This week’s running – 1st to 7th of February 2016


Cannon Hill Parkrun in reverse? This is madness!

This week saw Cannon Hill Parkrun roll out its new course.

8 mile canal fartlek

Due to a sudden meeting on Monday evening, I had to call off my run from the office; given how windy it was outside, I had no regrets at all. Tuesday became the first run of the week, so I was already playing catch-up on the week’s mileage target…

The fartlek run itself wasn’t bad at all, but I found it a struggle to hit faster paces – my Garmin is always set to lap pace (instant pace is too erratic), so it’s difficult to gauge how fast I’m actually going for a short stretch within a lone mile or km.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

6k from work

Conscious of the mileage shortfall for the week, I boosted my run home from the office to 6k from the normal 5.

Recently, Dave (of the Burton variety) and I had a discussion about our approach to running on the canal towpath, specifically which side we favour. I expressed a preference to be away from the water’s edge, though would be happy enough to stick to the left if there was a lot of traffic – we drive on the left after all. A cyclist, who also preferred to be away from the water’s edge, came towards me from the opposite direction; he was unwilling to concede to me already being in the left lane and it was only mere metres before he finally moved over, tutting at me as he went past. Damn cyclists…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

10 canal miles

Work did a number on me with a major 10 month project finally coming to an end. Knackered as I was, I knew I had to get this 10 mile run in to ensure the week’s mileage made it into the 40s.

I held the pace back for the first half with a view to open up the throttle for two miles at marathon pace in the second half. My theoretical marathon pace right now is around 6:50 per mile; I failed to rein myself in properly, so 6:46 and 6:42 popped out on the other side. Oops…

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

Cannon Hill Parkrun

It was all change at Cannon Hill, with the debut of another new route; by my calculations, it worked out as the fifth course change in the four years that I’ve been actively running there (six in total for the event). Whilst many of the last couple of course roll-outs have been minor, this was a major change with much of the route run in reverse to what regulars would be familiar with!


Sixth course iteration by my calculations

Trying to explain it is too difficult, so I’ll simply use the map above that the core team conjured up. In many ways, the route could be called a compilation or greatest hits of all the previous iterations, with the lone new feature being the use of the inner path alongside the lake to try and separate runners completing their first lap from those completing their second.

Had my alarm not have gone off, I could have very easily remained in bed beyond the 9am start time. It was wet and miserable outside, though there were 58 counted first timers and an unknown percentage of unknown runners that would have bulked that number up.

I was genuinely excited to trial the new route after a preview of it some weeks ago, courtesy of Andy Young who designed it.

From the word “Go”, I shot off and a peek at my Garmin indicated 3:27 per km pace; the first 300m or so felt very fast, thanks to a boost from the slight descent. I eased off the throttle once clear of the corner to run through a part of the park that hadn’t been officially covered for a good while, albeit in reverse.

Usefully, the organisers laid on lap signs to indicate which side of the lake runners should take. Dave and I had several discussions beforehand about the inner path utilised on the first lap; everything from goose shit to how narrow the path would be came up as concerns. I’m ready to admit that even as somebody that now regularly finishes in the top 30, I felt boxed in. The runners around me were running two, maybe three abreast and I found myself jostling for position, either clipping somebody’s heels or having my own clipped. I spotted a gap and surged through to break away and get back on sub-19 pace. I looked ahead and some 15m in front was Jort van Mourik, drafting behind Carson Tweedie – both strong runners that I knew could hold a steady pace, so I continued my surge to reach them and formed a three-man chain gang.

Running behind Jort and Carson took the edge off the climb back towards the bandstand. Before I knew it, we were enjoying the long stretch with a subtle descent once more to launch us into the second lap. Glancing over my shoulder occasionally, I couldn’t make out anybody on my tail to reinforce the importance of sticking with the group. Each time Jort took an additional stride, I cranked up my cadence to close the gap down.

En route to the MAC, we passed a couple of the backmarkers. It was so refreshing to not run through a gauntlet of people completing their first lap, so the new route certainly delivered on its aim of reducing clashes amongst different paced groups. The route dictated that we went right of the lake, out towards the long drag to the triangle. With nobody coming in the opposite direction yet, it felt no different to the historic course, but we were quickly reminded to keep right as the front-runners neared.

Going around the triangle in an anti-clockwise manner was not nearly as bizarre as I imagined it would be. I grasped the wooden signage pole and swung myself around the sharp turn as always, except this time it was with my left hand. What was odd was seeing everybody’s approach on the opposite side of the path!


Three-man chain gang with Carson and Jort – photo by Geoff Hughes

I was huffing and puffing but remained resolute in my chase, with Jort remaining immediately in front of me at all times. Heading back to the MAC, the new route became identical to the one it replaced, with no further changes all the way to the finish line. I neared breaking point and could sense Jort and Carson had another gear each to shift into. Ed Barlow stormed past us like we were stood still with 300m to go. As I turned for the approach to the final hill, Jort made a move to kick on and gained a few metres; Carson also began his assault for the hill to finally trigger me to do the same. They continued to pull away from me and I could do nothing to reel them both back in. At the brow of the hill, I planted down one last sprint for the line and reclaimed a few strides from Carson, whilst Jort blasted ahead to cross the finish a few seconds faster than us.

Once clear of the line, I let out a tortured cry and began gasping for air like a fish out of water. I was pulled along to an 18:46 finish; my fastest ever 5k at Cannon Hill and just three seconds shy of a new all-time 5k PB, set only a week prior on a perfectly flat course. I thanked Carson profusely for leading the group and realised once more that a 5k breakthrough for me was brewing away, and all it needed was some specific focus to fully utilise it…

I also saw a nice performance jump on runbritain from 4.4 to 4.2 thanks to this run. Woohoo!

I thoroughly enjoyed the latest iteration of the course, which did just the trick to freshen things up. Though my view was distorted by running with others, it felt faster out there with a slightly lower total elevation; others agreed and Dave reckons there’s five to ten seconds to be had. In spite of running much of the route in reverse, it felt much like the classic route of old that I popped my Parkrun cherry on way back in 2011.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

14 canal miles

Oh, what a difference a day made. The sopping wet conditions of Saturday morning had made way for blue skies and sunshine, though strong winds remained. I lost count of how many runners there were out on the towpaths; many of them in the midst of marathon training, I’m sure.

In a bid to make the closing miles more mentally manageable, I swapped things around and ran what would normally be the last two miles at the beginning by heading out near the Soho Loop and then turning around.

The Achilles tendons in both of my legs continued to feel tight, occasionally pinching to make me shift regularly between a forefoot strike and a mid-foot one. Thankfully, they loosened up after a couple of miles and I was finally able to run unimpeded. I really need to get these niggles looked at…

I decided to cap the faster miles between 7:40 and 7:50 to keep things feeling easy; I wasn’t in the mood to smash myself senseless after Saturday’s swift Parkrun.

Here’s the Garmin data for this run.

So, we’re now at the end of the Runner’s Rule Book after first starting to include items during 2013. I’ve no plans to fill the void with anything and hope you enjoyed them while they lasted.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s