I didn’t really have a plan for 2016 except to keep running every day for as long as I possibly could, make the 100 parkruns club, and finally achieve that sub 50 minute 10k. I had started a year long runstreak 62 days earlier on 31st October after a chance meeting with runstreak legend himself, Ron Hill. I had also achieved my goal of 50 parkruns two weeks earlier on the same day as I oddly finished 1st female at my home parkrun of Newark – a nice surprise but in no way a quick time.
But anyway, onto 2016 …
New Years Day (and day 63 of my runstreak) was celebrated at Clumber parkrun which was run backwards for a change. We were planning to double up with a visit to Mansfield straight afterwards, but our 2 year old face planted in a puddle so we decided to head straight home instead. No matter, as the following day was a Saturday, which meant another parkrun (Sherwood Pines this time)!
Hebden was the big event of the month. New territory for me, and a lot of tears, but it ignited in me a real sense of adventure that has stayed with me. I’m headed there again next month so I must have enjoyed it.
I also met up with @GoDizzyGo at Haigh Woodland parkrun which is a fantastic course. Finished 2nd lady there. How??!!
A bout of norovirus on day 100 didn’t stop my runstreak. If anything, I was getting FASTER and managed to break 24 minutes for the 2nd time ever at Belton House parkrun – again finishing 2nd lady in 23.56. I’m sure I must choose really quiet parkruns as I’m not convinced my 5k time is that brilliant.
You’ll have gathered by now I love visiting different parkruns so this month was the turn of Witton in Blackburn. I took it really steady as I had a half marathon the following day, and the course was horrendously hilly. I ran with the dog as an excuse to slow me down.
The following day was the Liverpool Vitality Half which I had won through a competition with Fitness Rewards. It was a beautifully bright and sunny day and we were in the VIP bit which meant free coffee, bananas and piles of sandwiches and sausage rolls. Runners’ heaven! Bumped into loads of Twitter folk that day including @robjones48 @_FatGirlsCanRun @ericaspellman @jon_rumley and @GoDizzyGo. I managed to run a time of 1:51:12 which was just outside the sub 1:50 I wanted. I was still thrilled however with a new 4 minute PB. Best moment was crossing the finish line hand in hand with my husband @drillsgtdan. You can read the full blog here.
I then had the rather nervewracking experience of undergoing a practical assessment day as part of my run coaching qualification. A full day of drills, sprints, plyometric, flexibility work and interval training. I was exhausted. Pleased to say I passed without a hitch, so just needed to complete my written workbooks to qualify as a running coach.
March also saw another course PB at Clumber parkrun. My watch said 24:59 so I was gutted when official results came through to say 25:01. I still haven’t managed to get that one under 25 minutes – that’s a goal for 2017.
The month my body told me to have a rest and stop running every day. On Day 167, three days before I planned to run my home 10k in Lincoln, my runstreak ended. I actually ran Lincoln parkrun two days later, but decided not to run Lincoln, which was a shame, but it’s so important to listen to your body as a runner.
I tried Colwick parkrun later this month, which is a beautiful route and which I must go and do without the buggy to see what I’m capable of there. Flat and fast.
I had won a Facebook competition to take part in the Lightning Run as part of a team of 5. It’s a 12 hour event held in the same location as Thunder Run, but over a slightly different route. I was a bit nervous about going, to run with people I had never met before, but actually it was great fun and the route took us through stunning woods bursting with bluebells. I had a ball actually. And the Adidas Boost Raven trail shoes I was given as part of the competition are my absolute favourite running shoes!
I also scored myself a 5 mile PB at a club league race at Nottingham’s National Watersports Centre, a confidence booster for the Nottingham 10k where I was aiming for sub 50. The plan didn’t quite work out however as I had somehow forgotten Nottingham is built on around 300 hills but I miraculously managed to run a PB, albeit only 3 seconds, coming in at 50:52.
PBs kept coming too – another course PB at my home parkrun of Newark which has been my nemesis for a long time; I finally ran it under 25 minutes. Hooray. Mission accomplished.
I’ve never really gone for bling, but I really REALLY wanted the medal from the Woodhall Spa 10k. It’s a great local race and I had done it the previous year when a fellow runner Sue was injured. So this year, I had managed not to get a sellout place again, and this time it was sadly another club runner Vanessa who was injured, so she transferred her place to me. Woodhall Spa is perfectly flat and run on open country roads. It was also quite possibly the hottest day in the history of the Earth. Running around it, I have never sweated so much liquid and was really struggling to run the splits I required to go under 50 minutes. Occasional we would run past a high hedgerow that provided a bit of shade from the scorching sun, and you could see everyone visibly shrink into it to recharge. At around 7k I mentally gave up that race. I was exhausted. I saw a fellow club runner Nikki ahead of me stop and step onto the verge. I stopped to chat with her and she said it was nothing serious but her leg was hurting a bit from an existing injury. I ran with her for a short while, until she urged me to carry on, assuring me she was ok. Strangely enough I came in at a PB time of 50:43 so I do wonder if I would have achieved my goal if I hadn’t have given up.
After that I kind of lost my mojo for a while …
To counter it, I went along to a UKRunChat weekend in Shrewsbury to volunteer as a marshall at the event, which was a great weekend of fun actually. Loads of Twitter folk were there, including @katieboo79k @FiaCarter @davidnflf1 @jedi58 @mattupston @sherieamore1 @_FatGirlsCanRun @douglaskurht
Later in June I also met up with @brsh123 for an attempt at a sub 24 Widnes parkrun. Didn’t quite work out but 24:15 was a whole minute off my course PB.
I had won a season pass to the Yorkshire series of the Run For All 10k events. I had missed the Hull one as it clashed with the Shrewsbury half where I had already promised to volunteer in June, but I headed to Leeds still on a sub 50 mission. The race was disappointing to me, and I actually cried at the end because I was so upset at myself, but I realise I can’t always be on PB form and if this year has taught me anything, it’s to give myself a break. So I went to Thunder Run with my clubmates with the aim of enjoying myself, rather than running fast laps, and I have to say it was just the tonic I needed to rediscover my running mojo. I also tried another new parkrun, Rosliston.
This month saw another poor performance at the York 10k; my slowest of the year! But I thought it was a great route. Just a shame about the abominable traffic and poorly managed parking on the racecourse! It was also an opportunity to meet the twins (@LufcColin and @Leeds0113) @robjones48 again who I’ve seen at all the Run For All events in his role as pacer, the lovely @jennymarshall1 and @AdamBlackburn00
I also met up with @DouglasKuhrt at Crosby parkrun. This was the funniest parkrun I’ve ever done, because the last mile is run on the beach and the tide meant the organisers had to move the last mile to the promenade. However, the wind had had a lot of fun the night before and had blown what seemed like the entire contents of the sand dunes onto the path so that last mile was one of the toughest miles I’ve ever run. Somehow I managed to finish 3rd lady though – in one of my slowest parkruns of the year – hilarious!!
I decided – on a whim – to join Ben Smith of the 401 Challenge on his 350th marathon around Derwent reservoir. I’m pretty sure I picked the hottest day of the year; but also the most picturesque location. The route consisted of a 10 mile lap around Derwent reservoir, a 6.5 mile lap around the smaller lake, and then another 10 mile loop of Derwent in the opposite direction.
It was such an enjoyable day, as we stopped for a snack after each loop, ran at an enjoyable pace and basically spent the entire chatting about running (certainly my favourite subject) and admiring the spectacular scenery. We also had a dip in a little splash pool at around the 22 mile mark. A perfect refresher for tired legs and an absolutely brilliant day. As well as chatting to Ben, I also met @ToriEmma and @Mel_Standbrook and her partner who got me through those last tough hot miles. Mojo well and truly recovered, and this day alone made me decide I wanted to do an ultra.
That same month, I also tried Dalby Forest and Rushmere parkruns.
September took a different tack away from races and towards coaching as I finally qualified as a Running Coach. I launched my own coaching business Miles with Michelle, with a beginners group for ladies, an improvers group and a series of Tuesday trail runs. This was a big step for me, as while I’ve been coaching at our running club for a few years now, this was just me. A scary prospect. However, I’ve made so many new friends since starting this venture, helped a lot of people into running and new PBs and my favourite moment was pacing my friend Celia around her first ever 10k in Manchester. I’m so proud of you!
Surprisingly, this month brought a surprise parkrun PB (23:36) when I went to try out the Croxteth Hall course for the first time. If you ask @jon_rumley he’ll never let me forget I wore two left socks that day!
I also had a fun day out with Witham Runners on Mam Tor and around the Peak District. Fantastic day and weather that ranged from tropical to rain of biblical proportions.
The Merseyside 10k was my last ditch attempt this year at a sub 50 so I recruited my husband Dan to pace me round because I couldn’t seem to find the belief myself that I could do it, although my new 5k PB did give me confidence in my pace, if not my speed endurance. After a good warm up, and no watch, we set off at a quick pace and soon settled into a good stride. The route took us around the inside of Aintree racecourse, followed by two laps of the outside, then a final lap inside. At around the 5k mark I started to feel tired and my pace was slowing. Dan kept me next to him, urging me on. As we ran through the 8k mark past the finish area I heard the PA announce that 40 minutes had passed. This meant I was still on target if I pushed hard the last 2km. Kilometre 9 felt hard and Dan began to shout at me as he pulled away and I dropped back. I think I may have swore at him (I’m sorry) much to the amusement of other runners. Some of them even urged me on to overtake them. A final push for the line and I collapsed onto the grass in exhaustion. Dan showed me his watch – 49.59 we had done it!! And it could not have been closer. I was over the moon!!!
So my goal met, I could finally relax into cross county season – once I had got the small matter of Hellrunner out of the way. 4 hours of physical and mental exhaustion.
I also tried Rutland Water parkrun – a great flat out and back along the dam.
During November we had been invited to join Saddleworth Runners on their annual weekend trip to Anglesey so we were looking forward to running in the great Welsh outdoors, as well as – you’ve guessed it – another new parkrun (this time Penrhyn in Bangor). Never believe a Welsh person that tells you a course is flat! Flat compared to Snowdon, maybe. Dan pulled his calf during that run (nothing serious) which meant we didn’t do the planned coastal path run that day but we did do a fantastic run along the cliffs the following morning. Thank you for the invite Howard!
November turned out to be a top month for PBs as well because I managed a Sherwood Pines parkrun course PB finishing 2nd lady, and then in the surprise race of the year, somehow ran 48:48 in the East Midlands Airport 10k, an event I had entered for pure novelty value. It was a race where I didn’t check my watch, didn’t push my pace, and enjoyed so much. Extremely surprising.
December has been a bit of a wind down to the year with long runs beginning to increase as I prepare the legs for marathon and ultra training next year, with a Christmas Day run, and finishing off the year, of course, with another different parkrun at Worsley Woods on New Year’s Eve.
Number of races – 12
43 parkruns run (twice as tailrunner). I also tried 11 courses new to me at Melton Mowbray, Dalby Forest, Rushmere, Witton, Colwick, Rutland Water, Rosliston and Penrhyn, Crosby, Worsley Woods and Croxteth Hall.
7 volunteer spots at parkrun
5k PB 23:36 down from 23:47 in 2015
5 mile PB 40:01
10k PB 48:48 down from 50:55 in 2015
Half marathon PB 1:51:12 down from 1:55 in 2015
Miles ran 1,137
Feet climbed 29,924
Number of runs 251
Hope your year has been as jam packed and full of fun as mine!