Runner Profile: Peter Woods
Thanks Joanna for nominating me. I’ll be sure to ‘thank’ you properly one Tuesday evening… an extra time trial maybe?
How I got into running
At school I was active but not particularly ‘in to’ anything – I played football and rugby in school time and did some rock climbing, cycling, etc. but never focused on anything. I then settled down with a girlfriend for a few years doing no sports at all and getting unfit! We eventually broke up and I went through a period of living an idle, reclusive lifestyle and my weight kept going up.
At some point in 2011 (at the ripe old age of 28) I decided to do something about it, so got on my bike and set myself a target of averaging 10 miles per day for 3 months (over the summer)… this worked wonders, massively improved my fitness and I lost about 2½ stone. However, once I’d lost that weight I couldn’t seem to shift any more – I’d plateaued.
The next summer, my boss decided to take on the NHS Couch to 5K plan and I thought “that sounds do-able” so went out and tried the prescribed 60s running/90s walking. It was tougher than I expected, which made me decide to follow it through! I remember the first time I had to run for a whole 20 minutes was incredibly daunting, but I somehow managed to get through the program.
The Olympic torch relay was happening at this time (the run-up to London 2012) and a company called Endurance Life, having witnessed the early stages of the torch being paraded around town and then put on a bus to go to the next place, decided to organise a relay of runners to run the entire torch route as a relay. My sister took part in a local stage (Yoxford to Aldeburgh) and I cycled alongside… that experience drew me in, so I decided to join the final group stage in London. I hadn’t even completed the Couch to 5K, so the thought of 5 miles was scary but I wanted to be a part of it. We ran from City Hall to the Olympic park and it turns out that 5 miles was a very conservative estimate!! I was shattered by the end, but I had done it. I got chatting to another runner who it turns out had just completed a Continuous Triple Triathlon (3× Ironman distance), so I felt completely out of my depth. It did give an insight into what might be possible and what madness some people go for. Thinking about it, this conversation may have planted the seed for some of the nutty activities I’ve done since.
A couple of months later I heard about parkrun and that there was a new one just started in Ipswich. I turned up to see what it was like for event #7 and have now done 339 of them across 28 different parkruns in 3 different countries!
My sister was a decent triathlete while this was happening and as a result one of my earliest races was the Ipswich Duathlon at Alton Water… which still ranks as one of the toughest 5k segments I’ve done, because despite being at the reservoir not much of the course was flat! I got my sister interested in parkrun too… right up until the point that I overtook her – being the typically non-competitive siblings that we are, she didn’t like that!
Then there was a fancy-dress/star-wars themed parkrun on May 4th 2013. My effort there has gone down in parkrun infamy. I won’t sully your eyes with the photos of that day, but let’s just say that from then on I was well known locally! I also won a bottle of wine for best outfit.
Since those first tentative running steps 7 years ago, I’ve now clocked up over 50 official marathons/ultras (the longest being 68 miles/110km) among numerous shorter races. I also played a major part in setting up/RD-ing a charity race which has raised thousands for 2 local charities.
Importantly, I’ve also made lots of friends: in the club, elsewhere in the local running community and further afield… the community is what makes running worthwhile in my opinion.
Becoming an FRR
Through parkrun and the persistence of Keith Borrett, I started doing the Stowmarket Striders trail runs on Wednesday evenings (which he organised at the time)… after a season of doing this and chatting to members etc etc I decided to join Striders. Over the next 18 months I trained consistently and got some good performances, and this led to some great banter with my FRR mates, whom I had met through parkrun.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable at Striders (for various reasons which I won’t go into here) so I was considering my options. I had a revelation at the end of the Bungay Marathon 2015 (before it was a ‘festival of sport’) as I crossed the line and turned around – there was a group of Striders to my left and a group of FRR to my right. I thought to myself “I don’t want to speak to any of those Striders, but all of those FRR are my mates. I’m wearing the wrong vest”… so I found out what was involved in changing first claim (more awkward then than it is now) and filed the appropriate paperwork.
Since joining FRR, I’ve also joined the coaching team and I am now a fully certified CiRF. I have also taken a role on the committee as webmaster. I therefore feel proud to be able to make a positive contribution to the running of the club and hope to continue to do so.
There are a huge number of races that I’ve enjoyed so narrowing this down is difficult. There are some particularly memorable ones among them which are worth mentioning despite not being my favourite…
Hadleigh 10, 2014. Horrendous conditions! 6” standing water over large parts of the course, but I was tussling with Robin Harper… it was getting strategic and I remember signalling to a marshal to not cheer me on so as to not reveal how close behind I was. There’s a lovely downhill leading to the finish here and I just gave everything I had… and beat Robin by about 20 seconds!
Turkey Trot, 2014. Even worse conditions than Hadleigh – we were running on ice for a lot of it. But I was again tussling with Robin and had Luke Whitwell dragging me on. I believe I broke my 10k PB on the way to a 10 mile PB. Strategy was working against me though and with a mile to go, Robin sailed past and I just couldn’t claw him back… despite almost falling in the mud on entering the field at the end. Still, my time from that day stands as my 10 mile PB – 67:00
Stowmarket Golden Mile… every time, but particularly the inaugural one. There’s a long story involving Robert Tony (aka Tony Robert), Dave Lumby and yet again Robin Harper. Suffice to say that I beat all of them in our first stab at the distance. Mr Lumby still hasn’t forgiven me for taunting him as I cruised* past him on my way to a 5:41 finish. I’ve run silly long distances, but nothing hurts as much as running a flat-out mile – it’s completely debilitating in a way you don’t get from anything longer. It’s also the only race that I can claim to be an ever-present.
(*all things are relative)
Kierat. Polish for treadmill, but the origin of the name – literally a mill operated by walking in a circle while pushing a wooden beam. Except this namesake event is a notional 100km in mountains. I signed up without knowing all of the details (after all, the website is mostly in Polish) and it was only in the week leading up to it that I realised the checkpoints were literally just checkpoints – they weren’t the aid stations that we’re used to over here! 14 checkpoints, but only 3 had water and 1 had hot drinks available.
The route was a self-navigating affair and is different every year – you have to note down the checkpoint locations at registration. Basically each checkpoint was on the top of a different mountain and we ended up clocking 110km (68 miles) with about 5km ascent… literally a parkrun vertically (and another one straight down)! The approach to one checkpoint involved a 600m climb, over the course of 600m horizontal – a 1:1 incline – so that’s my reference when people claim that a course is ‘undulating’!
Also, it only cost £16 to enter, meaning it’s my second-best £/mile event. I am a sucker for a bargain event!
I finished as first Brit… yes, I was the only one.
Groggy Doggy A boxing day treat by Bungay Black Dog – essentially a 5 mile cross country with categories for with- or without- a dog. They also have an award for the muddiest finisher. A great fun event with equal measures of competitiveness and foolishness, but I do feel that the river crossing should be mandatory rather than giving the lily-livered a footbridge as an option.
White Star Running East Farm marathon / Bad Boy Running beer mile / Chaos A combination event where I did a marathon on the Saturday, a beer-obstacle mile Saturday evening, watched a friend win the 12hr Frolic (most laps in 12 hours) on Sunday and then did their Chaos race on the Monday (quirky race involving starting with one shoe on, while the other shoe was dumped in a pile up a hill). A thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
The beer mile was particularly good value as you could ‘sample’ the beer beforehand to get a taste for it, then drink the corresponding cup per lap, then as there was some left over it was ‘help yourself’…. I believe I got at least 4 pints out of it. Being ‘Bad Boy Running’, it wasn’t quite that simple though as there were 5 obstacles to tackle on each 400m lap… if you haven’t done burpees within seconds of downing a beer, you haven’t lived!
Thunder Run / HR24 / ROC24 The events might be very different, but the concept is the same and to me it’s all about a camping weekend with FRR mates rather than the running. Having said that, Thunder Run was my favourite of these (despite the tough course) – the smaller number making the trip seemed to boost the camaraderie (not that it’s lacking anywhere else, just that it was on another level there). I just can’t forget sitting around the “barbecue” with 8ft high flames at 2am, while the duo of Shell and Dazza were both stating that they wanted to stop but wouldn’t admit it to each other so kept going out.
At HR24 our team managed to podium in our category and then with a different team at ROC24 we managed to outright win our category, so despite my attitude that the running is secondary at these events, they’re still some of my biggest successes.
Honourable mentions must also go to SVP100 (participating and volunteering), Snowdon Trail marathon and Dublin marathon for the FRR spirit. Also CODRC’s Sunset to Sunrise Challenge, and the ultra-marathon I did on a running track for the sheer lunacy of them. There’s also Market Drayton 10k for the goody bag, Silverstone half-marathon as my PB, and many more I could mention
Note that the London Marathon is conspicuously absent from this list. I finally ticked it off the list this year (as my 49th marathon) and hated it. It’s just not my sort of event. I much prefer the anarchic night-time reverse version (nohtaraM ehT) – there’s nothing quite like getting your 26.2 miles done before 8am!
But my favourite race…
Maraton Solidarności This is a Polish closed-road marathon which starts in Gdynia and finishes in Gdańsk, so for nearly half of it the closed road is actually one side of the main dual-carriageway between the cities! The event originated with a group of runners running from one solidarity monument to another and has evolved to a marathon, organised by an 84 year old Olympic 5000m Bronze medallist, Kazimierz Zimny
If you haven’t heard of the Solidarity movement, it’s a trade union that started in communist times and led to the collapse of the soviet union, the end of communism in Eastern Europe, the re-unification of Germany and subsequently inspired the Tiananmen Square protests in China. There’s a lot more to it, but hopefully you grasp the significance.
This is the only race I’ve done where there is a “ceremonial start” involving diplomats giving speeches, the laying of wreaths and the national anthem being played, then the race starts 5 minutes afterwards. It’s a fantastic atmosphere and I can’t comprehend how they can lay on such an event for the £15-20 entry fee, with fewer than 1000 entrants! (686 finishers this year)
All of the benefits of a big city marathon with none of the drawbacks. Closed roads, sparse field, decent goody-bag, chip timing with 5km splits, cheap! The last mile or so involves running through the annual St Dominic’s Fair (a massive market) so despite the lack of support for the first 25 miles, there’s a massive mix of baffled and supportive people lining the glory section.
It also helps that both times I’ve done it I’ve finished about 15 minutes quicker than I expected!
I have neglected my cycling for the last few years, so I need to build that up again. The lack of cross-training has led to some injuries that I’d like to vanquish!
I would also like to get some swimming in… so I guess I’ll have to do triathlons eventually… I’ve ruled out Ironman™ on the basis of cost, but would definitely consider other brands of long-course triathlons.
I also need to complete SVP100 again… it’s the only event that I’ve DNF’d and I’ve done that twice now (despite completing it on my first attempt). This will require some weight loss first, but I’ve got 11 months…….
Next month’s nominee
It was a difficult decision to make, who to
stitch-up nominate for next month’s profile, but I think that this lovely lady will have an interesting story to tell… so take it away Caroline Stafford