The first #ukrunchat training weekend was done at Anglesey but I never attended it. I was unsure about whether it was something I’d get “along with”. I thought I wasn’t a serious enough runner, I usually feel socially awkward and uncomfortable (anyone who’s met me will agree how difficult I can be), and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to fit in with the others there. My doubts got the better of me and I never went. Looking and hearing about the weekend I did think that it sounded quite fun, and maybe me not being a serious runner wouldn’t matter too much.
I’d then heard that there was going to be another one in the Lakes, and I started to reconsider, but it clashed with the London Marathon. So when the Eastbourne #ukrunchat weekend was announced I started to really consider whether it was something I could do. It took me weeks of deliberation, in part due to it’s proximity to my Mexico trip, and in part I thought I just wouldn’t fit in. Eventually I decided I should go – after all, I knew one friend would be there so hopefully if I didn’t pester her too much I’d at least have someone to talk to every now and then if it turned out everyone there hated me.
Friday – Travelling to Eastbourne!
I finished work at 15:00 and headed straight from the office to the motorway to begin my journey down to Eastbourne. This was slow. Very slow. There had been an accident somewhere on the M25 (which is a notoriously bad motorway anyway) and this meant it took around 4hrs30 to do a 3hr20 journey.
Once there it then took about 15 minutes to find somewhere to park, but once I had I joined the #ukrunchat group in The Lamb. Whilst there I’d ordered a steak and ale pie that came with mashed potatoes and vegetables – it seemed like pretty good quality food. I think they made a great choice of where we should meet up, and it was nice to start getting to know people there early too.
By 10pm we were driving to the hostel and the whole group (or most of it) sat around talking for quite some time.
Saturday – Parkrun!
I got up at 07:00 and had some crunchy nut cornflakes for breakfast – a fairly typical breakfast for me, so good to keep some consistency when about to do a day of running. There was a good choice and amount to choose from though – various fruit, and other cereal such as weetabix and some sort of fruity cereal.
Some of the group decided to run from the Eastbourne YHA to the parkrun – a distance of about 4 miles, but instead I opted to get a lift to parkrun about 30 minutes later. Unfortunately I somehow managed to miss the #ukrunchat group photo before the parkrun but I was there for the one afterwards.
The Eastbourne parkrun starts on the grass and fairly early on it loops around passed the start again. The sub-21 minute and sub-20 minute pacers were running more or less together for the first half a mile and had started off at a 5:50min/mile pace. At this sort of pace, if they maintained it, they’d definitely both be sub-20, though quite considerably.
In the first mile one of the local runners (from the same club that had provided the pacers) ran straight into the back of me and just kept on going without even acknowledging he’d done it. It wasn’t a narrow part either, and it wasn’t exactly crowded either.
The temperature was already quite high, despite it being early morning and this was making maintaining any sort of pace hard work. I’d gone into this parkrun with no real plan – I’d just see how I felt at the start and would go with it. I finished the first mile in 6:34, not too bad, so I decided I’d see if I could maintain that pace for at least another mile. In the second half of the mile the sub-21 pacer had dropped to approximately a 6:40min/mile pace so was more realistic. It felt like maybe if I stayed determined I could keep up with the pacer. My legs felt fine, but I felt very warm so was unsure how long I could keep the pace up for at this temperature.
Eventually we got to around 2.5 miles and I decided to finally overtake the pacer and started to hold at an increased pace. As I rounded one corner I could see the finish alongside me, but had already heard that the route goes passed the finish and loops around from the other side. As we looped around I took the chance to overtake a few more runners and then once I could see the finish again I started to speed up. Checking my watch afterwards I noticed it read 20:23 – a new 5K PB!
The official time for the parkrun was 20:24 so not that different, and is still fairly pleasing. It’s nice to have run as part of a team in a new (quite scenic) location, and to have PB’d so soon after a long rest from running. Once I received the parkrun email I found out that I was actually the 12th male and overall finisher out of a field of 233 runners (so more or less top 5%). To make me even happier it turned out I also placed 4th in my category (SM30-34).
After the parkrun we then split into groups – some went back to the YHA in the car whilst the rest decided to run. The pace was slower than I’ve managed before (I have real difficulties going any slower than 9min/mile as it feels like I start to trip over my own feet – I can imagine some people might hate me for that), but it was nice to have a gentle run with the chance to talk to others from #ukrunchat. Eventually though we got to a point where 10 mile runners went one way, and those of us doing 6.5 miles went the other way.
For the 6.5 mile route we eventually got to the coast and ran along the promenade. For the first part of this I’d stayed with the other 6.5 mile runners, but eventually decided that I needed to be a bit anti-social and go off on my own for a while (I did apologise to them later for having done this). From about mile 3 I ran passed the pier, the bandstand, and the old RNLI place. After this I then used Google Maps on my phone to help me find my way back to the hostel as I ran. The last part of the route was on quite a steep hill which was incredibly hard work to run up!
Back at the hostel we sat around in the sun for a while and then once the 10 mile runners returned we then had some bacon rolls (being from Leicester, I’d call them cobs!) for lunch (though there were also vege sausages for the vegetarians amongst us). After a short break a yoga instructor turned up. This is something I’d never done before so was quite open to seeing what it was like. I imagined it would be about flexibility and might help with running, so sounded like a great way to complement the morning’s activities.
We headed outside to a flat area above the YHC and we all laid out yoga matts. For the first half there were a lot of stretches – a lot of which reminded me to a degree of the warm-ups we used to do for Judo, though with a large degree of “showiness” (the best word I could think of to describe it) thrown in. It felt like this type of yoga was a little pretentious, and maybe not for me. I stuck it out though as opinions can easily change. This eventually moved indoors to a “meditation” session where everyone had to start chanting. I think if anyone had walked in at that point they may have thought that #ukrunchat was some odd cult that had invaded for the weekend. Not far off I guess! I joke, maybe.
After the yoga was over we then had the #ukrunchat bake off. For this I was one of the three judges so got to try all of the cakes, but had to be very judgemental about them. Usually I just eat cake and enjoy it, but as part of the judging we decided to judge them on their appearance, and to very carefully taste each one. We judged each cake on both of these criteria and scored each out of 5 for a total score out of 10. The Canadian “Nanimos” (one of the vegan choices) won the bake-off, with #ukrunchat themed cup cakes coming a close second, and then the truffles and Pims sponge cake coming in joint third. All the cakes were great and tasted so good, so a massive well done to all that took part!
After the bake-off there was then more time sitting around before we went down to the nearby park for Annabeth’s (@glittermousie) session on being mindful about running (be sure to check out her blog post too!). For this we warmed up a little first and then took a few gentle runs around the park. For each lap we had to think about something different – the number of times our left foot strikes the floor, the number of steps we take on average between breaths, how any pains or niggles feel, what we can hear whilst running, and what we can smell whilst running.
This session then ended with a gentle cool down before heading back to the YHA. I enjoyed this session far more than the yoga – what I took from this session is that when running it doesn’t matter what you think about, but it’s good to give your brain a task to do. It helps you to be mindful of what your body is telling you too.
There was then lasagna and salad which we all sat down in the main hall to eat, and then later there was a short talk on the use of balance boards and the chance to try them out. The importance of these are that they can help to strengthen the muscles in your feet and can help with the arches.
The rest of the evening was spent talking in the main hall until everyone, one by one, turned in for the night.
Sunday – On the Downs
Today was to be a 6 mile run, so we got up at 6:45 and went for breakfast. Once again I went for crunchy nut cornflakes and tea, but this time decided to also have a banana. Sometimes it’s good to have that little extra fuel before a run.
The weather seemed a little cooler than the day before, but I decided that shorts and t-shirt would still be warm enough. I’m glad I stuck with that decision as by the time we were outside the temperature was comfortable. If I’d ran at my normal pace I’d probably have sweated quite a bit! To start with I ran towards the front of the pack as we went up the hill and stayed near the front as we passed the golf course also. I didn’t want to go full speed as I wanted to enjoy the scenery as much as I could – I even stopped to take photographs every now and then.
Running on the South Downs
After about a mile I noticed my friend had been struggling – I think the combination of her giving blood recently and her ankle injury weren’t the best combination and she’d fallen back a little. At this point I decided that no matter who was at the back of our group I’d be behind them to make sure that if anything happened they’d have someone there. As it was my friend at the back for a portion of this it made it easier for me to stay back – I couldn’t bear to see anything happen to her, and wanted to make sure she’d be okay. She did a great job though – it was a difficult run in the sun, on an uneven surface with many declines and inclines that can’t have been easy on the ankle, but she managed to complete the whole run. I didn’t want to say anything, but I couldn’t have been more pleased for her.
Fairly early on in the run we also passed another running group that I think were called “Run Wednesdays” – they’d seen us at the parkrun the day before (and I’m sure I remember seeing someone from their club there too).
Once back at the hostel we then had a sausage roll (again with a vegetarian option available where needed), and then prepared ourselves to get out of the hostel for 10:00. We did leave a little after this though as it took some time for us all to pack our things and get ready. It was then nice to go down to the seafront for a while and to enjoy the pier and the sea before heading home from an action-packed weekend.
It was a fantastic weekend and well organised by Howard Chambers (@Howard50at50). There was a rough outline of what we could do each day, but nothing was strict – we did what we could, when we could. Everyone could do the runs at whatever pace they wanted and they did a good job of accommodating everyone. It was great to see so many “strangers” (even though a lot of us had spoken on Twitter previously) working together, talking about common interests and just having a great time. Even though I held back considerably on interacting with people I did have a great time and I was so glad that I went. Every person I spoke to was incredibly kind and I thought they were all great. I don’t think I’ll ever have doubts about going to one of these weekends again, and it’s likely I’d go again! I also encourage everyone to try one! I think we all left there with new thoughts about running, inspiration, and new friends.