100 and still going.

parkrun-parkrun-Milestone-T-shirt-100-Running-Short-Sleeve-Shirts-Black-TSMR001S_C100BLACK-4Yesterday I ran my 100th Parkrun. It was on the same course that I ran my first one on the 3rd of August 2013. There was some debate as to whether I was going to run at Tilgate where it all began, or Horsham where I now run about half the time. Horsham is the home run of my running club, but Tilgate will always be my Parkrun home.
I was chatting with a few of the helpers and some even remembered that chap who started out, coming all alone, not really thinking of themselves as a runner to try their first 5k route with other people. Only 6 weeks or so earlier I had put on some trainers and gone out to run for the first time since I was about 14. I couldn’t even manage to get 200 metres without needing to stop for a walk. I can remember that Saturday as being beautifully sunny but not too warm with a smidgen of dew on the grass. Perfect running weather. I had never seen so many people in trainers before and some of them looked very professional. Back then I didn’t really want to attract any attention just plod round, finish it and go home. I didn’t know any other runners at the time and this was like hovering on the fringe of some strange little world. I have grown since, but so has Tilgate. On that beautiful sunny morning Tilgate Parkrun had 222 runners, this morning in the cold wet and drizzle, enough to put off all but the most dedicated, there were 394.
At times like this it is good to take stock andSaulNGemma look back to see just how far you have come. When you look at stats from week to week it is easy to loose sight of the bigger picture. On that first week I don’t think I managed to run the whole 5k. At Tilgate there is a hill called The Chevron which everyone pretends to hate. The regulars are proud of this hill and when the park had some renovations last year and it was missed out there were some dark mutterings about making sure it returned. In fact many didn’t consider a PB without
Chevron to be a real PB at all. Back then on my first run though I am pretty sure that it put the kibosh on any idea I may have had of running the whole route. Since then I have run a considerable distance further, 11 marathons, and my last Half was 1:48:10 per mile, quicker than the pace of my 2013 PB by more than a minute.
On those first few runs I looked on with envy at the pack leaders, who were running in inconceivable times, and it secretly became an ambition to get into the top 100. I would hope each week that there would be a few less runners so I could get closer to that magic
number. 12265907_1650530195187101_1472426441632905633_oI waited till the 12 of April the next year before I finally reached number 94. The most amazing thing is that far from there being fewer people running, like myself as a runner, Tilgate as a Parkrun had grown, there were 310 runners on that day. Looking down the list of finishers I now knew plenty of the names, I was not on the outside looking in any more. I was a runner. Again small gains lead to new ambitions top 50 was going to be impossible, but my time had gone from 34:22 for my first run to 26:32. If I worked hard I could break the 25 minute mark.
I had to wait until September of 2014 before I broke the magic 25 barrier, and even then it was at Horsham, on their 4th event, with no Chevron I was not sure it really counted, but a PB is a PB. I can remember crossing the line breathless and well and truly knackered, and there were plenty of friends around to enjoy the moment with me, however as always it was not enough, I had also beaten the 50th place barrier so the next major target was sub 24. I got there on the 25th of April 2015 with a run of 23:36, and so it goes on.
Back to today and my 100th run. In my dreams I broke the 22 barrier. It didn’t happen. I 12746378_10153947550733594_966776641_ndidn’t even PB my time was 22:34 9 seconds slower than my fastest time at Horsham and 4 seconds slower than my fastest at Tilgate but, today was not really about PB’s. It was that milestone mark which gave me a chance to look back and see what had become of the
wheezing bastard I was 2 and a half years ago. Well my 5k time has been cut by about 12 minutes and I can now run Chevron without needing to walk but more importantly I am no longer an outsider looking in. This morning after my run I was surrounded by friends, people who I have met on this journey that I cannot imagine ever not having in my life. We have been through epic struggles and helped each other through hard times, both in our running lives and that other world that interferes with training. At the cafe after Parkrun there were celebratory cakes they had made for me, chocolate Medals and plenty of laughs and banter, but most importantly there was a feeling that I belonged, amongst people who were as proud of what I had achieved as I was….
Even though I had failed to PB and so was obviously a twat of a loser really 😉

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