Ah, the pleasant crunch of feet on snow. So relaxing, so soothing, so … ever so slightly disquieting when you’re very much alone in the middle of a thick Polish forest which feels like the ideal setting for a murder mystery. Or a zombie apocalypse.
The Park Śląski itself is actually very nice and I can imagine it being really lovely on a warm summer day. In the depth of Polish winter…meh. Well, it’s beautiful yes, but you don’t want to hang around too much.
Aside from the mass murderers digging graves and zombies, it really was bloody cold. It’s pretty big, maybe 5x5km and, zoo and theme park and national stadium aside, also has quite a few nice/random statues, such as this giant…rat?
I was in southern Poland for a few days to attend and speak at the COP24 climate change conference.
My first little run was courtesy of a spare few hours the first day – I thankfully had my phone with me because, although there are a few main roads through it, most is just a giant maze.
Once again, probably great fun in the summer, but could quickly become a cause for concern in the winter.
The weather forecast was delightful: -7C “real feel” (it was accurate!!). Mmm. And to add to that, I was only really planning on jogging round it to see what it’s like as I was doing a 10km race the next day. Suffice to say, my motivation to get up then get out that morning was low. So low in fact that I left late, as is often the case, and had to run the 6km to the Park Kościuszki much much faster than planned (26 minutes to spare is plenty when you don’t know the route too…)
Anyway, thanks to limited road traffic and a slight relaxation of my adherence to good pedestrian behaviour on roads, I made it by 8.59am. Boom.
Katowice itself, while not particularly unattractive, isn’t that interesting either: lots of big wide boulevards and oldish tower blocks, some ageing buildings and some nice squares. Unremarkable is probably the best way to describe it.
There were only maybe 50 runners when I turned up: a tiddly amount compared to British ones but almost overwhelming compared to the trickle which come to the Paris ones.
The weather won’t have helped. I doubt the cold would have scared many locals off but the ice might scare (and scar!) them, however used to it you may be.
I’ve got used to parkrun briefings in English whichever country we do them in so it was refreshing, though slightly disconcerting, to have absolutely no idea what was being said. They suddenly started a countdown, but I equally had no clue what number they started at. Based on how long it took, I’m going to say 10, but who knows, maybe they start at 12 in Polish!
Anyway, we were off. I actually set off sensibly for once, partly because I was still catching my breath from the mad rush to get there, but also because, well, I didn’t really care. This was a tick-boxing exercise. Buuuuttt… Well, I think it’s just beyond my means to enter a race and not even make a half-arsed effort. The front runners weren’t particularly fast either at barely 3’45” for this first kilometre – though the ice in patches really didn’t help – so I decided to stick behind them to not make a mistake and miss a turn.
This worked well until the pace felt a bit slow so I took the lead and, within 500m, made a mistake and missed a turn. Oops.
Having finally reached a straight segment without too much ice, I had picked up the pace a bit and was stretching away until … the guy two behind shouted something or another and ran off on a path perpendicular to mine. Bugger. I zipped across the snowy grass up that hill and was now in third behind not only this runner but also another man and … his dog. I’d inadvertently dragged another runner down the wrong route too, and he was out of contention by now. Sorry.
Lesson learnt, jog and follow, jog and follow. Buuuuttt… there’s always an evil little devil in your head egging you on, telling you that you could just, you know, kick a little and screw tomorrow’s race.
At least the course was 2 roughly identical laps so the likelihood of me getting lost the second time round was much lower. You’d hope. By then, I also knew which corners were lethal and required baby steps and which sections were just easier to run along on the snowy grass.
The two front runners and the (impressive!) Weimaraner dog were holding their 10-15m lead quite easily. I was quite content, though the little devil in my head was getting agitated. I ignored it until about 300m from the end when I decided to screw it: I just could not let this dog beat me. I kicked and snuck up past them at the last corner.
Victory was miiiiiine until I was told there was another 200m loop of a square to go around. Bugger. By then, my plan of sneaking up unseen was utterly foiled, and I had to keep up the pace. Mister dog, by now super excited, kept creeping in the corner of my eye, desperate to overtake this fun human.
Without a doubt, it could have left me for dead if it wanted to but it was being slowed down by the limitations of its human owner.
One final sprint: glory, success, worldwide fame, I was the first finisher. Woop woop. Or is that ‘woof woof’?!
Time: 18h50 (it was icy!!) (1st/47)
(As an aside, I then knocked 40 seconds off my road 10km PB the next day in 35’29” so who knew that 17km the day before is the perfect warm-up exercise!)