This past Saturday saw me travel down to Hillsborough to do parkrun for the very first time in 2020. Hillsborough is my “home” parkrun despite Penistone being closer. Reason is Hillsborough is Sheffield, where I see Penistone as Barnsley and I’m a Sheffield lad. Plus Penistone is more off road. Hillsborough despite not being flat is at least all on paths making it safer for me. The good thing is it is also only a bus journey away should I have to get via public transport and it is also runable (6 miles down to Hillsborough and 6 miles back up) when I am able to run that kind of mileage again.
Despite only beginning my comeback on the 1st I wanted to go and do parkrun to set a benchmark for the rest of the year. I was very apprehensive, firstly as I’m still not 100% with the knee and unsure how it would perform, plus it was my first proper effort in 7 months. I know I’ve drawn a line in the sand and not looking back to the past but still I hoped I still had some “speed” in the tank. I did a jog warm up from the car to the start, just to warm the muscles and knee up. I then spent 10 minutes chatting to runners I had not seen in a very long time. This helped steady the old nerves, after the announcements, we were walked to the start. After a 3-2-1 it was go time, I found myself near the front as I knew it was vital to get a good start, I set off and thankfully there was no knee pain but I felt very rigid as we ran down towards the car park.
I set off well but not flat out, still got to learn again to push my body into the pain zone that comes with running a fast parkrun. As I ran round the tennis courts I began the climb up the park. The climb is more of a drag, its not steep but one that will take time to get pace right on it. You go up past the tennis court, then duck pond, then it’s a tight left then right and then it climbs again to top of park before you swing a right and down and around the library building then the course zig-zags back down to the children’s play area and then its onto the start/finish straight. The first mile buzzed in 6:27. I didn’t look at my watch as I wanted to stay focused on the route as we headed once again back down the park. My wife was at the side of the path and asked if my knee was OK and was I in pain? I replied with no and she said well relax then. She later said I was very robotic in my running. I think it will take time to get my natural running stride back. I was feeling OK but as I began the 2nd lap climb I was already starting to lap other parkrunners. This meant I had to take more care as didn’t want to twist the knee dodging runners.
I kept to the left and if needed to shouted on your left and passed saying thanks. The 2nd lap was slower in 6:42 but given that it’s been 7 months of little running, no racing, no speed work I was happy to still be running sub 7 pace. I know the speed will return if I can start to get some consistency in my training. The 3rd lap was interesting as I had to be careful running round other users on the narrow path, as wasn’t risking running on the grass with a weak knee. However, the other runners were great as they moved over if I asked and I made sure to thank everyone as I went past. Despite the traffic the 3rd mile was the same as the 2nd mile, so shows I can go faster earlier on in the race. The final part I could/should have sprinted as I kinda cruised home to the finish.
I crossed the finish line in 20th place in a time of 20:54. Happy to run sub 21 minutes and now I have a target to hit now and look at the coming weeks to slowly get my speed back along with getting fitter. Was also nice to finally get a run out in my UKnetrunners top. Hopefully this will become a regular thing in 2020. The next parkrun happens to also be my Birthday.