Faffolino at Finsbury Park – 18 November

Can’t sleep, won’t sleep. This is my Friday night, for some bizarre reason I am nervous about doing my first Park Run. So what’s the problem?

I’ve tested the journey, so I know where to go

I road tested (almost) the course route, so I know the topology

I can run 5k, in fact I can run 10k, at a push 11k

So what is the problem? It’s just nerves I reckon.

Saturday morning comes, I am awake before the alarm (and as a perennial teenager when it comes to getting up, this is strange).

And Faffolino decides to visit – Mr JCR makes a very welcome mug of tea, so that gives me plenty of time to just sit and mull over the up-coming run. Finally, I decide to get up and at them. Wash, brush my teeth, get dressed, go to the loo. Change clothing as am worried it’s too cool and I haven’t got sufficient layers. Faffolino coughs and I decide I need to go to the loo again. Remove a layer of clothing as I feel warmer now. Faffolino sneezes and that reminds me I may just need to go to the loo again. Get back out and decide maybe another layer, a hat, a buff and running gloves would all be helpful.

At this stage I have visited the bathroom on at least four occasions and got changed/rechanged a similar number. It is time for me to take control, but one final faff, my Park Run bar code is just printed on paper. Maybe it is better if I stick it to a piece of card and put it in plastic, so it’s more robust and doesn’t get sweaty when I run. that’s my final faff, before I leave home. Ouch the cold hits my face and I feel happy I am all togged up, walk to Moorgate to get the overland to Finsbury Park, even though it is mainly underground. I’ve actually managed to get an earlier train in my concern not to be late at the park.

I arrive at the station (not the same one as my Thursday test run) and from what I can recall the park is just across the road, but I don’t see it so start walking and then ask a passer-by for help. Oh yes just like Thursday  – ‘it’s behind you’, somewhat embarrassed I work my way back and get into the park and go to the cafe meeting point. I am trading messages with Hannah who co-opted me into doing my first park run here. Yes, I do have my barcode, but then that gives me a whole set of faffing to do, as I can’t exactly recall which pocket I put it in.  Now I am thinking I need the loo again, so that’s more bloody faffing around… because I was a tad nervous I arrived really about 30 minutes earlier than needed and as a consequence, was not really warmed up. Then I along with other newbies got the newbie briefing, so I never did a warm up walk either.

Over 300 people lined up to do the run, with some good natured jostling at the front and a ‘shout out’ to about 6 people who were doing their hundredth run. I was determined not to get caught up in the atmosphere, because you can easily overdo it trying to keep up with every one, so I reckon it took me about 20 seconds to get over the start line, as I was right at the back, and I deliberately looked at the floor so as not to get ‘pulled’ along by the faster runners. I got into a pace and tagged along with a lady runner Sophie, who looked to be doing about the same pace as me, she wanted to beat 40 minutes, because that would be a personal best. I stayed with her for about half a kilometre or so, but I naturally was just a touch faster, so she was very gracious and told me to carry on. Coming up the first run of the big hill, I was overtaken by the eventual ‘winner’ who did the course in sixteen and a half minutes… now that is depressing, even though he was about 30 years or so younger! I carried on and finished a grand 312th out of 329, I thought I wasn’t so bad when I saw I came 6th in ladies of my age group, except there were only six ladies in my age group running.

The upsides of Park Run – it really encourages everyone, there were parents, kids, old uns, young uns and dog walking uns. The volunteers were all lovely, friendly and very helpful, everyone you passed encouraged you to carry on and applauded you. The ‘multi’ park runners, all were friendly and chirpy and there is a great sense of camaraderie. I met one lady who was doing her 99th run, her husband was a volunteer and her daughter was doing timekeeper duties, so there’s a definite sense of a running family, even in anonymous, unfriendly London.

The downsides for me are personal ones, I had been really happy with my running progress from the summer start to today and had been seeing how my times were improving. In Park Run you are graded by performance and although it isn’t a race and isn’t meant to be I felt that there was a ‘race buzz’ about. I thought I’d been doing okay and now find I am decidedly rubbish…, so that was a bit demoralising. Being passed by loads of Speedy Gonzaleses also made me feel a bit crap (it was worse being overtaken by dog walkers!!!). Having spent a lot of time telling myself that I am only competing with me, all of a sudden I felt as though I was competing with 300+ folk.

Running with people, also for me is a new experience, I think I am just a miserable old cow and truthfully prefer my own company when I run. But it was nice meeting Sophie on the run and I notice that she did beat her 40 minutes target, so maybe like learning to  run, I need to learn to run with people and that will help. If Sophie can beat her time and not get disheartened, then there must be a way of doing that….

Final lesson, the warm up walking is crucial, I missed out on that due to all my stupid faffing and being nervous, but next time I won’t need the newbie briefing, so can do my warm-up.

Am I a Park Run convert/advocate? – the tone of my writing tells me I am not. But then it took me a little while to get into my running rhythm when I re-started in summer; it seems to me I should give it another go, probably at the same venue, they are a lovely crowd, I know two of the volunteers already and met Sophie. I think it’s a mindset issue; how I tackle my solo running may not work when I am being a ‘Park Runner’.

But Hannah and Lorna and the other volunteers were fab, and they make fantastic cake too, I can highly recommend the banana bread – great crumb, in a Great British Bake Off technical critique.

So down to the nitty gritty

Stats

Distance 5k exactly

Time 34 mins 42

Placed 312/329

Playlist

Be My Number Two – Joe Jackson

Temptation – Heaven 17

Lose Yourself – Eminem

Talking Loud and Clear – OMD

Einstein A Go-Go – Landscape

Mamma Mia – Abba

Dreaming of Me – Depeche Mode

Thriller – Michael Jackson

Can You Feel It – Michael Jackson

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson

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