For 26 weeks in the summer months, the parkrun team from Colwick run a weekly interval training session on the Victoria Embankment in Nottingham. It's called the Weekly Wednesday Workout (WWW) and meets on the open parkland just by the river Trent at 6pm from early April to the end of September. We warm up, do loads of stretching exercises and strides, and then we run intervals around a coned out track.
We follow a structured programme, working on pace in some weeks - with short, sharp intervals - and building endurance at speed in other weeks with longer sessions around the track. Three times in the season we run a "magic mile" - a mile time trial. At the end of every session, we plank: building up our core strength. Each session is carefully supervised and stopwatched by members of the Colwick parkrun core team.
It's hard work, but it's very rewarding and a lot of fun too with some real characters from Nottingham's running community. I've made some friends here. It also works: training like this does make you a stronger and better runner.
I actually started attending these sessions before I ever ran a single parkrun.... although it only took a few weeks before I felt so ashamed of that fact that I turned up at Colwick Country Park for the first time in August 2014. I'd been aware of it for at least a year, but had been sort of avoiding it because I thought I knew myself well enough to know that I would want to flog myself against the clock every week and that it would hurt. After a slow start, I guess you could say that the habit stuck. I've now run 72 parkruns and volunteered 36 times, including 6 times as Run Director - and I'll be timing at Colwick on Saturday and marshalling at Gedling Juniors on Sunday to take that total to 38.... I never would have started guiding visually impaired runners either, if it wasn't for parkrun. And to think that it all comes back to those interval sessions on a Wednesday evening on the Embankment over summer. I think I only started attending at all because they used to offer loyalty stamps for my running club, and I was very keen to get the 50 stamps in 53 weeks that would earn me a pair of running shoes and had missed every other qualifying run that week.
And you know what? Every session is completely free. Everyone there gives up their time for free to help other runners out of nothing but love and community spirit. They're amazing people. I've met a lot of generous people through running over the last five years, but these guys are definitely right at the top of the pile.
Helen - one of the core team - told me at one session as we walked back to the start line at the end of an interval that the main reason they do this was to build links with the running community and to generate a pool of volunteers for the parkrun.
....well, they definitely hooked me. These people - this community - have enriched my life immeasurably. I get so much pleasure from volunteering too. I came here to run faster, and actually my times have become almost completely irrelevant to me. I would even go as far as to say that I enjoy volunteering more than I enjoy running.
It was the last session of the year this evening.
I'm going to have to go for a run on my own next Wednesday after work, and it just won't be quite the same.
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