Having so much fun!

Well, since my last blog, I’ve just had so much running fun I just don’t know where to start! First of all, I added to my list of volunteer roles at my beloved parkrun when I became a pacer. Yes, me, a pacer! It’s such a great role. You get to volunteer and run all in one go. You have an excuse for ‘taking it easy’ because you have to pace at a speed that is comfortable for you. There are two main aspects to being a parkrun pacer – you need to be able to hold the pace that you’ve volunteered for, and you need to be a bit of a motivator, encouraging those around you to keep going. Having chosen a finish time that I knew was currently very doable, the second role was right up my alley. Suffice to say, I’ve been known at any parkrun or race to let out a few roars, as much at myself as at those around me, to help get up that hill or face the wind or just keep going. These spontaneous shouts of encouragement are not always well received, not least because I nearly frightened the life out of some unsuspecting lady as she was taking a walking break during parkrun. As I approached her, I called out ‘We’re doing it, we’re doing great” at which point she nearly jumped out of her skin and let me know that she was in her own little world and kinda didn’t appreciate being jolted out of it! And she was absolutely right, she was entitled to lose herself in her own run and not have me poking my nose in. I apologised profusely, then kept on running. Lesson learnt.

parkrun (always one word, always a small ‘p’ even at the start of a sentence – plays havoc with my correct grammar obsession) pacing completed, I was ready to tackle the Raheny 5 Mile on Sunday. It was my first time to do this race and was doing it as part of the Lord Mayor’s Challenge. I had heard so many great stories about it, not least the wonderful goody bag and the plaque for all finishers. I had booked this race last year but had to withdraw at the last minute because of flu and vertigo which had me bed-bound for a week. Then I felt even more sick at the thought of missing the Raheny 5 miler AND not being able to complete the Lord Mayor’s Challenge. This year, while all round me at home and work were succumbing to colds and flu, I determined that nothing would stop me doing this race. Thankfully, I was fit and well and raring to go.

I knew over the past few weeks that I was in good running form (this, of course, is all relative), and reckoned I was right for a 5 mile PB. I’d gotten a 10k PB only a week before, and I’d done hill repeats at training on the Wednesday night which were way beyond my previous performances. So I did the maths and set out to pace myself for a PB. Now, in fairness, the maths were very simple. A 7-minute kilometre pace for 8k (i.e. 5 miles) would take me 56 minutes, which would be just outside my current PB. A 6.30-minute kilometre would take me 52 minutes but I might have difficulty sticking to that pace for the full 5 miles. If I could hold my pace somewhere between 6.30 and 6.45, I’d have myself a PB.

I had a lift to Raheny with my running and racing friend, Sharon, who knew the lie of the land and the carparks – always a help when heading to a busy race. The buzz before the race was brilliant. I joined the other Lord Mayor 5-Alivers for the great warm-up courtesy of Aideen the Motivator, then headed to the start line. I was joined by another running buddy, Orla, for the first 2 miles, and then we went our separate ways – we all run our own run. I kept my eye on my running watch to make sure that I didn’t drop my pace, watching for the 6.45 or less and I worked my butt off. Every so often I’d let a roar “We’re doing it, we’re rocking it” or some such like. Or I’d give a shout out to the volunteers, thanking them for standing in the rain so that we could run. I have been told that, instead of cheering others on and thanking volunteers during a run I could save my energy and might run a bit faster, but I don’t intend to change my current practice. And I got my PB!! Absolutely delighted with myself. I picked up my goody bag and kept roaring at anyone who would listen “I got a plaque!!” Well, I’d never received a running plaque before. I was grinning from ear to ear. I met fellow club members and parkrunner friends, all of whom were celebrating finishing. We were buzzing.

Now, I made a big mistake after the race. I didn’t do any stretches. I ran for 5 miles, walked a couple of hundred yards back to the car, sat in the car for 30 minutes journey home, had a quick shower and plonked myself on the couch for the evening. I mean, I deserved to rest. I’d had a really busy week in work, I’d paced the parkrun 5k on Saturday and run hard for 5 miles on Sunday. Big mistake. On Wednesday evening I went training after work and during the warm-up I felt a ‘ping’ in my right quad. I immediately pulled up and knew that I had strained a muscle, but also knew that I could get on top of this if I took the right measures straight away. I went home and got the ice pack, always at the ready, out of the freezer and applied it, wrapped in a tea towel, to the sore spot. I strapped it on tightly, and lay on the couch. That was my rest, ice and compression elements of RICE attended to. It’s difficult to elevate a quad, but lying flat is next best thing. Unfortunately, I was working full day shifts for the next two days which entail anything from 12-13,000 steps a day, so little chance of resting the muscle. I rubbed some Arnica into it and strapped it up to maintain compression and hoped for the best. I had the third race of the Lord Mayor’s Challenge coming up on Saturday, a 2 mile cross country, and I was damned if I was pulling out now! However, I also knew that you really don’t want to run when you’re injured – you just end up exacerbating the injury and being off your feet for even longer.

On Saturday morning, I felt fine, though I knew I had to mind the leg as the muscles were still tight. So I strapped it up again to give it some support and to remind myself that it needed some TLC. I could do 2 miles, and if I had to I could walk it. I just wanted to finish and still be in the running to complete the Lord Mayor’s Challenge. Again, the buzz before the race was just great. Aideen the Motivator warmed us up again and gave us great tips for tackling the cross country route, quite different to road running. I know I set out to take it gently because of my leg, but, to be honest, I really don’t think I could have done it any quicker anyway. It was tough! It was hilly, mucky and hard work. But, as I say to anyone who will listen to me during these races, “Of course it’s hard work. If it was easy, we wouldn’t get the same buzz out of doing it”. But in spite of the hard work, I had so much fun. And I had as much fun cheering home other 5-Alivers as they crossed the finish line.

The only glitch in my running week was that I had to cancel a social run with my friend, Michaela, on Sunday morning because I really had to rest up and get this leg back to full health. Thankfully, as I write this, the muscle is not sore unless I stretch it, so I need to find a programme of leg-strengthening and conditioning workouts and make sure I do my stretches after every run. I should know better. Twice in the past I’ve pulled my hamstrings, on one occasion tearing if off the bone, and been out of action for weeks. And I’m convinced it’s mostly down to not stretching after my runs. I’ve been told often enough how important stretching is, so I need to get my act together.

That said, parkrun pacing and 2 races in a week, one of them a PB and the other a challenging cross country, all of my runs involved meeting lovely people, sharing running stories, enjoying the buzz. And I get to write all about it for my running blog. Like I said, I’m having so much fun.

Til next time, keep on keeping on, be very proud and enjoy the buzz.

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