From Parkrun To London Marathon

Hurrah, it is finally done.

For all those of you who have a London Marathon place this year, I have just the book for you. I ran the marathon this year to raise money for Save The Rhino and found it bloody difficult but a tremendous experience. I’ve crunched all the fun and frivolity of the months of blood, sweat and tears and then the slog around London into a bright and breezy ebook called ‘From Parkrun To London Marathon’. Buy it on Amazon UK, Amazon USA and all those other Amazons all over the world . They will take their cut from the sales but every penny they hand over to me will be donated directly to Save The Rhino.

I’ve put my various stories together into a narrative that tells the tale from when I started running to my decision to run the London Marathon for Save the Rhino. I’ve then continued on to talk about raising money for the charity and extending my distance so I had some chance of reaching the finish of the London Marathon and claiming my medal.

The bulk of the book covers my experience on the day as I dragged my tired and unfit body around the streets of London. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than it sounds from the description there.

There are lots of giggles along the way and hopefully some insights that will help people that are thinking of taking on the challenge themselves.

The paperback version is now available and the links above will lead you to the ebook and paperback versions of the book. Please buy as many copies as you can afford and disseminate them widely. Hopefully they will inspire other people to run the London Marathon and possibly even help push them toward running for Save The Rhino.

Remember all money I receive from sales of this book will go directly to Save The Rhino

 

Rhino Running in Oakwell Mud

Oakwell Hall is a fine setting for the parkrun. It’s not as big and grand as huge places such as Temple Newsam but it’s very much of its time and place being a late 17th century family home more suited to the affluent upper middle classes of the time rather than the nobility you would find in the great houses. It looks hard, stern and super tough. The parkrun course is similarly tough and this rhino found it difficult going up and down the hills, through the trees and then slogging its way through the mud.

pic of runners at start of oakwell hall parkrun

We are waved off and go charging past the house circling right around and then charging down the hill. Going down seems fine but then you have to climb back up the other side. No mean feat for a rhino that can’t see its legs. I know that they’re down there somewhere but not entirely sure what they’re getting up to. We flounder our way along until there’s a car park and then dive into the woods. This is a really pretty bit. There are trees and tracks and all sorts of good stuff. Then we come out of the trees into a short stretch of field before another track. The mud is so thick here that I become completely stuck and can’t move for a moment. I haul one foot out of the mud and plonk it down in front of me. Then repeat process for next foot and continue until the gate of joy and hope is reached and normal rhino running can be resumed.

Then there’s more running around Oakwell Hall and the stables and we can begin all over again. It’s a great run but a difficult one. There’s no chance of a rhino pb today despite the abundance of super manic marshalls cheering us all on. The course is just too tough. Great fun though and absolutely gorgeous.

pic of me and amanda

I eventually crown the hill and am running along the finish funnel. Amanda, our run director is there cheering everyone in and doing the timekeeping too. We wait until the flood of runners coming in slackens off a little and then bag her for a rhino and run director photo.

There’s a whiteboard at the finish line and various people write on their new year resolutions. I couldn’t think of any new ones so didn’t add to it myself.

pic of rhino with new year resolution board

We go for a coffee afterwards and  discover a Leeds Rhinos fan who would very much like a picture with the rhino and I also meet the chap who had been taking video with his GoPro on buggycam at Woodhouse Moor and Temple Newsam. He promises to post the link to the video on the Oakwell Hall parkrun page.

We took some more photos around the house including this one from the front which mirrors Charlotte Bronte’s splendid description of it when she used it as a model for Fieldhead in the novel ‘Shirley’

ic of Jim the rhino at Oakwell Hall

and then this great model of a sheep which is hanging about in the front garden. Me and the sheep make a splendid art installation I reckon.

pic of jim in rhino costume with sheep statue

We have a great time relaxing with a coffee and talking to other parkrunners but must eventually leave as we need to drive back to Cambridge today. There will be two cats waiting for us there who haven’t seen us for two weeks and will need their cuddle quota topped up as soon as possible.

pic of 2 cats

 

If anyone gets the urge to donate to Save The Rhino then please visit the page http://virginmoneygiving.com/jimmowatt and donate whatever you feel you can afford.

 

New Year’s Day on Woodhouse Moor

I’m visiting my mum in Leeds and there are parkruns on New Year’s Day. Of course I have to go. What’s more I want to do two parkruns in one morning. Also I want to do them in rhino costume. All sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Carrie sighed and agreed to come along. I can see so little out of the front of the rhino suit that I need as much assistance as I can possibly get just to make sure I arrive on the start line. Therefore I’m really grateful that she can come along to help.

pic of Rhino runner at start of parkrun

There’s a fine gathering on the moor. As with last year there seems to be a tradition of gathering near the finish funnel and then moving back to the start for the prerun briefing. Sam, the run director does the briefing. He mentions someone who got what sounded like about 84 per cent in age grading and also someone doing their 250th parkrun. Unfortunately I couldn’t hear much from inside the rhino but many congratulations to them. Sam also does a wonderful shout out for me and talks a little about the sorry plight of the rhino.

pic of start of parkrun

The run director counts us down and then sends us on our way around the course. It’s a nice flat course although there are occasional patches of ice. We do a fair amount of looping around and pass some places three times during the run. It’s not the most scenic parkrun I’ve ever done but it’s an excellent example of being able to put on a fine run even in quite a limited space. They’ve really used what they have in an interesting way alternating the loops slightly each time around.  I follow someone in an orange shirt for a while and eventually manage to pass by. Then I followed someone in a 250 shirt but I didn’t have enough energy to pass her and she left me staggering along behind. It looks a really nice shirt. Hope they’re still doing them when I get to 250 parkruns.

I hauled myself across the finish line and run director Sam came across for a chat. I thanked him for the shout out at the start and we had a photo taken together. Sam then grabbed my finish token and barcode and scanned them in for me. He then shooed me away to my next parkrun at Temple Newsam asking me to remember him to Ronnie who would be run directing there.

I’ve just received my Woodhouse Moor parkrun time and it’s a new rhino pb:

Woodhouse Moor parkrun results for event #435. Your time was 00:32:49.

If anyone gets the urge to donate to Save The Rhino then please visit the page http://virginmoneygiving.com/jimmowatt and donate whatever you feel you can afford.

A Temple Newsam Parkrun Rhino

Wow!

So many people here at Temple Newsam.

The run director is doing the prerun briefing but I can’t hear any of the words. I’m not sure the people around me can either. My guess is that there may be rather more people here today than they are accustomed to. However it all seems really well organised so they handled the large turnout really well.

Jill popped over to say hello. She’s been answering my email enquiries about the parkrun. Hiya Jill, good to see you.

Dogs are barking at me and I’m meeting folk I saw at Woodhouse Moor. I’m also seeing a lot more children at this parkrun and they are all intensely curious. That gives us a great opportunity to offer them Save The Rhino stickers and talk to them and their parents a little about the endangered rhinos. I see a family running with a buggy and a small dog. They have a GoPro Hero strapped to one of the buggy arms and assure me thay have footage of the rhino from Woodhouse Moor. I wish I’d swapped email addresses with them to ask for some of that footage. Quite apart from gathering more rhino video I would like to see how the Hero performs. I quite fancy getting one for myself.

We set off past the glorious Elizabethan mansion and out through the formal gardens. Down the long hill, left at the motorway and curl back along the edge of the woods until we are once again struggling up the hill toward the house. Twice around we go and the second time we are curved around the hill a little until we burst out into the finish funnel. I queue to be scanned behind the girl in the orange tee shirt. I’d finished before her at Woodhouse Moor but she was really pleased to finish in front of me here at Temple Newsam. “I couldn’t be beaten by a rhino twice in one day” she said.

pic of Jim as rhino at Temple Newsam parkrun

I was going to get a coffee afterwards but there was a very long queue indeed and I had more family duties to attend to at home. We made our way back up by the house and stopped for a moment outside the glorious front doors for just one more picture. We were immediately pounced on by large numbers of people asking if we’d let them take a picture of their child standing by the rhino. It was really sweet and I posed for many photos beside children who were either delighted or terrified to take part in a rhino photo.

pic of rhino at Temple Newsam

I never got to pass on your regards Sam, to Ronnie the run director. He seemed awfully busy. I’m saying hello to Ronnie here from Sam and the Rhino.

If anyone gets the urge to donate to Save The Rhino then please visit the page http://virginmoneygiving.com/jimmowatt and donate whatever you feel you can afford.

Running Rhino at Ayr parkrun

It’s Christmas Day in Ayr and Carrie and I are celebrating this festival of wine, beer, pigs in blankets and Christmas pud. by popping down to Rozelle Park to run the 5k parkrun. Just to make it that bit more interesting I’ll be wearing a rhino costume.

I got a great reception when I arrived, with a mighty cheer from all the lovely folks assembled near the start. There were several santas, some dogs and a couple of running buggys amongst the crowd. The run director tried to give her pre run briefing but stumbled a little. “Sorry folks,” she said, “I was distracted by the rhino.”

We trotted off through the trees and away toward the lakes. There’s a hill first. “Waaaah!” says I as I find myself bowling down the hill desperately trying to stay on my feet. “WAAAAY!” say the spectators in response perhaps mistaking my yell of terror for exuberant celebration.

Around the lakes and back again, passing the start. We weave through the trees and start the second lap. I’m starting to overheat again now. There are no distance markers ( none that I saw) on this parkrun but I reckon we must be about half way. It is distinctly unglamorous inside this suit at the moment. The change from very cold to very hot has made my nose run and I am producing huge amounts of sweat. It’s as well folk can’t see into here too well. It’s not a pretty sight.

It seems a long way but eventually I reach that blessed turn out of the trees onto the open field. At this point I can see the finish line and I suddenly feel a new surge of energy. Hmmmm, thinks I. This extra energy would have been much more useful earlier on when I was struggling up that hill.

I run through the funnel and then peer left and right looking for my finishing tag. I can’t see it. Then again I can’t see much out of this rhino costume. I really must take some video for you sometime so that you can see what I can see when I’m wearing this thing.

pic of rhino at finish line

I take off the rhino head to try and cool down but I’m soon having to don it again so that people can take photographs. There are mince pies available and we stand around chatting to folks. It was wonderfully friendly and I’d like to thank everyone at Ayr parkrun who made my visit such a delightful experience.

pic of rhino with christmas lightsIf anyone gets the urge to donate to Save The Rhino then please visit the page http://virginmoneygiving.com/jimmowatt and donate whatever you feel you can afford.

Running with Rhinos in Milton Country Park

It was a frightfully windy day on the 5th of December in a small village on the periphery of Cambridge. People were converging upon Milton Country Park for the weekly 5K parkrun.

A large grey creature stepped out onto the street and wobbled a little as it tried to figure out where the footpath was. The ever helpful Carrie stepped in front and the rhino followed along. Cars stopped in the street, dogs barked and people stared as we staggered onwards.

We arrived at around 08:30 and the photographer from Cambridge News was already there. He waved and pointed and we all moved this way and that to the rhythm of the media. Various parkrun volunteers were ushered across to join in and a queue of people formed up to have their picture taken with the rhino. Having no peripheral vision and not being able to hear too much I just stood there most of the time as things happened around me.

Carrie was busy handing out cards with the web address of the fundraising site and offering people stickers with the logo for Save The Rhino. The kids, in particular seemed to like the stickers. Several people gave us their coffee money and on behalf of the rhinos we were happy to accept.

We set off at 9 o clock and I shuffled after the crowd. I was moving well but had no idea where I was putting my feet. I stumbled several times over puddles, holes and even a small pebble.

The noise inside my suit was incredible. The whole thing was bouncing about and all I could hear was swishing and swooshing and banging and crashing. Richard was running beside  me and trying to keep up the conversation. I yelled back as best I could. I suspect I misheard most of what he said and it’s quite possible that most of my responses made no sense at all. Nice chap that he is though he made no mention of this and still struggled valiantly to chat and guide me along as we ran through the park.

We started slowly but increased the pace as we went along. An ache developed in my back probably brought on by my having to bend forward to peer out of the suit. As our pace increased we started to pass people and made several of them (especially the ones wearing headphones) jump and utter little shrieks. Evil rhino that I am, I found this immensely satisfying.

It was an incredibly difficult run. I got hotter and hotter inside the costume and was nicely stewed by the end. I staggered over the line feeling enormously relieved to get there without keeling over and becoming stranded rhino in a puddle in the park. Various people have suggested that I try to run the marathon in the rhino suit. After this outing I can confidently say that I haven’t the strength or the stamina to do it. It’s possible that I may gain this stamina and strength with my winter training but very unlikely.

Jim in rhino suit
Richard checks to see if I’m still alive in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

miltonrhino03
My friend Richard carrying the rhino head

So, it was a lot of fun but was it a success from a fundraising point of view?

We took 22 pounds in cash at the event and I’ve been posting tweets, blogs and videos about it all day. A good number of donations have come in to the  website http://virginmoneygiving.com/jimmowatt and now at 20:52 in the evening I see that we’ve added 117 pounds to the total for Save The Rhino.

Cambridge News rang me for an interview and they’ve got a whole bunch of photos for the paper so maybe we’ll get a few more donations from that.

It was an enjoyable day. Cambridge parkrun and my fellow parkrunners were all splendidly supportive. My friends Lloyd, Steve and Richard all helped and it was great to have them around. Run director Paul Beastall was really great and of course my wonderful wife Carrie ensured that I was organised and handed out stickers and contact cards to anyone that wanted one. She also made sure that I didn’t get run over on the way to and from the parkrun for which I was most grateful.

Most excellent fun!