Posts Tagged ‘parkrun’


Here’s a blog article  about my running journey up to the Queensbury Running Club Awards night 2015

Last Friday 27th, November 2015 was Queensbury Running Club (QRC) very first award night and in some ways a welcome reminder of just how far QRC have come in such a short space of time. QRC have been around for some time now but it was a small club of dedicated runners who had been running for many years who were at a high level of ability for club runners and as a result people such as myself never gave running or QRC a second thought because we simply didn’t believe we could run or attain any worthwhile standard.

So QRC continued for many years with this dedicated and hardcore bunch of runners turning up week in and week out for training and races. But all that changed last year when they decided to create a Beginners Club and see what happened. As far as I remember the Beginners Club was to run for 10 weeks and the aim was just to get people interested and see if anyone wanted to join the club.

However such was the amount of interest in joining the Beginners Club that it carried on for months afterwards and was only dissolved when it was decided to just have one club QRC that catered for all runners of all abilities. The membership of the club has gone from 18 to around 107 and continues to grow. All of this in around 18 months.

I joined the Beginners Club on the second week and was the first male to join. There I was one lonely male surrounded by 30 females! I soon learnt my place! And there I was lumbering around the roads and trails that lie around me and just having fun. I weighed 19st 10lbs then and I didn’t want to get any heavier. I couldn’t afford a new wardrobe! I ran through the spring, summer and early part of autumn and then stopped because I didn’t want to run in the wind and rain.

This was a big mistake as I learnt to my cost. Come spring 2015 and with new reasons to lose weight and improve my fitness I returned to QRC and I hardly knew anyone. There was a few familiar faces but most people were strangers to me although by now some more males had joined so I didn’t feel quite as outnumbered as before!

But something had changed at QRC during my time away. It wasn’t just a club anymore it was a family with a special family feeling surrounding it. Within a few weeks I was back going off at a pace that would frighten Usain Bolt only to be out of breath and shattered within ½ mile! However this time I stuck at it and steadily I began to improve. I can still remember the times I ran my first mile, my first Old Guy Road, my first 5k and discovered I could run uphill non stop.

What a difference this made to me physically and mentally. My confidence began to build, the weight dropped off (I’m down to 15st 7lbs now) and most important for me my running ability just went up and up and up. I entered races and ran parkruns and saw improvements week after week after week. I was proud to wear the vest of QRC and represent my club and my home village.

And then September 2015 I got my first and hopefully last major injury the dreaded pulled Achilles tendon. At first I tried to run it off and carried on even running a race the Kirkstall 7 with it and finishing in 1hr 12 minutes. Not bad when you consider that I felt like stopping after 2 ½ miles but then remembered who I was representing and soldiered on. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea looking back but I’m proud to run for QRC and I wasn’t going to quit just yet.

But the next day I could hardly walk so I knew it was time to take some time away from running and rest and recuperate my Achilles or it would never get better and I may never run again. So I rested it but it didn’t get better. Some mornings it was so sore I could barely walk down the stairs, trips to the local supermarket where made in pain and walking to and from places had to be planned because they took so long. In the end I made the decision to go and have physio knowing that if that didn’t work nothing would.

At first the physio was more painful than walking, one time I went I couldn’t bear for it to be touched but my physio identified that I had a muscle imbalance in my ankles and gave me some exercises to do. My left ankle was considerably stronger than my right one and this was causing me all sorts of problems. I started doing my exercises and slowly the strength in my legs began to return. I went down the gym to maintain a level of fitness and looked at other ways I could improve my fitness.

In the meantime I stayed on touch with my fellow runners from QRC. I went and supported them at races cheering and taking photos. I went and volunteered at parkruns and this helped me keep in touch with the running community in general too. This helped me maintain the feeling that I was part of a family, a family that understands how painful and crushing having an injury can be but are there to help you through the dark days of injury and give you very good advice as many of them have been injured too and gone through what you are going through.

And around 3 weeks ago I got the all clear to resume running. I’m taking it steady and building up my distance and pace slowly. But I’m getting better with every run, I can feel it in my body and mentally I feel a lot stronger too. In fact I went out today in the wind and rain. No more am I a fair weather runner. I’m enjoying running again and taking care of my legs. I need them more than they need me!

And so to the awards night. I was asked if I would take some photos of the night which I felt both honoured and privileged to do. I enjoy taking photos but I’m no professional so the result will be interesting to say the least! But at least QRC and all the runners who attended have something to remember the evening by.

And I won Most Improved Male Runner 2015! I was shocked and surprised at winning this. There are so many very good runners there now that it is hard to single out one individual as being better than another individual. Every week runners of all abilities are putting in better and better performances, coming back from injury and showing they haven’t lost anything that for people to recognise my running journey truly means a lot to me. To vote for me as the most improved male runner is very special and something I will never forget. I’m still in shock now and have to check that it’s my name on the trophy and I haven’t picked up someone else’s trophy by mistake!

But it just goes to show what a great running family QRC are. They understand the frustration of injury and how difficult it can be to maintain belief in yourself that you will get over the injury and comeback, that you are a member of the QRC family and being a member means more than just running to you and that you have achieved far more than you ever thought you could and not only are you a better runner than before but a better person too.

So thank you to all the people at QRC and in the wider running community who have helped me on my running journey and been there for me. Thanks also to all the ones who have put up with my moods, bad jokes and general weirdness from time to time! Without any of you I wouldn’t be the person I am today and my life would be all the poorer for it.

 


Today was quite a special day with the inaugural Horton Park, parkrun. I have many memories of Horton Park living near it in my youth from around the age of 14 to 24. Like anybody else I have good and bad memories, but most of my memories from Horton Park are good. It was interesting going back to the park. It’s in a lot better condition than I remember it, although some of the buildings like the bandstand have now gone. But all in all the park was just as I remember it, fond memories.

And it makes a great place for a parkrun. The course is challenging with half of it being uphill and the other half downhill. The start is uphill too before turning to the right and downhill back towards the finish before going uphill right to the top. You have to make sure you have enough energy left to get up the uphill, you do 3 ½ laps of the course although on the last downhill you can afford to give it a little bit more. I managed 30:43 which for the type of course is very good for me. This included my sprint finish which I am going to have to do every time I run this course now!

I was wearing some new shoes too, Brooks Ghost 7. I have been having deep muscle massage on my legs and the guy who’s doing it, Peter May, told me I was wearing the wrong type of shoes. Many years ago I went to a shop called Sportshoes Unlimited and had gait analysis done. I was told I needed to wear support shoes for running and have done so everysince. However Peter took one look at my legs and told me that I should be wearing neutral, cushioned shoes not support ones.

And the problem I thought was my Achilles wasn’t that, but a very tight right calf possibly caused by wearing the wrong shoes! Peter has sorted my calf out and I am running freer and better than ever. But I had already bought some new support shoes from a shop called Up and Running in Huddersfield. I took them back yesterday and they did a gait analysis on me and I am indeed a neutral runner. So I came away with a pair of Brooks Ghost 7’s and they performed superbly today. I felt so comfortable and at ease running in them, that I didn’t even notice I was wearing them. I’m quite sure the work Peter has done on my legs and my new Brooks have helped me to such a good time.

But what I was most happy about today was the fact that I could run after Thursdays club run. This was tough for me and took a lot out of me, but my recovery time is improving all the time and today was proof of that. And after the parkrun I still feel as good as before. This is boosting my confidence no end and my legs are feeling stronger than ever. This will be tested tomorrow when I go out on a training run over moorland. I’ve got a route in mind that will really test my abilities and allow me to see where I am in relation to the races I’ve entered.


This is me in action at the trial for Horton Park, parkrun.

This is me in action at the trial for Horton Park, parkrun.


I’m starting to write this piece about my experience at the John Carr 5k, the day after the final race, but won’t finish it till later, but it has been such a great experience for me as an introduction to road racing and running competitively that I felt compelled to write about my experience as a first time racer at the age of 47.

I decided to enter the series because my times at the parkruns had started to come down quite dramatically from 45+ minutes to 33 minutes 15 seconds. Spurred on by this improvement I began to think about entering a race and was told about the John Carr 5k series which is held every May on the first three Wednesdays in the month in honour of a runner who died at the age of 30.

The races are held on land owned by Yorkshire Water and the course is fairly flat and fast which makes it appeal to runners of all abilities as the potential is there to set a Personal Best for the 5k and you have three attempts at it too. Add in the reward of a free beer at the end if you enter all three races and you can see the appeal of the series!

Once I had entered the series I decided that I wanted to break the 30 minute barrier at the final race. Whilst for many people 30 minutes is very achievable, for me it was a challenge. In addition to my improvement in running was a massive weight loss going from 18st 3lbs to 15st 10lbs. Whilst this was still quite heavy I was interested to see if my weight loss would also contribute to a new PB and hopefully one under 30 minutes.

The day of the first race came and I was in a mess to be honest. It was held on the first Monday after the bank holiday and stupidly I had decided to do a 7 mile run on the Sunday to collect my car from a golf club and a 7 mile walk around the hills near me on the Monday. This turned out to be a very bad idea. On the Tuesday my hamstrings were reminding me they were there by aching. This made me worried that my performance would be compromised and I would not be able to run at my best. In addition my left Achilles was aching once again, an old injury from many years back, so I approached the first race poorly prepared and with my legs aching.

As it turned out my fears were unfounded and I plodded round the course with the only memory being when I was told to turn right at the end of a short straight and saw the other runners all going at speed down the other side. I assumed it was a short straight only to turn round the corner and be confronted by a long, long straight! All the other runners where going a lot faster than I realised and I was a lot slower than I thought I was!

Near the end of the race is a 4k marker and a drop back down into Esholt. I decided to put a sprint on and managed it for a short while but then gave up, just stopped going at pace and as a consequence I was passed by at least two other runners from memory if not more. I made a vow there and then never to give up near the end of a race and to give it my all. No more giving up near the end, go for it and give it my absolute best. I finished in a time of 31:37, a new PB for me but it didn’t seem worth celebrating, didn’t feel like an achievement for some reason.

The next day my left Achilles was in pain, a lot of pain and I was having difficulty walking so I decided to give my Thursday night club meeting a miss and see how I was on Saturday for the parkrun. Saturday came and my Achilles was still in agony but I decided to do the parkrun anyway. At the parkrun I tried to warm up but I was in a lot of pain and decided not to risk running 5k that day.

At the parkrun however was a guy called Peter May who I had heard about as he is one of the more elite runners at my club Queensbury Running Club and a sports massager too. I had a word with Peter about my injury and booked an appointment to see him the following week. During this week I did no running or walking and it was a very, very difficult week because of this. I never realised before how much I would miss running and not being able to get out in the fresh air and feel free.

So the following week I went to see Peter and this is very relevant to the rest of my story. Peter asked me what was wrong and I told him, left Achilles, what shoes do you wear, support shoes. Wrong shoes, wrong problem. It turns out my problem was really bad tightness in my right calve and I needed neutral, cushioned shoes. For 20+ years I had believed I had the wrong injury and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

Peter sorted me out and gave me very good advice on how to prevent my injury getting any worse. I immediately went down to town and bought a cheap pair of neutral cushioned shoes for the next race. Wearing them was a revelation. My feet felt lighter and had more movement, I felt like I could run.

On the day of the second race I was looking forward to it excitedly. I decided to wear my old support shoes for the race simply because I had not run yet in my new ones. This time I got there early and proceeded to warm up doing around 1.5 miles. My legs felt good, still aching but a lot more movement and flexibility in them. Off I went at the start and my legs felt like lead. I went 100 yards and wanted to stop. My Achilles was killing me. My legs felt like lead, I didn’t feel like running at all.

But then something in mind clicked and I decided to see how I felt after a mile. The first mile went by and I was running at a good pace so decided to do another mile. After the second mile I was still going at a good pace so decided to keep going. My pace slowed over the last mile but I had enough left to kick for the finishing line and this time I did not give up. I went for it, giving it my all and crossed the line in a breathless and slightly dizzy 31:06. Another PB but still way off my target of sub 30 minutes.

I was in pain though. My neck was aching, I had a headache and I was struggling to catch my breath too. This was all too apparent to a good friend of mine who tried to talk to me but only got a load of incoherent nonsense and after quickly making their excuses I was left to try and work out where I was and how to get home!

But this week was different to the week before. This week I went to my Thursday night running club and I went out on my own. Running felt different, it felt fluid and natural, it felt right. I was doing non-stop runs and most importantly for me running up hills, something I had not done before. Mentally and physically I had changed for the better and my running was proof of this.

On the day of the third and final race I had another session with Peter and my legs felt better than ever. I had been running in the cheap shoes but felt far more comfortable in these than in the expensive support ones which felt like a pair of hiking boots in comparison. I was starting to believe I could go under the magic 30 minute barrier.

I got to the race in plenty of time and proceeded to warm up. My legs felt good but I was also aware of not overdoing things and leaving something in the tank for the race. And then there I was once again at the start line, ready to go for the third and final time this year. I set off and once again 100 yards in my legs felt like lead and I felt like stopping. I remember wondering to myself whether I should just stop there and then and go home.

But I didn’t. I carried on and my running freed up, I was moving smoothly, I felt good. The first mile went past in under 9 minutes, very fast for me, but I was enjoying myself. I saw people in front of me and I moved out and passed them and they didn’t come back at me. This was a new feeling, I was passing people and moving away from them. This felt good.

And this continued into the second mile too. This feeling of running and not just going through the motions was still here and I was enjoying it. after two miles my watch said just over 18 minutes. It was now I realised that my dream of a sub 30 minute 5k was on. All I had to do was keep going and believe.

Inevitably I slowed up, my watch showing my pace at 10:30 minutes a mile. But I knew I could still do it so I dug deep and kept going. I remember thinking if I didn’t do it today I would have to wait a year and that was something I was not prepared to do.

Back up over the start  line and I could see the village of Esholt coming into view. I knew the finish line wasn’t far away and put a bit more pace into my run. Downhill into the village and seemingly the roads were lined with people cheering for me, ‘keep going’, ‘you’re doing great’, ‘you can do it’, everything just a blur.

And my mind was blank, nothing there at all, no thoughts just a deep intense concentration, focusing on not just finishing but on breaking the 30 minute barrier. And then it was over. I had finished. I ran for the nearest wall in order to try and get some air into my lungs. I was gasping for air but had to queue with everybody else in order to register my time. And I looked at my watch and it said 29:26. According to my watch I had done it, I had broken the 30 minute barrier and achieved my dream. But would the organisers find 30 seconds from somewhere and take everything away from me? I didn’t dare celebrate just yet, although I told friends what my time was. I was sure something would go wrong somewhere and my dream would remain just that.

In the bar I stood with my friends waiting for the official results to come out, still thinking I was dreaming, still trying to get my breath back and return to reality. And then the results were out and I looked for my name and there it was officially in black and white, Andrew Smith 29:26. I had done it, I had done what I set out to achieve and I had proved to myself that I can achieve so much more when I want to.

But I didn’t feel like celebrating. I was so tired, in a sporting sense this was the hardest I had ever worked physically and mentally to achieve a goal, a dream. But I did it and went home to a nice glass of red wine to relax and unwind with feeling satisfied and feeling like a runner for the first time ever in my life.