Three countries, three runs

Before last year, going on holiday was generally reason not to be running, but with my commitment to run in more different locations, and to maintain fitness without the excuses of travel (leisure or business), that has changed. My runs while away from home may sometimes be shorter or easier, but hopefully most offer plenty of novelty. First up from this trip away for some sailing in the Baltic was Denmark: a 6km circuit of the Copenhagen lakes. Quite a few other runners about including a tall muscular blonde going at just the right pace who I enjoyed following, then overtook for a kilometre while she followed me, then we swapped places again.

After a train journey from Copenhagen to Kalmar in Sweden, we sailed overnight to Visby on the island of Gotland. Overnight watches could have been an excuse to take things easy but instead I headed out for a 7km Swedish run past the port and then along a delightful promenade, partly under the old town walls, then past a large campsite which seemed to settle well into the landscape and not be a blot. Lots of people about including a few other runners, all slower than me.

We had more sailing around Gotland, then another overnight sail, heading SE to Klaipeda in Lithuania. I was on deck from just after 1am, seeing three watches as I didn’t feel tired and was enjoying the various other tall ships visible in the dark and then more as the dawn broke. Klaipeda was to be a port in between two legs of the Tall Ships Race, which made for some great explorations on foot and by bike, and for an interesting 5km Lithuanian run relatively early on Friday morning – later we spent more time exploring some of the square-riggers, and enjoying the party atmosphere with Lithuanian music vying with Omani bagpipers from the RNOV Shabab Oman II.

Roding Valley parkrun – location 44

A visit this morning to Loughton, in Essex but for country bumpkins feeling like the NE edge of London, for the Roding Valley parkrun – my parkrun location 44. The run is around a park/recreation ground next to the eponymous river: flat and a mixture of grass and tarmac plus four bridges. Easy-going for a run and pleasant enough without any real thrills.

I didn’t feel in tip-top condition (and was desperate for a pee), but I wasn’t going to let the 25-minute pacer stay in front of me for too long even if she did seem to be going rather fast. I pulled past her and though after the first km it became clear I was going “too fast” I tried to keep it up and latched onto a young girl who unwittingly pulled me along for the first 4km before she accelerated slightly while my legs really started to complain and I slowed slightly.

I stopped my watch after it had recorded 5km, giving me a final time of 23:22 knocking 9 seconds off my 5km PB. Really pleased with that. The official time was 23:31 which was also a parkrun PB – by one second.

I jogged back to run the last few hundred metres with Claire, then we had cake for Roding Valley parkrun’s sixth-month anniversary: really excellent it was, too.

Hadleigh – parkrun location 43

My 43rd parkrun location was Hadleigh in Essex. I’d been here once before, in January, for the Legacy 10k on the Olympic mountain bike course, the hardest 10k I’ve done by some margin.

The parkrun was easier, but still quite challenging. It starts off with a lot of downhill, initially with hairpin bends and then more than 20 more gentle zigs and zags to descend still steeply, regains a bit of height then loses more to get down to the level of the marshes. A fairly level section near the railway line is followed by an ascent on grass which I’d been warned about but which didn’t seem too demanding in the circumstances, and then a long steep ascent back up those “gentle” zig zags which seemed far from gentle on the way up, the gradient peaking at around 17%.

The woman in pink in the photo chased me for much of the run, tending to be slightly faster on the flat but slightly slower on descents and some ascents, but in the end she had more in the tank for the long uphill slog.

I finished in an official 26:20, not too bad in the circumstances but more than two minutes slower than Bury last week.

After I’d recovered and cheered over the line a good few finishers, I jogged back down the hill to find Claire who was tail-runner today, or tail-walker as we should apparently now call the role. I would encourage people to come to parkrun who are combining running and walking, and wouldn’t turn away someone who wanted to walk it, but I’m less convinced that parkrun should be encouraging people who want a Saturday morning walk, but that’s a decision that has a range of passionately held views.

Afterwards, Claire and I had cake in the cafĂ©, joined by Roderick Hoffman, a parkrun tourist for whom this was event number 199, with Beckenham Place reserved for his 200th in three weeks. He had a lot of interesting stories to tell about his 199 events. My medium-term target remains to visit all of the East of England parkruns, though that’s a moving feast with Billericay added last week and Clare and Haverhill probably not far away.