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[livejournal.com profile] kargicq announced on Facebook that he had signed up for the Great North 10K and asked if anyone else felt like joining him so I said yes, because why not?

The Great North 10K is organised by the same people who do the Great Manchester Run. Their flagship run is a half marathon, The Great North Run, and the Great North 10K used part of that route through Gateshead and along the side of the Tyne. The first half of the final kilometre of the route had been crowdsourced with the name "The Slog on the Tyne". As the run approached this began to loom quite large in my mind (Manchester is pretty flat) with chatter in various social media places remarking on how terrible it was and [livejournal.com profile] kargicq advising against attempting to get a personal best on the day, though he also said the slog wasn't as bad as people were making out (while also mentioning that he had walked up it in 2015).

Before the race selfie

My plan for the race, therefore, was not to get too carried away. There was a fair amount of down at the start so I figured around 5:05m/km on the down, 5:20m/km on the flat and I'd take the slog at the end at whatever pace I could manage having, hopefully, still some reserves of energy at that point. While a smaller race than the Great Manchester Run, the route was also a lot narrower than I was used to and so it often felt more crowded - particularly on any upward inclines where people tended to slow down while I was generally trying to keep to the 5:20m/km pace I was using on the flat. There was a tight turn at the halfway mark, with an announcer encouraging everyone to "do an aeroplane" as they went around the turn. I aeroplaned around the corner and then got to wave at [livejournal.com profile] kargicq who was a couple of hundred metres behind me.

The slog really wasn't that bad. Below is the Strava log for the run. There was a big banner over the route at the start of the slog, so you can see from the log below where I slow down in alarm when I see the banner, decide actually that the slope isn't too bad, gradually accelerate up it, slow down for a moment at the top and then accelerate again as I sprint for the finish. The run finished in Gateshead stadium with the theme from Chariots of Fire playing as you enter the stadium. My final time was a respectable 52m 34s - faster than I ran the Great Manchester Run in 2015, though slower than my time this year.

After the race selfie

[livejournal.com profile] kargicq's daughter is a keen amateur photographer (mostly of birds) and I gather she is somewhat contemptuous of the quality of the official run photos and also amazed at the price they charge. As [livejournal.com profile] bunn has noted, its not necessarily that easy to get good shots of the runners and there are a lot expenses involved that may not be obvious to a 12-year-old. There were a lot of me, so I feel I got pretty good value.

Some of the official photos under the cut )
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Me Under the Cut )

The finish line. Two things strike me about this photo. Firstly, the finish line was, apparently, a lot more crowded than it felt on the ground and secondly, while I was aware there was a bunch of squaddies in front of me, I was not aware that the Hulk and Iron Man were behind me.
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That's 2 minutes faster than last year so I'm pretty pleased.

I actually started out going pretty fast, around the speed I normally run when practising for 5km, but since I was feeling pretty good and I know I run faster than practice in actual races, I decided to go with it and maintain that general pace as long as I could (which, it transpired, was around 7km). Despite the doom-laden predications of at least one of my weather apps it was hot and sunny. I was glad I hadn't worn a long sleeve top. I did wonder if it was a good idea to skip the water station at 4km but I don't habitually drink when running and now didn't seem to be the time to start. I did go through the run-through shower at 5km, though regretted it a little as my new (vari-focal) glasses spent the next 500 metres slipping down my nose.

It was around 5km I started noticing people, most notably children in, I would guess, the 6-10 age bracket standing in the crowds with their little hands held out hopefully for high fives as people went past. So I amused myself for the next 2-3km by obliging. I was actually a little surprised that more people weren't interacting with the crowd, though I don't think it is something I would have thought of had I not read [personal profile] nanila's account of the Worcester 10k. But hey! I wasn't going to win any medals and spreading the fun seemed like a worthwhile thing to do.

Around 7km the faster than normal pace started to hit home and I slowed down to about 5minutes 15 seconds per kilometre, which was the pace I'd been practising at, but everything definitely began to feel rather like hard work. I was cheered up by spotting one of the regular Park Run directors cheering in the crowd around 7km, and the Team Humphrey bus at about 8km ("Team Humphrey" is the name coined by the Manchester Children's hospital for whom I was running - I've no idea why) - in both cases it was a boost that someone in the crowd recognised me (or my T-shirt). About this point I also spotted one of the regular park runners just ahead of me and keeping her in sight, helped me keep the pace up. I was mildly perplexed that I couldn't catch her up, because these days I'm faster than her at park run, though when I first started out I often used to follow just behind her - I guess she's my informal pacing mascot. Looking at the results I was over a minute faster than her overall so she must have actually started ahead of me. I managed to speed up a little in the final few hundred metres, but I wouldn't claim to have sprinted for the finish.

This year I experimented with listening to podcasts as I went around the course, the idea being that they wouldn't drown out the various musical acts one passes en route but would be more interesting than silence. As a result, I had the slightly surreal experience of listening to [twitter.com profile] JonnElledge (with his CityMetic hat on) discussing public transportation in LA for a large part of the run (shortly after leaving the bold reporter from Welcome to Night Vale cowering under his desk because Management had left their office). It was certainly easier to switch attention into and out of spoken material, but it happened to the extent that I don't recall a great deal about public transportation in LA - nor the nature of identity in the suburbs of large cities. By the time I remembered to switch podcasts off I was, apparently, into an episode of "From our Own Correspondant" but I hadn't heard any of it because of the noise around the finish.

Each year, I've been fascinated by the loot that is put into the finishers bags. Presumably it is all provided by sponsors and mostly it consists of obvious things like energy snacks, but there's often something a little left-of-field. This year that was a 500g bag of basmati rice. I'm assuming carbo-loading was behind the reasoning there.

According to the website I was 5,082th overall, 53rd woman between 45 and 49, 470th person between 45 and 49 and 630th woman overall. My nemesis (i.e., the woman between 45-49 who regularly as clockwork beats me at park run) was exactly 2 minutes faster than I was and came in 3,695th overall. Since she volunteered at park run yesterday (as did I), I have now identified her. As well as running faster than I do, she has a very cute umbrella. Another park run regular spotted me as I wandering around central Manchester afterwards. He'd managed a time in the 46-47 mark, my neighbour of the Manchester Museum and Art Gallery Mafia managed 45 minutes, 47 seconds. But they're both men and so sadly, but frankly, in a different league.
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I'll be running the Great Manchester Run for the 3rd time tomorrow. Excitements include a major difference of opinion on the subject of the weather from the two apps on my phone (one thinks the sun will be out, the other thinks it will be chucking it down with rain) and the closure of Oxford Road coupled with the refusal of Transport for Greater Manchester to provide any information about which buses will be going where tomorrow. I suppose I will just have to leave early. I gather there is a "charity village" where I can hang out if I arrive ridiculously ahead of my start time.

In more genuine excitement, BBC 2 will be filming the run. They filmed it in 2014 but since my wave didn't set off until after the show had ended, there didn't seem to be much chance of anyone seeing me. This time I'm in the white wave (no. 10644) which sets off at 11.55am. The live race coverage is from 11am - 1pm so I reckon there's about a 1 in a 1,000 chance that someone watching might catch sight of me!!

I'm running in aid of Manchester Children's Hospital but I'm fairly sure that the cost of the T-shirt has now been covered by donations - though, I suppose, if I try really hard at helping myself to freebies in the charity village I might still manage to cost them more than I've raised.
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I've caught up with Zombies! Run! so could use suggestions for something else to listen to while running.


Apr. 30th, 2016 02:46 pm
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Almost exactly a year after I managed to get my 5k time at a Parkrun under 25 minutes, I have managed to squeak in under 24 minutes at 23:59. I would have been even faster if I hadn't had to stop to retie my shoelaces (Go Me!). I was following a pacer for the first 3k, but lost him during the shoelace incident (shoelaces are one of the banes of my life!). The last 1.5k were pretty grim, to be honest, but I kept lecturing myself sternly about keeping the pace up and that obviously worked.

I was 91st overall, 12th female and 3rd woman between the ages of 45 and 49. I'm normally second in my age group. Having inspected the results I suspect some young whippersnapper has had birthday and moved up an age band.

Further inspection of the 11 women ahead of me reveals that 1 is under 10, 1 is 15-19, 6 are 20-24, 2 are 45-49, 1 is 50-54 (where are all the keen female runners between 25 and 44? That's a pretty strange age distribution). So if I were 5, 10, 15 or 20 years younger, I would be first in my age class (this is obviously deeply unfair at some level, especially since all of us in the 45-55 bracket are regulars and the other three are significantly faster than I am). Yes, I know it is a run not a race but, like [livejournal.com profile] ladyofastolat, I am easily motivated by the concept of levelling up, and moving up the rankings (as well as reducing my time) serves that purpose. Mind you, both of these measures are going to top out soon. It took me a year to drop my time from 30 minutes to 25 minutes for a 5k, and then another year to take another minute off that. It is likely to be slow going from here on, and time is not on my side, especially given the limits on how much time I'm prepared to devote to training.


Apr. 16th, 2016 08:57 pm
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panoramic view of runners

It was an interesting morning to have agreed to volunteer for Parkrun. For those, not in the know, Parkrun is a not-for-profit organisation that holds free 5K runs in parks worldwide on Saturday mornings. Stoke Gifford parish council (who must be wondering what has hit them) have required Parkrun to pay a fee to use the park. Cue much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention a great deal of newspaper print and tweeting. Little Stoke run, as a result, was cancelled and presumably will remain so for the forseeable future.

As a result of all the publicity, of course, there were a huge number of new runners at Parkrun this morning. I lost count of the number of times, while waiting for the run to start that I said, "Do you have a barcode? That's all you need. Just go along to the start and we'll scan it at the end" or, alternatively, "Do you have a barcode? That's a shame, you can still run but we won't be able to give you a time at the end." It was my first time actually scanning barcodes so there was also a fair amount of mutual confusion as I tried to work the scanner and new people tried to figure out what was going on. We had beautiful sunshine, but it was pretty cold and I rather quickly lost sensation in my scanner button pressing fingers.

Anyway, before the rush started I managed to take a picture of the first two across the line.

Two Runners

"Which of the front two won?" one of the marshals asked us at the end. The other barcode scanner and I exchanged slightly blank glances since we had not memorised names and then she said "The front one." After we'd stopped laughing she elaborated. "He was wearing orange."

For the record, charging people to run in a Parkrun is out of the question, but, as a not for profit, the organisation does have sponsors and staff so it wouldn't have been out of the question for the park fee to have been met from central funds. I don't know how much Stoke Gifford were requesting, but given they initially proposed charging £1 per runner one assumes it was in the region of £5,000-£10,000 per annum. Multiply that across all the parkruns and I can see why the central organisation baulked at opening the door to suddenly needing to raise several hundred thousand a year more just to cover park fees. However, it is a desperate problem that councils simply can not afford parks under the current austerity regime (at least if this Guardian article has its facts right) and there will be no Parkrun if there are no more parks...
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Zombies Run! is a very neat running app. It has a nice central concept - you listen to a story while you run, but the story is framed so that you, the runner, appear as the main protagonist and is played out via the radio messages you receive. In between radio messages you can listen to your own music. I've been using it for about 18 months now and was pretty fond of the app. It broke up the monotony of running, the story (given the constraints of the format) was well constructed and the voice acting was good. I even upgraded my phone specifically so that I could hear season 3 of the app which was iPhone 5 only.

For several weeks the blog, which I also vaguely followed, talked excitedly about the new version of Zombies Run! which would be released to coincide with the appearance of season 4 - a whole new set of episodes to listen to. I'll confess I wasn't paying a lot of attention, being less than half way through season three, but there was a lot of gushing about the wonderful new graphics, the attention being paid to story flow, reworking of some parts of the earlier seasons for new players and so on.

Then the update happened.

So, credit where its due, the Zombies Run! people obviously recognised that the core of the game was story-while-you-run-plus-own-music and that aspect remained more or less rock solid. But it was a shock to discover there were a whole bucket load of extra features I had become accustomed to that were no longer present. For instance

  • The app used to sync my runs with RunKeeper. I was using Runkeeper for all the runs I didn't do with Zombies Run! so the ability to sync the two together meant that there was one place I could get a complete overview of my run history. I used to get little emails from RunKeeper congratulating me on the fastest average time over a month and so forth - now I get little emails from RunKeeper asking why I'm not running regularly any more.
  • The app had a web interface were I could view the details of the runs I'd done, this included brief summaries of the story segments that had played, an interactive map which correlated to a speed graph so you could see where you had been running fast and where you had been running slow, and a list of all the songs you had listened to. It turned out that I was making more use than I had realised of all those features.

To be fair the web interface has partially reappeared. I can view a map of my run, but I can't correlate to speed, see summaries of story segments or view the songs I listened to. Moreover, after you've finished listening to an episode the app switches into "Radio Mode" where you get a second, less tightly focused, story centred around a radio station operating through the apocalypse. Radio mode no longer appears on the the web interfaces run logs, so its impossible to get the full picture of the run.

Radio mode also reset when the update happened, so I'm having to listen through a whole load of radio segments I had already heard.

For a while the blog continued to gush in an excited fashion about the update. In particular the exciting fact that the app was now free (previously you had to pay for each season as it was released). As someone who was halfway through listening to a season I had paid for, the fact the app was now free to listen to did not get me as excited as it might have done.

Eventually the blog manned up and mentioned the words "technical debt". So, I understand the concept of technical debt. Sometimes in order to scale a computer system up to the realities of its usage level, you have to do an awful lot of backend restructuring to recover from bad decisions that were made early on in order to get something up and running quickly. DreamWidth devs, as a case in point, spend a lot of time paying back technical debt inherited from the early days of LiveJournal. As a contrast though, DreamWidth, while it may not have added new features a fast as the user base would like, has been careful not to remove whole swathes of features while it fixes the technical debt. It's also been scrupulous about letting the user base know what is going on.

As I say, the core of the Zombies Run! app still works. I'm not going to be abandoning it. But I do resent having had a load of features stripped from the app without warning as part of an "exciting" upgrade. They've lost a whole bucket load of my goodwill and I shall probably not pay for the "Pro" features (which seem to be early access to episodes) where I was more than happy to buy seasons for the older version.
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I volunteered at the park run this morning. I like to volunteer occasionally and give something back, and I've been tired this week, even having taken Monday and Tuesday pretty easy. Giving blood on Wednesday and going to a project meeting in Bristol and Thursday are probably contributory factors but B did neither of those things and fell asleep on the sofa at 8.30pm last night, so I think we're both still recovering from Cheltenham.

I was quite glad I wasn't running since I don't enjoy running in the rain. I had the job of "barcode checker" which meant I made a record of any barcodes that the scanners couldn't handle. We had a lot of very soggy barcodes, the worst of which we couldn't even unfold and I had to read the barcode in mirror writing through the back of the folded paper.

The above was one of the soggier specimens. It was one of the first to show up (in the first five people to cross the line) and the barcode scanner was absolutely determined to get the technology to work on it. She succeeded eventually and I recorded her triumph for posterity above. Later soggy specimens I just wrote down, more work for the Results Processor but it helped keep the queues for scanning down.

Right towards the end one of the unscannable barcodes came with a friend I vaguely recognised. At first I just assumed I'd seen her at park runs before, but then we realised we'd met in the blood donation centre on Wednesday. She's been promoting Foster Care Fortnight and got the nurses to photograph her giving blood in her Manchester Foster Parents T-Shirt. I mentioned that it was also National Blood Week so she could promote two causes in one tweet! She was wearing the same T-Shirt at the park run, though she hastened to reassure me that it had been cleaned.

I should get a running icon of some sort.
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This morning I ran 5km in just under 30 minutes (at least according to South Manchester Park Run) which is the first time I've managed to get under 30 minutes (or over 5k depending).

Admitedly the GPS iPhone app disagrees with South Manchester Park Run about exactly how far 5k is. The app is certain I only ran 4.75km in the 29 minutes and 43 seconds it took me to get to the finish line.

I've decided to believe the men with the measuring wheels, rather than the dodgy satellite uplink in my phone.

So Yay! New Personal Best!

Couch to 5K

Sep. 4th, 2012 09:47 am
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...or in my case 4K.

In the name, more or less, of not getting any younger, I have taken up running.

I got the idea from, of all places, a Charlie Brooker article. He mentioned an iPhone app which would take you through a running program starting with short runs broken up by periods of walking and working up to a long half hour run. So when I finally broke and purchased a second hand iPhone the "Get Running" app was one of the first I purchased and installed. This probably entirely demonstrates the power of suggesting to someone that they get to "level up". It turns out "Get Running" was just an instantiation of the (possibly NHS) Couch to 5K program which you can also download for free from the NHS website though not, I think, in a form that allows you to play your own music while the nice lady tells you to run, or walk, and so forth.

Today I reached the final half hour run. One of our local parks has a handily laid out 2K circuit which is how I know I've only hit the 4K, not the 5K mark distance wise. I've not really decided whether I think the distance or the time is the important part here. I have downloaded an NHS podcast for "Couch to 5K graduates" which claims to improve running speed but it would mean listening to their choice of music - not that random slow ballads and odd bits of plain song or whatever iTunes shuffle decides to serve up today are necessarily the best things to run to!

Wibbling about Running )


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