Southwold is a lovely little seaside town on the East coast of England. It’s full of beach huts, old folks, fish and chips, Adnams beer and genteel jollity. Of course I also hoped it would have some kind of timed run.
I scanned the parkrun pages for a run local to Southwold but the nearest was Lowestoft. This is only about 30 minutes drive from Southwold but I was on holiday with my wife and felt it might be a bit unfair if I went off up the coast without her. I then searched just for runs in the area and found that Adnams (the brewer) did a 10K run but that was a once a year thing in November. I did however spot in the list of hits something called ‘Great Run Local’. I clicked on the page and saw that it mentioned something called Wythenshawe Park and Salford Quays. I scrolled down and saw a map centred on Manchester. How odd, I thought. I shouldn’t have got that in my search. I was just about to click away when I decided to try a Ctrl F page search for Southwold. Sure enough there it was, just a little below the cut,
Run’s start at 9:30am from the Water Tower on the Common every Sunday (please arrive for 9:20am).
Being a bit dim sometimes, my first thought here was that 3 metres and 1 metre isn’t very far to run. I did however manage to figure out that it was more likely to be miles.
The run was on a Sunday morning at 0930 so I popped out earlier to do a little warm up run. I felt terribly creaky and was breathing quite heavily after only a few yards. My physio has given me strict instructions to keep to very short distances and allow 2 clear days between every run. She also told me to try other ways of keeping fit such as swimming or resistance training. I haven’t really been doing these things so my fitness has dipped quite a bit. The ankle injury is giving me fewer problems though so cutting back on running along with the icing and stretching does seem to be helping. My breathing levelled out after a while and I started to move a little easier. I ran up to the common to find out where the run started and then ran back again.
I spotted a useful sign while I was there that told me ‘You Are here’ and then presented me with a blank sheet of metal. I returned to our rented cottage and my wife told me that she wished to come along to watch me run.
There was a lovely warm welcome waiting for us on the Common where they explained where we would be going and handed us a nice glossy piece of paper that told us a little more about the Southwold Great Run Local. It seems that this is a movement quite similar to parkruns but with a little more flexibility on when they do their timed runs. They also do 2 runs at the same time. One of the runs is 3 miles and the other 1 mile. This seems to be an exceptionally good idea as the one mile run serves as a great introductory run to the longer 3 miles. They even managed to convince my wife, Carrie to try the one mile run. Carrie keeps fit with all manner of fitness classes but an inherent weakness in her knees means that she has come to dislike running quite intensely. I was more than a little surprised when she agreed to run the mile.
I set off at a decent pace and was a little surprised to find myself among the leading group of runners. This never usually happens. I started to wonder whether I should slow down a little so that I would have enough energy in the bank to finish the run. I had just backed off a little when a little worry started to nag at me. I had no idea how well the course would be marshalled so there was a distinct possibility that I might get lost. I glanced behind me and the next person was quite a way away. I looked forward and could see the line of runners snaking away in a line. I should really try to stay in contact with these people so they could show me the way. I surged a little and locked in behind the runner in front. My thinking was that if I could get to half way then we would turn around and come back the same way. Then I shouldn’t get lost and could maybe slow a little. The running felt quite easy now as we passed along bramble covered hedgerows, then over the River Blyth where I was left gasping at the sheer beauty of it all.
The 1 and a half mile marker was a cheery marshall who was happy to be a runner roundabout as we circled around him and pushed back toward the Common. It was lovely to see the other runners as we retraced our steps and we were all able to offer greetings and encouragement to each other as we passed. We ran back along the long straight course (I don’t think I would have been able to get lost if I tried) and at the end the marshall waved us to the right to go back onto the Common. I was fighting for breath as I struggled up the very slight uphill toward the finish line but pushed on and staggered across to collapse onto the ground. Jane Samkin was there with her phone prodding at the screen as I crossed the line. I think the way it would usually work is for her to scan wristbands using the Near Field Communication built into most smartphones. I had registered on the web site but unfortunately my wristband hadn’t arrived by the time I set off on holiday. It was waiting for me when I got home.
I crossed the finish line in 5th place in a time of 24.54 which pleased me immensely. My parkrun best for 5k is 25.54 so the time equates to something very similar, being a slightly shorter distance. This was completely unexpected coming off the back of so little recent running and gives me a lot of hope that I might be able to improve my time when my ankle heals and I can start to run more often.
Carrie also completed the one mile run (in ordinary shoes as she wasn’t intending to run) and now has a PB of either 12.14 or 12.35 to aim at when we get the chance to do another Great Run Local.
I really enjoyed this run. It had beautiful scenery, was well marshalled and had a really friendly atmosphere. I also liked there being the 1 mile option so that Carrie could run too.
I am grateful to all the people who gave their time and energy to make it happen.