Running London – My 5K Visit

I realised the other day that it’s been such a long time since I put pen to paper (fingertips to keys) and whilst sitting on a crazily delayed train, why not take the time to write about my recent 5K run on the Thames.

Now I know that it may not sound that exciting.

“Hey Andy, we live in London and we’re always running up and down, over bridges and waving at the Queen every morning” I hear you say.

But for me, since jumping on the running wagon and hearing all your London tales of marathon runs, fun park runs and basically having the ultimate car free running route in the UK up and down the Thames, I wanted to join in.

Now as some of you may know I started a new job a few weeks ago and this involved a couple of overnight stays in London. On my first trip down I spotted the swathe of paths and pedestrianised zones down past the Tate and the Globe etc and the abundance of runners, walkers and anyone who wanted to use that space.

This was my in!

The next week, I packed a suitcase with just my running gear with the sole purpose of waking up early before work and getting out there. The plan was sound, until a last minute “newbie drinks” was arranged and I found myself in Soho still wheeling my wheels around. After a huge amount of amazing food and a few tasty beverages, I checked into the hotel and set my alarm.

7 Hours later my alarm buzzed. I leapt out of bed, ready to get going, and immediately dived into the floating bed side table the Premier Inn (The most Premier of Hotels) had handily placed for me. Bruised and Confused  I got my gear on, waved farewell to the receptionist (She thought i was a bit bonkers as she had checked me in the night before) and set off into the unknown.

Luckily the hotel was right on the south side of the river, just before London Bridge. As i started to stretch I noticed runners on their own or in groups flying across one end of the street. This must be a route, THE ROUTE, so following them I can’t go too wrong.

I set off and headed east.

2 minutes later I was stood in front of the Golden Hind in its dry dock. Amazing. I knew my run would get a bit touristy, and I’d reminded myself to watch the path infant and not just stare upwards and around the whole time. Obviously whilst doing the opposite and looking at the Hind I had my first and only narrow miss. I shouted sorry but they zoomed on unabashed. Maybe it’s normal to come across folks like me on a slow one (well, more on that later) having a good old butchers at the hotspots.

As I carried on on the next stop was the HMS Belfast. My run was taking on a real nautical theme! The Belfast is moored in a huge pedestrianised area of the river and it allowed me to get out of the way and really marvel at the London skyline. The size of the Shard, the Gherkin and the wacky bulging building that I think somehow refracted the sunlight and melted cars in its first few months!! DEATH RAY!

Up in front of me was Tower Bridge. Probably one of the most famous landmarks other than Big Ben that screams London! I hadn’t really planned to cross over the river, but as I was already here, why not! There are a little set of stairs from the river upwards that get you up onto the bridge, I confess, I walked up these. At this point, it was super congested with busy business folks, briefcases and top hats, monocles, you know, London.

I got up onto the bridge and set off. It was ace. I know it’s nothing like running across it in the London Marathon but all those years of watching the race etc came flooding back and I pushed on through, well around the visitor centre and then back down the other side. Again the bridge is wide enough to wiggle your way through the people but, if you were going at top speed, you’d just be a pile of knees by the end!

After running across, I thought, well, whats the next touristy place I can see. The Tower of London! The plan now was to run along the north side of the river and cross back, maybe at London Bridge.

The Tower of London is so much larger than I imagined. The grounds of the Tower are very grand and as I spent a few minutes running alongside, I realised just how big it was. Unfortunately, a Beefeater barred the way in, and any thoughts of a run selfie looked slim. I cracked on.

The next 10 minutes were spent running into dead ends and backtracking. The path was blocked numerous times and oddly, there were fewer runners this side of the river. As I had no one to follow (or they were so fast I couldn’t see where they’d gone) I had a lovely tour of the entrances to a few city centre building sites!

A few minutes later and I’m back on the riverside, heading up to the Millennium Bridge. Perfect, nice pedestrian way back over the river. As I climbed the steps up to the bridge I realised that the bridge and preceding road nicely frame a route up to St Pauls Cathedral. Well….. whilst I’m so close.

I run unto the cathedral, over a few roads and some winding paths (great for the local skateboard crew, running, trip hazard central) and took a few moments to look up at such an awesome piece of history.

Looking at my watch, I was touching around 4K at this point although it did feel a lot further. I guess swapping quiet familiar country roads for this non-stop be aware city scape warps your sense of time.

Back across the millennium bridge I ran, and down past the Tate and the Globe and came up on the hotel. It was closer to the Globe than I had imagined! As I checked my distance I was exactly on 5K, and looking at the time of 33 minutes, I’d just ran my fastest 5K time yet!!

Which meant one of two things. After taking a few weeks off to recover my right shin, it had healed and I was ready to run! Or, that London is so incredibly flat that this is actually more my normal time, if I didn’t ave to contend with hills and dales!

My takeaway from this run is this. If you’re ever in London for an overnight stay and can get your running gear with you, don’t miss a chance to get out there in the early morning and soak it in. I doubt you’ll find anywhere more geared for runners to just get up and go, with so many route combinations you can take. Your only limit is how far you want to go!!

My top tip, stick to the sides as best you can, as like me, your probably going to want to spend time looking at all the cool tourist sights as you run by! 🙂

A New Perspective: Finding my way back

nature-sky-sunset-man

When I first started this blog and running journey I wanted to show that anyone, no matter your size or fitness level, can get outside and get running.

But as the weeks and months went on, I lost my way. My focus turned to likes, retweets, follows, InstaStories and website hits. My running had taken a back seat to me being glued to my youtube stats or making sure “Oh if I mention them, they’ll mention me and I’ll get more followers….” etc etc.

When I picked up a wonky calf just after my first run of my big year run Challenge (more info here) I felt bad talking about it on social media. I wasn’t the super awesome Twitter star I was the week before, just turning into a running failure. I got jealous of the “Perfect” posters out there, started arguing with some and picking at them, finding flaws to make myself feel better. I got blocked by a few people too. Not fun. Not helping anyone.

So I took a break from posting, deleted the apps from my phone and took a long deep breath. I cut back on my running, doing shorter and more frequent runs to build some strength back. I realised that after every run, I didn’t have to jump onto Periscope to live stream my sweaty red face. I could actually take the time to cool down, talk to myself about the run and think about how I could be better next time.

I put the energy I’d been putting into my social presence back into my work and home life. Unsurprisingly this improved everything 100-fold as I stopped obsessing over notifications and got back to what’s most important, real human interactions.

My running has had it’s ups and downs, and I’m still chipping away at my weight and my overall fitness. I’m determined to complete the challenge I set for myself and help raise money for a great cause. I’m also set on running London next year however I can.

My biggest take away from all of this is to just be honest. From now on i’ll post the ups and the downs and not hide away when things are tough. If you’re not keen, you can always follow someone else. I dont want to be another Twitter celebrity. I just want to be there to help others like me get fit and give folks the boost they need and help when they need it.

I won’t stress over posting videos and pictures, or worry about reviews and freebies. I just want to enjoy it all, enjoy the community, and above all keep running. I’m always free for a DM if you want to talk.

I’d advise anyone to take a break for a week or two and see who close to you could do with your time rather than random strangers you’re talking too in an effort to gain popularity and likes. Talk to people online, just don’t communicate with people who want you to boost their own agenda!

And if my honesty does make me popular, then hey, that’s some evil irony right there!!

Keep running, Keep talking, and above all keep smiling!!!

 

 

 

 

10 Days to Go – The Start Is Close

10 days till the start

So it’s just 10 days to go until the start of May.

10 days!

10 days till I start a run that’s going to be a huge challenge to me, and hopefully a run that makes some significant change to the people I’m running it for! (hint hint, get over to justgiving.fightingfatness.com and donate if you can, would mean such a lot to them!)

Running 1407km in 365 days for what, for all intents and purposes, a complete beginner runner is a bit crazy. I know that. I need to average 30km a week just to hit the target, and at the most, I’m only at around 20km a week on a very very good week! I’ve been running for 13 weeks, that’s it, and that’s 54 to go till I hopefully cross my imaginary finishing line. (Although if anyone wants to make a finishing line please do get in touch!!)

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts and tweets. The setting of the challenge is to make sure my running somehow continuously benefits others and not just only me. So far it’s been completely solo and it looks to continue that way. I like running alone. But knowing I’m running to actually help people will mean I keep on going and keep on pushing. Running for Special Effect means I know the fundraising really makes an immediate difference to children and lets them forget their troubles for an hour or two to get immersed in video games.

So with 10 days to go until the start, how have I been preparing?

Well, I’ve been quiet recently online, mostly due to plotting out new pages on the site and taking a bit of me time. Mainly because I know that from May 1st, I’ll be on social media daily updating you all on how I’m getting on etc!

I’m working on a virtual tracker and map so we can plot out how far I would have traveled if I was running the actual Lands End to John O’Groats route and also it gives me chance to plan some real runs of that route with some of you guys.

I also had a little calf twinge the other week, so had a week off running just to let it rest. Truth be told, Easter was also in the middle of this, and yes, eggs and bad food were eaten. It does mean a few extra lbs have been added back onto the scales, but I’ve started this week off the right way and hopefully, I’ll get back to normal.

Also, I’ve put off doing youtube videos till I start the run as I feel they were lacking focus and going on waaaaaaaay too long. I’ll do a pre-run video next week, and then we can start with short and snappy day to day updates after each run. I don;t want to bore you to death with another 20-minute moan-a-thon ha!

Lastly, I’ve been speaking closely to Special Effect and using their awesome help to ensure I can reach as many people as I can and share the message of the good work they do!

The task ahead is huge, and I know that it will take every ounce of effort to hit that target next April! April 2018! Sounds so far away.

With your help, I hope you will enjoy following along and support if you can. Would really mean a lot!

Again apologies for being quiet, but that will totally change in a few days 🙂

Any questions as always please do get in touch and I hope to see you out there!

Keep on running!

Andy

Fighting Fatness Run For Charity – 1407km in 365 days

Fighting Fatness Special Effect

I want to use my running to raise money for an amazing charity called Special Effect. In a nutshell, Special Effect create custom video game controllers to allow disabled children and adults to play video games with friends and family. This video about a cool young lad called Ben summarises exactly the kind of good work they do.

I’ve been a huge video game player since I was a child, and it’s something I’ve taken for granted my whole life. I heard about Special Effect a year ago and it made me so happy to see that they were making sure gaming is totally inclusive! If you want to go straight to the page, it’s justgiving.fightingfatness.com or hit the link in the sidebar 🙂

So why am I doing it?

As you may or may not know, I decided to start running on the 24th January 2017 on a couch to 5K program. I had been overweight for many years and wanted to use running as a way to lose weight. I started a blog at fightingfatness.com to document my journey and hopefully inspire others to try for themselves.

After 7 weeks I had hit my first 5K distance and since then I have been running further and further, the longest so far has been 14K in one go.

It has been 12 weeks since I started running and have already lost 14lbs, but with much more left to go. I had been looking at entering runs to train towards, but it started to feel that this was all now just benefiting me and I wanted to use my new hobby for some good.

I was looking for a year-long goal that I would be a challenge and stumbled across a story of a team running the John O’Groats to Lands End route. The distance is 1407K and spans the length of mainland UK. I decided this would be the distance I would run, set a year to hit the distance and raise money for a really worthy cause along the way. I’m hoping that the more weight I lose, the fitter I become and the further I can run as I need to average 32K every week for 52 weeks. I’ll be running around my local area, but plan to try and run actual stints of the real distance from town to town to experience what it would be like. Maybe one day I can do it for real.

I want to try and raise £1 for every Kilometer I’m going to run over the next year, with the aim to hit £1407 (and maybe beyond). I’ll update every week talking about the distances I run and plot on a map how far I would have got if running the actual route.

The charity I picked is Special Effect. 

SpecialEffect enable severely disabled people to use computers in any way possible – using whichever part(s) of their body that work best – by adapting technology to their individual needs. It’s so important they can join in with family/friends, to be included and not left out. This can hugely benefit rehabilitation, mental wellbeing, self-esteem and quality of life – and much needed FUN!

Creating custom controllers Special Effect allow disabled children to play video games with friends and family and allow them to experience these virtual worlds that most of us take for granted.

They specialise in Eye Control Technology. Imagine: You wake up after an accident. You can’t move anything except your eyes. And you can’t speak. Through eye-movement alone, we help people operate a computer so they can communicate and regain a little independence – giving them a voice when they don’t have one of their own.

I really hope you can donate to help this great cause!

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Review – Trekz Titanium Bone Conducting Wireless Headphones

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

Heads Up, I didn’t buy these headphones myself. I was kindly sent a pair of Trekz Titanium Headphones from Aftershokz in exchange for my review. They currently sell for around £109.99 on Aftershokz’ official site.

Like most people, I love listening to Music and Podcasts when I run. I want the distraction from the distance at hand, the beat to keep me in rhythm, or an excuse to escape entirely from the working week.

However, there are usually a few main issues when using headphones on a run.

  1. Awareness – You have no audible clues of the environment around you. Cars and Cyclists, sometimes even other runners appear out of nowhere. You’re so cut off from the outside world that even saying hello to a passing dog walker results in a decibel-blasting “HELLO” as you can’t even gauge your own internal volume. (I’m sure I have made people leap out of their skin on more than one occasion)
  2. Sound – You have to compromise on sound quality with running headphones. In-Ear buds will be the best but as above, you lose external noise. Wrap-arounds hang down next to your ear but are tinny and lifeless. Wearing a big pair of cans, well, you just look bonkers!
  3. Fit and Feel – Most of the run will be spent popping headphones back in, or having them fall out due to sweat. Every step you feel the wires pull at your ears or get tangled in your arm. You can try and tuck them up your top but that just feels wrong. Wrap-arounds sometimes bounce at the back of your neck and again, your focusing on running here, not being a sound technician.

Trekz Titanium Treks Titanium Headphones

So this is why I was really interested in these headphones. They say on the box they are Bluetooth (great, no wires!) and use Bone Conduction technology.

Bone Conduction (I hear you say)? Yes, Bone, Conduction.

The Trekz Titanium don’t go in your ears. They are wraparound’s that rest just in front of your ears. The sound is produced through what seems to be a combination of a speaker and vibration, so that sound travels through the bones of your ear and deciphered by your brain. Sounds like the stuff of science fiction!

In practice, the sensation is strange at first but you get used to it very quickly. Being able to hear and hold a conversation with someone as music is being beamed inside your head is otherworldly. More on that below.

So let’s see how Aftershokz address some of my concerns above and then some Technical specs and nitty gritty too.

  1. Awareness – Big green tick here!! As the Trekz Titanium are purely open ear headphones, you are free to hear all outside noise. On my runs, I could hear my environment, cars coming up behind from way in the distance, and yes, I could say Hello to passers-by without screaming in their general direction. It’s no surprise that the Trekz Titanium are the  only approved headphones for UK Athletics road races! For the first few runs I was still acting as I did with normal headphones, triple checking roads etc when crossing and looking behind me constantly, but the more I use them the more confident I’m becoming that I can hear just as well as I would without them on.
  2. Sound – Honestly, I was expecting the sound to be its downfall. How good could sound vibrated through your head actually be? Well turns out, really, really good! With it being a mixture of a speaker and vibration, you get a really broad spectrum with both decent Treble and Bass. To start with I tested out a podcast and the voices sounded rich and clear. I was running down a country lane at this point, so it was funny to be able to hear them talk clearly, whilst it also sounding like some birds had invaded their studio. Getting used to parsing both the streamed sound and your environment was tricky for about 10 minutes but then it became very natural. I then tested them out with some Music and again it really surprised me. The sound was great. For a pair of headphones that don’t go in your ear, it’s surprising how little difference there actually is. For the discerning audiophile I’m sure you may have an issue with the sound, but for a runner who wants to hear their music outside, it’s near perfect to me!
  3. Fit and Feel – The Trekz Titanium are sleek and modern, getting the Titanium name from the frame they are built on. This allows them to be extremely strong but also incredibly flexible. They slip on easily over the ears and rest comfortably around the back of the neck. Whilst running I cold barely feel them and there was no rubbing on the top of my ears. Being Bluetooth there was no need to fight wires through the run. Both my girlfriend and my Dad tried them on and due to the intuitive design, meant they got then in place first time without instruction. There was no slippage due to sweating, and as they are certified sweat and weather resistant, you’d have no issue facing the elements in them either. They also work well with Glasses so running in them is no issue. I’d say put on your glasses first before the headphones just to get a comfy fit.

Technical Bits

So far so good. But these are Bluetooth Wireless headphones, so other than sound and fit they do have other features we should look at.

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones

  • What’s in the Box

The headphones come boxed with a carry pouch, USB charging cable, earplugs and silicone fit bands. The pouch looks classy and great for keeping the headphones safe in your bag. The earplugs are for if you want to use the headphones in a safe environment where you can block all external noise. I think it’s a handy addition but I can’t see people using these headphones as your normal around the house headphones. The fit bands are for anyone who needs the extra support around the band and act as spacers to ensure a tighter and comfier fit.

  • Headphone Features

The headphones have 3 buttons that can be used when running. The volume up and down are situated on the right arm of the band, and a multifunction button is found on the left ear piece. The volume down also acts as your power button.

The Trekz Titanium support Bluetooth and pairing is nice and simple. When powering on you keep the button held down and it goes into pairing mode. Then in your phone’s menu just tap on the Trekz Titanium headphones and you’re good to go. Next time you use them, just power on and it will automatically connect. You can even pair 2 devices and use whichever you wish on your run (maybe you have multiple phones or music devices etc).

The multifunction button is your play/pause/skip etc and works with different press combinations. You can even use this to take calls as the headphones do include noise canceling microphones, although running on a call may not be the most fun thing for the person on the other end.

There is also an LED light on the underside of the headset that denotes pair mode and battery level

  • Battery and Charging

There is a rubber flap on the band that removes to find the micro USB port. Charging takes about an hour for a full charge, and this should last you for 6 hours run time, long enough for your daily run or even a marathon if you wished. (Just remember to charge them up beforehand!)

Closing Thoughts

Being able to hear your sounds, the road, and your body when running is totally worth it in my book. Although yes, the price of entry is high, these seem strong and sturdy and should last the most grueling of runs (they come with a 2-year warranty too!) Being Bluetooth is great to avoid wires completely, but charging them needs to be part of your post-run routine. They sound great for music and podcasts without compromising your comfort. If I had to give this review pair back to Aftershockz, I’d be ordering these again straight away.

If you have any questions or want to know more please do get in touch!

Trekz Titanium Headphones

 

Day 74 – The Journey So Far and Time for New Goals

It’s been 74 Days since I started out on this Journey.

74 Days! That’s just a 5th of a year. Just over 2 months.

0.6% of my total life on Planet Earth. (I’m 33 if that helps)

If you had told me it would take 2 months to completely overhaul my life I’d have thought you mad. When I started out on this journey, I wanted to lose weight and be able to run a few times a week.

Sculpture at the Yorkshire sculpture park during my journey
One of the sights at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

My biggest goal I had set myself was to be able to run to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and back again (around a 13K round trip) one day. It wasn’t by any means a goal I would expect to reach 9 weeks after starting a 5K plan. I wasn’t supposed to have even reached 5K by week 10!!

I want to look back at a few key moments over the past 74 days, where I started, where I’ve been….and ultimately where I want to see myself going.

The Start of the Journey – Day 1

My first ever run was the 24th January 2017. I started a Couch to 5K plan and the first intervals were 1 minute long and a mixture of running and walking 8 times over. I weighed 16 stone 10lbs and had no idea of the road ahead. I was doing this alone, did not really know where to look for help and advice and was just following the normal route that most people take. Find a plan, commit yourself to it and see where it goes. I wanted to stop being overweight. I wanted to change myself for the better.

I had an old pair of trainers, a bit of kit and that was enough to convince myself I had the tools to get out there.

The first run was hard, felt long and tougher than i felt it should have been. When I got home I felt proud I’d been out there, but my legs hurt, my lungs hurt, it all hurt!!

Recording that first video was tough. I wanted to document my journey so I could always see where I’d come from if it paid off. If it didn’t work, well, I could always delete them all and go back to pizzas and forget any of it ever happened!

As the second run loomed, a repeat of Day 1, I begrudgingly got changed and got out there. Starting the second run, and the third run was the turning points for that troublesome start. If you can keep getting out there, you’re already winning the battle!

My first 5K – Week 7

7 weeks later and the plan was going well. I’d been sticking to the plan, getting 3 runs in a week and progressing further and further. I was up to running 20-minute stretches in one go and really finding a pace I was comfortable with. I’d managed to work out my breathing also, trying to alternate every 4 steps and it was working well, almost calming perhaps.

The thought had started to seep in about hitting the distance, and honestly, I was getting impatient! One long sleepless night the thought had crept in that I should just give it a go. I had nothing to lose.

Saturday 11th March I set off to hit that 5K. I set myself some fail safes, If things got tough I’d walk for 30 seconds to 1 minute then carry on.

Turns out I didn’t need to. I made it in 48 minutes with a big hill climb right from the start. I was so happy! This was proof that the plan was working, the weight was dropping (by this point I was around 9 or 10 lbs lost) and I was far happier in life than I was at the start.

This was the beginning of the end of the 5K plan. I had been adamant on my blog and video at the time that I would see this to completion.

How wrong I was.

Running the Distance – Week 10

So 10 weeks prior I had set myself the goal of running to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from where I live. With a few more 5K’s and a Park Run under my belt (and one 8K after taking a wrong turn in the woods ) I felt like maybe it was time to give it a shot.

Now I know that Week 10 should have been the point that I had hit my first ever 5K and I was already 3 Weeks ahead in the plan. By this point, I had hit my first full stone weight loss (14lbs) and every run was getting more and more fun. This was the main thing. Fun. I was loving every run. I wanted to get out there as often I could to find new things and discover new routes.

I had planned to run a 5K but as I headed up towards the direction of the Sculpture Park that was it, I was going for it.

Running through the park was amazing. I’ve visited there a few times and walked there (usually taking around an hour and change) when we moved house. Being able to run there in half the time and explore was liberating.

I got home on the 27th of March, running just under 14Km in 1 hr 52 min.

I was so proud. I cried when I got home.

In 10 weeks I had gone from an overweight and lazy man to a chap 14lbs lighter running 14K. Literally running for every pound I lost. Furthermore, I had found and been accepted into an amazing online running community of which I know I will be forever grateful.

Since then I have been back there again and plan to keep going once every 2 weeks.

The Future

It’s now Friday 7th April, and it’s time to plan where to go from here. The end of 11 weeks has flown by. 74 days and counting.

I thought of starting on a 10K plan, but I’m already hitting those distances when I need to. Arguably not in a fantastic time but hey, it’s good enough for me.

It has crossed my mind to look at half marathon plans, but considering this goal is double the distance of the furthest I’ve been already, this may be pushing myself too far. So many people have mentioned that pushing and pushing leads to injury and that is the last thing I want.

So for now, I’m going to run 3 times a week. I’ll run between 5 and 10K depending on how I feel (and the weather ha) and go longer when I want a park visit. I’m going to focus on my healthy food kick, keeping it all clean and push that little harder on every run to feel the benefit. I still want to drop another 30lbs as I’m still overweight, but hey, not as much as when I started.

I will book a race and see how I fare. I will continue to attend ParkRuns when I can and volunteer to cheer others on. I want to run for charity and make others aware of the benefits of running.

I will continue on this Journey as far as it takes me, and I hope you’ll be there with me along the way. Together we can all promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and the positive mental wellbeing it can bring to yourself and others around you.

Now let’s see what the next 74 days bring.

Cheers

A

The change in a year because of my journey
This photo was taken a year before I started on my running journey. I shied away from the camera a lot after then. Me on the right is my first Parkrun at the end of week 9.

 

My First Parkrun in Barnsley: Thoughts and Review

People getting ready at Barnsley Parkrun

During the past few weeks of training and talking with the online running community, one word has stuck out. Parkrun.

(For those that might not know, Parkruns are local community runs that happen all across the UK (and the world) every Saturday morning in your local park at 9 am organized by volunteers. These runs are 5K in distance and you get a recorded time at the end. They are free to enter and run and a great excuse to meet other runners and learn how to run in a group before a big race. Check out this page for more info)

So after a few weeks, yesterday I completed my first Parkrun at Locke Park in Barnsley.  I ran my quickest 5K time yet of 36:56 which was fantastic, considering the course is 3 loops of one long hill climb!

I wanted to do a write up of my experience of my first run as it was a real mixed bag. I’ll break it down into Pre-Run, Lap sections and Post Run so you can experience the morning as I did.

The Course

The course is 3 laps of the park. What I thought from the map to be a nice gentle route turned out to be a long hill climb for the majority of the route with a speedy downhill from the top of the park back to the lap start point. From how I felt after, it was a real challenge to get up the hill and maybe not the best route for a beginner, but I can see it being more fun the fitter I get.

Pre-Run

I got to the park nice and early and from the car park was a really nice walk through the park (great for a warm up) to the run meeting point. Here I was shocked to see so many people, I thought these were small affairs but there were at least 200 people. It was a great atmosphere with people all saying hello to friends, limbering up and also great to see a broad range of ages, shapes, and sizes. I didn’t feel like the odd one out at all.

People getting ready at Barnsley Parkrun
Limbering up at the Barnsley Parkrun

The run director took her stand and addressed the crowd with a megaphone telling us any news, welcoming new runners and about some local fundraising that had been happening. As we moved onto information regarding the course and rules etc I had to move closer as the “seasoned” park runners had decided to stop paying attention and started talking amongst themselves. This was the first moment of the day I felt a bit down as the inclusion and fun of the event that had been sold to me had had its first edges rubbed off. Unfortunately, this was not the last time the experience would be knocked. I get that it’s a great social event but even if you’ve been before, there could be new information to hear.

We were instructed to head to the start line so I followed the crowd down the path and took our places. I headed to the back of the pack and waited for the start.

Lap 1

Setting off as a large group was a completely new experience for me. You get swept up in the pace, so I would say the first 200m or so I was running faster than I normally would. As the front runners sped away and the group started to stretch out I found space along the paths and could settle into my pace. I found my own little group of runners all hitting the same pace and for the start of the course, we ran together. Further back from me a lady seemed to be coaching her friend and her encouragement was benefiting us all. As we hit the start of the first climb, as she was telling her friend to lift her feet and keep pushing, I too did the same and made it to the top. I stayed close to these people during the whole run and it was a real benefit to my run.

The marshalls along the way were cheering us on and I could see some were taking pictures. I’m looking forward to seeing what faces I was pulling as I looked up the hill!

The climb to the top of the park was long and steep and it felt like hours till I got to the top. Even though in my training I think I’ve run steeper and further, running an unknown course is always hard as you’ve no idea what’s coming. Every corner had one more climb and that really hurt me mentally.

Luckily once at the top, it’s downhill all the way. I took the time to relax, get my breathing back and enjoy the view. The park is beautiful and has great views over to Barnsley and beyond.

Lap 2

Knowing those hill climbs were to come, my pace eased and I started to really enjoy the run. Some new faces had started to join me and we were all pushing each other on and being super positive! A few people had started to tire by this point and I had to contend with people stopping dead in their tracks in front of me. I thought people would slow down to walk but I got skilled at dodging as many a time I nearly clipped people’s heels. At the same time, we had started to be lapped by the front runners who were impressively running at full tilt past, around and through the group without much warning. I realized at this point that although these were fun activity runs, some folks were taking these as seriously as a big event run and at some points, I felt like I was a hindrance to their times.

Andrew running past the camera at the barnsley parkrun
After the descent and coming into Lap 2

During the briefing, we had been told whilst crossing the start/finish line to stay to the right of the path to allow the faster runners to lap and then veer to the left to the finishers paddock (where you finish and get your time). I took this to mean you stuck to the right the whole way round to let faster runners pass on the left. I wish this had been clearer on the day as through the course runners were all over the path which meant the faster folks struggled to get past. At one point a bunch of people had to veer past a group in front of me onto the grass and some unkind words were spoken to them. Again, clarity to all would help but also we’re all running to or best and a few of the quicker runners made me feel like it was our fault they might not hit a PB!

I had a sock incident halfway up the hill and had to quickly whip off my shoe and pull back on. So many people checked I was ok asking if it was an injury, stone in the shoe or if I was ok and that was so great to see! Again the group I was with were incredibly jovial, welcoming and positive!

The climb was a bit easier the second time and as I crested the hill I breathed a big sigh of relief. Coming down the sun had appeared and I was roasting hot, so I stepped to the side to take off my top and carried on. My girlfriend had a prime bench spot, and after cheering me down the hill I gave her the loving gift of a sweaty running top. Unfortunately, everyone else behind seemed to have the same idea so she became the unofficial sweaty top bench protector ha!

To the end of lap 2, a lot of folks had already finished their runs and they were cheering us on at the last corner. Oddly they hadn’t realized we still had a lap to go so their cheers off “that’s it it’s over, well done” fell on deaf ears. Although I appreciate the sentiment, I was gearing myself up for the next climb and the thought of the finish was a long way away.

Lap 3

Running up past the finish paddock and park cafe, a lot of runners who had completed were now walking across the path balancing coffees and some sitting with legs stretched out in the way. Again, just another knock to think that we at the back were irrelevant and that because the speedy folk was done, the run might as well be over.

Even though I had run a few 5K distances, this run had started to take its toll and I realized I was probably running at a faster pace than I had before. Checking my watch I saw this was right and I took the first section of the climb easy. There were groans among my gang of runners but we all shouted its the last one and pushed on through! A nice chap I was running alongside was giving the marshals sweets to say thank you as he went round which was really nice to see (even I got one!).

I’d noticed a group of about 10 teenagers running in the parkrun around the second lap. They had been sprinting super fast, tiring themselves out, walking and then going at it again. I had been leap frogging with them a while, and every time they ran past they were jumping over each other, running purposely through groups of slow runner and generally being distracting. This happened a few times past marshals who didn’t step in to get them to stop and join in properly. After the final hill climb, they ran past me knocking my side and I finally caved and shouted at them to stop. One of them did apologize but the remainder ran past and down to the end. A few of the runners near me said thanks to me, my good deed for the day done.

Starting the descent to the finish, there we also park runners who had finished now running back up the course towards us. Again they were cheering us on, but I felt downhearted that even though this was tough for me, it wasn’t enough for them. I really wish they had carried on in the course direction, held up the rear and given support to those who needed it. If I ever become a super fit chap, I’d totally keep going and ask those at the back if they were ok and needed anything. Would be a great excuse to have folks run water back and forth etc.

The crowd and cheers at the end coming into the finish more than made up for the issues I had running around and it was great to feel like I’d achieved something.

I picked up the pace on the downhill and crossed the line at 36:56, place 195 out of 232 and a PB for my 5K time.

Post Run

I had wanted to stop and chat to the people I had run around the course with but we had a family party to run too. The cafe looked ace and so many people were chatting and laughing and I really look forward to joining in when I come again.

Drinking water before we headed back to the car I did get caught between a runner, her dog, and the lead! Luckily I was bigger than the dog so my legs didn’t fall from under me but it was pretty much the straw that broke the camels back for the day. The walk back to the car I had forgotten I had hit a PB and I just focussed on the bad aspects of the run instead of the overwhelming positivity of the people I had met along the way and their comments and kindness.

Thoughts

I decided to write this today to get some space between yesterday’s parkrun and to mull everything over. Regardless of the bad aspects I had, if there’s a parkrun near you sign up and get down to it! I ran with some lovely people and I look forward to running alongside them again. The park was lovely, it was great to get up on a Saturday and make the day worthwhile and I got my first official time for a run!

I forget that not everyone is like me. I like to think everyone was on a weight loss journey and they started overweight, got into running and lost it all. Some folks won’t know what it’s like to run overweight and as such, I can understand that we seem like a pain or in the way. Being treated as we were in the run can put people off, and if it’s the first time they’ve run, it could potentially be their last.

If anything, it’s made me more determined to prove myself, and after a few more I want to volunteer. I want to be the best marshall cheering everyone on, making sure everyone is safe and behave appropriately. I want to be the back runner cheering everyone on and building up others confidence on the way round. And if I lose my weight, and can run the 5K in 15 minutes, i’ll be there running behind offering my help and support and holding hands if needed.

Parkruns should be about fitness and community and not about vying for the quickest time with your running club chums. Maybe a longer run later for the pros, or a beginner, intermediate, advanced run after each other to build up confidence and run with like-minded people.

I’m going to be back, no doubt about that, but I might visit some other local runs too to see if they are different and less of the troubles I encountered.

I’ll be back Barnsley Parkrun, bringing positivity in bucket loads and making sure I set a good example all the way round!

Am I running for my fitness or to escape?

Thinking about why I go running

Have I been running to get fit, or has it been to escape from my troubles?

This week I ran my furthest distance so far!

8 Kilometres!

9 weeks ago I could barely run 1 minute after another.  The thought of even getting to a 5K was a distant dream.

I hit my 8K because I wasn’t paying attention. I went out with a route in mind and changed it on the fly. It turned out to be a lot further than I thought. Through the run, I felt great and didn’t once look at my watch. When I finally remembered to look, I’d hit 6K and was too far away from home to stop. I carried on, it wasn’t tough, it was liberating and had the most fun I’d had during any run.

View of Yorkshire Countryside
It’s hard not to fall in love with these views and want to explore further!

On those days I run, I am my best, my most productive and my most positive.

On my rest days, it is completely the opposite.

I crave that feeling after a run. I assume it’s like an addiction. Maybe it is an addiction. Craving those endorphins.

At the moment I’m actively looking for work as my own business did not take off in the way I hoped. It’s been tough I won’t deny it, but I don’t want to dwell on it here either. But what I thought was an effort to get fit, may have taken a different turn.

Catching the Bug

When I thought I had caught that running bug, I was running further more often. Last week I ran 3 5K’s. I thought I was trying to push myself further and harder. But in hindsight, I think I was running to get out the house and away from the issues at hand. The longer the run, the less I have to consider my current situation. The freedom of running is akin to freedom from my life.

The odd thing is that after the run, after that rush, I’m at my best. I get applications done in quick time. I can write and think more concisely and for the rest of the day, I’m the best version of myself.

My rest days I’m lethargic, lazy and un-motivated.

So am I running for my fitness? Yes.

Am I running to escape? Yes.

Are you running to get a healthy mind? Yes and this is the most important thing.

The positive effect it has on my mental health is worth persuing. I need to learn how to get over the hump days and bring that energy with me. If I can’t run, I need to find something else that scratches that itch and makes me feel just as good.

Running has changed me over the past 2 months. I’d say for both good and bad, but the main thing is I’m learning. I might be running to escape from my troubles. But if I can focus that energy, use it positively and keep pushing forward, I’ll have less to run from.

It’s time to start running towards something instead.