Fulham Palace Parkrun called whilst I was in the Big Smoke
This week was unconventional, to say the least!
Lethargy and life put a dent in my training diary for the early part of the week. I was pretty shattered from the Magor Marsh 10k and wedding related tasks took priority.
But it wasn’t long before I was back on the training bandwagon with a fartlek session up and down Hagley Road. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I took this session on, but all the unpleasant memories came flooding back as soon as I hit that first fast stretch that went uphill and into the wind.
What I do vividly recall is how much of a sharpener this particular sesh is for me. The varying fast stretches and recoveries really had a sting to them; some of the shortest recoveries were only 40 seconds long or so and really force my body to adapt, and adapt quickly!
Here’s the Garmin data for this sesh.
The plan was to head out for the usual 8 miles along the canal towpath. The plan was derailed when I realised I had fuelled up inadequately, cutting the run short at 10k.
Amusingly, a canal boat full of drunken revellers (all donning captain’s hats no less) kept cheering me on with, “It’s the Captain! You can do it, Captain!” It appeared the boat was fickle, and they cheered everything and everyone on that they came across. No loyalty at all these days!
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
Fulham Palace Parkrun
A buddy of mine and Lis’, who we studied with when we first met, was in London for a couple of days. Flying in from Taiwan only every few years, this was a rare opportunity to see him so to the Big Smoke we headed.
Of course, I had to get a bit of Parkrun tourism in, but which event? People naturally recommended Bushy Parkrun, but I’ve already ticked that off my list, and fancied something more low-key. We were staying in the Hilton at Olympia/Kensington, and geographically, the nearest event was Fulham Palace Parkrun; only a couple of minutes’ Tube ride away and the decision was made.
Naming conventions for Parkruns are normally simple, but Fulham Palace bucks that trend. The course itself is actually held in Bishop’s Park, which neighbours Fulham Palace; the organisers originally held their briefing inside the gates of Fulham Palace to be able to use that name. The event now takes place entirely within Bishop’s Park but has maintained the original name.
The course is just under 3x laps of the outer perimeter of Bishop’s Park. Flat and with a reputation for being fast, it had all the hallmarks of a great Parkrun course for me. One fly in the ointment was a reputation for the course also being a touch short by about 150m. I was dubious of this claim, having noticed the course is almost entirely lined by thick tree coverage. We would see how this played out…
Lis and I arrived with plenty of time for my full warm-up routine. I had a good look at the park, and what a park it was. With the Thames as a neighbour, familiar scenes from the Oxford and Cambridge boat races were called up instantly in my mind.
Say “Hello” to the Parkrun bear – photo by Lis Morgan
It seemed we weren’t the only tourists visiting; some Parkrunners from an Australian event were also in town, along with a guy running his 100th Parkrun, with every single one at a different event, to name but a few.
The event is one of London’s younger events, not even having reached its second birthday. With only circa 200 or so runners each week, it’s also much smaller than most of the events I tend to frequent. But numbers can be deceiving and a gander at a typical week’s results will highlight a pretty deep field that’s not dissimilar to Cannon Hill’s, which attracts over twice as many runners. This boded well in my quest to try and go under 19 minutes.
Briefing completed, we were ushered over to the start line that was maybe 200m away. It was a real bun fight to make it to the first few rows; clearly a competitive crowd!
Congestion was atrocious in the first few hundred metres, not helped by the near immediate sharp left turn, followed by another sharp left turn before runners hit a long straight. My Garmin was indeed fluctuating a bit too much due to the tree coverage, so I pretty much abandoned GPS pace and relied on pacing by feel and those around me. I latched on to a guy in a blue t-shirt who seemed reasonably steady and stayed with him for the remainder of the first lap.
Whilst the course was flat, the pavement had seen better days and a few cracked portions and exposed tree roots made sure my attention wasn’t just fixated on the guy in front.
Due to long, but narrow nature of the course, Lis was able to hop from one side of the park to the other with ease.
The first km came in just under 3:55; even with the slight headwind, I wouldn’t have slowed by that much whilst feeling worked, which confirmed my earlier thoughts about the course probably being 5k accurate.
Second lap at Fulham Palace Parkrun – photo by Lis Morgan
Entering the second lap, I chopped and changed from runner to runner to draft behind to keep the pace up; the middle mile always has a tendency to sag from all the effort at the beginning. Confusingly, one Fulham RC runner in front shared the same name as me, which made me wonder how the marshals knew who I was! I eventually found myself trailing behind a guy that was able to regularly put in a short injection of pace to try and shake me off, though I always managed to work my way back to him. As we neared the end of the second lap, we passed the tail runner and a couple of ladies who were determined to walk the route and not run a single step.
Into the third lap and I was still on the coat tails of the chap from the second lap, doing my damndest not to be left behind. Lapped runners became more frequent as we worked our way ever closer to the end. GPS was still crocked, so I switched over to the elapsed time, which I knew was at least accurate. The guy threw a few more surges in to really test my limit, but I counter-surged to stay with him.
Feeling the burn in the final lap – photo by Lis Morgan
We turned for the final corner, which probably worked out at about 400m from the finish. The runner I had so diligently followed made a break away and kicked to leave me in his dust. I searched inside for some fight to go after him, but there was nothing – only a feeling of flatness. Lis cheered me on with about 200m left to go and only then did I muster something up to finish in 19:05.
Here’s the Garmin data for the run.
I had to sit down for a moment and catch my breath. The Fulham RC runner came through shortly after and shook my hand, pulling me up in the process. His fastest 5k turned out to be only a few seconds slower than mine, and on the right day, I’m sure we could have worked together towards something. And that guy that surged away from me? Well, he ended up PBing by a couple of seconds to explain where he managed to find the strength to kick towards the end.
After debriefing with Lis and about to embark on a cool-down lap, a younger chap came over and asked if I was from Cannon Hill. Alex was also visiting London for the weekend and like me, couldn’t resist the urge to get a bit of Parkrun tourism in. Small world or what?
A really friendly and enjoyable event, it’s one of the fastest courses I’ve ever run on. Overcome the GPS issues and Fulham Palace Parkrun has easily got PB potential.
14 miles of Birmingham
Not training for anything longer than a 10k felt like it had taken its toll on my ability to go long. With one eye on the looming half marathon season in October, and the other on my honeymoon to derail any serious training, I sought to remedy this with a 14 miler.
Tired and weary from around 20 collective miles of walking whilst in London, I laced up and hit my usual route that took me along Bristol Road to Selly Oak, through Bournville to Cotteridge, on to Pershore Road and through Cannon Hill Park, and then back on to Bristol Road for home.
Expectedly, there was no snap, crackle or pop in my legs. A head wind tore into me for pretty much the entire time I was on the Bristol Road. The sun, that had been absent over recent weeks, also decided to make a guest appearance to heat things up.
I was in two minds about skipping the Cannon Hill Park portion of the route entirely, but managed to convince the old Central Governor to work with me, along with a promise of a cool frosty glass of Coke once we reached home.
I was wrecked by the end. Hungry, tired and warm; I still had a day of wedding related shenanigans to work on. So much for a lazy afternoon of recovery!
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
Time for this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:
Run in the inner lanes; recover in the outer
Just like with highway driving, rules exist on the track to make behavior predictable and, therefore, conditions safer for everyone. The most fundamental, universal rule: Fast runners stick to the inside lanes. Slower runners or walkers occupy the outer ones.