is purely from my own watch). After three runs in one day, that’s really pleasing!
In many ways I felt that this was my best run of the day as despite being weary from my previous endeavours, I still managed to maintain a consistent pace that’s faster than my proposed marathon pace. Yes, my legs got a little weary but that’s more due to having the gaps between the races than the overall distance, so in terms of fitness I feel in a good position to embark on my spring marathon training.
Post-run we had some soup followed by a bit of shortbread and a small chocolate bar before heading back to the car to drive home. We were both really hungry so as soon as we got in we had some Christmas cake and I warmed with a cup of tea before a nice relaxing Epsom salt bath.
I also had a laugh at the scene by the back door – 4 runs in 1 weekend meant 4 pairs of shoes drying out!
As for the rest of the day, we pretty much put our feet up and enjoyed a well-deserved break before an enormous and guilt-free plate of steak pie, potatoes and veggies (no photos since we inhaled it so quickly!) and a glass of fizz to finally toast the new year and celebrate the successful completion of our challenge. We were exhausted, but content after a great day of running and feeling like we were part of something as everyone who took on this triple-run challenge became a bit of a team. An example of the running community at its best and a great way to challenge yourself to start the new year.
Would I do it again? Absolutely!!
How did you spend New Year?
Anyone else go for a parkrun double?