Fulham Palace parkrun #55

When I first saw the memorial poppies at Tower of London announced I knew I had to go.


As time grew short to get a visit in I knew it would have to be a Saturday.

Knowing I’d be in London on a Saturday I had to indulge in a little parkrun tourism!

So it was that I found myself rising to the 4am alarm, for the 5am coach, to get to Fulham Palace for 9am and enjoy their free 5km.


After a bit of confusion trying to find the start (or rather the congregating point, which is about 150 metres from the start) I received the usual parkrun welcome. Chatting to locals and fellow tourists alike, getting advice on where to stash kit to avoid the incoming rain (which thankfully never materialised) and comparing parkrun experiences. The crowd soon grew, 212 of us ran in all, and just before 9am run director Luke delivered the briefest of briefings and we were marched to the start line. With 200+ runners on the course there was understandably a bit of congestion at the start and the first few corners, so if finish times are important to you or you are PB hunting be sure to get to the front of the pack. The course is a 3 lapper on tarmac, pancake flat, and if the crowds don’t hold you up it could be a very fast course. The stretch back along the river is nice taken at a slower pace though, with views across the water to the boat clubs which feature heavily in the annual boat race footage and lots of river traffic to distract you. Eventually you come to another  cheery hi-vised marshal who points you around a few corners and you’re on the finish straight, or at least it will be after another 2 laps!


It's a busy start line at Fulham Palace parkrun!

It’s a busy start line at Fulham Palace parkrun!

Knowing the course and with the runners a bit more spread out now I relaxed in to lap two and started to enjoy the scenery, exchange pleasantries with fellow runners and advising a junior about her undone shoe lace and warning her not to trip. Suddenly felt very old and responsible at that point!

In to lap three and almost sad that it was nearly over. Picked the pace up a little and set sights on a few people to beat, received the obligatory compliment on my ridiculously large calves (every race/run!) and settled in for the sprint finish. Great support on the line from the volunteers and other runners and a lovely congratulations chalked on the tarmac (an idea that may come back to Cheltenham with me for our winter course) and it was all over in a far from impressive 27:24 but given the early start and distracting scenery I’ll take it.

Meanwhile at the front of the field Paul White was romping home in 17:04 from Stuart Fraser’s battling 17:12. Among the women Carolyn England (21:49) had a comfortable ten seconds over Katie Ferguson (21:59), both clear of the chasing pack by some distance with Helen Witt next home in 22:23. None of which affected the standings at the top of the points table for the year, shown below. Full results can be found here.

With 212 runners, 46 at Fulham Palace for the first time, there were 40 new Personal Bests to celebrate, and representatives of 29 different clubs took part including one happy Almost Athlete.

If you’re in London there are a plethora of parkruns to choose from, but I’d suggest Fulham Palace is a good one to start with. Thanks for the run guys!

Fulham Palace parkrun points tables:

Current standing in the Men’s annual points competition:
Thomas DALEY (Fulham RC) 285 pts.
Paolo BUSCAGLIA (Serpentine RC) 261 pts.
Bob LYNAM (Fulham RC) 259 pts.

Current standing in the Women’s annual points competition:
Dawn PAYNE (Unattached) 300 pts.
Eliza GAFFNEY (Unattached) 300 pts.
Carolyn SALISBURY (Unattached) 300 pts.


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Blunder Run 24 – Going Through The Night Just To Enter

The decision was probably made individually much earlier, but the team agreement was made on Facebook the Monday after Thunder Run 2014…we were going back and this time we meant business.


So it was that I once again found myself bleary eyed at midnight, confused by simultaneous alarms and hauling the laptop in to bed with me. The hopes (and cash) of a team of 7 rested with me, but ten minutes of inconvenience was a small price to pay for what we were looking forward to… The memory of the next 4 hours will live long, I just hope I can blot it out when we’re setting up camp in Catton Park next July and not let it taint what promises to be another excellent weekend.

I was expecting a bit of F5 fever, knowing the team places sell out in hours it was likely to take a few minutes to get my place in the booking queue. After twenty minutes of constant refreshing I started to get a little concerned, and turned to Facebook for solace. What I found was a Thunder Run page with over 200 comments already from people who had enjoyed better luck than me, only to be booted out of the booking process at various points. It seemed no one was successfully entering the event! Now the fear started to build, and it was twofold…not only was I not making any progress but I could see the numbers of people trying and new it was a straight shoot out for the limited team places available.

The next two hours saw frantic opening of new browser windows, across Google Chrome and IE and using both on my phone as well…that’s 4 portals each with numerous pages being refreshed regularly, I could have beaten the world record for contracting Repetitive Strain Injury! I had some luck, although I never got as far as the payment screen which had proved the final resting place of many entrants dreams I had been given the faint hope of inputting my team details several times. Sometimes it even let me get all the names in before it inexplicably kicked me out.

Meanwhile the Facebook comments multiplied, the crowd turned hostile, the vitriol poured out as everyone from Pat the organiser (one of the nicest men you will ever meet and definitely NOT to blame) and FR Systems (the booking agent, who very clearly should shoulder the blame) was made a scapegoat. There was mention of multiple card payments, simultaneous entries and still the ever present agony of being booted out before completing your booking.

835 comments...and every one a complaint.

835 comments…and every one a complaint.

And then, around 2:30am, someone somewhere flicked the “fix it” switch and suddenly the website worked. I flew through the pages in record time (admittedly by this point I’d given up entering team mates details, we all shared one birthday, one phone number, some of my oldest friends didn’t even have names spelt correctly) but finally I had made it to the payment page. My troubles were over…

There are obvious issues inherent with opening registration for a hugely popular event at midnight on a Tuesday. Put aside for a moment the obvious inconvenience of having to be up and online at that time, we can even put aside the wasted hours of IT issues from last night, but one unforeseen problem with the late start I didn’t expect? Mastercard don’t like accepting transactions for hundreds of pounds originating from a Dutch company at 3am. In fact they hate it, because it appears fraudulent, so they block your card to keep you safe. Payment denied.

I’m not a rich man. My team mates had been very good at getting the money to me early so I could make sure the balance was there on the card ready to go…so I was frantic when the card was declined and I think the chap I spoke to at Mastercard realised this the moment I actually screamed at him in frustration. They would lift the block, no problem, just wait up to 24 hours…

Waiting a day clearly wasn’t an option. With entries now flying in successfully our place was far from assured and so some money management Gordon Gecko would have been proud of followed. Balances were moved, phone calls to Barclays made, call centre operatives in Mumbai told exactly what I thought of their policies regarding my money…but eventually, at 3:14am, I had gathered enough cash together in one place to cover the transaction. We were in.


The number of flaws in this process is staggering, for an event of this size, using a booking agent of FR Systems experience and backed by a sporting giant like adidas the whole thing was a shambles, and as it stands at 11:32am the following morning, hours after their respective offices will have opened for business, there has been no comment or apology from anyone.

I’m sure the weekend in July 2015 will be brilliant, and for my team mates it will be just as sweet as last year. But for me there will always be a sour after taste associated with Thunder Run from this day forward.

One small fillip from last night is that, whilst I was experience a single sleepless night, my team mate was becoming father to a beautiful daughter and as a result may never sleep again. Guess I got off lightly! Congratulations to the Foster Four, big love. x

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I’m Making A Commitment…

…To me…

…And to adventure.

One of my favourite wastes of bandwidth is to marvel at other people’s amazing adventures, whether it’s Jamie McDonald running 5000 miles across Canada or Sophie Radcliffe and her incredible Alpine Coast to Coast last month. I love the tweets, blogs and videos of people doing epic shit and having amazing adventures. I always dream that one day I’ll do something like that…and then my belly and bank balance remind me that no, I won’t, and I go back to pretending to work whilst surreptitiously reading more blogs.

And then I discovered Al Humphreys and his concept of microadventure. I’ve already chronicled how wrong my first attempt at microadventure went, but the seed had been sown. It had made me say yes to someone inviting me out to be challenged. It made me set a date, make a plan and stick to it (to begin with anyway!) Of course microadventure is pretty easy and cheap, that’s the whole point of it, it was still no crossing continents or taming mountains.

And then I came across another of Al’s fabulous ideas… #Adventure1000

The plan is a simple one. Set up a direct debit to leave your account weekly for an amount you won’t really miss and stash it in a new bank account. When it gets to a reasonable amount of cash blow it on an adventure. Al’s suggestion is siphoning off £20 a week, which means in a year you’d have over a grand to play with. £20 a week, when you add it up to £80 a month, sounds like a lot…but this morning I spent £12.25 on breakfast, £3.99 on a magazine that only vaguely interests me and £2.95 on a cheesecake treat to go with my afternoon tea. That’s almost twenty quid right there, which I spent without even thinking. Would I make my own breakfast and read a second hand book in exchange for a life changing and soul preserving adventure? Course I bloody would!


The second part of the plan according to Al is to make a commitment. Decide your adventure and tell the world. Keep telling the world, and yourself, why you are saving. You’ve got twelve months then to arrange leave, make plans, accumulate kit and expertise…and chances are you’ve also got a birthday and Christmas when you can ask for the adventure fund to be swelled rather than socks or a Michael Bublé CD (hint hint family!)


That’s why I’ve just set up a folder in my favourites entitled “GR20“. In September next year I am flying to Corsica to walk the mountainous 180km Grande Randonnée number 20 along the spine of the island from the North to South. Staying at mountain huts along the way and taking 15 days out from the world. The next twelve months will see lots of saving, training, getting out in the hills in preparation and plenty of planning…and I can’t wait!


Is it too early to start packing?

What would YOU do with £1000 to spend on an adventure?

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Cheltenham Half Marathon in Pictures.

Nice to walk to race start rather than endure a long drive!

Nice to walk to race start rather than endure a long drive!

3,700 runners lined up on the start...and I was behind 3,600 of them I think!

3,700 runners lined up on the start…and I was behind 3,600 of them I think!

At 9am we were off! (5 minutes after the elite runners)

At 9am we were off! (5 minutes after the elite runners)

Sadly I'd sweated on the lens at this point, but lovely to get some support from Nan and Mum on the way round :o)

Sadly I’d sweated on the lens at this point, but lovely to get some support from Nan and Mum on the way round :o)

Entering the famous Cheltenham Racecourse. Many people struggled with this section as it's so exposed and you can see the runners a LONG way ahead of you...but I loved it.

Entering the famous Cheltenham Racecourse. Many people struggled with this section as it’s so exposed and you can see the runners a LONG way ahead of you…but I loved it.

There was a samba band at 11.5 miles and the far side of the Racecourse, but not many people were sticking around to enjoy them!

There was a samba band at 11.5 miles and the far side of the Racecourse, but not many people were sticking around to enjoy them!

After stopping for photos, chatting to everyone, tweeting, a water fight, picking out yellow jelly babies from the tubs on offer and taking it very comfortably I finally finished in 2:14:31

After stopping for photos, chatting to everyone, tweeting, a water fight, picking out yellow jelly babies from the tubs on offer and taking it very comfortably I finally finished in 2:14:31

This is what it was all for!

This is what it was all for!

The medal takes it's place in the collection.

The medal takes it’s place in the collection.

The greatest running club in the world, Almost Athletes.

The greatest running club in the world, Almost Athletes.

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@Chelt52 Review – Thursday 4th September

Another great day on @Chelt52! Lots of tweets today, all of which will be entered in to the draw for a Science in Sport Endurance Pack. As the weekend and Cheltenham Half Marathon get closer there will be lots of information coming your way. If you have any questions about the race or running then get in touch, I’d love to hear from you!


Club of the Day

Cheltenham Harriers, based at the town’s athletics hub The Prince of Wales Stadium, are a competitive club covering all athletics disciplines, including distance running.


They offer a ladies beginner group on Monday at 6.45pm & also offer kids an introduction to athletics and running. For adult runners with a 5km race time of under 19m30s training is every Tuesday & Thursday at 6.45pm. These guys are seriously quick so maybe not one for social runners but if you want to improve go see them!

Race of the Day

The Guy Fawkes 5 is a lovely short race on quiet country roads outside Tewkesbury.


Taking place in early November (obviously!), if you started running TOMORROW you could be race ready for this one and get your first medal. You can find a terrific programme here to get you started or go to one of the clubs I’ve listed this week with a beginners group (Almost Athletes would be my suggestion but I am biased!)


It’s also great to support the small local races.The running community is a great one to be involved in! To get more info and enter online at here.

Will I see you on the start line?!?

Route of the Day

With only a few days to go, it’s time to look at the route of the weekend’s big race, Cheltenham Half Marathon.


It’s a great 13.1 miles around the town following the wide leafy roads and taking in such highlights as the Promenade and a loop of Cheltenham Racecourse, normally reserved for 4 legged runners! There’s lots of opportunity for spectators to line the course, so I hope thousands of you turn out!


Where are you going to be watching the race from???









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