So I don’t even know where to start really. This weekend has been such an incredible experience. This post will probably be quite long (and will be in two parts) though I’ll try not to ramble too much…
I headed to the Marathon Talk Run Camp straight from work on Friday evening. Marathon Talk is a UK-based podcast all about running and marathon training and it’s co-hosted by Martin Yelling (a fairly proficient runner in his own right but also the husband of Olympian athlete Liz Yelling) and Tom Williams, the MD of parkrun. It’s full of banter and running-related information, like training tips, news and interviews.
I went to the first Run Camp two years ago and it was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t go last year but was really keen to go again this year. It’s based at the Sandy Balls (tee hee) holiday centre in the New Forest and there’s only about 120 people (including the Martin, Tom, their families and the guest speakers) so it’s actually quite a cosy affair. You stay in lodges (a bit like Centre Parcs) and the weekend is full of lots of running, informal chats, proper chats with interesting people and food. So right up my street!
My friend, Matt, who I had first met at the first Run Camp was going again so I would know at least one person. Though to be honest runners and Marathon Talk listeners in general are so friendly and easy-going I knew I wouldn’t be sat in a corner alone with no one to talk to. Matt and me agreed to meet Friday night at the Sandy Balls restaurant, the Woodside Inn. He arrived with his lodge mates in tow (mine hadn’t all arrived yet). We pushed a load of tables together and just got chatting straight away. It’s fairly amusing because there was always the standard questions that got asked: “are you training for a marathon?”, “which one?”, “is it your first?”, “where have you come from?”… and conversation just flowed so easily.
For dinner I ordered the pulled pork flat bread with sweet potato fries and followed up with a Mississippi mud pie with honeycomb ice cream. Heavenly!
There was an informal gathering in the events room next door at 8pm so we all headed there and met up with loads more of the run campers. Martin gave a quick welcome and we just mingled and chatted with each other. I met some really lovely people and it was fascinating to hear about their training and the races they’d done (one guy, Pete, had run the Death Valley half marathon!!) and which marathons they were aiming for. People had come from all over the country so the races were very varied. It was somewhat amusing that as it got closer to 10pm we started heading back to the lodge. Marathon training runners aren’t know for having lots of late nights after all and with parkrun in the morning we all wanted to be fresh.
The lodge was lovely. Quite basic but perfect for our needs (though it was really cold!)
I met two of my housemates (the other two would arrive the next day), Maureen and Hannah. I really bonded with Hannah. She was just so interesting. She had lived in so many different places and done so many interesting things. I was in total awe of her amazingness. She was also so easy to chat to and just lovely to hang out with.
The next morning we all convoyed to Moors Valley parkrun, which was about 20 minutes away. I drove Hannah and a couple called Deni and Marcin who were also really nice. We all arrived just before 8.30am and there wasn’t anywhere warm to stand. So the Marathon Talkers just stood gaggled together jumping up and down trying to stay warm as it was quite chilly that morning.
We then all got together for a Marathon Talk team photo.
I’m just off from the centre to the right in a black coat (Photo credit: Helen Williams)
After a little warm-up, we headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has only been going since November and I think they usually have around 150 people, but we almost doubled that with our invasion!
The course is beautiful: it’s set in the Moors Valley country park and it’s on compacted dirt tracks so it’s easy underfoot and it’s fairly flat. There were some cheeky inclines but barely anything to worry about really (in fact, some of the hardy Northerner run campers laughed when anyone said there was an incline on the route). It’s pretty much the same (but shorter) route as the Moors Valley 10k I did a good few years ago.
It was one loop, which was quite refreshing as I haven’t done that in a while! I didn’t want to go ridiculously fast but I found myself in a good rhythm and didn’t feel like I was pushing my limit so I’m happy with how I paced it.
There was a short section where we came back on ourselves so we could see the front runners. They were going eye wateringly fast! Martin Yelling (19:27 with the double buggy), Steve Way (18:34), my new friends Marcin (19:02) and Mark (18:05) were storming ahead. My friend Matt unceremoniously overtook me and squeaked a sub-20 by one second. We’re *sort of* around the same speed (though I’d say he’s just a bit faster than me – and definitely at the moment as he’s further in his training and a more experienced marathon runner) so I’ll let him have it. I got 21:29 which I’m over the moon about as that’s faster than Conwy’s from the other week (#progress).
My friend Hannah was doing her first ever parkrun so it was quite exciting. She’d volunteered before a few times but never actually run it! She really enjoyed it thankfully.
Left-Right: Marcin, Deni, Hannah, Matt and me
I wore my new parkrun t-shirt (personalised with my home parkrun, Netley Abbey). It’s such a lovely fit and has lots of the back as well. Though I wore a base layer underneath as it was quite nippy.
After the parkrun everyone headed to the quite large cafe (thankfully as it was quite full now!). The queue for food and drink was long but it was nice to chat to people so no one really minded.
As I knew lunch probably would be missed later due to all the things happening and timings I decided to fill up on a big breakfast to tide me over.The full English was really tasty. It wasn’t too greasy (though I had swapped hash browns for another tomato). Then it was back to the car where we were annoyingly we missed the car park fee cut-off by five minutes. Until 10:45am it’s free but after that you have to pay. And it was £6!!
After showering and getting sorted we then headed to the events room again for the official welcome. Some people hadn’t arrived last night (like our two other housemates, who were also very lovely) so it was the first time we’d all gotten together as a group.
Tom then did an interview with Liz Yelling and Steve Way which was really interesting. It was fascinating for me because they’d been interviewed at the Run Camp two years ago and that was before Steve has achieved his fantastic 2014 with qualifying and then running in the Common Wealth Games… But he was sombre in his reflection of 2015 because it had been full of injuries and set-backs and lessons learnt.
He spoke about finding your limitations, recognising over-training, engaging in prevention not cure (he does Pilates all the time now and works on his core a lot more rather than just foam rolling himself “to buggery” when he gets a niggle). He also talked about what he calls good nutrition being simple, whole foods. He doesn’t prescribe to low carb/Paleo/Whole30 or anything like that. He just says that as the goal race gets closer he cuts out junk food (like his after dinner Magnum ice creams and sweets) and instead eats fruit or yogurt. To him it was just about making better choices, but never cutting out entire food groups.
This was something him and Liz were very much on the same page about. Tom made the point that he’s always known Liz’s diet, even at her peak, was never that different to other people’s. She didn’t eat slabs of cake or reward herself with cheat meals. She just ate a bit more but always protein, carbs and fats. Interestingly Steve said that though he runs up to 150 miles (!!) a week he knows he doesn’t actually burn the 1,000s of calories that his Garmin and apps tell him do because his body has become so efficient at running that it burn a very small number of calories per mile now. So to refuel what he’s apparently burnt would probably make him gain a fair bit of weight.
Another point that Liz made that really struck a cord with me was that though she could get away with eating rubbish, she’s conscious (or at least she was highly conscious during her prime running time) that everything she puts in her body has to help her achieve her goals. It wasn’t just about calories and macros, but what nutrients did the food contain that would help her recovery, keep her from getting sick and keep her running strong. Sure a cake wouldn’t cause her to gain weight, but how nutritionally-speaking would that cake help her long-term? Though she did admit she didn’t cut out cake or chocolate completely though (whew!).
After lots of questions and answers we then headed for another running session. I umm’ed and arr’ed so much whether to join in but I was sensible and decided to watch instead. A few people were injured or didn’t want to run again so I wasn’t alone and we walked down with Tom to the area where they’d be doing 1,200km reps. I was sad not to do it but ultimately made the right choice when I saw how hard it looked. As they did their loops (split into groups, wow the speedy guys were so fast!) I sat with a lovely lady called Jaz, who’s the head of HR for parkrun. So interesting chatting to her! We were also both eyeing up all the different running gear and making mental notes to do some online shopping pronto…
Jaz works very long hours for parkrun but it’s clear how passionate she was about it. She lives in Leeds (as does Tom) and I asked if the parkrun HQ was there and she said it was at Tom’s house! parkrun is still so much in its infancy and so much dependent on volunteers and donations that you forget it’s not a big corporate company. But the people behind it are just amazing. It was interesting to hear a bit about the behind the scenes stuff.
Deni joined us after one loop as she wanted to be sensible too. We were so cold sat there that we started piling ourselves with the gear people had stripped off!
To be honest though it was nice not running so I could talk more to Tom and the others. I was just like a sponge, absorbing everything being said and having a good old chin wag.
I’ll leave it there for now as otherwise this post will become more of a monster. I could go on and on about how amazing this weekend was obviously! The next post will be about the evening and then the long run (with a race) the next day.
Have you ever been on a running camp or a fitness camp?
Do you run more than once a day ever?
What would you have asked Steve Way or Liz Yelling?