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Matt Hortop, Ringmer, England, United Kingdom

Excuse me, have you got the time? Story for 'There's a Parkrun in my Half-Marathon....'

I sometimes wonder if thinking that I struggle to find the time to run is just a lame excuse.

Running in the summer, is simple enough…. Get up early, before the rest of the household has awakened, sneak about getting your running gear sorted, along with your work outfit and a spot of packed lunch, and then head out across the hills for an hour or so before work.

As the nights draw in (or, more specifically, as the mornings draw in) I find my plan falls flat.  What had been a daily activity, peters out to almost non-existence once a few excuses comes into play:
It’s dark - I can’t run in the dark.  It’s cold - I’m staying in bed.  It’s wet - I don’t wanna run in the wet.  I have a family - I haven’t got time to waste running.

But, fair enough, there may be less daylight hours in winter, but there are still 24 hours in a day regardless of the season, so why does time in winter seem so tight?
Last January, I absentmindedly joined the Strava half marathon challenge. 

I don’t know why, as I had never run even approaching that far, but surely I can run that distance, I reasoned…. Then it occurred to me, WHEN am I actually going to fit that in.  It’s going to take a good few hours…. Potential there for a ‘diplomatic incident’ if I am not careful!

The solution I came up was ‘run combining’.

I have long enjoyed doing a ‘parkrun’  on Saturday mornings (it’s free and social, so what is not to enjoy).  I normally drive the 9 miles to my nearest parkrun…. So why not run there instead?  I could run to the parkrun, do the parkrun, and then run back.  Simple.

I put my plan into action on the 16th January 16.  I ran just shy of 30k (18 miles) and it took just under 3 hours 15.

OK so that was a fair bit of time, but if I drive to parkrun I normally don’t get home till 10:30 anyway (I get easily distracted by the shops etc.).  With running, I was back by 11:00, so that means I only really ate into half an hour of family life – genius!
I decided to squeeze one last half marathon out of 2016, and set off for Eastbourne on a December Saturday morning at 07:20.  My starting point was the village of Herstmonceux, set on a ridge that overlooks the High Weald (a landscape of wooded ridges, small fields, and boggy valleys) on one side, and the Pevensey levels (a sea level marsh) on the other.  This means that overall you get to run downhill to the Parkrun (which some may say is cheating) and you also get to cross three distinct types of topography.
Section 1: The Ridge.

The first section, along the backbone of the ridge is pretty level, and consists of running on the pavement (sidewalk) that runs from Herstmonceux to the village of Windmill hill. 

Beyond that, the pavement stops, and after a muddy footpath past an outdoor pursuits centre, road running takes over. 

Running in the mist, early in the morning, along narrow winding roads with no verges, and encountering traffic that seems taken by surprise by your presence, requires you to have your wits about you.

Once the village of Wartling has been passed (Church / Pub / a few houses), a short downhill section leads to the Pevensey Levels
Section 2:  The Marshes.

Crossing the Pevensey Levels is an easy enough bit of road running, as the road is now wider, straighter and there is a wider verge to take to if necessary. 

Unsurprisingly, the road is also dead flat, which acts as a magnet to cyclists.  Here’s a strange thing….  Pass a cyclist in the middle of nowhere early in the morning, and you will generally exchange a “Morning buddy” and an “OK fella” (I normally Kudos them if they show up as a flyby as an acknowledgement).  Pass later in the day, and nothing is ever said.

At the end of the marshes is a busy intersection on the main coastal road.  In a car, the trip across marshes passes in the blink of an eye, running it is a different matter, and although you hear the drone of the traffic cutting through the gloom, it seems to take an eternity to get there.

If things are going to plan, the marshes are left at 08:30, leaving half an hour to run through….
Section 3: The Outskirts.

The final section to the Parkrun takes in a pair of quaint villages with narrow twisting streets.  First is Pevensey, with is ancient ruined castle. 
Next is Westham, complete with its church.

Once Westham has been left behind, the route passes built up areas of housing until you reach Shinewater Park, the Saturday morning home of Parkrun.

I arrived at about 08:57, which is handy timing for a 09:00 start (Parkrun waits for no one). 

Just enough time for a photo or two, a quick glug of drink and a handful of nuts and fruitgums whilst the pre-run introduction was given, and then we were off.

I started at the back, and continued to take things nice and easy, slowly improving my position to 103rd out of 209.  I had hoped (rather than bother to calculate) that I would have completed the required 21.1km somewhere during the parkrun.  Unfortunately, there was still 1.1km required left to go once the Parkrun was complete, so I set off on a quick lap of some of the trails around the lake, before completing the distance and strolling back to hand over my barcodes and record my Parkrun time.

All that was left to do then, was to enjoy a warm-down stroll across town to meet up with the family who were in a nearby shopping precinct so that we could get stuck into some Christmas shopping.
….And that is the beauty of running.  One moment you are totally immersed in a run, and the next minute you can stop, and be off doing something completely different.  It’s not like you need to spend hours cleaning off kit, or putting stuff away, and most important, it’s not as if you have to spend hours at a PC, typing it up as a report.

Enjoy your Parkrunning!

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There's a Parkrun in my Half-Marathon....
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Excuse me, have you got the time? Story for 'There's a Parkrun in my Half-Marathon....'
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Matt Hortop, Ringmer, England, United Kingdom
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