I love Parkrun and try to run it every single week. I want to reach 100 Parkruns by Christmas. But, over the summer, I missed three Parkruns, due to visiting friends, our holiday to Padstow and the kids going on Scout camp.
Missing these runs coincided with our Parkrun changing its course. It was a victim of its own success – with over 500 people running every week, it had just got too crowded. The start was mayhem (but I loved it) and running three laps meant there were always lots of people lapping and overtaking on narrow paths.
So they came up with a new course of just two laps – and not even identical laps. Where the old course started with a bit of a downhill (although essentially a flat course), the new course started with a definite uphill. I had my strategy sorted for the old course. I knew where I stood at the start line and the exact route I took to get myself into position for the first couple of hundred metres, to ensure myself a good pace and a good time. But the new course was a mystery.
I stood in the wrong place at the start. Ironically, the new start felt more like mayhem than the old start. And then there was the uphill. I hated that uphill with a passion. My most favourite 23 minutes of the week had been ruined. I didn’t love Parkrun any more. And I most definitely wasn’t going to get a PB ever again. How can my old times even compare with my new times now there’s a hill on the course?!
And I hated it so much that I finished in 23 minutes and 27 seconds, over a minute more than my PB. And, to make matters worse, I was 22nd female, 129th overall and fourth in my age category. FOURTH?! I am first in my age category pretty much every week. I finish in the top 10 of women and always inside the top 100 overall. I know it’s silly, but I was actually quite down about this. I felt like a failure. I am such a consistent runner that running a whole minute slower just doesn’t happen.
Was it the new course? Was it because of my half marathon training? Was it because I’d forgotten my headphones?
Would I ever run in under 23 minutes again?
Er – yes.
The following week, I was back on track. I finished in 22 minutes and 52 seconds, 82nd place, seventh female and first in my age category. The following week, I was another seven seconds faster, fifth female and still first in my age category.
I still don’t like the course, but I’ll get used to it. And my Parkrun blip was over almost as soon as it had begun.