Interview: Allan & George

We first met father and son combo Allan and George Parkin at God’s Own Backyard Ultra last year, and since then we keep bumping in to them at events from the tip of Wales to Orkney (where we randomly ended up on the same campsite as them for several days after the event too 😲). We’ll be seeing them this weekend again as they are both running in the inaugural Golspie Backyard Ultra, which we are volunteering at. So it’s been long overdue to sit down and have a proper chat with them both!

Thanks for making the time to chat to us! Let’s start by telling our readers a bit about yourselves.

Allan: I’m just about to hit 59 years young. I’m married to Joanne, my biggest fan and cheerleader extraordinaire, and I have three children. I support disabled adults for a living.

George: I’m George, 24 years old. A football enthusiast that enjoys travelling around the UK exploring different football grounds. I’ll stop there as it sounds like I’m trying to sell myself on a dating app 🤣

So how did you first get in to running?

Allan: It was on December 29th 2012. After around six years of weekend countryside walks, often organised events with the local rangers, I decided to go for a jog. It was way before I had even heard of Strava but being a bit of a geek, I logged all of my early activities. Here is what I jotted down from that momentous morning…

“Decided to start running to get rid of some flabby belly and man boobs! Set off about 8:15am. Cloudy with spots of rain then HEAVY rain on way back! Couldn’t have picked a worse day to start but will carry on. Made it to the halfway point without stopping. Joanne about 3 or so mins behind which ain’t bad as she has done NOWT for months!”

It was a 2.2 mile run and I was wearing a fleece top that was about triple the weight once the rain had soaked in at the end. For some reason this baptism of moisture didn’t put me off running and I have been going pretty much non stop for nearly 11 years. I’ve had a few niggles and a couple of injuries that have kept me sidelined for several weeks but all in all I have been pretty lucky and have always managed to keep my motivation.

George: I first started running in 2020 and in true beginner style I wore a pair of Adidas trainers for my first run. I’d say I got into running by simply starting off by doing a one mile run & not having a clue what I was doing. Something must have clicked to start doing healthy hobbies and change my lifestyle. Although he never forced me to start running if it wasn’t for my Dad I don’t think I’d have ever started running, certainly not ultras.

What are some of your favourite places to run?

George: Although most of my runs are on road I do prefer to run on trails. A route I enjoy which is local to me is named “The Dovestone Diamond”. It’s a 6.7 mile route all on trail with some incredible views. The name given to this route is simply due to its location which is at Dovestone Reservoir and when it is complete the run on a map is shaped like a diamond. It even has its own Strava Segment.

Allan: I started off mainly road running but it wasn’t too long after that I got a taste for the muddy trails. We have plenty to choose from where I live. There’s local trails right from my front door which can easily connect to trails such as the Pennine Way and Trans Pennine Trail. Like George, I suppose one of my favourites is Dovestone. It can definitely give the Lake district a run for its money.

I’ve done a few 24 hour loop events including Endure in Leeds a couple of times. I’ve also done a race called Escape from Meriden four times. The beauty of this race is that you start in Meriden, the centre of England, and run in any direction you want for 24 hours. Your mileage is based as the crow flies, so you have to plot a route and keep it as straight as possible to avoid wasted miles. To add to the wackiness of the event, it starts at midnight. Seeing people run in all directions at the start of a race has to be seen to be believed. There’s the option of running solo, in pairs or chained. I’ve done both solo and pairs and have my eye on the chained event for the future. I just need to find an idiot that I can tolerate being chained to for 24 hours.

Escape from Meriden is basically the opposite of “The Drop“, which Iain has done 3 of now. Good luck finding that idiot, though 🤔

George, you recently completed the Accumulator and Allan a 99 day run streak. What were those personal challenges about, and why?

George: I recently completed the accumulator challenge, normally this challenge is 31 days of increasing your daily mileage by 1. E.g. Day 1 = 1 mile, Day 10 = 10 miles up until Day 31. I did the 31 day challenge around 18 months ago. Midway through October I decided to give it another go. Why? I believed it would be perfect training for my up and coming backyard ultra races. However this time I would put an extra day at the end making it 32 days = 528 miles.

Allan: I decided to do a run steak to keep me motivated right up to the backyard ultra at Golspie. It was always designed to finish on the Saturday, a week before the race. I was super chuffed when I worked it out and realised that the streak would end on 99 days. I set my minimum miles per day at just 1 and only did this a handful of times. The run streak spanned two holidays, Madeira and Scotland, so kept me motivated when it would have been all too easy to not get out.

How do you get on running together?

George: We very rarely run together, probably due to my Dad not being able to keep up with me 😉. Maybe running together is something we should try at Golspie Backyard Ultra in the later loops.

Allan: When we do it’s either a parkrun, a backyard ultra or the tail end of one of our personal challenges. We usually end up chatting about backyard ultra stats and the usual running nonsense.

Between you you’ve done more than a dozen Backyard Ultras, so what got you in to BYU running?

George: My Dad had told me about Backyard Ultras as he had ran one several years before I started running. It sounded easy, but how wrong I was! I liked the concept of them and now I’m hooked!

Allan: I’d done my first ultra in 2015, the Oldham Way 40 mile event. I got hooked and was soon looking around for other long distance stuff. In early 2016 I came across a race called Last One Standing. It had happened the week before in Castleward, Northern Ireland. Just over 4.1 miles on the hour, every hour until there was only one person left. I remember thinking how easy that would be. All I had to do was run a fast lap in around 40 minutes or so and then have twenty minutes rest. How wrong I was! I entered the event the following year and managed 30 yards (laps, hours) and ended up in the top 6. I was hugely chuffed with myself to not only get my first 100 miles but to then carry on for another 6 hours.

I’m definitely a huge fan of the backyard ultras these days. Golspie this weekend will be my 11th BYU. I’ve had a mix of success and failures from that glorious start at Castleward. 13 yards being the lowest and a PB earlier this year at GOBYU in Leeds of 31 yards. I used to think that it was a 50/50 split between fitness and mental strength in a BYU. Now I believe it’s 1/3 fitness, 1/3 mental strength and 1/3 luck. If everything doesn’t come together on the day (days) you’re soon in trouble. The backyard ultra is now a huge worldwide event, with hundreds of races. Back in 2017 there were only 9 events, and in 2016 there were only 3. With the lack of events in 2017 I was actually joint 7th in the world in the backyard ultra format. A stat that I will tell anyone and everyone whenever I can. Right now, I’m joint 778th.

Have you got any goals for Golspie this weekend?

George: Ahead of this weekend at Golspie I’m feeling really positive. I’ve put in plenty of miles and I want to be up there. I’m still yet to do 24 loops = 100 miles so as a minimum I would like this to happen at the weekend, then carry on pushing onto the win however many loops that may be.

Allan: I’d be a fool and a liar if I said I haven’t. My main goal is to beat George and I’m pretty certain one of his is to beat me. We both have a bit of a competitive edge which keeps us both on our toes. Obviously I’d like to increase my PB but I’ve learned to just keep chipping away the yards and to not think of the bigger picture. I definitely need to control my mind as the laps get tougher. At Orkney BYU in July I got to within 1 lap of my PB and simply gave up. I said at the time that I was more than happy to be the assist to Julie! Days later I was pretty annoyed with myself. I was coming in late at the end of the laps but still had time to sort myself out and answer the bell. Will I learn from this? Let’s see after the weekend.

We’ll be watching with interest to see which of you comes out on top! So what’s next, got any other events or challenges planned?

George: A fortnight after Golspie I’ll be running another Backyard Ultra – Gods’ Own BYU in Leeds which is one I’ve taken part in each time. My personal best of 20 loops is recorded at this race.

Allan: The only event I have is the Cowshed BYU in April. It’s the Four Nations Championship and I’ll be running for Team England again. I ran in the team at 2 events in 2022 with 13 and 20 yards. I hope to massively improve on this next year. I’ll be doing some biggish miles in training leading up to the event. I stick to around 60 miles a week for between 4-6 weeks including a 20 miler at the weekend.

Good luck – we’ll see you there! Now all the questions are done and it’s over to you. Anything else you want to share with our readers?

George: I “run” my own Facebook page called “The Oldham Groundhopper” where I document where I go on my travels which consist of watching football at many different grounds. From small non-league grounds with 100 spectators, to Ibrox in Glasgow watching Rangers with over 50 thousand. I’ve been doing this for over 3 years now and currently have over 52,000 followers!

Allan: I’m not going to jump on my soapbox, but I will say that being Vegan for around five and a half years has massively improved my running. Maybe not so much speed or anything but the recovery rate sometimes surprises even me. I can be up and out on a decent recovery run usually the day after a big event. I’m a great believer in active recovery. If I can’t quite manage a run, I’ll always get out for a walk. If you’re interested, check out the Vegan Runners website.

Thanks for sharing, I’m sure some of our readers will check our those links!

Hope you enjoyed our chat with the Parkins! You can wish them luck and see how they both get on at Golspie by joining the Golspie BYU Facebook group or following Golspie BYU on Instragram. We’ll try to share bit on our FB and X pages too. See you soon 👋

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