18 February 2012


Well, I forgot to wear my badge, so here's a piece of music to do duty instead.

A cold wind was blasting across the former airfield this morning as over 200 runners lined up for the start - down on last week's turnout, a record for an inaugural Parkrun of 317 - which broke the previous record by exactly 100. I am astonished at Rachel's and Mark's achievement. Not so surprising when you consider what a superb course it is, against which you must set last weekend's snow which far exceeded what I saw in Moscow. If I'd stayed at home I'd have got more use out of my YakTrax ice grips.

Anyway ... Hugo and I lined up at the rear of the field, with another man-and-dog combination. Hugo still doesn't understand much about pacing, so I tried to hold him back. In the crowds over the first km or so, before we crossed the old runway, I had to keep him on a short lead anyway, then there was enough space to let him go for a while until we reached the next group and he had to be pulled back again. We proceeded in that way for a while, passing a couple of dogs and many humans, a large proportion of whom didn't seem like seasoned runners - good for them, and good for Parkrun getting them out - out running, and out of their comfort zones. Like I should be - but today I am staying deliberately within my comfort zone, which I hope means I'll keep Achilles comfortable too.

After the second turn, down the long back straight, we run on the grass alongside the track to leave plenty of room for the runners, but Hugo's very disciplined and there's never any threat of tripping anyone with his lead. When he sees a dog in front he becomes highly competitive and sprints past it, with me trailing in his wake: then at the far end of the course we are joined by a labrador, out for a walk with his owner. Not being on for a PB (not being bothered about my time at all), I stop until the dog-walker comes and encourages his dog to leave us. "Give me a lead, and he can come with us" I offer. He declines - the owner, I mean.

Another half-mile or so and a teenaged girl is hobbling alongside the course, her gait speaking eloquently of a lower-leg injury. Been there, done that, only a few weeks ago. No good calling out "are you OK?" because any fool can see she isn't - still, when people did that to me it was taken as well-meaning, and I was actually OK by any objective standard, just not OK enough to finish the run - so I called "are you going to be OK?" which struck me as a nuanced approach. I think she answered in the affirmative, but - to demonstrate just how pointless any expression of concern was - I'm not sure. A hundred yards further on and a marshall is running against the flow of runners, probably to accompany her.

There's a significant climb at about 2.7 miles, which seems to have slowed me a bit - look at the splits - then the finish is in sight and I am trying to speed up. A couple of speed merchants come past - they must have missed the start, or else they are't in the Parkrun at all - and I try to keep pace with one of them. By myself I could have done so easily, but with a reluctant dog to hold me back it's not so easy. Hugo is definitely tiring now, having gone out too fast - having gone from car to start at too fast a pace, to be sure - and having sprinted to overtake those dogs. But when we cross the line I learn that he's second dog, which isn't bad. 34 seconds down on the "trial" Newbury Parkrun a couple of weeks ago, but that was the time we spent shaking off the labrador. Not a bad outing, and no complaints from Achilles, who will get a thorough icing this evening anyway.

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