August 18, 2012

Was it the Olympics? No, I don’t think so – I’ve been talking about getting fitter for a while, but it’s one of those chicken and egg things, isn’t it? I’d need to lose a bit of weight before I felt comfortable exercising in public – but a good way to lose some weight would be to do some exercise….

One of my sisters (Princes Park, Liverpool) and one of my friends (Strathclyde) have been telling me about parkruns for a while. The last time I checked the only one in Manchester was in Heaton Park which was too much hassle to get to (i.e. I’m too lazy – and they encourage you NOT to drive to them) and I bemoaned the fact that there wasn’t something a bit nearer.

Then Eddie Izzard tweeted about the post-Olympic #joininuk thingy and I thought I’d just have a sneaky look and see if there was a crown green bowling club locally…. There is, but I also discovered that there was a parkrun that started marginally less than a mile from my house.

Well, I thought, what harm can it do? Bearing in mind that I have a dodgy back, a tight calf muscle and a history of injuring myself any time I try to get active, quite a lot of harm actually! And given that I’m leading a group to Israel/Palestine on Thursday which will involve quite a bit of walking in reasonably severe heat I decided that, if I were to take part, I would deliberately not push myself too hard. Or at all.

You have to register for a Parkrun and print out a barcode which is uniquely yours. I thought the gods (I mean, God, obviously) was smiling down on me when the server crashed on the parkrun website and I was unable to register. Sadly, they fixed it and I had run out of excuses (excuse the pun).

So, this morning I got up bright and early, put on tracky bottoms and an old t-shirt and set off to walk the mile to the start (I thought that might count as my ‘warming up’)

I got there early (no surprise there) and was confronted by a smallish group of lithe young adults with Lycra bedecked legs and running shirts that seemed to suggest most had run marathons or 10k races fairly recently.

Intimidated? Of course I was but I had told myself that’s was going to do it and, besides, one of them spoke to me and made me feel welcome so slinking away was no longer an option.

By the time 9am came round (the scheduled start) there were quite a few more people. Still a predominantly young-ish group, some young families, but that was of no bother to me, I wasn’t going to overdo myself.

I hung around at the back of the pack, reckoning that those at the front would be the proper runners and that, if I started neat the front, I would only get demoralised as more and more people, including 3 year olds and a young lass pushing a kid in a buggy, passed me. It was a good call. Nobody passed me. Ever.

I set my iPod to shuffle and thought “run a track, walk a track, run a track, etc.” Unfortunately the first track was ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ by Arlo Guthrie… My cunning plan was scuppered from the outset!

So I jogged the first mile or so (by which time the front runner had already passed me on his way back to the finish!) and then walk/jogged the rest of the way.

I took the wrong turn once but realised after a minute or so, so turned back and met up with Mike (@worsleyparkrun) who was doing the ‘tail marker’ whilst carrying his baby in a papoose. So, I knew I was last, but I had someone to talk to (I must say that Robert is quite a slow walker, I’d’ve been loads quicker if I hadn’t taken the caring decision to assuage his loneliness – I hope the ‘humour’ is shining through there!). Turns out that Mike is one of the founders of the Worsley run and his wife is, yes, you guessed it, the one pushing the kid in the buggy… He was by encouraging and we chatted and walked for most of the ‘trail’ part of the circuit which was muddy, but not. Muddy as I’d expected it to be given the cent weather.

We were mopping up marshalls as we went and, once I was sure that Mike wouldn’t be lonely without me (more humour there, folks) I sped up a little and did a bit more jogging.

The end eventually hove into sight and I decided that it wouldn’t be even vaguely amusing if I did a Mo-bot as I crossed the line (given that Mo had run twice as far in significantly less than half the time). So I didn’t.

Unfortunately, the chap at the finish line asked me if I was one of the marshalls and didn’t seem to quite believe me when I told him that no, I’d been taking part… There was a short, uncomfortable silence before he was able to rustle up a condescending “oh, right, well done you” but do you know what? I didn’t care. I’d done what I had set out to do. I’d broken the ice.

The walk to and from the parkrun added a further couple of miles or so to my distance and he shower when I got home felt well deserved.

Today wasn’t about beating anyone else, it was about overcoming my ‘fat men shouldn’t be allowed out in public” fear. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, apparently, and I’ve taken that step.

I enjoyed my time with the Worsley Woods parkrunners. Furthermore, provided they let me, I’ll do it again 🙂

p.s. there were 118 runners this morning …. I know because I’ve just had my position confirmed as 118th 😉 Am I boverred?