Volunteering

That was some wind this morning, the kind of wind that is going to seriously annoy you on 2 of the 4 straight bits at Strathclyde parkrun, fortunately I wasn’t running today, I was helping out at it – result! I mentioned in my previous blog about parkrun that I was going to make a serious effort to volunteer at one soon, I seem to have picked the right day for it certainly, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The view from my marshal point, not bad!

I arrived at around 0845, a little nervous as I always am when I need to meet new people but I had no need to be as everyone was friendly and welcoming. My first task was to be handed a tent pole to assist with putting up a wee tent in the prevailing hurricane – as someone with their Chief Scout Award this should have been easy meat – but it was no nijer tent like we used in Scouts so I probably was more of a hindrance at this point. Soon enough the rest of the volunteers arrived and we were issued with our high-vis jacket and lanyard with emergency information etc. on it, turns out being a marshal has some more responsibility than making sure people go the right way! I was assured I was in for a pleasant morning and was assigned to marshal point number 2 (the one I secretly wanted anyway!). I walked round the kilometre and a half to 2 kilometres to my point with the man who was going to be at marshal point 3 – he had 2.5k to walk. We had a good chat abut parkrun and running and I enjoyed learning about his running past and how well his children and grandchildren do at running (one of his sons seems to be a runner of quite some repute with some really impressive times). One note of encouragement for me was that he told me he didn’t put on a pair of running shoes until the age of 49 – it’s never too late to get started. We eventually got to my point and my fellow volunteer wandered off into the sunlight / cloud / rain / wind to his point further on. Here I was, now all I had to do was wait for the runners.

Continue to enjoy yourself in a safe and orderly manner – thankyou!

The wait was quite pleasant and it wasn’t long until I saw the runners streaming up the South West side of Strathclyde Loch. I could already see one guy had opened up a big lead (but it’s not a race!) – he was fair flying into that wind. All I had to do at my marshal point was make sure people went the right way along a fork in the path and offer some encouragement, I was a bit hesitant at first, not quite sure what to say but I soon got the hang of it. The reactions I got from all the runners made the morning really worthwhile. A few high 5s, load of people saying thanks to me, a few comments about the wind and a big smile from most had me smiling all morning as well.

A nice rainbow summed up the morning

Another great thing about being a marshal is getting to see the runners that are usually way ahead of me, the speed they go at it something I will hope to approach one day. Gradually more and more people came past and I recognised some of the people that are usually around the same speed as me, all looking far more comfortable than I feel when running! More and more people passed by with a friendly wave, a thumbs up, a “thanks marshal” or a smile. Being able to offer some encouragement to the runners on their way back past me for the second time was really rewarding, that was a tough stretch into a fearsome wind and every single one of them had all of my respect for getting out there on such a rotten morning and getting it done. When I said “great run” to them, I actually did mean it. I think I said well done, great effort to people just out a walk or a run who weren’t doing parkrun but even they smiled and said thanks.

I did not have to utilise the lifebelt – phew

While standing at the marshal point a couple of people stopped and asked me what was going on. I actually felt really proud to be able to tell them about parkrun and how it was happening all over the UK and how it was free and open to all abilities, I think I bored one guy with how much I was banging on about it as he wandered off mid-sentence! Soon enough the tail walker came by and I could pick up my little signs and make my way back round to the start/finish area.

On arrival back at the start we were thanked for our work and off home I went – via the bakers, I think I deserved a wee treat after being out in that cold! Overall, I loved this morning. Volunteering at parkrun is amazing, the appreciation shown by all the runners makes it such a rewarding and worthwhile experience and I would urge everyone to give it a go, I will certainly be doing it again – if they let me…

Marshal point 2 is the best marshal point.

Just to add that just as I was about to hit “publish” on this, I got a text from parkrun saying:

Stuart, thanks for volunteering today at Strathclyde parkrun. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by us and all the runners” – that was nice.

This is part of my London Marathon training blog, I’m running it for the RNIB, if you would like to sponsor me a quid or something you can text SMTR76 £1 to 70070. Or you can visit my justgiving page here or you could simply share this blog, that helps me massively too. Thanks a lot.

Get the Tunes on

Aloha, my wife tagged me in this picture today on Facebook:

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Scary…

and it scared me a little, I thought it was frightening.  I was also stuck out in the rain for a lot of today:

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Disappointingly wet

I couldn’t stop marrying up the frightening aspect of the 150 days post with thinking about thunderbolts and lightning being very, very frightening due to being out in the rain and I made a note to stick that onto my running playlist.  Then I thought I may as well write a short blog about it – so here it is.  At the end I will try to ascertain what I would have on a 1 hour long running playlist.

Before I get going remember you can sponsor me here for the RNIB – a charity that does wonderful things for so many people.  You can also text SMTR76 £5 to 70070 to slip me a fiver – for the charity!

I often wonder what the best type of music is to run to, there are loads of differing opinions and lots of playlists available.  My first instinct is do go with a bit of rock music.  For starters I would look towards “Enter Sandman” by Metallica.  Ever since I saw WWE/ECW One Night Stand and The Sandman’s epic entrance I have associated this song with exercise and aggression and for some reason that helps me run!

It takes a while to get going  but it is worth it.  Another obvious one is Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills”, it seems a nice speed and motivates me well.

These were pretty cool blasting out at full blast as I jogged along but then I discovered the tremendous Leo Moracchioli.  He seems to do a load of pretty awesome metal covers of more mainstream songs.  I think he is touring Scotland soon, if it wasn’t a school night I would be there!  Here are his covers of “Africa” and “Mamma Mia” – honestly, they rock!

Enough of the metal though, anyone that knows me will know that I love my cheesy music, alas though, ,Build Me Up Buttercup doesn’t work for me!  Summer of 69 and Livin’ On A Prayer are alright but this song here:

has a pretty perfect beat to help me along.  I should have mentioned this in my podcast blog but I used to love listening to the Christian O’Connell breakfast show podcast, what a funny guy he was – with Richie too.  I could also have mentioned him in my blog about how running makes you feel because listening to that podcast every morning on the way to work helped take my mind off things that were worrying me – a colleague once asked me why I was so happy in the mornings – this guy’s breakfast show was the reason.  But anyway, he re-introduced me to Spagna, “Call Me” – I think he got into trouble for playing it once on Absolute Radio.  If you live in Melbourne listen to him on Gold 104.3 or here if you are elsewhere in the world (I listen on an app called Simple Radio.)

Classical music is also another interesting one.  I say this without a word of a lie but the following tune gave me a warm glow in the final kilometre of the parkrun when I got a PB.  A genuine, literal warm glow all over my body, it was weird!  It’s the music that the BBC use for the London Marathon:

Another inspiring and uplifting tune that I can’t find on Deezer anywhere is from the soundtrack of one of the best films ever – not Happy Gilmore but Remember the Titans.  It’s called “Titan Spirit” and would be on my playlist if I could find it.

These links are taking ages to appear so I will cut them out now!

Other music I find motivates me or helps me run include: “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac, “Stronger” by Kanye West, “Cum on Feel the Noize” by Quiet Riot and “Enemies” by Shinedown (another nod to the wrestling).  “Party Hard” by Andrew WK is perfect for the speed I run and “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters helps out.  For some weird reason my first song is always “Fascination” by Alphabeat – go figure!

One final link actually, I think this is a Glasgow or Scottish band but this tune is just so happy and catchy I couldn’t miss it out, it’s by Tom McGuire and the Brassholes – filmed under the M8 somewhere, give it a watch!

Anyway, here is my hour long playlist, let me know any other decent tunes I could get in there!

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Running playlist – it would be on random so this isn’t the order.

 

 

Does running make you feel good?

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A nice sign my wife made me

First of all let me say thanks for all the feedback on my Dunoon sporting blog!  I forgot to mention my unreasonably successful basketball exploits and some of the names that helped out at the sporting clubs, I may go back to that later.  Also thanks to everyone who has shared my blog, donated money or even sent a message to me.  All of these things are really important to me and keep my motivation up.

I made a good bit of progress today – I wasn’t having the greatest day in the world and my initial thought was “I can’t wait to get out a run tonight”.  For me, that is progress!  In the past I would have thought “I can’t wait to get to McDonalds for a Large Signature BBQ burger meal with chilli cheese bites and a strawberry milkshake” or “I can’t wait to go to KFC for a large Fillet Burger Box meal with a small popcorn chicken (with beans and a Pepsi) or “I can’t wait to go to Burger King for a large Whopper meal and 2 chicken strips”.  Ha, reading back there I see I think about that too much 🙂 Then, if Kirsty was working, I would get home, go to bed about 6, waken up around 9 and feel awful!  But today, today I decided to go for a run instead.

I can pretty much pinpoint the exact moment I knew I was a “bit of a worrier”.  In Primary 2 David Mitchell (who was in Primary 3, I was in a composite class) brought in a Dundee United pennant to school.  At the end of the day I held it aloft as if I were celebrating a win – but it broke.  I went home that night worried sick that I was going to get into trouble for breaking this pennant but the next day nothing was said about it.  I felt a little relief but then I realised I had forgotten my library book so I started to worry about that.  Then, and I remember this as clear as yesterday, I thought to myself “Hey, I am always worried about something” – for a 6 year old that is a pretty weird thought!

Fast forward 36 years and I still hold the same thought.  I know myself I need to make a real effort to calm myself down and to stop worrying but it isn’t as easy because, I will always find something else to occupy my mind negatively.  It could be a health thing, a work thing or something as trivial as someone not saying hello to me when they pass me, I will immediately go to the worst case scenario and let it play over and over.  These feelings get worse at times of high stress in my life, for example when my Mum wasn’t well.  It could also have played a part in what happened to my eye so I am trying lots of different things to help me out and prevent it happening again.  At a visit to the doctor I was told my blood pressure was too high and the thing that brought it down the best was relaxing (as well as losing weight, cutting down on the salt and the blood pressure pills!).  I wouldn’t say I suffered from anxiety, I have seen people have an awful time with that, I am definitely an anxious person though.  One aspect I am really lucky with and which helps me out a lot are my family, friends and colleagues, a more supportive bunch of people I couldn’t hope for.

1 thing that helps my state of mind most though is getting out a run.  I have a few ideas about why this may be, here they are:

  • Breathing – people say deep breathing helps you relax – when you are running you do a lot of deep breathing (too much if you are like me and not the fittest!)
  • Short term, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed goals.  Ha, it’s like a job interview here…On a treadmill you are constantly looking for when the kilometre is over, when the mile has passed, how long you have left etc.  When you meet each of these milestones you get a wee boost.  One wee 5k run sees you aim for the 1k, 2k, 3k, 4k, 5k, 1 mile, 2 mile, 3 mile, quarter way, third way, halfway, 2 thirds way and 3 quarters way – that’s 13 mini targets in the space of about 26 minutes, one feeling of success every 2 minutes – you don’t get that success rate in too many places.  Your mind is also fixed on these goals, on your breathing and on putting one foot in front of the other, you don’t have time to think about anything else really.
  • You are listening to something you enjoy.  I have a few good podcasts that really make me laugh that I love to listen to – this in itself will put you at ease, never mind the fact that you are running about.
  • Endorphins – I don’t know too much about these but apparently they are things that make you feel good and are released when you exercise.  The so-called “runner’s high” can leave you feeling amazing after a run
  • The social aspect of running – this is something I really like.  When you are out running other runners will say hello to you!  It doesn’t seem much but everyone from the fastest Callum Hawkins to the slowest Stuart Taylor will give you  nod or a smile as they pass you by and that wee bit of sociability isn’t too present in many other areas of life nowadays – don’t get me started on the self-service scanners at the supermarket.
  • Being able to chart improvement – who doesn’t like getting better at things?  The more you run, the better you get.  That’s one of the things I love about parkrun, being able to chart your progress over the months – again, a feeling of satisfaction.
  • Increase in self-esteem and confidence – for many reasons running can boost confidence.  It may be that you can lose weight and fit into a jacket you haven’t been able to in a while or you may feel fitter when you don’t get out of puff going up the stairs – it all combines to boost the old self-image.
  • Being able to enter races like the London Marathon give you a target, something to look forward to, something to aim for and the chance to help a great charity like the RNIB.
  • Spending quality time with the wife!  Kirsty and I often head to the gym together, it’s something different than sitting on the couch watching Netflix.

Hopefully this blog is ok.  I know there is still a bit of a stigma talking about things like this but I reckon it is important.  I know I am very lucky and have a really good support system around me but other people aren’t so lucky.  I also know that some people may be reading this and thinking they need a lot more than just going out a run to help them and for those people, I really hope they get the help that they need, mental health services in the UK are brutally underfunded – although real progress is being made in this regard.

You can visit my justgiving page here if you would like to help me raise money for the RNIB or you can do the following:

Text SMTR76 £1 to 70070 to donate £1

Text SMTR76 £2 to 70070 to donate £2

Text SMTR76 £3 to 70070 to donate £3

Text SMTR76 £4 to 70070 to donate £4

Text SMTR76 £5 to 70070 to donate £5

Text SMTR76 £10 to 70070 to donate £10

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Parkruns are Gallus

Parkruns are amazing, they are great, they are fun and you never regret running them (although you will regret not running them). I would probably say they are the biggest and potentially most important thing to improve health in the UK since the smoking in public places ban. I am incorporating parkruns into my training for the 2019 London Marathon which I am running for the RNIB (text SMTR76 £1 to 70070 if you want to sponsor me a quid). This blog is about today’s parkrun at Strathclyde Park, a great parkrun, where else would you get views like this on a Saturday morning while keeping (or getting) fit?

I am not too sure of the history of parkrun, I know it began in London at Bushy parkrun and Leeds University played a big part in its growing popularity and now it is in many locations around the world. You could find out more at their UK site.

Parkrun is a free timed 5k race which happens all over the UK in various park at 9am (0930 in Scotland – we get a longer lie up here). They set you all off on your run and start a timer. As you cross the finish line you get a token which is then scanned with your own personal barcode and hey presto – later on that morning you get a text message telling you your time. Today’s parkrun seem to have been heavily supported by the CO-Op.

It was another crisp morning, not cold enough for frost and ice but cold enough! Classic anticyclone in winter weather (one for the geography geeks).

Here is where we got our goody boxes at the end, more of that later
Well branded by the CO-OP
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I liked these inspirational messages

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Always a welcome site at the end

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Dogs always welcome

Watch out, it will break your arm apparently!

Soon we got to the start of the event. I always like this bit. First of all everyone has to stand on the grass! We don’t have priority in the park and everyone has equal access etc. This is a decent moment because they wish people Happy Birthday, congratulate people on milestone parkruns and ask for volunteers. Parkrun couldn’t operate without the amazing volunteers and I really should make the effort to volunteer myself but I am always scared I will mess it up! I have volunteered at junior parkruns a few times but not at Strathclyde Park, that will change next month, I promise.

So, we set off. It is important to remember that parkrun is not a race, it is a run, you are running against yourself and your previous times or you are running for the fun of it. I realised this on my 2nd parkrun. I struggled round and was stuck for ages behind 2 younger children. In the last 200 metres I “sprinted” past them, feeling all smug and a little guilty, but mainly smug that I was defeating them. When they tore past me 100 metres later I came to the convenient realisation that it is not a race!

You very often see the same people at these runs. One of my favourites is the man with the pram who always effortlessly runs past me despite pushing his child in a pram. I also was running behind a lady in a New York City Marathon jacket, again making it look effortless whilst I struggled on! I couldn’t get past her at all! But she summed up parkrun for me by asking people who looked like they may be struggling if they were ok – all runners seem to be really nice.

The massed start

As we continued through the run I realised I wasn’t going to crack 25 minutes today. I came pretty close. My final time according to my Garmin watch was 25 minutes 11 seconds, my second best time I think.

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My splits show I could have probably pushed kilometres 2-4 a little more, but I am always scared of burning out, I need to trust the training! After the race was finished we got our little boxes from the CO-OP, it contained a healthy recipe book, a tin of chick peas, some tinned tomatoes (I love them) and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil.

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So, there finished another parkrun. I can’t quite get over to you how much I enjoy these. They tick every box for what a good ethical organisation should be. They combat lots of problems we are facing at the moment. They benefit you physically, mentally and socially and if I were a doctor I would be prescribing them left right and centre.

Just as i was about to publish this my result came in. You get it sent as a text and you can also see it on the parkrun website along with your progress if you want. 295 runners today, brilliant!

Thanks to parkrun UK, the amazing volunteers (especially the wee girl with the cowbell at the turning point) and the CO-OP for today, that was great – again.

If you have managed to read this far and want to find out more about the work of the RNIB who I am running the London Marathon for you can check them out here and if you want to sponsor me you can do so here or text SMTR76 £1 to 70070. You can also donate 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 pounds that way too.

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My reward for finishing today

What to listen to when running – Part 1 – a blog about running with nothing about running in it…

 

Something that I am fairly interested in is reading about running – and surprisingly little is written about what is good to listen to whilst you are running.  Maybe it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things but it is really important to me for a load of reasons.

The first question is whether to listen to anything at all or not..  If I am doing a race like the Glasgow 10k there is no way I will be listening to anything, I want to soak in the atmosphere and the cool choir at the top of St. Vincent Street, they are awesome.  I will definitely be going earphoneless during the London Marathon, no way I am missing out on any of the atmosphere of the day.  On training runs, parkruns and treadmill runs I will always have some kind of sound in my ears.

The second question is music or speech?  I would go speech every time, it serves as more of a distraction and the wrong type of music can get my wee legs moving too quickly and tire me out too soon!  Although there is a place for music at times.

But anyway, I am a massive podcast and audiobook fan.  They serve as the best distraction ever when out running.  Here are a few of my favourites:

AUDIOBOOKS

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – gee this is a great book.  It looks at Ultra Running, explores the physiological and some of the psychological aspects of running and is interspersed with some amazing characters like Jenn Shelton and Cabayo Blanco.  If you can read (or listen) to this book and not go for a run afterwards then there is something wrong.  I would have said that Christopher McDougall is responsible for a lot of the sales of running shoes in the world given the motivational message in his book but he puts forward a very good case for running barefoot…I was almost convinced myself.

Running: A Love Story by Dom Harvey – a book about a middle aged man who suddenly decides to lose weight and get himself fit by running (it could be me but I am 10 year behind him in terms of getting going!).  This again is an inspirational read/listen.  The whole concept of running for a time versus running for enjoyment is explored, again, I couldn’t wait to get my marathon training started once I read this.

Don’t Stop Me Now: 26.2 Tales of a Runner’s Obsession by Vassos Alexander – another late entrant into running, the author easily motivates and makes you want to get your legs moving!  He tells the story of the final 26 mile run leg of an iron man triathlon interspersed with other running stories and contributions from famous names in the running world about how they got started in running and what role running currently plays in their lives.

I really could have mentioned the 3 authors above in my last blog about who had inspired me but I wanted that to be more personal, these 3 men have helped me get out there when I otherwise wouldn’t have bothered, I would really recommend all 3 of their books – thanks a lot for writing them!!

PODCASTS

I love podcasts – there, I have said it!  I spend about an hour and a half in the car every day, time that could be spent learning a language or catching up with current affairs, but I regularly use the time to become expert on wrestling, football and trivia.  Here are a few of my favourites.

Quickly Kevin, Will He Score? – 90s football podcast hosted by Josh Widdecombe, one of the funniest things you will hear.  I used to listen in the car but now save the podcast for some of the longer runs I go on, they are the perfect length for a 10k run.  People must think I really love running when I have such a big grin on my face, I am just enjoying the podcast so much though.

Fighting Talk – An old favourite.  A sporting panel show quiz type comedy affair.  Maybe not the best to run with as it makes me laugh too much and interrupts my breathing!  But these are the sort of thing you can listen to again and again.

Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy  – I’m not sure how to describe this, part sporting, part philosophical, part comedy, these 3 people talk about all aspects of their lives and there are some quite strong motivational messages, especially from the Ping Pong Guy (Matthew Syed) who is especially interesting, listening to him gives you a belief in yourself and in the world.

Lineker and Baker – The new pod on the block.  Danny Baker has to be my favourite broadcaster ever, when I first discovered his original 606 show it hit me like a sledgehammer, it was my idea of perfection and I would tape them off the radio and listen to them all the time.  Him and Gary Lineker just sit and chat, it’s great!  So simple.  Danny Baker’s autobiographies could have been in the audiobook section of this blog as well but I would have been here forever.  Danny’s thick London accent keeps me going as I train to run around some of his old stomping grounds in April.

So, there we have it, a blog about running but nothing much about running in it!  I am going to do a parkrun tomorrow so I will write about that soon.  I flaming love parkruns!

What do others like to listen to when running anyway?  Anyone got any new ideas?

That’s it,

Stuart