Confession, And Christmas Day Parkrun

With tongue ever-so-slightly-in-cheek, I have a yuletide confession to make.

The name Dan Hunt is a pseudonym, one that I use for my blog posts and for social media activities. My real name is Mohamed Cohen and, yes, I am half Muslim-half Jewish, a rare combination I know, and as such I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional, Christian way.

This has its drawbacks, of course. Every year I miss-out on new socks, crackers, paper hats, bad jokes, worse TV, Brussel sprout farts, snoring and monstrous over-eating.

I do, however, get to attend Peterborough parkrun on Christmas morning, without feeling any guilt about neglecting my family and friends…

I was awake early, as I wanted to watch the wonderfully-festive “Chinese Food In Minutes”, on Channel 5.

Uninspired, I ate my large bowl of Alpen, washed-down with the habitual three mugs of coffee, and headed-off on my bike to Ferry Meadows.

I’ve been feeling a little bit apprehensive about attending parkrun over the past few days. I haven’t run it for a while due to injury, illness, being injured again and then, once fully recovered, slipping on ice while out running and bruising my ribs. They’re still painful, especially first thing in the morning, and exacerbated by the up and down “bobbing” motion of running.

All of this said, I have learnt a lot from watching re-runs of the Rambo films recently, and if John J has taught me anything, it’s to make some weird grunting noises and just get on with it!

They’re off…485 of them on a Christmas morning!

They're off.

Bearing in mind my recent lack of running, or alternative training of any sort, I was holding-out absolutely no hope of running a time anywhere near my personal best of 21’03. If the truth be told, I was more concerned with completing the 5k course without walking any of it, and if I could register a time under 27 minutes I’d be satisfied.

24 minutes and 58 seconds later…

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*Note – The 1 photo taken of me from the 1028 taken on Christmas Day at parkrun, wearing my festive, green pullover with a scarf and bobble hat-wearing penguin on the front, wouldn’t upload, so I’ve had to use this archive picture instead. Incidentally, this photo doesn’t make me look like a portly green alien, unlike the other one!

…finished! I was quite happy with my time of 24’58. My ribs were painful all the way round, which meant that I felt as though I was running with a very bad stitch and I couldn’t breathe properly; breathing being something I’ve found to be useful in the past when attempting to run a speedy 5k.

So…all in all a good morning at parkrun and I’m glad I went, especially as it was such a good turnout and I exceeded my own expectations during the run. That’s what running is all about. Not trying to be better than the next person, or being arrogant about your achievements, but just striving to better your own performance, fitness level and well-being as much as you can. Oh, and I didn’t pick-up any more niggling injuries – bonus!

Now for some leftover cold meat, pickles and choccy.

Next-up: Midnight Madness, NYD parkrun and future fitness goals…

 

Dan.

 

parkrun for the uninitiated…

parkrun logo

Most Saturday mornings at around 7am, you’ll find me at home eating a bowl of muesli, eagerly waiting for the clock to strike 8, which is when I’ll get on my bike and head to Ferry Meadows Country Park for Peterborough parkrun.

The majority of my friends and UK social media contacts are aware of parkrun, and most of them will be regular participants. However, there are some people I know, particularly in other countries, who either don’t know of its existence, or have heard of it, but aren’t sure exactly what goes on.

So, I thought I’d write an overview of what happens all over the country, in hundreds of locations, on a Saturday morning, and share my personal experiences of Peterborough parkrun.

First and foremost, parkrun is FREE, free to register as a participant and free to take part, every week. All parkrun courses are 5km, and EVERYONE, regardless of ability, is encouraged to run, jog, walk, crawl or hand bike* (*at Peterborough parkrun – I’m not sure about other courses around the country) at their own pace to complete the course. The aim of the weekly event is to get people outside, exercising at their own pace, meeting people and improving their overall general health.

Handbike

New participants will need to register their details on the UK website, http://www.parkrun.org.uk, in order to receive their personal barcode, which is scanned by a Marshall at the end of the run in order to record their time. All Marshalls and other event staff are volunteers, including a “tail walker”, who walks right at the back of the group ensuring, among other things, that no matter how long it takes you to complete the course, you will never finish in last place!

Volunteer

Anyone can volunteer to help out at parkrun, and it’s a great way to encourage and meet other participants. You can sign-up using the “volunteer” tab on the website, or speak to someone in a high-vis vest on the day of a run – they’ll be happy to help (If the person in the hi-vis vest smells particularly bad, and knows nothing about parkrun, you have probably collared a random drainage worker, so move onto the next person wearing reflective gear!)…

So, Peterborough parkrun. It takes place every Saturday morning at Ferry Meadows and starts at 9am, and is run on a mainly flat, paved and lightly gravelled surface, so it is unlikely that you will finish the run covered in mud. People usually congregate at the main café, next to the visitor centre, for a pre-run chat and catch-up. This is also where you will meet if you have volunteered, and where the race briefing takes place for newcomers and “tourists”, those who have come from other areas. The briefing usually happens at around 8:50am, and is worth attending to gain an insight into the course, conditions on the day and conduct (the park is open to the public as usual).

You may, if you wish, run with your dog, and some people even run with their children in a buggy – it’s so frustrating when these people overtake me!

PushchairDog

When you have completed your run you will be handed a token. Take this to the nearest barcode-scanning volunteer, whom you will be directed to, and have it scanned along with your own personal barcode. You MUST have this with you every time you run, or your time will not be recorded. It will also get you 10% off your coffee in the café afterwards! (As you gradually improve your pace over time, you will notice that the queue for coffee is shorter, the earlier you finish the race).

So, when this is done and you have got your breath back, take a few moments to marvel at how great you are, and revel in the great feeling of achievement, whatever your time and wherever you were placed overall. It doesn’t matter where you finished, you got out there this morning, exercised and, hopefully, met some new people, who will always be supportive and friendly. Trust me, once you have completed your first run, you’ll definitely be back for more.

I’ve really enjoyed parkrun since I started attending it a year and a half ago. Since then, my running pace has improved greatly, my overall physical and mental health has improved, I have had the opportunity to meet new people, and I am now back in touch with quite a few school friends whom I’d had no contact with for over 20 years! I look forward to it every week.

Maybe I’ll see you at the Christmas Day and New Year’s Day parkruns, if not before.

And finally, a gratuitous photo of me in action at parkrun…not exactly motoring by the look of this picture!

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Dan.

 

 

 

 

 

Lamotrigine, Sertraline and Runn…ine!

Pills

Running, during a serious bout of depression, is not easy. In fact, it can be very difficult.

We all know that running, as with any exercise, is good for our mental health as well as our physical well-being. The benefits of engaging in physical activity can be enormous! The issue, however, with people suffering with depression is getting out of bed and leaving the house in the first place.

I’ve suffered with depression, on and off, since my mid-to-late teenage years, although I wasn’t aware of this until much later on. Why? Probably because it was largely covered-up by the use of all manner of illegal drugs and, the worst of all of the mind-altering substances – alcohol.

In a sense I’m lucky, in that I’m not chronically depressed, and I do experience periods of high mood when I’m not experiencing the awful lows of depressive phases (this is known as a cyclothymic mood disorder), although these stages of high mood can also have their pitfalls.

So, what’s the answer to taking that first step out of the front door? How do we motivate ourselves to take that initial step?

Not with illicit, recreational drugs, and certainly not by using alcohol, which will only exacerbate the complications of a depressed mood. I believe that prescription medicines can have a positive effect – I used the mood stabiliser, Lamotrigine, for over two years, and since ceasing to take that I am on Sertraline, an anti-depressant that seems to be the current, “in” medication for treating depression, and I seem to be in a good pace with my mental health at present. Starting to run again, though, has definitely has the most positive influence on this!

After a series of injuries, illness, lack of motivation and falling off the wagon, I am now running again and feeling so much better than I have done for the past few months. I haven’t used alcohol for a while , and I intend to remain abstinent now.

I’ll achieve this by setting myself some goals and activities for now and throughout 2018. First of all, I’ll buy some new running kit. I always find that this helps me with motivation. It’s like having a night out with friends wearing the new top, new jeans or new shoes that you bought earlier that day. You just feel better!

I will also be joining a group of local runners, despite the fact that I prefer training alone, who I know will keep me focussed and make sure that I am always aware of when they’re meeting.

I will also be trying various fitness classes, for one month each at a time, to supplement my running, including some that are traditionally associated with a predominately female clientele – in the name of researching new interests, of course!

With these measures in place and a renewed, but ongoing commitment to therapy, Parkrun and various races throughout the coming year, I hope there will be enough activity to keep my mood positive and upbeat and, most importantly, continue to keep me alcohol-free!

See you at some running events in 2018…

Dan.

December. A new start…

I spent a few minutes in the early hours of the 1st of December, joking with an American friend (Twitter acquaintance) about how we Brits, specifically the English, make such a big fuss about the snow.

 
Just half an inch can see schools close, businesses having to operate with just a skeleton staff and public transport services seriously affected. Of course, the light dusting of snow, approximately 1cm, that we had in Peterborough, wouldn’t affect my first 5k of December.

 
Wrong! I ventured outside at around 5am, my usual running time, and found that I was slipping and sliding all over the place, like a drunk Todd Carty in “Dancing on Ice”. The 1cm of snow had frozen and the roads and pavements were unrunnable (I couldn’t find “unrunnable” in the dictionary, but it seems a perfectly good word to me). Oh well, a short slide home for another coffee and I’ll try again tomorrow…

 
…Tomorrow, 4:55am,
Milder this morning, so snow boots, crampons, skis, flares and emergency kit packed-away for another winter, I set out for my steady 5k run. Just the usual suspects out at this time of the morning. Me, some rabbits, a couple of taxi drivers and the local fox – I think it’s the same one I see every time I’m out for an early run.

 
I managed to run a time of 24:56, so not bad considering that the months since April have been a combination of injury and illness, or both at the same time! It’s been a struggle over the last few months, especially as I set all of my current PBs in March, from 1k to half marathon distances, and everything in between.

 
Never mind. I’m going into December feeling fit and healthy and aiming to complete 60 – 70 miles, illness and injury-free, before attacking 2018 head-on.

 
Dan.