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18th January 2018

Thanks to a lack of willpower during the festive period, January is dedicated to my expanding waistline and the fact that my body fat percentage must be uncomfortably close to that of a pub snack.

However, sales figures from fitness-related industries make me feel better about using the last hole on my belt as it makes me realise I’m not alone in my fight back to fitness. Disposable income can also be a problem this time of year, but fear not my fellow minced pie-munchers, help is at hand courtesy of your caravan or motorhome.

 

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Free (yes, free) 5K Events for all

Thanks to parkrun (with a small ‘p’); fitness can be found for free and no matter where you live, or where you’ve pitched your caravan or motorhome. With hundreds of parkrun events throughout England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales, it’s an easy thing to do whether you’re at home or on holiday at your favourite campsite.

My daughter, Poppy, and I decided to try the event at Blandford, Dorset and as dogs can take part at most locations, we took our Jack Russell, Bill. Unless some catastrophic incident befell the rest of the field, I’m never going to be the fittest or the fastest, but undeterred, I registered us both on the parkrun website. It’s a free and easy process with nothing more taxing than printing a barcode which is then scanned at the end to produce a finishing time.

A fraction of the field is made up of super-fast and super-fit runners, but all ages, shapes and sizes are represented with most of the field looking just like you & I. The atmosphere is one of encouragement rather than competition and far from being a nail-biting moment, the start-line pep talk is friendly with the emphasis being fun in the fresh air.

 

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Our route was free from traffic and utilized 2.5K of the North Dorset Trailway. Running to the halfway point before doubling-back meant we could see the leaders flash past with the fastest time of the day being just shy of 18-minutes.

But, with a glass-half-full attitude and a dollop of willpower, my time of 31-minutes meant I enjoyed 13-minutes more exercise than the leader, which will undoubtedly help reduce my waistline, while spending time, not money, with the kids.

 

parkrun tips:

  • Dogs can take part at most 5K parkrun locations (check the website first), but not the 2K Junior events. Don’t forget the bags as responsible runners always clear up.
  • Younger family members want to take part? parkrun also offer Junior 2K events for children aged 4 to 14.
  • How fit do I have to be? It’s not just for budding Olympians but if you’re unsure about your ability to cover 5K (3 miles) it might be worth consulting your GP first.
  • How much is it? It’s completely free! From registration to running, there’s no charge whatsoever.
  • It doesn’t matter if your time is 15 minutes or 115 minutes, everyone gets a big round of applause when they finish.
  • Nearest event? Visit www.parkrun.org.uk for further details.

 

Mud-Life Crisis

Paying good money to throw yourself at an Army-style assault course may seem a strange thing to do, but obstacle course running has exploded over the last few years and instead of a relatively small selection of long-established events such as Tough Mudder, it’s now possible to pick from an ever-expanding list and find one that’s close to a campsite.

Before you scroll past, dismissing this type of event as the preserve of the super-fit, distances can be a challenging but manageable 5K (3 miles) and, for me, booking an event serves as a carrot-on-a-stick to help keep some sort of training regime in check.

 

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Certain events allow adults and juniors to run together on the same course and what better way for a spot of family bonding than to run an 8K lap that’s packed with 30 obstacles. As with parkrun, some of the field seemed to be of Olympic ability but the vast majority were teams made up of friends and family, where completing the course was the order of the day. All sorts of folks make up the entry and it was great to see participants helping members from other teams as most are aiming for a finish rather than a blisteringly fast time.

The course is as tough as you make it and I explained to the organisers that it would be the first event of this type for Poppy & Charlie and I wondered how we could deal with any bits that we deemed too tricky. ‘Not a problem, you can just go around’ was the answer and with Poppy being told that bypassing an obstacle was possible, her teenage side kicked-in, making sure she went over or under anything we came across.

 

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Suddenly, defeat was not an option. But would we do another one? Before we’d changed out of out muddy clobber, Poppy asked when the next event was…

OCR (Obstacle Race Challenge) tips:

  • Muddy/OCR events can be found at rocketrace.co.uk, www.raceforlife.org, www.mudstacle.com and www.muddyrace.co.uk to name but a few.
  • A Pair of off-road-friendly, trail-type trainers will help enormously. Make sure they’re done-up properly to prevent loss in the muddier bits.
  • Although superhuman strength isn’t all-important, training beforehand will make it safer and more enjoyable.
  • Don’t forget to pack a towel and a change of clothes
  • Finishing is the only goal and the only person you’re challenging is yourself…and possibly your children.