Thursday , January 21 2021

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Goals for 2016

The post that appears in September 2016 speaks volumes about the state of my running this year. In terms of racing I’ve made the start lines at Country to Capital and Harrow Summer League. I’ve failed to make the start line for the Kent Roadrunner Marathon, multiple summer league fixtures, the BUPA 10,000, and the Kent Coyote Marathon. The only race that stayed in my diary is the Ealing Half Marathon, which I’ll pootle round to maintain my ever-present status.

So my single goal for 2016?

Find my Running Mojo

I have 117 days to find my running mojo, to enjoy the running process, and to get myself back to the fitness level that makes me happy. How am I going to do this? I don’t know yet but I have some ideas and I’ll be reporting back in 2017.

Stevenage parkrun

parkrun picked in advance, course reviewed, checked for cancellation or course change, appropriate footwear selected, directions & parking set, and previous results checked to get an idea on depth of field. These are all the things that me and Other Dan should do. These are all the things that me and Other Dan never do.

I’m starting to think that we have an unsaid game going on, the ‘who can leave it as late as possible to message the other and start a conversation about parkrun’ game. I’ll have to work on the game title I think. Not very catchy. As usual we finally exchanged messages on Friday night.

Running Dan: parkrun tomorrow?

Other Dan: Yeah, where do you fancy?

Running Dan: Dunno… St Albans? Stevenage? Walthamstow?

Other Dan: Stevenage sounds good. 8am meet?

Running Dan: [annoying Facebook thumbs up]

Neither of us checked for a cancellation (thankfully all good), neither looked at the course, and I remembered to grab the car park location info as I was scrambling to find my Garmin on Saturday morning. ‘Six Hills Way’ and a postcode scribbled on an old envelope and off I went to meet Other Dan.

Cue the usual discussions on-route as we had no idea what to expect other than we would run 5k. We even mentioned ‘Six Hills Way’ numerous times without realising that this might not be a flat course. We rocked up to the car park and then it clicked that there was a link between the site and the name of the road.

We parked in the first car park listed on the event page. It’s next to the lake with a 5 minute walk to the start & finish areas. The second car park is closer to the start line but you walk past the café when you use the main car park. We went to the finish area first (missing the new runners briefing) to leave our tops and water bottles then trotted across to the start line. I noticed that there was someone kind enough to take runners tops at the start line and then carry them to the finish once the run started. If you’re visiting then I recommend jogging around to the finish funnel and dumping your stuff (there are people there).

The start area is fairly wide but it does narrow down once you get going and the path curves around the lake. You also have to run through a lot of goose poo when the course goes near the lake. Which is most of the time. Be aware that you’re going to wipe the bottom of your shoes on the grass at the end.

Other Dan went steaming off ahead. I stuck in the middle of the pack, wary that I hadn’t run all week (family break in Berlin) and not sure where my general fitness lay. I surprised myself by keeping a steady pace and finish sub-28. It’s a lovely rolling course, not as hilly as the road name suggests, and there’s plenty to see as you complete two laps of the park. There is a spiteful slope at the end, leading up to the finish funnel. On grass. With more goose poo.

We didn’t have time to stick around for a café visit so it was straight home again today. My result came through to my phone later followed by a message from Other Dan. He had been given a result 10 seconds ahead of me when he’d actually finished a good 4 minutes ahead. We checked the results page and it was littered with unknowns. Clearly something wrong with the scanner(s). The event team posted on their Facebook & News Page to confirm there was a scanning problem and they’ve been busy manually correcting results as runners email in their details. A nightmare for the event team but thanks for dealing with it so professionally.

Ellenbrook Fields parkrun

20160521002-ellbrookparkrunEllenbrook Fields is a 400-acre country park on a former aerodrome site situated between Hatfield and St Albans. The land was originally farmland before becoming part of the de Havilland (later British Aerospace) airfield at Hatfield. Hatfield Aerodrome was a private airfield and aircraft factory from 1930 until its closure and redevelopment in the 1990s.

Geoffrey de Havilland, pioneering aircraft designer and founder of the de Havilland Aircraft Company purchased farmland close to Hatfield as his existing site at Stag Lane, Edgware was being encroached upon by expanding housing developments in the London suburbs. In 1934 significant works were undertaken at the site and a large factory and imposing Art Deco administration buildings were constructed together with a flying school building which also housed flying control.

During the Second World War, de Havilland was most noted for its Mosquito fighter-bomber, the famous ‘Wooden wonder’. This was developed privately at Salisbury Hall, outside of Hatfield to avoid being targeted by German bombers. The Hatfield site itself was camouflaged but was bombed on 3 October 1940 by a Junkers Ju 88. Four bombs hit the ’94 shop’ building, killing 21, injuring 70 and disrupting work on the Mosquito.

Postwar expansion of the facilities was called for by rapid development of military and civil jet aircraft such as the Vampire and Comet. The de Havilland Aircraft Company was acquired by Hawker Siddeley in 1960 and the de Havilland name ceased to be used in 1963. Hatfield once again changed ownership when Hawker Siddeley was merged with the British Aircraft Corporation and Scottish Aviation under the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act to form British Aerospace in 1978.

In 1992, due to severe financial problems, British Aerospace announced the cessation of aircraft production at Hatfield from 1993. Friday, 8 April 1994, was Hatfield’s last day as an airfield, a DH Chipmunk – the type that had made the first landing on the new runway – was also the last plane to take off from it.

The redevelopment of the main airfield site commenced in the late 1990s. The airfield closed but was later used as a film set for Saving Private Ryan and the television series Band of Brothers. Only the listed flight test hangar and administration buildings were retained, all other buildings, taxiways and runway were removed to make way for new offices, businesses and homes. Today the flight test hangar survives as a leisure centre, whilst the rest of the site is divided between the University of Hertfordshire, housing and a business park.

I accompanied Other Dan to the inaugural Ellenbrook Fields parkrun with Other Dan picking me up from Hanger Lane for the reasonably short drive to Hatfield. We rarely attend inaugural events – the high attendance can feel too demanding for the new event team, it has the potential to cause problems for the local environment, and as a parkrun tourist you don’t really get a feel for the community of the event. In this instance the new event team were welcoming for tourists to visit the inaugural, we were both available for a short road trip, and the location was reasonably close with a quick journey.

20160521005-ellbrookparkrunThere is ample free parking available in the University of Hertfordshire car parks and it’s a short walk across to the park land. The finish funnel is close to the park entrance and it’s where people were leaving their tops and assorted personal belongings. There was a marshal sitting in the areas and mother marshals seemed to be around when runners passed so it seemed to be a safe location.

We congregated further down the ‘runway’ at the start line for the pre-run briefing where we were warned to be careful in some rutted areas and also given feedback that the test event runners found the long finishing straight deceiving so don’t go for the sprint finish too early. The run started with the route taking us out on a small loop (tarmac and grass) before a big loop (tarmac, grass, and trail path) took us round the site and back up the ‘runway’ to the finish.

The warning about the finish straight was spot on – it’s close to a km of straight tarmac running up to the finish funnel so definitely don’t go haring off at this stage.

Other Dan had left me to pootle round while he tested his legs so was chatting away to someone by the finish area when I finally appeared. There was a coffee van close by so I grabbed a cookie for the *cough* strenuous walk back to the car. It was nice to visit a new parkrun and feel the buzz of an inaugural event again so thanks to the new team and good luck as they build a new parkrun community.


Greenwich parkrun

No cake, no fireworks, and no mass party at the finish line. An arbitrary number of runs completed at an arbitrary number of places located within the M25 boundary. All the ‘London’ parkruns. Now Lon-done.

Greenwich parkrun takes place every Saturday parkrunday at Avery Hill Park. If the parkrun were to be setup now then I suspect it would be called Avery Hill parkrun but Greenwich has a nice ring to it. This large, open parkland with many splendid trees is notable for Greenwich University’s winter garden (a magnificent hothouse), containing tropical trees and plants from around the world.

We arrived early to find ourselves the only car parked in the ample free car park. Cue much jesting about finding a space. We ambled down to the café where the event team were getting ready and the runners starting to arrive. It was a bit on the chilly side so we hunkered down inside the café and waited for the signal to join the new runner/tourist briefing. The route consists of almost three anti-clockwise laps. It starts on the footpath near to the café and finishes in front of the Winter Garden. A simple visitor briefing over.

Other Dan ran with me. He likes to say that he’s coming back from an injury, not overdoing it, getting his fitness back etc. I think he likes to revel in my misery of being unfit.

We watched the eventual first finisher speeding off into the distance and gradually sneaking round to lap us. She looked like a small child in the distance. She turned out to be an impressively speedy U20 member of Blackheath & Bromley who has a parkrun PB of 17:03. One to watch in the future.

No café visit for us after the run as we both had to get back and driving from Greenwich to Ealing is a pain once the traffic builds up. Now to get Other Dan Lon-done and me to complete 100 different parkrun venues.

Tooting Common parkrun

This was meant to be the one where I nailed Lon-done. The run that complete every parkrun within the M25 boundary. Except that plans changed, life got in the way, and Greenwich still requires a visit. However, this was the one that saw a happy bunch of parkrun tourists come together to celebrate Louise completing her 250th parkrun.

I cannot remember the first time that I read her splendid parkrun dominated blog or the first time that we met at a parkrun (Walthamstow inaugural? I suspect that we unknowingly crossed paths before that). Louise is the person brought the online parkrun tourist community together and the glue that stops the odd tourist tantrum from blowing out of proportion. She also pops up at unexpected places – a marshal at the Ealing Half, later cheering at another point on the course, and cheering as a marshal at the Fulham Palace parkrun inaugural.

The run? A flat, triangular 3-lap anti-clockwise course. Me? An overweight runner huffing & puffing my way round in a bid to build up some fitness and get running again.

The cake? Plentiful and extremely well received at the café afterwards.


Orpington parkrun

Our Lon-done tour is coming to an end as only Tooting Common parkrun and Greenwich parkrun remain for me after completing Orpington parkrun today. Other Dan still has the pleasure of running at Gunpowder, Hilly Fields, Walthamstow, and Bexley.

We’ve been ignoring Orpington parkrun since we started our Lon-done odyssey; it’s the parkrun diagonally across London from us and the furthest away. However, I am not sure why we worried so much as the journey around the M25 was simple and, even though the distance was high, didn’t take as long compared to some of the ‘nearer’ Lon-done venues.

It was a grey miserable day when we visited but the locals were friendly and I unexpectedly bumped into an old friend of mine (from 30 years ago… wowzers). There’s a clubhouse where belongings could be left out of the elements so we left our tops inside and ran the two and a bit lap, which was surprisingly undulating.

Another parkrun completed and our final M25 drive home.

Newbury parkrun


I roamed further afield this week to visit Newbury parkrun as Other Dan was away running one of the Polish parkruns. Newbury parkrun takes place on Greenham Common, which is famously known as the  former Royal Air Force station RAF Greenham Common and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp.

The RAF base opened in 1942, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War and the United States Air Force during the Cold War. After the Cold War ended, it was closed in 1993. Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp was a peace camp established to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common. The camp began in September 1981 and was active for 19 years and disbanded in 2000. In 1997 Greenham Common was designated as public parkland.

Newbury parkrun came into life in February 2012 and has been on my radar ever since highviz filmed one of the events with a the aid of a hexicopter. This was back when I first started noticing enthusiast film makers using ‘drones’ to mark some amazing short films.

The distance from home to Newbury parkrun is on the edges of ‘the art of the possible’. Also referred to as the unwritten rule of whether I would be home in time to maintain good relations with Mrs Dan. I generally frame that as an hour or so of driving, which I usually bend to one and a bit hours. I was a touch late leaving thanks to the usual fight with the satnav as it refused to find the location based on all rational information. In the end I plumped for the general vicinity and hoped that local signage would get me there. I rolled up into the free parking located in the industrial estate nearby, after making some wrong turns and taking other drivers down some dead-ends (whoops!), with a 5 minute jog to the start line.

No problems in finding the congregating runners and we were off running following the usual parkrun briefing to thank the volunteers, ensure junior runners are kept within arms reach of a parent or guardian, dogs to be kept on a short lead with one dog per runner, and for everyone to have fun.

The course is simple one lap affair with plenty of signs to direct runners with firm trail underfoot so road shoes easily catered for. I don’t remember there being too many marshals out on the course, the signs were clear and you could easily see all the runners across all sides of the course, but there were the usual friendly marshals at key points.

I enjoyed my run so thanks to the event team at Newbury parkrun. A speedy exit was in order for me to avoid being late home and facing the wrath of Mrs Dan.

Nonsuch parkrun

My Saturday morning routine usually includes Mrs Dan waving me out of the front door and asking which made up place I am visiting. She’s accepted that Gunnersbury Park, Norhala Fields, and Busy Park are all real places – she’s been there and seen them all. Hilly Fields, Raphael Park, and Cassiobury Park? They’re all made up places in her mind. This week our conversation went like this:

Mrs Dan: Which made up place are you going this week?

Me: Nonsuch Park

Mrs Dan: Very funny. Where are you really going?

Me: Nonsuch Park

Mrs Dan: A joke’s a joke – where are you going?



We drove to Nonsuch Park and grabbed one of the few remaining car parking spaces before following spectral figures making their way to the start area through the heavy mist. Visibility was poor and we couldn’t see the start/finish area but people looked like runners so we followed their footsteps. We mingled in with the waiting crowd and noticed the parkrun organised mass warm-up going on nearby. The first time we’ve seen a parkrun event warm-up outside of the junior parkrun events.

We visited when the winter course was in action, which meant laps of the park. Not that I have any idea what the summer route is. Other Dan joined me for a pootle around the course with the intention to make sure that his friend didn’t lap us. Mission just about completed as the first couple of finishers sped past before the finish funnel and his friend just after we passed the funnel.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to hang around afterwards, we both had to be home and we know traffic across London is always poor after parkrun, so we didn’t get to sample what looked like a nice café.

Harrow Lodge parkrun

Another Lon-done parkrun complete and only four more to go. My spreadsheet of doom is nearly all green rather than the sea of red I remember from this time last year. We even have dates for Nonsuch and Tooting Common, which means that I will probably be Lon-done on Saturday 16th April.

This week we swapped a car journey for an early meet at Hanger Lane station to take the Central Line to Mile End and then the District Line to Elm Park. A short walk took us to Harrow Lodge Park where we congregated at the parkrun start area and Other Dan bumped into a friend from East London Runners. We had a chat about appropriate footwear – Other Dan has chosen racing flats based on photos of runners on the course last week, I had gone for my hybrid trail shoes after checking out some blogs, and Other Dan’s friend was wearing train shoes because he’d run the course before. The course was mostly a mixture of grass and trail so trail shoes were better but Other Dan got away with racing flats although they were muddy by the end.

My fitness continues to fall while my weight continues to rise. Other Dan is still finding his feet after a long injury imposed rest so we were jogging round together. It doesn’t help that I suffered a side strain due to random unknown reason that stopped me running through the week. Roll on next week when I can hopefully string a few decent runs together again.

It’s a one lap course around a deceptively large park that starts on grass (soft to muddy in the winter) and joins some tarmac paths before finishing on the grass again. The park now has some permanent parkrun marker posts dotted around so it’s an easy to follow route with the placement of friendly marshals. I was surprised that there weren’t more runners – it’s a big park, there’s plenty of surrounding housing, it’s close to a small shopping area, and the event is managed by an enthusiastic running club.

We enjoyed our run and both agreed that we’d like to tackle the course during the summer when the going is firm and we’re both fitter.

Riddlesdown parkrun

Riddlesdown parkrun this week in our quest to become Lon-done. Only 5 parkruns inside the M25 for me to complete and they’re all the awkward locations that we’ve been diligently ignoring. Thankfully Riddlesdown is easily accessible via the M25 so the mileage may have been high but the journey remained under an hour. No need to get up early for this one – result!

We made the effort to recce the course and check out conditions so both managed to bring a selection of trail shoes and spare clothes. That didn’t stop me from making a poor shoe choice though. I took my ‘proper’ trail shoes and my ‘hybrid’ trail shoes. One for gnarly bog like conditions and the other for mud where there’s hard/tarmac sections as well. I knew it was muddy, I knew it was all trail, and I knew it was wet. However, I based my footwear choice on the fact that my hybrid shoes had been stuffed into a bag after Rushmere parkrun a few weeks back and had a smell that could down an elephant from 100 metres. My twisted logic held that traipsing round Riddlesdown would help clear the stink. Not that my proper trail shoes would give me a more suitable grip. Muppet.

We huddled near the start line, me trying to use Other Dan as a wind break. Unfortunately he’s not wide enough so I gave up on that cunning plan. Thankfully there weren’t many announcements and we were all off and running. I’m fat & unfit and he’s easing back into running after injury. That means a slow run with lots of chatter and generally taking the piss out of each other. The majority of this run consisted of us moaning about the soft conditions, how cold it was, and trying to avoid getting our feet wet. We must be getting old because previously we’d have been busy trying to splash muddy water at each other.

The course really was soft all the way round. Some might say playful. I say annoying. My stupid shoe choice afforded no grip so one sharp term, up an adverse camber, saw me sliding back downhill behind Other Dan as he quite rightly laughed. I then slipped my way on uneven ground around the puddles and this played merry havoc with my feet. On the second lap I had to limp for a few seconds because the sole of my foot hurt so much.

The finish funnel finally appeared as the soft ground continued to frustrate us. A couple of *ahem* more mature runners took the opportunity to gracefully pass us wheezing hippos. We let them take their hollow victory in the safe knowledge that parkrun isn’t a race. Neh neh ner ner neh!

We both felt it at the end. Easy effort but tough conditions. Some cake at the end softened the edges from our run.  We were both clearly worn out as we walked back to the car while our warm tops & trousers languished back near the finish area. I then drove out the car park with the boot of the car open. Thank you to the driver behind who beeped us back into our senses. A quick dash back to the course to retrieve our gear and then we were back round the M25 to home.

Peckham Rye parkrun

We’re back on the Lon-done parkrun trail with a visit to Peckham Rye parkrun. Other Dan met me at Hanger Lane and I drove us through London to Peckham Rye Park. We didn’t really know what to expect from this one other than we knew it was flat and run on tarmac.

There was ample free parking close to the Colyton Road entrance of the park and from there you can see the event team putting together the start & finish area. We joined them on a cold day with the wind sweeping across the open sections of the park. We both decided to keep our layers firmly on and jogged round the three lap course together.

We knew the drive back would take longer than the journey there thanks to the joys of driving through the Olympia area so we didn’t hang about after the run. Probably a nice place to run in the summer but not fun when you misjudge the weather and run when you’re unfit (me) or coming back from injury (Other Dan).

Milton Keynes parkrun

We had planned to visit Peckham Rye parkrun this week but Other Dan dropped me a message on Saturday morning to say that his foot still wasn’t 100% so I was on my own again. I wasn’t going to visit a Lon-done parkrun by myself so looked around the outside of the M25 for a venue that I could drive to within 60 minutes, trying to pick one on the edge so it wouldn’t put a significant impact on me and Other Dan reaching 100 different parkruns.

I plumped for Milton Keynes parkrun and plotted out my route and parking, using the information on their website. The drive was uneventful although it took me on the route I now drive along to work during the week, which isn’t necessarily a good thing on a Saturday – too much like I was going to work. I plumped for parking at the Newlands carpark, which is situated near to the café for post-parkrun drinks. However, I thought it was odd that the car park was empty for an event that attracts over 400 runners on a consistent basis. The warm-up jog to the start area took me past the second car park and that was fairly empty as well.

Hmmmmmmm. What was going on? I arrived at the start/finish area and found out that all the regulars park at the Gulliver’s Land Theme Park, which is right next to the parkrun start & finish. Their web site suggests that parking is free here rather than the official paid car parks that serve the Willen Lake area. I can understand why the parkrun page doesn’t mention the Gulliver’s Land car park since the land owners don’t want their parking taken up by non-visitors but if you’re heading to Milton Keynes parkrun then be aware that this is also an option.

The course is a single all tarmac lap that starts in the parkland, includes a small hill where the path zigzags up, and then finishes with a large loop of the lake until you’re back to the start area and through to the finish funnel that’s located slightly further up the park. I’m not in the best shape at the moment so I found the run tough going thanks to the rain for the first section and then the combined wind & rain sweeping across the lake. In the end I was thankful for the sight of the finish funnel and had no energy to challenge the runners overtaking me on the finishing straight.

I slunk back to my car in the drizzle and headed back due to family commitments at home. I’ve marked this one down as a venue to visit again when Other Dan is back running, preferably in the summer on a non-windy day so I can enjoy the run around the lake.


Rushmere parkrun

Time to test the legs again following Country to Capital and I picked Rushmere parkrun out of the virtual hat for somewhere to visit while Other Dan recovers from a foot injury. Rushmere Country Park is located at Leighton Buzzard and is managed by the Greensand Trust on a not for profit basis. The Greensand Trust manages this area comprising Rushmere (200 acres), Stockgrove (80 acres), Oak Wood (100 acres) and Rammamere and parts of Kings Wood. Stockgrove was opened to the public in 1972 and Rushmere is the newest addition to the Estate, opened in 2011.

I drove to Rushmere Country Park and there is ample parking near the start/finish area with a standard £2 payment that covers all day, which is paid on exit at the barrier machines. The parkrun course page indicates that the nearest train station is Leighton Buzzard, which is a three-mile walk from Rushmere Country Park. Leighton Buzzard station is served by National Rail services from London Euston and Birmingham/Northampton. The majority of runners were car sharing but there were also cyclists who were leaving their bikes around the start/finish area. I didn’t specifically check for bike racks but the the site itself has plenty of off-road cycle trails so I am sure there are plenty of facilities to secure bikes.

It’s a two lap course consisting of woodland trails that were extremely muddy when I visited in January. The run starts along a firmer section that bunches up the runners and because of the wet conditions the start of the course was narrower because most of the runners were circumnavigating the puddles by sticking to the edges. I steamed through the puddles in the middle although did not consider the splashes this would cause for the runners around me so I generated a few *ahem* comments from the people nearby. I’m sure they saw the karma as we moved onto the first sections of deep mud and had the chance to laugh as one of my shoes was swallowed by the quagmire, which left me striding along with a sock sinking into the mess. Thankfully one of the runners behind was kind enough to rescue my shoe and hand it to me as he passed so I wasn’t caught hopping back through the crowd.

Next up (or actually down) was a steep hill that necessitated it’s own sign to warn runners of the steep descent. It’s a shame that my legs were still feeling tired from Country to Capital because I love a good eyeballs out steam down a muddy hill. I gave it my best but my quads were not happy with the slope and I know that my next visit is going to require a daring sprint down the hill.

The bottom of the hill takes you past a lovely looking pond, well, I am sure that it will look lovely in the summer, and then the gradual up slopes that take you back to the start/finish area. I was happy enough taking stops for photo opportunities and was in no rush to record any particular time. Some runners passed me, I caught them back up, and we repeated our leap-frog around the second lap.

This was a great parkrun location and course that I know will be revisited sometime in the future with Other Dan. It reminded me of Black Park parkrun & Alice Holt parkrun; woodland trails, muddy sections, and hills to conquer. I would enjoy this as a home parkrun and I’m envious of the fab area that surrounds the parkrun. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to hang around for food & drink but the event pages states that the team go to the Tree Tops Café for a post-parkrun coffee.

Janathon 2015 – The End

Janathon ended with a whimper rather than a bang. A couple of tired runs, a run in Hull with drivers shouting abuse and a drunk/addict trying to stop me so I could “borrow him some money”, a few more training runs, and then it was onto Country to Capital on the 16th January. So I made it onto 16 consecutive days of running and then… stopped to recover. Unfortunately the blogging stopped on day 5 but there’s always Juneathon to make things right :-)

Janathon 2015 – Day 5: Gingerbread Man

A long day at work meant a long internal discussion on the merits of melting into the sofa versus stepping out into the dark for an easy 4 miles. Thankfully the thought of destroying my Janathon running streak won out and I threw my running clothes on before Sofa Dan had a chance to launch a counter argument. I may have been better staying home as the run disintegrated into a walk after the first mile and carried on alternating between a slow jog and a steady walk. My stomach was grumbling and I knew that dangerous gingerbread man territory lay ahead.

Thankfully I made it home to the safety of the amenities before any accident could embarrass me in front of the neighbours. Some people might like to tell you that there’s no such thing as a bad run, that getting out the door is better than staying home, but sometimes I’m not quite so sure about that.