Christmas at Kew plus token sorting at a soggy parkrun

On Saturday morning I was off to run at Ellenbrook Fields- after getting the email about them being short of volunteers I’d offered to sort the tokens after as I was going to be on my own (eg not heading back to my parents for breakfast) and we weren’t heading into London until later so I knew I’d have the time.

Plus, who can resist a penguin? My cow cowl bobble hat arrived on Friday so I decided to take it with me as it was cold and rainy and I knew I’d cool down as soon as I stopped running. The only other time I have sorted tokens was at Panshanger on a frosty morning- I feel like the people who get to do it in a cafe (or in the summer) have a much nicer job! Anyway, the parkrun was enjoyable (28:24- too slow for a bingo number as I need 17 and 18) and then put on my coat and hat and started to sort the tokens. Luckily now EF have a little tool box so the scanners had been putting them in the correct box (sets of 20) so I just had to sort each section. None were missing (excellent work EF runners at returning them all) but it got a bit windy and at one point the set I was sorting blew all over the table- argh! The RD decided not to put them on the knitting needle things as she said she needed to take them home to dry them out so they wouldn’t be sticking together next week, but I still felt very satisfied when the box was full and all the sections were properly ordered. I was just pretty cold, and I was going to treat myself to a hot drink from the coffee van, but the coffee van didn’t turn up.

Once we had finished I helped pack away (I say helped, one job was to take down the gazebo and I am not very spatially aware so I just could not work out the way it would fold- thankfully there were 4 competent people who could manage that while I carried the bag…) and then headed back to the car. I stopped at Tesco on my way home as I wanted to get some marzipan and icing for the Christmas cakes (they have been maturing away for a few weeks now) but the shop was a total nightmare, rammed full of people and awful stuff like Slade blasting out- urgh. I was glad to finally get home and have a hot shower and breakfast. I pottered around at home a bit, and thankfully the rain eased off before we had to leave for London.

We drove to St Albans and got the train in and had a lovely wander around Covent Garden to see the Christmas lights. We went to get a fancy Christmas hot chocolate in Hotel Chocolat but I was a bit disappointed as we usually get one with the coconut milk, and automatically they never seem to add the cream (not a fan of the weird squirty cream) but this time it came with a huge pile of brown cream (chocolate cream? is that a thing?)- we had to spoon it off and then there wasn’t much actual hot chocolate left. Next time I shall specify no cream! We also went to the amazing Swedish bakery and picked up a couple of cinnamon buns to have for breakfast (seriously, just standing outside of the bakery means you get the most amazing smells wafting out- it reminds me of the book A Year Of Living Danishly because I mainly  wanted to eat cinnamon rolls while I read it!). After a quick dinner in Leon (their vegan falafal Christmas wrap is so tasty) we got the tube to Kew Gardens.

I’ve not been before and I was really impressed. Within the gardens was a mile trail with all sorts of light installations along the way. Some had music, some moved, some made of fire, and some floating on water. It was all varied and felt so festive.

There were lots of food stalls, so Andy got a mulled wine and I got a hot apple juice with cinnamon, and we walked around admiring the lights. At one point we had to cross a bridge and there was a bit of a traffic jam there, but not for long.

We were probably there for around 90 minutes in the end, just wandering and taking our time. I liked that it was one route, so you had no worries about missing any of it.

One of the places was playing Silent Night (sung in German) which my Grandad had tried to teach me when I was little (my Grandma was Austrian) so I had a little time in the dark remembering my Grandad. It made me think of my Nan too, as when she came to stay with us at Christmas we used to make sure we drove past certain houses as they always had crazy Christmas lights and she loved to see them all.

I must have been shattered as on the Sunday I didn’t wake up until nearly 10 o’clock! I cannot remember the last time I slept that long. I had to head out quickly on a run as my cousin was coming over later and we needed to pop to town (I had to return a jumper and get something for dinner), so I only did 5 miles.

After racing into town and ticking things off the list we were home just in time for my cousin, his wife and their baby to come over. We’d not seen them for ages (since before their baby was born- they’d popped over after a hospital appointment as we are close to the hospital) so it was good to catch up.  After they left it was time for a bit of life admin and then catching up on TV.


On Monday after work I went on a run (my regular 3 mile route)- I saw loads of Christmas lights up, but seeing as it is actually December I think it’s OK. Some are rather interesting (giant inflatable Santa and snowman anyone?).   I wore my new Running Heroes t-shirt. A couple of weeks ago I had an email saying that because I’d filled in a questionnaire (which I don’t remember doing) I had won a t-shirt. It’s lovely and soft, and that bright orange colour is good for winter, although of course I had my light on too. My back had been feeling a little stiff so I ran very gently as I didn’t want to make it worse, and I think it helped. I had chosen to run on Monday rather than Tuesday because I had a training session after work over in Watford which didn’t finish until 6pm and I knew the traffic would be a nightmare getting home, as it’s in the wrong direction. I wouldn’t usually run for 3 days in a row as the third run tends to be a bit of a slog for me by that time, although doing  shorter run on the Sunday meant it was actually fine.

On Wednesday I had a late meeting, so didn’t have time for my usual walk before yoga. It was our last yoga session because our teacher is off to India for a month (normally they run during term time so we’d have a couple more weeks).  It was a really small class, and had that end of term feel. We ended up going off piste, as a few people mentioned tight shoulders. A few weeks ago we did a little partner yoga to stretch out the shoulders, and so we ended up doing loads of it- things like child’s pose with someone laying on top (maybe called turtle?), lots of paired downward dogs (where the other person puts their feet on your hips to push down further)- I was really pleased because I’ve never managed to be the person balancing on top before, but with a little help (someone else helped to place one of my feet) I managed to hold the pose. I just need more confidence because I tend to think my arms aren’t strong enough and then panic (to be fair last time I tried I fell over and bruised myself quite badly). We then did some laughter yoga, which felt strange at first but it did leave you with a sort of feeling of release. The final relaxation was very much needed.

On Thursday I had to get to another meeting after work, and although it didn’t finish as late as I thought, the traffic was really bad. I did the regular 3 mile route and it started to rain just as I got into my road so I decided that was enough! With lots on at work it’s good to just get a little bit of fresh air.

Have you been to London to see the lights? Do you have nice Christmas lights near you? Have you ever been to a light show? I quite liked the Lumiere festival in London last year.

And now it’s December!

WHAT??? Time just seems to suddenly have gone so fast- where did November go???

After getting off to a good start at the Bath Christmas markets the other weekend I did start getting a bit organised with presents and things (I am going to make some presents this year, and also have decided to use brown paper and pretty ribbon instead of wrapping paper as apparently most of it can’t be recycled).

Last Monday I had to leave work asap to pick up my brother from the airport- getting to Heathrow wasn’t too bad but I was conscious that every minute going by would mean worse traffic for our return (and he had been travelling for something like 30 hours by the time he landed so I didn’t want to make him hang about too long). He’d been in Namibia so the journey back was great to hear him talk about all the animals that they’d seen (my parents stayed on for another week).


Tuesday was a run on my own and it was tipping it down with rain. I just wanted to do a few miles as I’d got home late. At the moment I’ve got a nice 3 mile loop which is away from main roads for most if it, so it’s quite nice at rush hour time because it’s not too busy. The rain eased off after a bit, but I was pretty soaked through from the start. At one point a van drove past, and even though the road was wide and empty of cars (and I had my torch on) it drove though a massive puddle and totally soaked me (well, added to the water with horrible muddy puddle water). I saw lots of Christmas decorations up too (last week it was still November)- it’s too early!!!

On Wednesday I had to get into town (WGC) before the shops shut to pick up a few deliver to store items (actual Christmas shopping, plus a penguin jumper for me…)- I made it just in time, and then it was lovely yoga- always so much needed by the middle of the week. I’d had a stiff back as I had stupidly lifted down a very heavy box of costumes at work, so we did lots of gentle twists and postures to help with that. We had a bit of time to do headstands- I can’t get anywhere near the so called easier one, but I am getting closer with the tripod, so I practised that a few times and managed to get one leg up at a time- slowly slowly.

The St Albans clock tower has a pretty animation being projected onto it.

On Thursday I was going out for dinner with some friends, but I headed into town (St Albans) straight from work (no time to go home and come back again as we were meeting at 6.30). Again I’d ordered something to pick up from a shop so I picked that up and then wandered around for a bit, trying to get my steps up- I’m still on a goal streak of 10,000 or more steps per day, since the end of June. It was pouring with rain so once I’d got my steps up I went and had a cup of tea and some dark chocolate almonds in Pret. Our meal out was really good- originally we had also booked the cinema (Andy and I) at 9.30pm, because I thought our meal wouldn’t be too late as we were meeting early, but of course our catch up went on, so we had to cancel the cinema but as the tickets were free it’s not a big deal.

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On Friday I had a lot of fun with my new penguin jumper- the description online said reversible, so I thought the snowman would be on the inside, but it’s sequins so you just stroke them to flip them all over.

An evening in front of the TV was just what the doctor ordered- we watched Pom Poko which was super weird and I shall never look at raccoons in the same way again!  I may have fallen asleep in front of the TV at around 9pm…

(I’ll save the weekend and actual December for next time)

Are your decorations up?

Bath Christmas market trip (and of course more of a catch up)

I do keep on getting behind with posts at the moment, so before Bath I shall rewind to the week before.

My November tea club came a while back as the Christmas theme- Snowball ( a classic and now all vegan instead of having to get the one without gelatin- black tea with chocolate, coconut and marshmallows), Fairytale of New York (not so much my kind of tea as it’s rooibos with coffee beans) and then Mint Choc Rooibos, which I do like, but I was a teeny bit miffed because on their facebook page they’d posted it and the tea club contained Mince Pie tea- I’d had a sample last year and it was so good- black tea with almond and orange peel. Anyway, I commented on their page and they replied that some tea club subscriptions were different, and I was worried that the mince pie tea wasn’t vegetarian (some of their teas used to not be veggie, but since last year they had changed them all over so they were)-  it turned out that as I was down for a veggie one, that was linked to an allergy one, so I didn’t get the tea containing nuts. They then offered to send some mince pie tea to me, which was just so kind of them (and it is super delicious).

Following on from the Brighton 10k I had a rest day on Monday with a walk around town in the evening (after a much needed back and shoulder massage) to stretch out the legs a bit. My legs were a bit stiff but sometimes a run helps with this, so I had  3 mile run after work on Tuesday- it was freezing out there! Wednesday was lovely yoga, and then on Thursday although I’d planned a run, I just felt so tired and had lots of work to do, so we went on a walk before dinner instead. On the Friday as soon as I got home from work it was time to pack, quickly have dinner and then drive to Reading (on the way to Bath).

After doing Dinton Pastures parkrun it was time to head to the station. I love a bit of a train journey- chilling out to podcasts and watching the scenery. We arrived in Bath around lunch time so we headed to Pret and shared a wrap and a drink before going on a walk around the markets. Often we go to the spa but decided to give it a miss this year as last year the queues were so huge that we felt like we wasted a bit of time there.

The markets were all around the city centre, and there was also an ice rink and glow in the dark mini golf in a park close by. The markets were pretty rammed (with a one way system going on) so we had a general look from afar and decided which ones we’d visit again later. It was fairly cold, although luckily the rain from the morning had stopped, so we went for tea and cake in a cafe to warm up for a bit. We sat by the window upstairs so had a great view of everyone wandering past and perusing the stalls. I braved a few shops to tick off a few items on my list, but we saved the markets for after dinner.

We’d booked a meal at The Ivy (which had a separate vegetarian menu with lots of options)- I went for a delicious sweet potato dish with aubergine, coconut yoghurt, grains and a spicy tomato sauce- it was very warming for a wintery day.

Then we visited some of the stalls- I couldn’t resist some gingerbread brownies from a stall (3 for £3 which didn’t seem too expensive compared to what you would usually pay), maple butter and syrup, and also some chocolate peanut butter from a Cornish company (we’d bought some of theirs before at the Eden Project).

Our train wasn’t until just before 9pm, so we had a long time to wander around and the markets were much quieter by then. I do love wandering around and seeing everything lit up. I managed to get a few gifts (Secret Santa type ones) so I was pleased to start ticking things off the list (someone at work had already finished all of her Christmas shopping-I mean, what???). After getting the train and then driving home it was pretty late, and quite cold at home (even though we did switch the heating on once we were on the train).

On the Sunday I headed out on a run (6 miles) but when I got home Andy told me that there was some sort of problem with the pressure due to a burst water main, so I couldn’t have a shower. We could at least get water from the tap but the pressure wasn’t high enough for the boiler to work. I changed into some un-sweaty clothes and had breakfast and tried to warm up by making some mini pumpkin pies (the oven always warms  up the kitchen pretty well), but it didn’t start working until well into the afternoon. We went to see Andy’s parents for a bit but I still hadn’t properly warmed up so when we got home we put the fire on, ready for Escape to the Chateau (if you don’t watch this, then why not???).

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This turned out to be funny because I posted a pic on facebook and I thought everyone knew about our wedding by now, but clearly some people didn’t, but they spotted the Mr and Mrs cards on the mantle piece!

I was feeling pretty festive (or maybe hygge) by the end of the weekend.

Have you started (or I dread to ask, finished) your Christmas shopping yet? 

Dinton Pastures parkrun on the way to the Bath Christmas markets

We quite like our yearly trip to the Bath Christmas markets, but not the long drive. For the last couple of years we have stayed in Swindon- the first year I went to Swindon parkrun (and we then drove to the park and ride but had a nightmare finding a space) and last year we stayed in Swindon and I got the train to Chippenham parkrun, before we got the train to Bath. This year we decided to stay in Reading, as the train was just under an hour. It also meant that I could get a new letter for my parkrun alphabet challenge!

Dinton Pastures parkrun was fairly close to the Holiday Inn (well, it looked close on the map but was actually over 1.5 miles away, which is OK but not when you have booked a train that morning…). It’s only been going since July- this was event 20- which explains why I hadn’t found it when looking for events beginning with D back in the summer.

We drove to Reading on the Friday night and then on Saturday morning I left for parkrun, armed with my phone and google maps. It was gently raining at first, but by the time I got there it was raining pretty hard. The entrance to the park had a separate pedestrian path, and I had seen some arrows in the distance so I headed there, but hesitated as I couldn’t see anyone around and wondered if it was the route marker and not an arrow to the start. A guy walking along saw me hesitate and offered the directions, and we chatted as we walked to the start. Weirdly it turns out he had run at Ellenbrook Fields before as his daughter is at uni in Herts (it’s right by the uni campus), so we could chat about the course! I love coincidences like that.

The new runner brief and main run brief were pretty quick- no-one wanted to hang about in that weather (I briefly chatted to a tourist who was from Bristol and on her way to Sussex- somehow we ended up talking about Crissy Field parkrun in San Fran) and soon we were off. The course is apparently two laps, but because you don’t run on exactly the same paths, it feels like one lap. At one point there was an arrow for lap 1 in one direction, and lap 2 in the other, but that was all I saw.

I just followed the people in front as always! There were lots of enthusiastic marshals on the way around- even more impressive on a damp and rainy day. At one point I stopped to take the photo (below, top left) because it was a really pretty view. I would love to go back on a sunnier day! I think trail shoes would have been a good idea (something which only occurred to me when I was driving to Reading), although the paths were sort of hard packed gravel with a few puddles and lots of leaves to contend with- it was all very flat apart from one short slope so it was all fine in road shoes really. My trail shoes would have kept my feet a little drier but that’s all.

I didn’t hang about once I finished, as I needed to get back for a shower and to make our train.  I knew I needed to get over the motorway straight away, but after that the route took me through a housing estate and then onto a bit of nature reserve- here I got very confused and the map just kept recalculating as it didn’t think I was on a road, so I went around in circles and back on myself for a bit- I ended up running 2 miles back- whoops!

Andy had made a cup of tea for me, so I jumped in the shower and then had the tea to warm up (plus an almond croissant and some satsumas).

Then we had just enough time for me to dry my hair before we checked out and drove to the station, to catch our train to Bath- I’ll get to that another day. My text came through to say my time was 29:19, and annoyingly for the stopwatch bingo I only need 17 and 18- so close! (By the way, the parkrun adventurers podcast had an interview last week with the creators of the running challenges chrome extension which I am using to keep track of all sorts of parkrun challenges including the alphabet one, so it’s worth a listen if you are interested).

So,  after a long hiatus I have ticked off another letter, and now *only* need I, J, K, Q and (international tourism) Z.

Do you like to chat to other people at parkrun? I am not usually very confident at chatting to people I don’t know, but because we always have a shared interest it always seems much easier at parkrun. Also the saying goodbye bit is always weird but there’s a natural cut off with the start of the run so that seems to help a bit too.

Brighton 10K 2018

We stayed in the centre of Brighton so it meant I could get up pretty late on Sunday morning as the race started at 9.30, so I left the hotel at around 9.10. Andy walked with me so I could give him my jacket at the last possible moment- it was beautiful blue skies but felt colder than the Saturday with a cold wind. We saw a few more snails on the way so of course I couldn’t resist a few more photos.

I’d looked up my 10k pb 54:53 from the Brighton 10k back in 2015, and originally I was thinking of going for one, but when I wrote down the mile splits it seemed I would need to run faster than my parkrun pb for twice the distance (and beat my 5 mile pb) so I just thought I’d try to keep an 8 on each mile and see how I got on.

The route starts by the seafront and you first head out towards Hove (this time with the wind behind), turning at just after 2 miles to come back along the seafront, past the start/finish area at about 4.5 miles, with a second turnaround point to head to the finish.

As the wind was behind at the beginning, I made the most of it and tried to keep a fairly sharp pace from the start- 8:56 then 8:45 were mile 1 and 2. As we turned we ran into the wind and it felt a lot harder by the beach huts. As I’d run parkrun there the day before I thought a bit about that and how close I was to a course pb. After the Hove lawns you head up onto the road (I heard someone say “I hate this hill” which made me laugh so much because it’s a tiny slope  from the prom to the road, no where near a hill!) and there it was easier because we were a little more sheltered. 8:51 and 8:47 for miles 3 and 4. Each time I glanced at my watch I could see 8 something, and I think I had in my head I needed 8:40 ish for a pb, and although I was sometimes quicker, I was often behind it, so decided not to stress. Mile 5 was quite tough as we ran past the finish area and of course could see loads of people who had finished- the wind seemed harder here too so it felt a little bit of a slog (nothing awful but just hard work)- I had the standard maths confusion as there were km markers and I thought I’d seen them all, and to add to that near here a marshal was shouting 1.5km to go, when after that I got to the 8 km point and realised he had meant 2.5 km- I was very confused about my maths converting from km to miles before I saw the sign!

I managed 8:43 for mile 5 so I felt I was speeding up. At the turning point thankfully the wind was then behind me and with less than a mile to go I tried to speed up. I’d looked at my watch at the 9km point and thought I was within a shout of going under 55 mins again, so I tried to push on and kept my mind busy with a combination of overtaking people in front and counting up to 100. Mile 6 was 8:23 and then the final bit was 7:31 pace so I did put in a speedy finish!

I stopped my watch in the finish area (showing 54:16) but I had no idea what my official time was, and I also couldn’t remember exactly what my pb was! I then had a bit of a shocker as I’d arranged to meet Andy by the tent with the flag, and waited around a bit, taking a photo of my watch and with my medal, and in the end texted him and it turned out he was in the meeting place- I was at a different tent- whoops!

It was time to head back to the hotel for a shower- we stopped at Pret for a hot drink because I was getting quite cold again (despite having my lovely run Disney top to put on).  When I got my text through, my chip time was 54:11, which made it an official pb! For some reason Strava thinks I ran the 2015 one in 52 something (I definitely didn’t!). I realised that this was the first time I had run it since 2015, because in 2016 it was cancelled due to a storm, and then I didn’t do it last year because I think it clashed with a half marathon.  Anyway, I’m very pleased with that because when I looked at my pb I did wonder how on earth I had managed to run it, so to actually beat it was a great feeling. (Just need to somehow transfer that over to parkrun, although usually when it comes down to it I’d rather just run around and enjoy a parkrun rather than aiming for a time…Runner’s World pace calculator thinks I should be able to do 25:59,  and if I use my best ever half time it says 25:55!)

On our way back we saw vegan runners wearing these amazing enormous animal costumes- the one above is a massive chicken but there were other animals too- big kudos to them for running in something that would be easily caught by the wind.

I had bought a Christmas bun at Gail’s on the Saturday (they are a bit like cinnamon buns, but with christmassy things like dark chocolate, candied orange and frangipane- so delicious) so I had that for breakfast before a shower and drying my hair. We then went for a little wander around the shops, had lunch at Leon (vegan Christmas wrap for me, plus hummus and waffle fries to share) before getting the train back home.


Christmas food in November- yay or nay?  What do you think your best distance for a pb is? I suppose I don’t tend to properly race a parkrun, but I think I am better at the slightly longer distances where I can warm up and get into it a bit.