Not At All Blue
After London, and before Newcastle, a trip to another city that has played a significant part in life these last few years. Since Oxford’s famous university kindly undertook to educate my first born, I very much enjoyed visiting over a period of five years or so. The original hope was that Madeleine would run this too but she has rediscovered “Am Dram” instead, and was busy rehearsing. So for me a chance to return to the Hilton, Newbury North (AKA Chieveley Services) on the face of it not the greatest location (therefore some great deals available – check it out!) but (IMHO) a pretty decent hotel (especially at those prices).
After checking in, I headed on up the A34 to Oxford nominally in order to check timings (but also ‘cos I just like to do the tourist bit there). A nice walk along the Thames Isis, up to the University Parks to check the start arrangements, across to have a look at the brand spanking new Maths Institute (the previous one from M’s time was the very worst of 1960’s “brutalist” reinforced concrete architecture), and a coffee on Broad Street. Then back for a swim, hot tub, three course dinner (part of the deal), and our latest Eurovision flop (shame really ‘cos I reckon the girl done well).
Up at six on Sunday and able to get a decent breakfast in the hotel. I drove to the nearest park-and-ride to the city, from where I could easily walk in. But then a slight glitch with my planned “comfort stop” being compromised by the fact that that particular facility was absent from that particular car park. Let’s just say I was mightily glad to reach Oxford Station. From there continued on and arrived at the Parks well warmed up and in very good time. After depositing my distinctive red #VMLM2014 kit bag (a few knowing looks) made my way to the start in Parks Road, by Keble College. Since my best parkrun times are just over 23 mins, my aim was to break 50 mins for the first time, but I was not presumptuous enough to proceed beyond the signs pointing the way for sub-50 min. runners.
The gun went at 10 and it took only about a minute this time to reach the start. My plan was to try and average 5 mins. per km to start with and see if I could speed up towards the end. But with over 3000 running it started slow, but I was soon into my stride and got to the 1km dead on 5 mins (according to Garmin). And before I knew it Garmin indicated I was averaging about 4.53 mins per km. So a slight repositioning. We thought that gives us something in the bank if we aim to crack 50 mins. Let’s just try and stay on that pace. It is a very flat course, all on roads until the last three km when it enters the Parks, and the weather was pleasantly cool.
So that was it really. I managed to pretty well stick to the pace. It started to get tough towards the end. But even then, with so many runners, it was still very busy, with plenty of people to pace you along. Towards the end I adopted a new tactic, running harder for twenty seconds or so, before returning to normal pace. I was mighty pleased to finish, which presumably means I’d paced it fairly well, and I had clearly cracked 50 mins, but by how much? Unfortunately the official chip time I was given (49:48) was exactly the same as my gun time (presumably the system had failed to recognise my chip – computers – bahhhh!!!). Basing it on Garmin I reckon it must have been something like 48:58, which I would certainly have taken at the start (especially after the three course meal the previous evening). NB they have subsequently plugged my Garmin start time into the results giving me an official 48:57 🙂
And then a quick photo opportunity outside M’s Alma Mater, Wadham College, revisited Morton’s on Broad Street for a quick lunch, back to the car park (even jogged part of the way), and back home (took the chequered flag at exactly the same time as Lewis Hamilton in the Spanish Grand Prix). Next stop the Olympic Park for the ‘Ackney ‘Alf.
Special thanks to Rosie Gaskell (former wardrobe mistress at the Oxford Playhouse!) and to Ann and Paul Sycamore, who donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in support of this run.