Stick to the Plan!

I’ve got a bit of a bad habit with my long runs when left to my own devices. I’ll plan out a route for the distance I want to do, usually starting and finishing at my front door. Then invariably I’ll get a few miles from the end and decide I really don’t want to run up that particular hill, or the ground might be uneven if I go that way, or I really fancy a coffee. I then do an extra lap of a park or something similar and end up in the middle of Ealing, with a coffee but also lots of times having to buy an Emergency Jumper.

These mid-run variations don’t usually do any harm, I just get the bus home and try not to sweat on anyone. Yesterday was a slightly different story.

I’ve got the Winter 10k next weekend and my running has been somewhat haphazard for the last couple of months (more on that another time). So I decided that with a week to go and not sure what pace I could sustain for a 10k at the moment I would run the two miles to my closest parkrun at Northala Fields, run parkrun and then run the two miles back. That would give me a nice sensible 7 miler at just a bit slower than race pace for next week.

It started well. After a bit of a stressy work week I had also been looking forward to using it as a restorative, head-clearing Disney Run. I’d managed to get my MPF player stuck on shuffle the night before (it’s still on shuffle, no idea how to fix it) and it really did the business in choosing suitable tunes – I roared round an underpass to Let It Go concurring that yes, some distance really does make everything seem small, and went storming up the hill by Dunelm inviting the drivers on the A40 to Be My Guest. Lovely. Whistling While I Worked I completed my 2 miles in about 9:30, exactly what I wanted. The plan was going well.

But then parkrun happened.

Now I don’t usually go to Northala. Fewer Eagles go to it on the whole and the start is a bit congested for me. It also used to have some bits of the path that were rocky and uneven. But it’s pretty flat and they’ve done the path up, and it’s got a justified PB reputation. It’s certainly a faster course than Gunnersbury or Osterley, which are my more usual parkruns.

I got a bit carried away and ran parkrun in 9’s.

OK, fine, I thought mid-parkrun. I know what I’ll do – I’ll finish this bit, get scanned and then run back down the route to the big road at the bottom of the park. I’ll stop at 10k and get the bus home. That’s fine, because if I keep running at this pace we’ll see what I hit for 10k and it’s still a good marker for next week.

So I duly got scanned in and ran the extra mile to make it up to 10k, back past the final parkrun finishers, the tail walker and the marshals coming in. I vaguely registered that if I had breath to say ‘thank you marshal’ to a marshalling border collie then I could probably go a bit faster next week, and I hit the bus stop I’d been aiming for at exactly 10k in about 57:30.

That’s good, I thought. Decent pace and I’ll remember this nice even 10k route I’ve just invented for another time. Well done me, aren’t I clever. Oh look, there’s a bus coming – where’s my Oyster card…


Changing my route mid-run is usually fine because I always, ALWAYS run with my Oyster card. You never know when you might turn an ankle and need a bus or a tube to finish your session.

But what had I done when I left the house? I had blithely said to myself ‘oh no, you don’t need that because you’re running home, you’ll be fine’.

What an idiot.

Trying not to look too sheepish or too much like an obnoxious moron in my NYC marathon top I jogged the mile back past the final parkrun finishers, tail walker and marshals on my way back to the top of the park to pick up a very long 2 mile walk home.  No jumper, no more energy to run because I’d started racing parkrun, noone to cadge a lift from because my clubmates had all left by that point.

I did the only sensible thing under the circumstances and rang my Mum from the yomp home to tell her what an idiot she’d raised.

This was a lesson in not having lots of vague goals for a session; clear your head, hit a distance or pace target, do a tempo run – too many goals spoiled the plan. Have one set goal and stick to it.

Or if you are prone to changing your plan on the run, for goodness sake remember your bus fare!



Duffrunning has been shortlisted in the 2018 Running Awards in the Personal Blog category. You can vote here under ‘publications & online’ and then ‘blog (personal)’ until 15th March. Thank you! 


3 thoughts on “Stick to the Plan!

  1. Oops. The bus service out here in the boonies is so bad I would never rely on being able to get back that way. I make sure my phone is fully charged and beg my husband to come and rescue me.
    Good luck with next weeks run 😃.

    Liked by 1 person

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