Sunday 31 December 2023

Review of 2023


         I’ve hardly written a thing on my blog page this year. Not because of lack of inspiration or writers block but because I am lazy and it takes a long time for me to write these articles. I am not always motivated, but if I am, it is usually in the morning. I know that writing this article right now, will take me hours…

 But they are always great to read back in years to come. 

Anyway, here goes:

 January saw me starting the year by completing all of the Hampshire parkruns with the furthest away at Rushmoor with my fellow VR (Vegan runner) Darren. That was New years day. Not a bad way to start the year. It was lovely to bump into Soton locals, James and Vicky Clarke, plus Alex and Sari.

We also got talking to some strange guy who just hung around us and asked weird questions at the end.

We spoke to another guy on our warm up who pointed out Paula Fudge to us, who is a regular visitor. Who? I said…

About Paula Fudge…

Paula Fudge (née Yeoman; born 30 March 1952) is an English former middle and long-distance runner. She won a gold medal in the 3000 metres at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, and on 13 September 1981 she set the world record for the 5000 metres with 15.14.51, the first recognised women's 5000m world record by the IAAF.[1] This record remained the British record until 1985 when it was broken by Zola Budd.[2] She also won a bronze medal in the 3000 metres at the 1982 European Indoor Championships.

Fudge made her marathon debut at the 1985 Columbus Marathon, winning in a time of 2:35:10. She then won a team gold medal at the 1985 World 15km Road Race Championships, and finished fifth individually. She improved her marathon personal best to 2:32:25 at the 1986 London Marathon. After the withdrawals of her twin sister Ann Ford and Priscilla Welch due to injury, and Veronique Marot declining selection, Fudge was selected to compete in the marathon at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, but she too turned the offer down.[3] A month after the Olympics, she ran her best-ever marathon time, when finishing third at the Chicago Marathon in 2:29:47.[4]

In 2003, Fudge broke the UK W50 record by running 79:39 at the Fleet Half Marathon. A record that stood until 2011.


Anyway, I think I stayed in bed for a couple of weekends after that because the weather was so bad. The parkruns could wait.

           February saw my 2nd bit of parkrun tourism of the year. A VR meet up at Hove promenade organised by the lovely Matt Salisbury. My first sub 20 of the year from what I remember and I remember it well because we ran to Boulder Brighton afterwards with achy legs and my legs kept on cramping up on the climbing wall. No excuses really as Bournemouth VR Matt Du cros ran a 17.16 and he climbed much better than me ;)  The perfect day was finished off with the best chippy in the world.. No catch :)

A week later saw another VR meet up at Havant parkrun. Havant been there for ages. In fact, there was a new course from when I last ran it. Such a lovely course as well. I managed a P2 but legendary Julian Manning beat me by about 3 minutes. So that also meant that I came 2nd in my age category too. Doh!

A week after that saw my first race of 2023. A half marathon around Southampton common. It was a rainy 6 laps but I strangely enjoyed it despite struggling with Intercostal muscle pain all year. It was easing off now but I was running about 50-60 miles a week because my part-time job allowed it, which helped me pick up Plantar fasciitis. I still have it now by the way. A disappointing time of 91.19 for me.

Three days later I ran 29 miles from Bristol to Bradford-on-avon as part of my recce for a 250 mile run I want to do in 2024 hopefully.

I had run 232 miles for the month.

            March saw me heading to Gloucester north parkrun for another VR meet up. This time it was my good VR mate Kev’s 100th parkrun location. He had already had the t-shirt printed with every location on the back and made a shit load of cakes for everyone. It was a really lovely day with the Gloucester and Worcester Vegan runners <3

           April soon arrived and I had this mad idea to cycle to a parkrun somewhere. Who would join me in this adventure though? No-one is usually stupid or brave enough.. so I was shocked when Darren agreed to cycle across Dorset with his dog Luci in a basket. Luci is the cutest little Italian greyhound. We did 60 miles to a middle of nowhere place but it was a lovely Air B&B organised by Darren. We did have to cycle another 16.5 miles the following morning though to get to Henstridge airfield parkrun. Rest in Peace. X 

It wasn’t easy finding the start either with conflicting directions to the airfield. We got there in time but my legs were sooooo heavy. We plodded around and then cycled another 50 miles home but spent a lovely sunny day drinking coffee on the top of Gold hill in Shaftesbury for a bit. Even Luci was tired.

          I had decided to quit my part-time job of nearly 3 years as I needed more money. It was a tough decision as I loved the job and the people. I was spending all my savings only working 2 days a week. I had to venture into the real world. I got a job at Garmin. It was like a prison. I’d get up at 4.15am and do 10 hour shifts, every Sunday as well. There were no windows in the place and everyone was miserable. They money was pretty good but I couldn’t stand it and hated going in. They still sell the inhumane “anti-bark dog collars” too, along with hunting and fishing stuff. Not very good for a Vegan really ;) I lasted 2 months and handed my notice in. I had no job to go to but I couldn’t deal with that place of misery.

In May, I was still at Garmin and had decided to start some swimming lessons. I can swim but not in a good way. My Dad taught me by throwing me into the 16ft end of the pool and told me to swim to the edge. I would swallow lots of water and say I couldn’t swim. He would simply say “If you don’t swim, you’ll drown”. When I got to the edge, he’d pick me up and throw me back in. That’s how I learned to swim, so there was no technique or breathing

I was toying with the idea of doing a sprint triathlon see..

        Another meet up with VR Kev from Yeovil. We had planned on doing Newbury parkrun but missed the exit off the motorway because we were chatting away so much. A bit of a panic and a look at the 5k running app meant we made it to Frimley lodge instead, which neither of us had done. Another location ticked off for both of us.

     On May the 27th I had a hot date. The lady in question was a regular parkrun volunteer at Itchen Valley country park and had a corner of the parkrun named after her. Clare’s corner. I still remember how nervous I was when I ran over to meet her in her pink hi-vis as I was warming up. We said hello and exchanged a few words. We said we’d meet at the end. I did the parkrun and sat on the grass waiting for her. We spent the morning in the IVCP cafe with the other volunteers chatting away. What a lovely bunch of people. I was made to feel very welcome. The weirdest bit was that she wanted to see me again :D

June came around and I had quit my job at Garmin. Some more parkrun tourism with non-vegan Kev at Blandford parkrun. It is supposed to be quite a quick parkrun but we both came away with disappointing times, although I would have been happy with non-vegan Kev’s time of 17.05.  We had a lovely breakfast but then I realised I had left my favourite running jacket there. A few weeks later I emailed the Blandford parkrun facebook page. They were happy to post it back to me and I donated some money to a charity of their choice for their effort. Good all round.

      With no job, I decided to go cycling again. I had this idea that I would try and cycle to West Wales to visit VR Andy Macmillan who was staying at former Hampshire VR’s Richard and Kerry’s new B&B place in Llandyssul in west Wales. It was stupidly hot on day one. I managed 88 miles and stayed near Bristol and had a lovely catch up with my cousin in Warmley. I was very dizzy and dehyrated with some sunburn too.

Day two of cycling I managed 64 miles to Pontypridd. I had never been there before and it was lovely. My aim was to get to Llandyssul for Friday night for parkrun on the Saturday morning. I was really struggling though and noticed that there was a VR meet up at Mallards pike in Gloucester. Day three saw me cycle kind of homewards towards Chepstow but then into Gloucester where I stayed in Lydney. 58 miles and then a swim at the leisure centre and a run to Lydney harbour. I must have had a lot of energy that day!

         Day four I cycled in the rain and mostly uphill for 6 miles to get to Mallards Pike for a wonderful forest parkrun. Lots of VRs there and some familiar faces too including Mike Harper who gave me a lift to Aust with my bike. I was struggling now and just wanted to get home. I cycled another 27 miles to Bath and caught the train at a very busy train station.

I got off at Romsey and cycled another 6 miles home. It was an epic adventure but I really should have done some training miles on the bike first.

         The weekend after, Clare and I went back to Wales. We did Swansea bay parkrun and on the day I was a bit disappointed not to get a sub 20 but now I look back thinking well.. I did all that cycling the week before and I ran about 9 miles the night before. Haha.

       July saw me start my new job for Adidas. Full time hours, it took me a while to adjust again. By now I had quit my swimming lessons. I just couldn’t be bothered. I just wanted to be outside more. My running mileage was low now because of my plantar fasciitis, so I had decided to concentrate on speed rather than distance and focus on my 5k and 10k times for the year.

Some more parkrun tourism with Matt Salisbury at Lancing Beach and back to Boulder Brighton for some more climbing fun.

The following day I did Lordshill 10k. I didn’t feel quite race fit so ran it a bit more conservatively but surprised myself with a time of 40.24.

          I had a lovely holiday with Clare and her mum in Eype for a few days where we did St. Marys parkrun in Bridport. That completed all the Dorset parkruns for me.

      I did another event at the common. This time it was the 10k instead of the half marathon. Not so many laps. I was going for a pb but not quite with a time of 39.46. My pb was 39.39.

August came along and I had lost weight and was in good shape. An 18.50 at Southampton parkrun. My 1st sub 19 in a couple of years. A couple of weeks later I ran an 18.58 at Poole parkrun for non-vegan Kev’s 200th parkrun. This made me realise that Southampton is actually a faster course than Poole.

        I finally got around to my long time NENDY of Newbury parkrun with Darren and Luci where I ran a comfortable sub 20.

September my birthday month saw Clare and myself heading to the infamous “Curly Wurly” parkrun at Somerdale pavilions. So-called because of its spiral course and the fact that it’s on the old grounds of the Cadbury factory. My cousin Sam from Warmley came along to support with her kids. It was so nice to catch up with her again and her crazy

          I took it kind of steady on that parkrun as we headed to Chippenham so that I could run the Lightning bolt 10k race the next day and attempt a pb. It was so damn humid though. 39.48 on a fast, flat course was a bit disappointing but I felt like I really did my best and fought hard that day.

A week later I did the Quakers walk parkrun in Devizes. A brand new parkrun. It was a bit congested but a nice fast course.

A week after that saw me hungry for another 10k race where I did “Around the lakes 10k” in Poole. A big thanks to non-vegan Kev for the support on the day. I finally got my 10k pb of 39.28. Over the moon.

        October arrived: I did Solent half and was targeting a pb attempt of 87 minutes. I failed and ran 90 minutes. It was another very humid day. A big thanks to Clare for her support and encouragement that day. There was a change of course at the last minute so the race doesn’t appear on runbritain or power of 10 and doesn’t count as a UKA race.

All these races and speedy parkruns were taking it out of me. I did the Ageas bowl 10k the week after. Clare had entered it and it was to be her first 10k race. I was feeling a bit worn out, so another conservative run from me but a 40.13 all the same.

I was so impressed with Clare and how well she did on her 1st 10k. She blew away her own expectations and looked so strong coming into the finish. Well done Clare, you are amazing. Xx

         I booked a Friday off work and caught the train to Frome where I went climbing at the Boulder rooms. I then ran the Collier’s way for 7.5 miles to Radstock where I spent the night to do Five arches parkrun.  In the morning I met up with VR Kev for the parkrun. A low 19 minutes for me, I was feeling good. An amazing breakfast in Yeovil and then the train home.

Then came my parkun pb at Southampton. I woke up with the mentality that I was going to go for it. Aim for a sub 19. Flat out. 19.27 was the result! Not bad for 49 years old and very close to 80% age grading.

           November saw me doing more tourism with Clare. It was to be her 25th parkrun and we did a very wet and muddy Killerton. A lovely course despite having to wait 20 minutes for them to move the cows at the start.

We stayed at the legendary VR Mike Harper’s house in Bideford. The next day I would run the 10 mile race. I thought it would make a nice change from doing the Great South run. It was a lovely course. A bit windy with a few undulations but I got a 10 mile pb of 65.21 even though my shoe lace came undone at mile 7. I will be forever grateful to Mike for running into the finish with me and shouting words of encouragement. Something I will never forget. Thanks Mike :)

          My last bit of tourism saw me do a solo effort and Bath Skyline parkrun in December. It was so strange to not know anyone or see any other Vr’s to hang out with. I have currently put on a bit of weight and cut back on my mileage, so there were to be no fast attempts after Bideford 10 which was probably the highlight race of my year.

December also saw me take up Adult gymnastics. I have only been to two classes but have loved them both. Learning handsprings from the trampoline into the foam pits and getting my handstands better and doing cartwheels with a much better form.  It does give me bad motion sickness/vertigo though! A Chiropractor has sorted out my stiff neck, back and shoulders by snapping and cracking some body parts. I have so much more mobility in my neck. I think it has probably been bad for about 2 years and I never really noticed it!

       I did 16 new parkrun locations this year and am on a total of 92 locations. My aim is to reach 100 obviously. I am aiming to achieve my 100th at Ashton court on the first Saturday of a month for a VR meet up.

I am doing Haldon Forest parkrun on the 20th of Janaury which is Jo Pavey’s local if anyone wants to join me? I will be climbing in Exeter the day before too.

I haven’t mentioned every parkrun I did this year but there were 46. My highest number ever. I really need to volunteer more next year.

I ran 1492 miles for the year. Quite a bit less than the previous year but.. quality over quantity right? 5k, 10k and a 10 mile this year.

I also do the skateboarding, yoga and climbing too for my cross training.

          2024 will probably see me going back to longer, slower runs and maybe completing my goal of running from Southampton to Cardiff over 5 days but we’ll see. I still have to recce Chepstow to Bristol but the rest is done.

Thanks for reading. See you in 2024 :) xxx