Bushy parkrun – finally!

Waaay back in like February when I went to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in the Peak District, my friend Fiona mentioned that she wanted to celebrate her birthday in true runner style: going to Bushy parkrun.

I bunch of us were going to meet-up, do the parkrun and enjoy some brunch. Sounded perfect! I’ve actually never done this parkrun and as someone who loves parkrun and everything is stands for, this is a bit mental. Bushy parkrun is the FIRST ever parkrun (in 2004 with 13 runners!). It’s about 1.5 hours away from where I live and though I could of course head up early on a Saturday morning, it was never in my diary to do because I wanted to do it with other people. Kyle and I could have gone just ourselves but we seem to have something planned every weekend at the moment. So this meet-up was the perfect excuse.

Kyle and I decided to stay in an Airbnb on Friday night so we wouldn’t have to get up super early Saturday morning and be stressed. Plus we do love an Airbnb trip. We drove up after work on Friday evening and stopped en route at a delightful pub called the Hen and Chicken for a carvery.

The carvery was a bit more posh than your standard Toby Carvery. Everything looked a bit more home-made rather than mass produced (don’t get me wrong though, I do love a Toby carvery). The gravy for instance was SO tasty and thick. I had roast turkey and gammon (odd combo I know), with creamed leeks, carrots, roast potatoes, red cabbage, stuffing.

It was really good and set us up nicely for the rest of the journey to Hampton for our Airbnb. The Airbnb was nice and we had a lovely evening watching Netflix and munching on those delicious new M&M chocolate bars (so fricking good).

The next morning we were up by 7.30am and heading out the door to walk the two miles to the start. It was a really easy walk, albeit windy. In an ideal world we would have run there but I wanted to be cautious about my hamstring. I haven’t really been consistently running and haven’t gone over three miles yet. I’d be lucky to manage this parkrun let alone anything extra!

Bushy Park itself was so pretty. Huge trees, wide open green spaces and so many deer. I think Kyle got sick of me pointing out different ones… look one with antlers! And then we reached the road where cars were streaming in towards the car park. I was glad we’d chosen to walk. Apparently car park is full even before 8.30am!

We bumped straight into Fiona, her daughter Nikki and her friends, and then John. We sheltered for a little bit under one of the sheds and then saw the other Marathon Talk friends approach. How easy to meet everyone! For John this was easy peasy as this was his local parkrun, but for others like Fiona and Vicki it was more of a journey (Staffordshire and Wiltshire).

The gang

We chatted and caught up briefly before heading to the main start area. It was nice and organised, despite the masses of people milling about.

We headed to the first timer brief and listened as the marshal explained the course and welcomed any tourists. It was a bit annoying because as the marshal continued to explain and give us some hints and recommendations for the course a woman next to me started loudly chatting to her friend. If you don’t want to listen that’s fine, but take yourself away and start your conversation elsewhere! It was really distracting and very rude.

Anyway, after listening we headed to the lonnnnnnnnng line-up to get going. Because the front line-up is so wide you feel very close to the front!

I wasn’t intending on blasting any sort of time – I would be lucky to finish at all, considering my DNF from last week. So I edged further into the main body.

John was just behind me

Kyle moved a bit closer to the front as he wanted to see what time he could do. I was happy to run solo, less pressure and I could concentrate on my hamstring.

After a solid introduction from the race director (using a microphone because of the large audience!) we were off.

The course was mainly on compacted dirt and a little bit of grass – so very easy to run on. Also it was super flat and wide, so despite there being so many people running it was never congested or crowded (in the area I was running anyway). You didn’t feel alone at any point though. There were always runners near you, which was quite nice.

John caught up with me and we remained running next to each other chatting. He’s semi-injured too (after doing the epic Race to the Stones) so neither of us were down for pushing the pace. Instead we took our time and caught up. It’s a shame we don’t see each other more often but it’s always nice when we do.

My hamstring was niggling a bit but it wasn’t as bad as the week before so I remained running and talking with John to keep my mind off it.

I finished in 25:32 and joined the very organised funnel – which sort of blew my mind how they did this. There were two different funnels and I couldn’t work out how they managed to work out the barcodes or positions.

We then headed quickly to the Pheasantry Cafe for brunch. Luckily two of the chaps were super speedy (Stuart and Marcin) they got us a table and we were able to order before the rush.

I went for avaocado on toast with poached eggs which was very hipster of me!

Unfortunately one of the egg yolks spurted all down my leg which was pretty grim. Egg yolk is super tricky to wipe up I tell you! But anyway it was very tasty. As was the delicious VEGAN chocolate cake Deni had made for Fiona’s birthday as well.

It was so lovely catching up with everyone – epsecially Vicky and Stuart who had recently got married but due to my cancelled Edinburgh flight I wasn’t able to make.

Then we all parted ways and Kyle and I walked back to the Airbnb where my car was parked.

We saw more deer and managed to not get rained on – what a bonus.

So a very successful Bushy parkrun pilgramage. I’m so chuffed to have finally done it. Of course I’d love to have been a bit less injured but I’m happy regardless.

Have you ever done Bushy parkrun?

Where’s the furthest you’ve gone for a parkrun?

What’s your favourite thing on toast?

A failed parkrun but an epic burger

Coming back from injury is a tumultuous and emotional process (for me anyway).

You fill yourself huge amounts of hope and excitement. Yesss I can run. I can’t wait to jump ease back into training. Things start to feel very positive after so much negativity and darkness (perhaps an exaggeration, but you get the vibe).

I woke up on Saturday morning and straight away knew my hamstring was feeling pretty terrible. The plan was for Kyle and I to go to Netley as we hadn’t been in so long and I missed seeing people I used to regularly touch base with. I wanted to catch up with my friend Mike as well. Kyle wasn’t feeling particularly well but both of us, possibly unwisely, carried on anyway.

As we walked on over to the start area I knew deep down this wasn’t going to go well but I pushed that feeling aside and convinced myself a miracle would occur.

Of course a miracle did not occur. As soon as I started running it felt uncomfortable. Not quite as bad as pre-new physio but definitely not great. Ehhhh this was pants. I was glad to have no one running with me (Kyle was running solo – I didn’t want to hold him back again). I could spend my time focusing on how it felt and wondering what to do.

I was literally spiralling through so many thoughts… do I stop? Am I making it worse? Is it as bad as before? Should I push on through? And all the while I would have different people I knew overtake me as I increasingly got slower, and they’d say something along the lines of, “Either I’m running too fast or you’re running slowly!” with a chuckle.

And I don’t mind that people are overtaking me or that I’m running slowly but it just further compounded that I wasn’t running at my natural pace. I was running well over 9 minute miles. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I felt I couldn’t run faster. Not because of fitness but because my injury was holding me back.

So in the end I stopped before the first mile. I found a point on the course I could quickly dash off from so few people would notice. I didn’t want someone to see and ask if I was OK. I just wanted to disappear. I was embarrassed, frustrated and angry. As I pulled away from the course I burst into tears. It was pathetic really but I just felt so frustrated and annoyed.

A lovely woman walking her dog asked if I was OK and it did feel ridiculous trying to explain what was wrong. In the end I just said I was OK and I rung my dad (who later told me having a phone call from me at 9:12 on a Saturday morning is never going to bode well…).

Kyle was still running so I just sobbed to my dad about how sad I was and how I felt panicked about Chicago and how I thought I was heading in the right direction…until now.

Eventually, after morosely walking around the cricket pitch away from the course, I headed back to the parkrun area. I didn’t want to cheer anyone on. I didn’t want to talk to anyone really. I felt embarrassed and I didn’t want to explain I was injured. I found Kyle and Mike, who’d just finished, and I explained how I’d pulled out and that I just wanted to go home. Mike understood, gave me a hug and then Kyle and I left.

Kyle was obviously lovely and we had a nice day ahead of us going to Bournemouth so I quickly cheered up. We got showered and sorted and then sat in the long traffic to get to Monty’s Burger Lounge to meet up with some of Kyle’s friends.

We’ve been to this restaurant before (over a year ago!) and we loved it. I’d recently won a burger from them as well through Instagram (they ran a competition and I won it) so it was the perfect place to meet with his friends.

I gave Kyle the free burger as I’m not a huge burger fan. The burger is called The Sinner and contains chicken nuggets, hasbrowns (which I don’t like), a 12oz beef patty, pulled pork sauce and American cheese. So pretty epic.

I, of course, had two lots of BBQ chicken wings. I adore their wings. So juicy and tasty. Probably some of my BBQ flavoured favourite wings (buffalo are still my all-time favourite).

And I also had a portion of mozzarella bites (coated in cheesy Dorita crisps!).

We had a lovely time eating and chatting away to Kyle’s friends. It massively helped take my mind off of my failed run. There are so many more important things in life and having lovely people to spend your time with helps puts things into perspective 🙂

But my hamstring thankfully feels a bit better and I hope to continue trying to run. I’m seeing my new physio again this week so FINGERS CROSSED.

Have you ever got upset about a failed run?

Have you ever had a parkrun DNF?

What’s your preference: Buffalo or BBQ wings? I’m also partial to vegan wings too – either cauliflower or tempeh, both are nice!

The comeback?

Well honestly, I can’t wait for a post that isn’t about my hamstring. It’s had FAR too much air time.

It’s been a highly frustrating process, I can tell you. I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been banging my head against the wall. Some days feeling good, some days feeling very grumpy. Some days the gym helped and some days it didn’t. I removed every exercise that seemed to aggravate it but still it wasn’t improving.

Long weeks of no running

So it was time for a second opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I really rate the physio I’ve been using and he’s helped me during many niggles in the past, but after seeing him three times and it doing nothing, I needed to do something else. Time is of the essence.

Handily someone at work recommended someone to me. A sports therapist who comes to your house – VERY appealing. (If you’re in the South Coast area –> Claire Bennett). She was able to come Friday evening after I got back from work which was perfect.

I explained my issues to her, she examined the way I stood and moved etc. and then told me that my pelvis was misaligned. I was twisted in the way I was standing. This was putting pressure on my hamstring – keeping it stretched – and causing my glutes to pick up the slack and overworking them. All the discomfort and feeling like I’m restricted makes a lot of sense now.

She worked her magic and, I kid you not, I felt better literally straight away. Not perfect or fully healed 100% but SO much better. The analogy I use is that it’s like I’ve been scuffing my toe for ages because it’s been moving wrong. After fixing it to move right, the toe is no longer being scuffed… but the toe is still battered from all the scuffing and needs a bit of time to recover and get back to being a normal toes (does this make sense??).

She even said I could do parkrun the next day – which I was so excited about! I cannot tell you how happy I felt after seeing her. She literally made my day. EIGHT LONG WEEKS of this.

So the next day Kyle and I headed to Southsea parkrun. I wasn’t going to blitz it and if it hurt or felt really off I’d stop. But it already felt so much better so I was feeling confident. The physio did warn that I would ache a bit and it wouldn’t feel perfect so I had to remember that.

Kyle was going to run with me and keep me at a sensible pace. After a bit of a delay due to some delivery lorries being in the way of the course, we began.

Yes it didn’t feel perfect, yes it still niggled a little, but my range of movement was so much better and it felt like it was better. It did feel achy and the run was tough going – fitness and the pounding on my legs. It reminded me how quickly you lose everything. Anyway it’s too early to tell for certain and I’m sure it’ll take time, but I’m feeling positive.

We did just over 26 minutes and I finished smiling. Kyle found it super easy of course and revelled in being the fitter and faster one of us (when we’re both at our fittest though there really isn’t much difference to be fair).

Then we celebrated by getting brunch at the Parade Tearooms. Brunch for me being the Jayne Salad. IT IS THE BEST SALAD IN THE WORLD.

It is ginormous. Roasted new bpotatoes, bacon, cheese, coleslaw, cucumber, tomatoes, salad leaves, strabwerries, sweetcorn, onion, beetroot and I added chicken… It’s wonderful.

Anyway, fingers crossed my hamstring keep improving and I’m able to actually begin training.

What’s your favourite thing in a salad?

How long has been your longest time off of running? I think mine was 11 weeks.

Hamstring Update

Not to dwell too much on the old hamstring situation because I’m trying to stay POSITIVE. But a little update in how it’s going.

So I’ve been strengthening it as much as I can at the gym. I would guess I’m in the phase of the injury where it’s more safe to stress it out a bit in order to strengthen it. I’m doing more functional and, well, “weighty” exercises. These include nordic curls, sled pushing, reverse box jumping, glute kickbacks with more weight and lying hamstring curls.

I attempted a mini run last night. I went out aiming for about 1km… it didn’t feel great I won’t lie. It didn’t feel terrible but it certainly didn’t feel like a particularly comfortable run. It niggled the entire way but stayed consistent in its discomfort rather than getting worse. Walking around afterwards and the next day didn’t feel any different either.

I do wonder whether that length of a run isn’t really much of a good test but I’m being super cautious because of Chicago (14.5 weeks away). I want to try another run soon, but longer. If I’m honest I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing at the moment but at the same time, I’m taking a very measured and gentle approach. Any set-back on my hamstring and I’d immediately stop. My thoughts are that I do need to stress the hamstring out a little in this very functional way in order to get stronger.

When I had this issue after Boston a few years ago (where I believe this is where it all started but has been low level hiding since) I ran quite a lot through the issue. I’m very fastidious with tracking my “training”. I have an Excel sheet that I track all my workouts, gym and running, and will write details about them. It helps me track what I’m doing at the gym (weights, sets, reps) and when I’m injured I can refer back and read about how that run workout, what I was doing to manage things etc. This is obviously super helpful now. Each run I did I would say things like “urgh hamstring niggled throughout” or “deadlifts definitely made my hamstring worse” and I can see how many miles I ran and when it started to get better.

From the looks of it, it took about 11 weeks to heal. 11 weeks. I actually feel sick typing that. What I quickly have to remind myself though is that I’m a lot more “educated” now. Like when the issue first cropped up then I continued doing heavy deadlifts and pushing my hamstring when I should have let it calm down before gentle incorporating very specific hamstring exercises back in (like I am at the moment). I was also super reluctant to stop running (I continued to run for 5 weeks).

So my hope is that THIS time around I’ll be back to comfortable running in less time. I’m currently on week 5 of not running and strength training diligently and sensibly. By dealing with my injury in a very controlled way and having this plan and focus I’m helping myself not fall too much into the Well of Darkness that often plagues injured runners. I have my down moments and I’m trying not to panic about Chicago but I’m only human after all.

Anyway, onto happier and more pleasant things…. sausages. I was sent some sausages and burgers again from the lovely people from Wild and Game.

They sent me some Premium Grouse & Wild Boar sausages.
I adore these sausages (to be honest I really really like all Wild & Game sausages).

They are SO fricking tasty. I made a really random meal for Kyle and I one evening – basically emptying the fridge of stuff that needed eating and I threw in the sausages chopped up with a load of vegetables and it was DIVINE.

Kyle was even super impressed – he loved them.

And they also sent some Pheasant & Venison burgers.

Again, these were so tasty. The sausages and burgers do have a rich and gamy taste but not overwhelmingly so. They just taste very flavoursome and meaty.

This is because there is 47% Wild Boar and 25% Grouse in the sausages (for comparison Richmond Thick sausages contain 42% pork). The burgers contain 40% Pheasant and 35% Venison. Good quality ingredients and less “filler”. And the products are low fat because of the meat they’re using (game is less fatty compared to traditional sausage and burger meat like pork and beef).

What’s your favourite kind of sausage?

Do you eat game a lot?

Do you think I’m doing the right thing with my hamstring?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Wild & Game products for free inexchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

My hamstring injury

Not running right now definitely sucks.

A few weeks of it was alright – I probably needed the break. But then another week and another week and I’m getting grumpy about it. It’s not do with losing fitness (though that is quite annoying of course), but more to do with missing being outside in the fresh air and my having my usual routine.

I also like to keep the gym to mostly strength based training. So now incorporating cross training (with the likes of the elipitical machine, the step machine and walking backwards on the treadmill – more on that later) it seems I’m spending a lot of the time in the gym just doing the cardio stuff I find ever so dull.

So my injury is do with my “high” hamstring, where it connects to my bum basically. I’ve had a bit of a long-standing issue with this since the Boston Marathon but it’s been manageable. Basically I can only just start to feel it if I’ve run a long way or I’ve been sat down for hours.

It became a lot worse after sitting for four hours on the train straight after the Manchester 10k . I got off the train my hamstring and completely seized up. But I just thought it was something that would be fine once I got moving and I continued to run and then I blasted out the Romsey Beer Race (knowing it would make it worse). And here I am.

It’s a tricky injury because of its position; not much blood gets to it and I have to do a lot of sitting for my job, which isn’t great for its recovery. It’s not painful but it is a constant discomfort. When I run it sort of feels like it’s tugging at it and becomes more uncomfortable. So I haven’t run at all.

Just casually staring at the floor

What I have done is a lot of rehabbing at the gym. It’s hard to know exactly what is good and what is bad. I’ve seen my physio a few times and he’s been great with helping it and giving me advice. I’ve looked online (I KNOW I KNOW, terrible idea).

What I’ve gauged from online is that there’s very little research on this area into what’s best. What I have gleamed are the best exercises to do and what to avoid.

I’ll obviously preface this with: I am clearly not a physio, doctor or have any real scooby about any other body but my body (and I’m on a thin line with that at best). Please take care.

Best exercises for high hamstring tendinopathy:

  • Glute bridge: I begun by doing two legged bridges, then focused on single leg (lifting one leg).
  • Hip thrusts: I also do weighted hip thrusts (either low rep with a high weight, or high rep with a lower weight).
  • Glute kickbacks: I use the cable machine in the gym and the foot attachment and then gently kick my leg back without bending my body. I focus on using my glutes and hamstring and prevent my back helping. I do the movement gently but used weight that I found tough to go over 15-20 reps.
  • Eccentric box jumps: the idea behind eccentric box jumps (jumping off a box) is that it’s less of an aggravation than jumping onto the box. It’s a controlled impact to strengthen your hamstring, but to be used wisely.
  • Lying single hamstring curls
  • Retro walking: this is a fancy term for walking backwards on the treadmill. I put the incline up to the highest it can go and have the speed setting on to a fairly fast walk (but I did build up to this because it’s quite scary at first!). This is a great way to get some cardio in without stressing the hamstring out. You look like a weirdo but it works.
Glute kickback

Things to avoid:

  • Basically anything that causes compressive load on the hamstring at the beginning. So exercises like deadlifts (which I rarely ever do now since the injury after Boston because I know it flares it up), squats, seated hamstring curls or lunges. I’m avoiding them completely until the discomfort has gone as I don’t want it to flare up again.
  • Sitting for long periods isn’t great (but understandably unavoidable for those who like me.
  • Cycling (I did spin and this did not help matters!)

The exercises that I do I let my discomfort guide me. I never let my hamstring feel pain above a three but I do push it to work hard. The idea is strengthening it by stressing it to build it back up stronger, but not weakening it by damaging it further. It’s a fine balance… one I’m trying to get to grips with.

I do think I should probably try running soon. I’m just nervous. Nervous about how it’ll feel and nervous it’ll make it worse and lengthen my recovery and nervous. Obviously I won’t go for a 10k run, it’ll be a gradual thing. I just need to work out when.

Chicago Marathon isn’t that far away (15 weeks) and if I think too much about it and what’s at stake I start to panic and fall into a dark well of fear and sadness. Having a plan is what’s holding me together. I just need to make sure this plan is moving forwards not backwards.

Have you ever had hamstring issues?

Do you have any advice?