The fine city of Norwich has a pub for every day, a church for every Sunday and more recently a parkrun for every season.
However, during the pandemic there was none of these facilities, as we entered total lockdown. As well as following the science, the government also followed the lobbying in terms of determining which facilities to reopen first. The church argued there is a long standing legal right to worship. The pubs followed the economic arguments, along with the science – that it was slightly safer if you were outside, eating a scotch egg with your household, and before 10pm. The parkrun produced a full scientific study about the low risks of transmission outside, and short times runners would be in close contact. Yet the parkrun was closed the longest.
Parkrunners will remember the last parkrun before lockdown and the first one afterwards. On the 14th March 2020, there were question marks whether the parkrun would go ahead. For those who attended there was strange feeling that this would be the last for a long time. I only attended that day because the football match I had intended to watch was cancelled. Who had made the right decision ?
The 24th July 2021 was a joyous occasion when the parkrun successfully overcame the many hurdles of restarting such a large scale event. For myself there a big change, that I hadn’t anticipated.
My running times had deteriorated during the pandemic. My one virtual parkrun had been slow and so far removed from the real event that I didn’t repeat. I took the first parkrun easy, as it seemed sensible to ease gently back in. I didn’t get a PB, but it was my best time since 2016. The deterioration during the pandemic was missing the competitive element, rather than a drop in fitness. Also maybe the closure of the pubs had been a good thing after all !
13 consecutive course specific personal bests followed. This was a challenge of logistics as much as running, as I effectively completed a tour of nearly all the parkruns I had done before. The improvements were supported by rest weeks also, rather than competing every week.
Then covid hit again. This time a break was enforced by personal isolation and illness over Christmas 2021. Fully recovered but maybe not fully fit, I attempted my 14th consecutive personal best at Catton. While I was only 7 seconds away from a personal best, the streak had been broken. I thought about resetting the goals, maybe the target was a PB every month, rather than a streak. That didn’t feel right, so I had to start again.
Therefore, the parkrun tour began again, returning to places like Huntingdon and Rutland Water that I thought I would never visit again. The resumption of international travel allowed a return trip to Rouen in France, where a 5 minute improvement from my previous visit 3 years earlier showed how much I had improved. It was fitting that my attempt at a 14th consecutive parkrun was again at Catton. Unlike at Rouen where the target for a PB wasn’t too challenging, I had to beat a time of only 3 months earlier of 25:14. I succeeded and managed to beat it by 24 seconds, as Catton became my 4th sub 25 min course.
So where to next and what I have learned ? Well a break from both the pub and parkruns was actually a good thing. I do both of them less now, which has meant a weight loss due to less pub visits and better running performance from a more varied training regime of fast parkruns, slower runs in between, and track sessions with Tony as part of the Tri Anglia training
There will be no parkrun this weekend. Next stop is a return to church, at my son’s wedding. A final return to normality with a large wedding with international visitors.
So where to for my next parkrun ? There are only 2 parkrun courses I have not returned to since the parkrun resumed in July 2021. Heslington and Centennial Park. Heslington is where I was on the 24th March 2020, as I picked up my daughter from York University as they entered lockdown. My daughter is still in York, so I have that one planned soon. After that only Centennial Park is left. My previous time there was 36:29, so a PB is virtually guaranteed. The problem will be getting there – it is in Sydney, Australia. At least with the recent heatwave, I have had lots of practice of running in the heat !