If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you may remember that I began 2017 by taking part in a local challenge known as “The New Year Triple”. It’s an unofficial affair which involves a double parkrun (something available in lots of areas at New Year) in the morning then a long-standing 6k fun run in the early afternoon. There’s a bit of travelling around between the 3 locations, but the timings are about right to make all 3 possible and there are usually a good number of people taking on the challenge of the triple, which really adds to the atmosphere.
The 2 parkruns involved are my home parkrun in Perth and one of our nearest neighbours at Camperdown in Dundee. One goes at the regular time of 9:30am and the other at the revised time of 11am for this one day, and they take it in turns to go first. In 2017 we started in Perth, so for 2018 our first port of call was Dundee.
From my experience of doing this last year I learned that the key to the challenge is to pace yourself (I keep it in my mind that I’m running 10 miles rather than a parkrun to help me lock into a slower pace) and to keep warm in between events. Although it was slightly warmer this year (comparatively speaking) I still had a cosy hoody to put on, cosy socks in case my feet were cold and a blanket to put over my lap in the car if I wanted it, as well as a warm jacket. Last year I changed top, but this year the only kit change I was going to make was my shoes (socks if necessary) and my gloves as I wasn’t keen on putting them back on when they were damp!
I got a lot of my things organised the night before as we planned to leave about 8:30am to drive to Dundee (less than 30 minutes away). The only real snag was that neither of the parkruns would have toilets available as all the usual locations used are closed over the festive period. This meant I had to make sure I didn’t drink too much before leaving as a wild pee in January was not appealing!
Since we were in good time we were able to park right by the start in Camperdown park (last year we had to go all the way to the other side of the park and it was a fair distance!). We greeted a few friends from Perth and tried to stay warm while we waited to start, then I went over to the visitors’ briefing as I knew there had been a slight change to the course.
The change meant that the route started and finished a little further down the hill – great news for the end but less of a downhill to start with. I think it was the same run director as last year, in his customary kilt, and he got the run underway fairly swiftly after the usual announcements.
I knew that there was a fairly steep hill for about a third of a mile at the far end of the course (it adds around 2 minutes to your parkrun time from Perth!) and I also knew that my fitness was not where I wanted it to be thanks to that virus I had in early December, so my plan was to take things easy and not overdo it. Probably wise since the parts of the course on tarmac paths were quite slippy and while my trail shoes were doing a great job on the trail sections, they weren’t gripping so well on the path.
I kept my effort level fairly even and finished in a time of 29:16, around 9:35 per mile. More like long run pace but realistically that’s what I was going for.
After having my token scanned I found Steve for a couple of pictures then we jumped back in the car to head back to Perth.
There was enough time to swing by the house for a quick “comfort break” and a change of shoes before heading down to more familiar parkrun territory where there were a fair few people about (308 parkrunners after the 220 in Dundee). We greeted a few we hadn’t seen, re-connected with others we had spoken to in Dundee and listened to the briefing. The paths were a lot less slippy than they had been on Saturday, however the ground over the grass section was still pretty solid and rutted so there was still potential for a fall.
Again I went by my effort level and enjoyed listening to my music and chatting to some people on the way round. Thanks to the flatter terrain my time was a bit quicker at 27:20 which is around 8:50 per mile – ideal marathon pace for me – and only about 4 seconds slower than on Saturday on the icy paths. Not bad since it was my second run of the day!
I had grabbed a running jacket when we went home as we had passed though some heavy rain and I didn’t want my top to be soaking wet for the rest of the day. I was so glad I did as the rain started just as I finished but we weren’t in a hurry to leave since a very generous couple of parkrunners had brought mulled wine for everyone. It was a lovely way to warm up post-run and I enjoyed mine while chatting to some friends.
But then it was time to get back in the car and drive the half hour or so to Blairgowrie. I was starting to feel hungry so ate an energy bar I’d packed to keep me going (I had plenty of time to digest it since I wasn’t running again until 1pm). I suspect the caffeine gave me a bit of a boost!
We seemed to get to Blairgowrie much quicker than last year when we were travelling from Dundee (it’s about the same distance but the journey was really slow last year) so we were able to park right around the corner from the Town Hall which is used as event HQ. I popped my road shoes on (I’d been wearing my trusty all-terrain shoes in Perth), grabbed some dry gloves and we went in to register. It’s a real bargain at just £2 each and there’s the added bonus of the hall having nice INDOOR toilets to use while we waited to start.
With my number pinned on, I sat in the hall and chatted to some friends until it was time to head outside. This was the 34th consecutive year this event has taken place (never a cancellation or postponement in all that time) and it attracts a decent crowd of people. It’s one of those events that isn’t publicised, people just know when and were to turn up!
I had decided to switch from music to a podcast for this one as I expected my legs to feel a bit weary as we got underway. Strangely enough, though, I felt ok and when I spotted our MSP (also the Deputy First Minister of Scotland) a bit ahead of me, I wondered if I would be able to catch him…
About half way around the course I found myself right behind him, having kept up a comfortably brisk pace and had to decide on my next move. Back in 2014 when I did this run for the first time I passed him only to be beaten at the end as I hadn’t realised how close I was to the finish. This time I knew that if I made a move I would have to hold the lead. Game on!
So I went for it. With two previous experiences of this route I knew exactly how far I still had to go and had a landmark in mind (a convenience store) to begin speeding up to the finish. Unfortunately, just as that store came into view my legs started to take on a distinctly jelly-like sensation!
I dug in and kept on going to the finish. 3.8 miles in 32:46/8:37 per mile (they only time the top ten males/females so this is all from my watch). I had run each event a little quicker than the one before so was really pleased given the lack of training in the weeks before. As soon as I finished I turned back to watch for my “rival” and probably had a minute or so lead. I had done it. I had won a race the only other competitor had been unaware he was in! 😂
Steve was waiting for me and we grabbed some photos before heading back up to the hall where we had left our warm clothes.
Included in our bargain entry fee is post-run soup (which tastes AMAZING after 3 events!) and some kind of sweet treat – this year some chocolate bars. I actually ended up having 2 cups of the soup as it was so good and I was really hungry. The chocolate I took away with me and ate when I got home.
After a while we decided it was time to go home so headed back to the car (and I embraced my inner old lady by draping my blanket over my legs to stay warm!). As soon as we were in the door the wet kit went straight in the washing machine and the shoes were left out to dry.
Once showered and in my onesie (with compression socks underneath lol!) we had some bacon rolls to keep us going and relaxed in front of the TV. Despite the distances being relatively short, I still felt tired. Probably more from the travelling around from one place to the next and the effort of 3 separate runs rather than 1 long one. Still, it was great fun and I think has probably become a New Year tradition for us. If you have the chance to do something similar, like the double parkrun, then I highly recommend it. There’s such an amazing atmosphere and it feels so good to start the year off with a good run (or two…or three!).