Another week, another Parkrun dominated by the elements. Last week it was a headwind, while this week the problem was all to do with water. Lots of water – and no, we’re not talking rain (well, there was a bit of rain, but nothing worth complaining about…).
As previously mentioned, my local Parkrun course follows the towpath of the River Thames – which has, in the last few days, been unusually high, bursting its banks in several places. And that included Ham Lands, where the Kingston Parkrun course loops round. So where there’d normally be a short off-road section to begin the loop back to the finish, today there was, well, water. It looked more like a pond than a footpath. No running to be had there.
Instead, the volunteer organisers did a fantastic job at short notice, altering the course to go further up the towpath, with a hairpin round a traffic cone. In the circumstances it was a clever fix, even if it did mean the 5km run was actually 5.4km. But, hey, bonus distance!
The only problem was that the towpath wasn’t exactly dry. It’s fairly common to find big puddles along the course – finishing the course with legs coated in mud is an occupational hazard in winter months – but nothing quite as big as the runners encountered this week. I reckon there was one stretch of maybe 20-30 metres where the water was ankle-deep. There was basically no way around it, so the best approach was just to charge through it. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was fun in a strange way – even if my shoes did weight double by the end having soaked up so much water.
On the way back I had to go through the water-splash a second time, this time with the added fun of dodging the runners still on their way out. Not everyone looked happy, but it seemed most people, like me, just took it as a grimly amusing extra challenge. And it made me realise how long it had been since I actively tried to dodge running through big puddles.
Puddle technique: aim for the middle
When I first started running, the prospect of getting wet and muddy really didn’t appeal, so I’d slow down or try to run round the sides of the big puddles. After all, who really wants to get wet and muddy running?
That thinking changed as I became more focused on improving my times. Why undo all that hard work of running by slowing down, or by adding extra distance by running around puddles?
There’s another aspect to consider. If the puddles are on a dirt path (such as, say, the River Thames towpath), you also have to deal with mud. The choice is often to run through the middle of a deep puddle, or skirt the edge and run through a slick of mud. Neither is a tremendously pleasant option. But I’m going to take the puddle every time: not only is the water generally cleaner than the mud, but the bottom of a puddle usually offers substantially more grip. Get your feet a bit wet, or slip up and fall over in mud? Your choice.
As a fringe benefit, running through water can help clean the mud off your running shoes. In fact, having to run/wade through the small lake this morning actually did a superb job at cleaning my running shoes. With just one problem: they’re still soaking. And I need them to do a 10k tomorrow morning. Which is why they’re currently laid out next to a radiator. I’m not entirely hopeful they’re going to be fully dry.
Fingers crossed they warm up and dry out overnight. Because while getting your feet wet while running isn’t actually as bad as you think, putting on sodden shoes to go out running remains a wholly unpleasant experience…
I’m running through puddles as part of my training to run the 2016 London Marathon for the South West Children’s Heart Circle. Any donation you could make to a great cause would be hugely appreciated – just click the big ‘Just Giving’ button below. Thanks!