Mum’s second Parkrun

This weekend my Mum was in town, and as we’d dragged her along to her first Parkrun back in December, I thought it was time for her to do another!

I normally do the Dulwich Parkrun, three laps of the entirely flat Dulwich Park. It’s a 10 minute cycle from my house, a nice warm up but one that involves the South Circular. Mum can ride a bike but hasn’t in a while and I didn’t think she’d fancy riding one of mine around one of south London’s busiest roads.

Brockwell Park is just a bus journey from my house, so trying to pretend it doesn’t have a whopping great hill in it, we went there. We were super organised and each had a flask of coffee, which we left propped against a tree as we listened to the safety briefing.

There were more than 300 runners, which felt very busy. We queued up on the path outside the lido, and soon we were off. Well, fairly soon – it took a while to get going. The path was very narrow for the number of people on it and I had started too far back and had a lot of slower runners to overtake, especially when it came to the first hill.

Feeling like a boss, I powered up the hill, glancing down at my garmin watch to check my pace – and noticed that the bloody thing had stopped! I’m slightly ashamed to admit it knocked my motivation (what’s the point of setting a new PB if you’re not recording it?) and I took it easier for the remaining 3.8km.

I managed a sprint finish – a bit lame as I’d really been jogging up until then – and joined the enormous queue to have my barcode scanned, chatting to another girl who was new to Brockwell Parkrun.

I kept checking the finish line to see when Mum was on her way in. I wasn’t sure when we’d set off or what time she was expecting to do it in but thought that the moment I saw her I’d jog over to her and run the final bit with her.

Suddenly I noticed the volunteers packing away the finishing chute. “Stop!” I shouted, trying to sprint across a patch of extremely boggy grass. “There’s still another runner to go!” Luckily they hadn’t stopped the timer, but they thought that the last lady in was the final runner, forgetting about Mum.

I left the coffee cups at the finish line and headed back along the course to track Mum down. Running in my down jacket is not much fun! I found her and we power walked to the end together. 54 minutes – more than a minute faster than her first Parkrun!

We went for coffee at the Blackbird Bakery (where we met a 12 week old pug, refusing to walk) and saw a painting of the park in the art shop window. I pointed out the route we’d taken: one big lap around the park and then turning left at the sports field on the second lap.

“Sports field?!” exclaimed Mum. “I didn’t turn left at the sports field!”

She’d done TWO big laps of the park. So not only had she beaten her previous time, she’d beaten it on an extra long (and hilly) course! Well done Mum!

On Track

The promised legacy of London 2012 was world-class sporting facilities for the city, including, most excitingly, an indoor velodrome.

I ride, every day, a fixed gear bicycle. I am one of those people. It shouldn’t be hard for me to ride on a velodrome.

One of the things I am most ashamed of is my fear of riding on the track.

The first time I rode at Herne Hill Velodrome I turned up with boots full of swagger, bravado plastered over my face to disguise my inner terror – and I did it. Once I chose to do a track session on my birthday as I wanted it to mean something. I didn’t tell anyone it was my birthday because I wanted to be the only one who understood why it mattered. I thought I’d cracked it.

I often got shouted at for not following the wheel in front closely enough and I always made excuses about the person in front being sketchy, when in reality I was too scared.

Then a day at Lea Valley Velodrome was arranged. I’d been before, as a spectator, so I knew what to expect.

I had a bad feeling about it, riding through the torrential rain on the way over to east London. I got there late and was pleased to miss the early session. I got moved to the second session and pretended to be happy about it.

I was cajoled into getting on a bike and doing a lap of the infield. I rode around, slowly, feeling like my internal organs were being crushed by a self-fulfilling sense of failure. My friends were standing about, eating cereal bars and chatting. I tried to convince myself everything was fine.

The safety briefing with Rob was a blur. Everyone else knew what they were doing. I felt sick. People peeled off and soon were passing at head height. I got on. Deep breath. Clipped in, holding the rail. Breathe.

I let go, rolled forward exactly one rotation and and grabbed the rail again. Breathe. Oh god. My eyes filled with tears and I looked away from the track, as if this would stop anyone noticing.

“You alright?” asked Rob. “Take your time. You’ve got all the time you want.”

The tears escaped and I had to unclip so I could let go of the handrail and wipe my face with my mitts. It was futile, they just coming from this well of insecurity and doubt.

I’d done a training session with Rob before, road racing, and I remembered what now felt like embarrassing bravado at Hog Hill. I’d thought I was so cool. And now I was crying by the side of the track, dissolving with every minute.

I tried to reason with myself. I knew the others in my group had more track experience and so someone would end up shouting at me to get out of the way at some point. I really didn’t want to be shouted at in this strange weatherless room with its perfect wooden floors.

I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t do it well, and I couldn’t do it well because I was afraid to make a move, afraid of failure.

The other riders regrouped and David told me that if I wasn’t going to ride then I had to leave.

I handed the bike back, handed the shoes back. I went over to my bag and sat in the middle of this cavernous space and cried. This was the home of such great triumphs – the Olympics, the day I met Chris Hoy, the Bespoked show – and here I was sullying it.

I could see my friend’s kid, waiting patiently while mum rode, eyeing me warily. I blanked an acquaintance who was keen to find out all the soap opera details, to let everyone know how I’d bottled it at the track.

I went to the changing room. I could sense all the people who’d changed there. Champions, kids, coaches; the excitement, the tension, the thrill of riding around the top of the banking at the best venue to come out of the whole Olympic legacy. I curled up, letting the tears fall down my face, off the wooden bench and onto the lino floor unchecked, staying as still as possible so the motion detector lights would go out.

Usually I can keep in mind that situations are transient and that no matter what it is, I’ll get over it.

But sometimes something cuts too deep and I know with a sickening certainty that I’m permanently branded.

Royal Parks Winter 10k Series: QEOP

The final race (race 1, race 2) in the Royal Parks 10k Winter Series came round just as my cold moved from semi-debilitating to massive snot-fest (I went to bed on the 4th Jan and didn’t get out again for 3 days – what a way to start the year).

The race was due to take place in Hyde Park but a few weeks before I got an email from the organisers saying that it was going to have to be in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park instead. The where? Oh, the new park in Stratford, previously the site of burned out cars and squat parties, and (more recently) a major sporting event that you may or may not have seen on TV.

It was a cold day and I woke up early to get the train over to Stratford. The train was quiet and I settled into my seat until a man got on and started smoking a crack pipe while trying to chat me up. He got off at the next stop, and I looked out of the window thankfully, spotting my friend Jimbilly on the platform. We had a chat through the window – we were both off to Stratford but I couldn’t get my head around why we were on different trains.

Arriving in Stratford I made use of the shopping centre toilet facilities (quite nice) before walking over to the Orbit, where the race was due to start. I thought I’d have loads of time but I faffed around for ages changing clothes/shoes and missed the race briefing. Not a huge problem if you’re not leading, I think, as you can just follow the people in front.

Lap 1 was disorientating, the athletics stadium appeared to always be on my left no matter which way I turned.

Lap 2 was just as disorientating, the athletics stadium became the aquatics centre when I blinked and I didn’t know where I was on the course.

Lap 3 started with a walk through the drinks station and I also had another couple of sneaky walks as I was feeling a bit tired. Ha. Still couldn’t get my sodding bearings.

QEOP 10k

A new PB, I was pleased.

I retrieved my bag and cheered on some of the slower runners. I’ve got a lot of respect for anyone who’d drag themselves out of bed on a cold Sunday morning in order to come last in a race.

Afterwards I went back to the shopping centre facilities and had a quick wet wipe shower before taking the bus over to Homerton for brunch, where I managed to swap two items of my veggie breakfast for halloumi. PB and halloumi fest – an excellent Sunday.

New Year’s Resolutions 2015

Although 2014 didn’t always feel great, I actually did quite a lot.

  1. Ran my first (and to-date, only) marathon.
  2. Took up cyclocross and came 3rd in the summer league.
  3. Learnt to snowboard, resulting in my only unplanned trip to hospital.
  4. Cut all my hair off.
  5. Beat my 5k and 10k times from 2013.
  6. Ran 1,099.4km.
  7. Cycled 7,293.6 km, including a week across Germany and the Netherlands on my own.
  8. Went to see the Giro d’Italia in Northern Ireland and the Tour de France in Yorkshire.
  9. Watched my brother, the Iron Lamb, take part in Ironman Austria, where he achieved his sub-11 hour goal.
  10. Took part in my first triathlon.
  11. I also met Chris Hoy. I may not have mentioned that to everyone I know. Here is a photo of me and the Hoy as proof:

Every year I make resolutions, with varying levels of success. Here are some for 2015:

  1. Achieve the following running goals:
    • 5k: sub 25mins
    • 10k: sub 50mins
    • Half marathon: sub 2hrs
  2. Do at least 20 parkruns, ideally seeing an improvement over the year.
  3. Compete in at least 3 triathlons.
  4. Keep all 10 toenails intact.
  5. More cycle touring! More adventures!
  6. Try something new – maybe orienteering?
  7. After totally nailing quite a few moves in swing dancing last year (I’m now quite happy with my swingout) I want to go social dancing more and then not be shy when I get there!
  8. Be bold, be brave!