Maldon Prom parkrun – Back to my roots.

After a busy week and not going to parkrun last weekend myself and the gang decided to do some more tourism around Essex.

Ready for the off

I elected Maldon, my birth town, and deep into Essex.  I have a certain amount of fondness for those little towns that are on the Blackwater.  Maldon and the surrounding area is famed for the Thames Barges with their dark red sails, when I saw one on arrival I felt at home.  These barges reminded me of my Granddad and his explanation about Dunkirk.

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Thames Barges waiting for action

Getting there and parked was ok, plenty of parking except there was a football festival on at the same time so the car park was busy.  I must remember to keep checking the whats on guide in case any new parkrun choices have something on.

Parking is pay and display but cheap and is a few minutes walk away from the start line.

There was a visitors briefing with details of the course but in all honesty it was difficult to picture the course when standing at the start.

The start was a little bit of a bottle neck, it was at the amphitheatre a wide open space that narrowed, it didn’t bother me being near the back but there were a few hazards to take into account, benches, bollards and kerbs to name a few of them.

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The prom

The route takes you round a small pond, up through a trail section and along the promenade and is 2 1/2 laps.  As I got out onto the prom I was able to set my eyes onto some of the party going the other way from where I was heading, off putting for some, peace of mind for me.  At this point I felt rough, the sun was out now and very warm and I felt dizzy.  I slowed down to recover and then felt slightly better.  The prom leads to a Saxon warrior statute and you complete a u turn there to come back down the way you have come towards the amphitheatre and round again for lap two.

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Byrhtnoth watching over us.
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Our own Saxon Essex Warrior

The trail part was a welcome respite from the sun, it was very warm the ground was firm underfoot.  It wasn’t hilly but there were some tree roots to watch out for and was bumpy.

It wasn’t until after I realised that the woodland trail was a memorial avenue for those local people who lost their lives in the second world war.

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Part of the trail section
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Tide is out

The final 1/2 is a turn to the right instead of left, up a slope and onto about a 400 metre roadway into the finish funnel.  There are plenty of people milling about without getting in your way and support is there should you need it, I liked the atmosphere it was not over the top and if you are just there doing your thing it is enough support without you feeling embarrassed.

There is a place for tea or ice cream and a sit down.  If you have family there is plenty to do afterwards too, a children’s playground and activity centres and a small lake for fishing or using remote controlled boats.

Maldon I will be back, I loved it there

I know I have said this before but I feel I need to reiterate, as you can see from our group picture parkrun is really for everyone young, old, male, female, sprinters, runners, joggers and walkers.

Walk/Jog/Run/Volunteer parkrun it is a fabulous way to start the weekend and whats more its free!

 

This Girl Can Organise a Race

My volunteer role at the running club as you may have read is Race Secretary.

This involves arranging a Grand Prix competition for club members and an annual ELVIS race that is open to all the clubs in the area not just in house.

The GP was underway with the first race at Hatfield.

The thing that was taking up time and energy was organising the race. Until doing this role I never knew what went into organising a race. This race although low key and off the streets involves just over 6 months of planning, course measurements, licences, council conversations and paperwork, looking at first aid, setting up an on line booking system, costings etc.

It is key that everything is in place before the event, nothing goes wrong on the actual day and the tie up after the race is cleared up with queries resolved, results processed and verified.

Although stressful, because of my organisation skills, OCD and eye for detail I cover every eventuality. I also looked at other races to see what worked well and what could be better and learn from previous mistakes.

This year I knew that I had to control everything, too many cooks would mean lots of last minute adjustments or people assuming someone else was completing a task. Unacceptable.

Every detail within my control was looked at. Placing strong marshals at key points, writing out my timetable of events and keeping notes about where I was on this project.

Tuesday dawned, the weather was not in my control and it was pouring down. I was at work worrying about conditions.

By the time I got to the park the rain had almosted ceased but the wind was making for blustery conditions.

Most of my marshals arrived on time and I was blessed that have so many offers of help which meant I had people who knew what it was like to run, marshal this event for runners. I had given each volunteer a pack with what the race entailed, where they were meant to be and clear instructions on what they had to do.  They were my trusted high viz crew!

Making my voice heard

 

I had arranged for fruit and water at the end of the race and the chip timing company had offered to print individual results as they crossed the finish line so runners could eat healthy and review their times.

First aid was an ambulance staffed with 4 volunteers, you hope they will never be used but unfortunately this year as in previous years they were. One of my good running friends collapsed on the course, thank goodness for first aid!

Team photos taken by all the clubs. The weather broke and sun was out.

Team blue and yellow, I had no energy to stand!

I had my briefing and all too soon it was time for me to stand in from of 300 people, introduce myself and explain details of the race, nerve wracking to say the least.

A 3,2,1 and they were off, the front runners super fast and on schedule to finish around the 30 minute mark with the slower runners finishing up to half an hour after them. I had the chance I cheer some of my pals on.

A quick look around, people seemed to be ok. My pal had been sent to the ambulance and I was very concerned about her but she was in great hands.

Runners were coming in at the finish, the fruit was popular as was the timing tickets.

The final runner came through with one of my besties sweeping as his role as tail runner.

It was time for prize giving, once again my strong Essex tones swept across the park as I read out names.

Soon everything was packed up and I could finally relax. Everything seemed to go well, I was waiting for feedback and I still had to process the results but people seemed happy.

A trip to the pub for a celebration drink then home to bed to make up for the lack of sleep from the previous few nights.

Checking results and getting them verified took longer but the feedback was positive.

Although I had to do most of the work the race could not go ahead on the night without the fabulous volunteers that gave up their time to help myself and the club to hold such an event.

This girl can definitely host running events.

Hatfield Broad Oak 10k

The late May bank holiday was proving to be a scorcher. The storms from the Sunday night did nothing to dampen the humidity felt.

It was the first club GP race of 2017, a race chosen by recommendation from one of our members. It sounded nice but always a gamble choosing a race not covered in a GP before.

We headed to Hatfield for the Hatfield Broad Oak 10K. It was a shame that this clashes with the vitality run in London, I have always wanted to give that a go but didn’t fancy London twice in 2 days. Some from the club headed to London but we had a massive turnout for our first race.

Parking was easy, in a field so a car that can handle the grassy terrain was called for but there was plenty of space and the parking marshals very helpful.  A short walk from the field took us to the race village.

Welcome to Hatfield Broad Oak

The race village had a nice vibe to it, laid back but with a certain buzz you only get at races.

Number pick up was easy and quick, plenty of space for everyone to mingle or group together. We had time for the obligatory team photo, as always it’s like hearding kittens to get everyone organised and always a laugh.

Organised chaos
Ready for the off

The start was out on the road, the race would be on closed roads and would form a figure of eight around the area.

The race started on time and pretty quickly we were heading downhill and a decent pace. A good start, but there will be uphill too.

The weather and heat was relentless, the shade from the trees a welcome respite. The first water station was at the 5km mark and was needed.

The course was undulating, some hills, gentle inclined and declines. Very pretty surroundings, fields and lovely houses. The locals came out and supported which was really nice. The course was well marshalled and signposted, the closed roads were a total benefit.

The next water station was at the 7km point, I didn’t stop I was in the zone (the slow zone admittedly) I continued my pace but soon to live to regret not taking water.

At the 9km point I felt strong, my little internal mantra working well for me. Almost straight after the 9km marker a sharp right took us into a field and therefore grass. The finish was around this field so a steady jog with club mates watching at the finish point.

As we passed over the finish I knew I hadn’t got a PB but I didn’t care, I knew I had taken it cautiously because of the heat. I grabbed my finisher tshirt and made my way to get a bottle of water, they had run out, one of the perils of coming in at the back of the pack. I was gasping, I regretted not taking that water at the 7km point.

Oh well it was a good job I had a drink in my bag. A quick jog back to the finish line so I could cheer the last of the club mates through and then I was done.

Would I run it again? Yes probably, there wasn’t a medal but I wasn’t that fussed, the tshirt was nice enough. The set up was efficient and friendly and the route very pretty but I guess this time of year the weather could go against you.

Westminster Mile

Myself, hubby and friends decided to help out at the 2017 vitality Westminster Mile bank holiday weekend. 

Welcome

It is always nice to do something that pays back into the running community, I get so much out of being with my running buddies and I thought this even would be perfect.

The day started pretty darn early as we had to be in place before the runners, we were on baggage so had to be at out station by 8:30 for the 9am drop off. This meant being changed into our staff shirts, briefed and have any questions answered before leaving staff HQ.

Ready to work

The briefing was very important given what had happened earlier in the week. We were assured that there were plenty of security about and we should not be worried. I had decided that I would not let some nasty people stop me from doing things I enjoy. I knew London would be ok today.

We were taken to the baggage tent and for the next few hours we kept fit by taking in the bags, organising and the giving the bags back out. Sounds simple right? But actually when you are dealing with hundreds of people you need your wits about you (and comfortable shoes).

It was a huge joy to wish people good luck. It was fabulous to see people we knew and be able to give them encouragement too.

As soon as bags were dropped many were ready to be collected again. It was very warm in the tent be we were a team and worked brilliantly together.

Team work
Partners in crime
Once the bags were collected we helped get the school children off to their start for their daily mile and then we were free to go.

We wandered round the running village enjoying the atmosphere and sunshine but our aching feet caught up with us and a nice cup of tea and sit down was in order.

We popped by the Run Mummy Run support tent and made our way home. Happy because we had an amazing day and were able to support others.

RMR

Parkrun review -Wanstead 

After a hot and humid few days we decided a trail parkrun was in order.

We didn’t want to travel too far as it was bank holiday weekend and a busy weekend with lots of things to catch up with and events to take part in.

One of the benefits of where I live, Essex/London borders, mean I have quite a choice when it comes to being a parkrun tourist.

We decided we would head west for our Saturday morning 5k and chose Wanstead.

It has been about 30 years since I was at Wantstead Flats, and realised that my running buddy also used to have the flats as her stomping ground too. As soon as I laid eyes on the green area I realised not much had changed.

The start/finish field

Wanstead Flats is part of Epping Forest it is common ground and years ago the land was used for grazing. I vaguely remember the cattle and football pitches from my childhood alas the cattle had disappeared but the pitches were still there.

Location wise Wanstead is on the border of Redbridge and Newham and comes under the City of London. This little patch of green has quite a history, records show that it was a central point for many East End families even in the 1800’s.

Green in the City

History is not what I was here for, I was going to run.

Getting there was easy, it was just off the A12, parking even easier with a nice sized car park right near the start.

The heavens had opened, torrential rain, so we sat in the car until it passed a few minutes later. The ground still looked dry and firm.

The sun came out and we made our way to the start. There was no visitors briefing and the normal briefing was very quick, the rain could have been a contributing factor to the rushed briefing. The only thing we were told was it was a 2 lap course and to ensure if you are only running one lap to not go through the finish funnel.

A quick walk to the start line, it was by the tower blocks on the grass. No further chat, we were off pretty quick. 

The first part of the run is around the border of the field, the grass nice and short it didn’t suck the life out of legs. A narrow turn into a wooded part a trail path so care over tree roots was in order. I had quite a pace on and despite the now humid morning I felt ok. Pretty soon you could see the front runners coming back towards you before they go off to run the circuit of the field before the start of the second lap. It was nice seeing them actually, I was able to wave to hubby.

By the time we were on our way back to the field sweat was really dripping from me, my contact lenses were stinging and I had trouble seeing, I elected to run behind my mate who was wearing her orange park run top so I could at least follow her.

The start of the second lap was pleasant enough, you run past the finish funnel and follow the loop again. Not many marshals out on the course but it was signposted and once the first lap was completed you knew where to go, it was pretty easy to follow.

As we approached the field for the last time I started to sing, I felt great I wanted to monitor my breathing. I felt happy and was loving the run, people must think I’m mad sometimes but I was in the moment, I had found my peace.

A nice steady pace toward the finish and we were done and dusted.

175 runners took part, some were really fast (completing in 15 minutes) some were middle of the road, like myself and some walking it. That’s the beauty of parkrun, I have said it before and I will keep saying it but parkrun is for everyone, walk, jog or run.

There was an urn filled with hot water so we made ourselves tea before thanking the marshals and leaving.

Would I revisit? Yes, I really enjoyed the route. The lack of marshals made for a different atmosphere compared to other parkrun events but it doesn’t need huge numbers to marshal this particular route. I liked the trail part and I guess it could be interesting come winter. Parking was great and if you need a toilet break there were some near the start.

On tour

Green Belt Relay

Each May a number of running clubs or groups of people that are dotted around the M25 take part in something called the Green Belt Relay (GBR).

The Green Belt Relay is a 22-stage running relay race around 220 miles of the Green Belt around the outside of London over a single weekend. The course mainly follow footpaths, towpaths or minor roads. It started back in 1995 and involves around 35-40 teams. Runners form teams of 11 people, and each runner runs one stage each day.

Although the race is a relay, each stage starts at a fixed time. This allows each stage to be a competitive race in its own right, and also allows teams of all different standards to stay roughly together as they advance along the route.

It can be really pretty and fun but, as you have to do a stage on the Saturday and another on the Sunday it can really eat into a weekend, depending on what stage you are running.

Luckily hubby had chosen for stages fairly near home. As a result I went along to support and get my own little run in on the Sunday.

The weather had been horrendous leading up to the weekend but Sunday dawned bright and sunny. Hubby left to take a buddy to his stage and get ready for his own, I made my way to where the Essex part of the GBR would end ready for the Kent section.

It would be my first visit to Davy Down, a patch of green that is seconds away from Lakeside shopping centre with some parts under the M25. Davy Down itself is not large, running round it would take about 10 minutes but it is at the end of the Mardyke Valley so there are options to run on towards RSPB using cycle path 13.


I wanted to get a run in but also support my friend who was running down from Upminster, his route just starting from outside Thames Chase where hubbys route ends. So I stayed in the general vicinity, glad I did it was very warm.

The trees nearby offered some shade but the recent downpours had left some soggy bits underfoot.

It wasn’t long after getting a message from hubby that he had finished and then joined us, we made our way to watch the running, the first of the runners coming through at quite a pace. Our friend wasn’t that far behind, looking strong he seemed to be enjoying it although hot too.

With about 500 meters left we joined him to run him in, quickly left behind as a sprint finish seemed to be the only way he wanted to finish, hubby was by his side though.

All done, we turned to cheer more of the runners in 45 running this stage in total.

As it was so hot we elected to decamp to a place nearby for milkshake and ice cream sundaes, well deserved. The GBR is a big commitment for the weekend, hubby has completed it for the last 3 years, doubtful he will do it next year, time for someone new to give it a go. Anyone can give it a go as long as you can get a team of 11 together and commit to a weekend of driving and running. More details can be found here.

Elvis is in the building

Each year all the running clubs get together and have a series of races. These are called Elvis, East London five (V) Interclub Series.

The first of which was in May and organised by Dagenham 88, my second club as of this year.

This race is over a green area outside of Dagenham called The Chase, and is 5 miles. As a rule I don’t run these races as many are during the week but, I always try to get to the first one of the year, I organise my first club race as part of my race secretary role but the others are often difficult to make because of work.

If I can make it I always support and take pictures, many like to see pictures of themselves running and I love supporting my two clubs.

This time though it was different, after a few days of warmth the heavens opened.  As a result the race was in monsoon conditions.  I stood there in my inadequate waterproofs getting soaked to the skin.  Myself and other volunteers looked like drowned rats.

That aside I still witnessed some blistering running from many people, plenty from the two clubs I am a member of.  The weather did not dampen spirits there, it was till great to be there.

I used this race as an opportunity to get to know many new people, catch up with old friends, to cheer all runners in and gain any fresh ideas for the race in June.

Hardened runners will run in any weather and this was no different.

Elvis has arrived!