by Paul Thompson (picture Shamala Thompson)
I’m not known but my spontaneity but I had no intention of running this race until 2 hours before the start. Infused with morning coffee on a wing and a prayer I decided to join my brother Stephen and wife Lynn on my second race of 2019 and first ever park run. It seemed a perfect way to start my 54th birthday. And the perfect place to run my first park run, Bushy being the birthplace of park runs.
The build-up and preparation for this race was far from ideal. Sham and I were in London for a 3 night stop over en route back to New York having been out in Singapore for most of December (incuding trips to Colombo and Tbilisi). On the Thursday morning I ran 13 miles in Singapore’s signature 33C, during a solar eclipse, and boarded a flight to London later that same day arriving at before day break at Heathrow some 13 hours later. After checking into the hotel at 8am Sham and I did a shakeout run in Richmond Park, my favorite place to run and an inspiration to David Attenborough. That evening we had a family dinner at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant.
2019 has been my least active year for racing since I can remember. Bushy was my second race of the year, the other race being the 2019 New Haven Half Marathon on 2nd September. While my memory ain’t what it was that’s at least 20 years. This time last year I was looking forward to running the London Marathon in April but piriformis syndrome struck in early February on my first long run. I was unable to resume normal training until late May. After New Haven extensive work travel got in the way of high intensity training So here I was pscyhing myself up for race two of 2019.
I jogged over to the start from our hotel in Kinsgton upon Thames. After a 4 mile warm-up, including some strides, I was all set to go bar a slight tightness in my left hamstring. My plan was to set out easy and then, depending on how I felt, either settle into a tempo run or go for it.
I stuck to plan. For a short while. I covered the first mile in 5:38 and yet was passing runners moving through from around 12th to 5th. Then I got caught. That changed things. My race instinct kicked in and I immediately stepped up my pace to fend off the interloper and set about chasing two runners some 20 metres in front.
Bushy is flat and, aside from a few tight turns and some soft ground (most of it is unpaved), and fast. In the second mile there were long straights with some paved surfaces. Inow had the bit between my teeth and enjoying running fast. I clocked 5:11 for the second mile. in so doing I caught the two runners in front and successfully fended off the interloper.
Into the third mile I dug deep and clocked 5:12 despite occasionally losing traction on the soft surface and having to navigate some puddles. I finished in 16:55 for 2nd (the 2nd placed guy some 5-7 seconds in front of me was scratched from the results for not being registered) out of 1358 parkrunners. That was enough to win the M50-54 age category and secure the highest age-graded score of 90.05%. Steve was 2nd M50-54 in 18:28 while Lynn recorded her 2nd fastest in 26:13. Full results are here. The official Bushy parkrun race report kindly notes my first outing.
The feeling at the finish reminded me why I do it. It felt good, real good, especially when I put the pedal down. The hamstring held up and the race was a welcome introduction to park running. I will surely do more. And 16:30 should be possible on a fast paved course without jetlag.
In 2019 for perhaps the first time since joining the masters ranks I failed to get in the top 3 in any of the UK masters rankings lists. My best effort was equal 6th in the half marathon. In 2020, despite being the elder statesman in my age group, I plan to put that right. The London Marathon, which includes the inaugural AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championship race, and the World Masters Athletics Champs in Toronto (XC, 5000m, 10K and half marathon are on the program) beckon.