Northala Fields parkrun for the compass challenge

So on the final Saturday of the holidays I decided to have a little parkrun adventure on my own. I looked at a a few options including Valentines or Victoria Dock for a V, but the train + tube times were adding up, so in the end I went for Northala Fields- I would tick off the N, and also complete the compass challenge (having already run Eastleigh, Southampton/South Oxhey and Westmill).

It meant I had to drive, and although it was 45 minutes away, this was on the M25 so I left at 7.45 to allow loads of time. The journey was actually really easy (even for me)- M25, then M40 into London, which would then turn into the A40, and then at some point (when the satnav told me, and also when the big mounds appeared to my right), exit and turn right. The car park was right there, although filled with the most enormous pot holes so I did briefly worry about getting my car stuck!

Northala Fields have these cool hump hills, which were from when the original Wembley stadium was dug out. One of them has a path spiralling all the way around to the top, so of course I had to run it to get the cool shape on Strava!

I had a little wander around before heading up.

Mmmm, cinnamon swirls…

It took longer than I thought- I’d run 0.8 miles and it was getting closer to when they would do the new runner briefing, so I took a few moments to enjoy the view before heading back down. It had boards up showing what you could see- the weather was beautiful but a little hazy so I couldn’t see everything on the boards.

I had planned to put my long sleeved top in the car before the run, but as time was getting tight I tied it around my waist instead. I headed along to the briefing, where all the tourists were given a lovely welcome.

I saw a few other people with their cow cowls and said hi to them (although they were from Guildford and I just could not remember where it was at all- my geography is not great as if two places begin with the same letter I get them muddled). The guy doing the briefing had been to Panshanger and said how beautiful it was (it really is)- it was on the parkrun profile this week so check it out if you are interested. The main briefing was great- they had big pieces of paper for the milestone people to hold (eg a big purple 25, a red 50 and so on)- the people celebrating milestones stood on the bench holding the paper, so that even if you could not hear the briefing, you could see who was celebrating.

The course was busy with just over 300 runners. It started off on a fairly wide path with grass on either side, so even though (again) I started a bit far back, I managed to overtake people and get into my stride.  The route looped around the back of the spiral hill, went past the start/finish area through some wooded parkland and then around playing fields.

The view from outside the cafe- you ran past this to get to the playing fields section. 

On the far end of the playing fields we ran along the pavement, before heading back into the field, back through the wooded area, past the start/finish area (which I wasn’t looking forward to but was good to be cheered on by the runners who had finished), back around the edge of the spiral in the other direction, and then along to the finish. I felt like I was going fast, but I didn’t look at my watch at all. My miles were pretty consistent according to Strava- 9.11, 8.42, 8.45 and then 8.22 for an official time of 27:41

I like to take a picture of my finish token, and as I was getting my phone out, Bruce Li (who takes brilliant parkrun photos) came and asked me if I wanted a finisher photo. I agreed (we all love a photo at parkrun) and then I chatted to him for a bit. He saw I had Panshanger on my t-shirt, and then I realised that he had visited Ellenbrook and created a video of the course.  It was really lovely to chat to him- he told me that as this is his home run he takes photos at the start, runs it (in around 20 minutes I might add!) and then takes finisher photos for as many people as possible. What a lovely way to be a part of the parkrun community.

I did look in the cafe as I had heard good things, but there was a huge queue and I could only see cooked things on offer- I was hoping for a toasted teacake or something. I had a nakd bar and some water in the car so in the end I headed back and did some stretches before driving home.

So, another letter added, and a new club achieved (totally unofficial of course).  I think every parkrun is worth visiting, but this one felt quite special. The spiral was good fun, and the local just felt really different to other parks.

Then this week I got a message from someone saying I was on the parkrun instagram account (and also on the facebook page it turned out)- they had used one of the photos of me at the finish for their post about where everyone had been this weekend- fame at last!

If you like touristing, how do you decide where to go next?

Easter holidays part 2 including number 100 at number 100!

Onto the next part of the Easter holidays (which was now over a week ago!): Saturday was Ellenbrook Field’s 100th parkrun! I met Dad there (he had cycled and I drove) and we ran together. At the start they remembered the runner and also the mayor who had both died recently and been involved in parkrun. They also mentioned something about the 100th runner, but I didn’t really hear that.

Ellenbrook at the moment has many puddles- last week the finish runway was completely submerged (you can see the photo on their news page), and this week the runway had totally dried up but there was a huge puddle at 3.5km.

We ran together, and when we reached the puddle there was a choice of a diversion through a field- we went for that as the puddle was knee deep on very tall people, and the ground is very rutted so as you could not see the ground it would have been easy to fall and twist an ankle (you can see the little diversion we took in the map above).

At the end of the runway I said to Dad that he could push on if he wanted to, as he is faster than me. We had kept a good pace (9.05, 9.07, 9.04) and he thought about it, but then decided that we would finish together. As we ran past the start, we pushed a little to try and overtake a couple of other runners, and as we reached the finish we could hear the volunteers shouting out numbers- 98, 99- I got a big cheer as Dad let me cross ahead of him and I was given token 100!

I thought that was it, but in chatting to people after it turned out I had won a prize – not one but two dresses (t-shirts) for the Herts Year of Physical Activity. Great- I needed new decorating clothes 😉

After chatting for ages, I headed to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes. My sister and niece were there, so it was lovely to spend time with the family.

Panettone French toast for breakfast one day (we still have some in the freezer left from Christmas), hot cross bun dough, pink tea (Bluebird Red Velvet), yummy Montezuma’s eggs, and home-made hot cross bun toasted and topped with marmalade.

Later on Saturday afternoon Andy’s parents came over, so I made some hot cross buns. We had asked to borrow some hedge cutters as we needed to trim a rather out of control hedge in preparation for our new fence being put up, and Andy’s dad ended up helping with it and spending a few hours in the  garden cutting it down with Andy.

The garden has started coming to life a bit more now- some of the tulips are flowering so there is a bit more colour.

On Sunday I had a longer run in the morning, 7.5 miles, before it started raining too hard. I spent the rest of the day doing work, before having a walk in the late afternoon to get a bit of fresh air and stop looking at a screen for a bit. I did a little more wallpaper stripping too- it’s getting there slowly.

It was Andy’s birthday on Monday, and he had taken the day off work so we walked into town to get the train into London. We went to the Museum of London, which I’d never been to before. It had the 2012 cauldron and lots of information about it (each part was shaped differently and given to the countries that took part after the Olympics finished). We walked all around London, and ended up having a late lunch at Mildred’s (a lovely veggie restaurant) before getting the train home.

On Tuesday I had to be in all day as the fence was being done. I went out on a quick run first thing, just to get some fresh air and steps, and then had to hang around at home, pottering about while the guys were in the garden.

That photo shows about half of the laurel bush that had to come down before the fence was put up (to be fair the guys said they could do it with the bush there, but it was easier for them if it was gone) and then the old fence panels- what a mess!

There’s a path under that puddle somewhere!

Wednesday was a quiet day- a 6 mile run first thing, breakfast and pottering at home including more wallpaper stripping and then the big job of sorting the tea cupboard. It was a total mess but I put a lot of the loose leaf teas into little jam jars (with the labels), and it looks so much neater now. I decided to use some of the peach cobbler tea to make a tea latte (you make the tea, leave to cool then top up with milk, ice and peach slices). It was really good-  I shall make it again for sure. I walked into town to meet Andy as we had a cake voucher for John Lewis, so we shared this fudge cake which was rather nice.

I also started a little job of painting some photo frames.

I was pretty pleased with how they turned out- they are going to go up in my office.

Thursday was a work day, and in the evening we went to the cinema to see Thoroughbreds, which was a bit like Strangers on a Train or something- dark and tense.

On Friday morning I walked into the station and then headed into London to meet with some friends. We had booked afternoon tea at the B Bakery (the one that also does the afternoon tea bus).

It was such good food (one of my friends can’t have dairy at the moment and they now do a vegan afternoon tea so she was very happy). I loved their teapots so much, especially the bird one. When they asked if we wanted more tea, instead of topping up with hot water (which is fine) they got fresh tea and teapots- we could have chosen a different blend but I stuck to the one I had chosen as it was so good- I think it was called After Five, it was black tea with cocoa and mint.

I shall save Saturday for another post as I decided to have a little parkrun adventure to finish the holidays with.

Do you like afternoon tea? Where is the best one that you have had? 

parkrun challenges!

I have recently discovered a little parkrun extension for Chrome- it is so much fun! It was posted on the parkrun tourist facebook page but I am sure it can be found on google. Basically once you have put the add-on, you can look at your results normally, as parkrun displays them, but you get a little green button to press, which then sorts your results in all sorts of marvellous ways:

Above- the normal summary of parkrun results, and then below, once you have clicked:

You can hover over each link to see what it means (the purple ones are all volunteer roles and you get one star for 5+ times and two stars for 10+ times (I imagine it keeps going up but that’s as many as I have done for each role). You also get flags to show the countries that you have been to (Crissy Field in San Francisco was my third parkrun course and my first real parkrun tourism).

It keeps track of how many courses you have been to (which is great as I kept on scrolling up and down trying to keep count).

I am not doing too badly with the alphabet challenge- 15/25 (there is not one beginning with x). It’s handy to see the missing ones.

My favourite club (they are all of course totally made up clubs) is the parkrun Pirates club-  you need 7 C’s and one R (I first heard this on the Australian podcast)- I only need 3 more C’s to get that one.

There is also a cool stopwatch bingo, which I don’t think you could ever plan to do- basically you need a time ending in each second (01, 02 up to 50, 00)- the minutes don’t count, and I am only missing 5 (17, 18, 21, 51 and 56)- but because of trying to press start when the RD says go, I don’t think my watch is ever quite the same (and forgetting to press stop in the finish funnel) so I think that will just happen by chance.

There is also “Stayin’ Alive”, which is 3 B’s and 3 G’s (I only need two more G’s), the Bushy Pilgrimage (check), New Year Day double (check). The one I am closest to finishing is the compass club- I have Eastleigh, Southampton and Westmill, so I just need a North to finish that one (and handily I need an N for the alphabet challenge so that might be my next adventure).

I have also found out that if you look at someone else’s results (I often look at my Dad’s or his cousin’s) you can see their challenge progress too.

Of course the beauty of parkrun is that it can be anything you want it to be. It can be a superfast flat out effort, or a gentle outing catching up with friends and family, it can be about the community of your local one or visiting new places. I set myself the challenge a few years ago of running all of the parkruns  in Hertfordshire, which I managed to complete last year (and then added Letchworth this year once that came along), and although I have half an eye on the alphabet challenge, it isn’t easy to get some of the letters without expensive weekends away, so I am happy to find some other new challenges along the way.

Do you ever set any challenges like this? Which club do you think you would be close to achieving? 

A brilliant running movie and lots of blog-min

One of the joys of the holidays is that I can get on top of the blogmin- I do not know how many emails I have deleted this week (does anyone else get so much spam about bluetooth speakers?), but every now and then I find a good one. I was emailed a while ago to say I was listed here on the UK top 75 running blogs. They also do a list of Top 50 UK Baking Blogs  list (I didn’t even know that the GBBO had a blog…) which is worth looking at if you’re into baking at all- I’ve found a few new ones to follow.

The best email to get was about the Skid Row marathon film. I went to see this in London last September when the Marathon Talk podcast held a special screening. It was a fantastic film, and it is very exciting that there are now going to be screenings all over the UK. You can see the trailer on You Tube here. From their press release: After amassing an incredible 13 awards from 10 different US film festivals during the 2017-2018 season and critical acclaim in the US press, documentary Skid Row Marathon is having its first official cinema release in the UK this Summer. The film will be will be distributed by CinEvents as an exclusive, one night only, Event Cinema release on Wednesday 9th May 2018 in over 100 selected multiplex and independent cinemas nationwide. The film will be released in association with The Big Issue, Runners World, The Running Charity and Marathon Talk. 

Skid Row Marathon is the truly heartwarming and inspiring story of an unlikely group of individuals from LA’s Skid Row, an area well known for being impoverished and forgotten by society. The feature-length documentary focuses on the story of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell over a period of 4 years as he coaches a long-distance running club from the Midnight Mission on LA’s infamous Skid Row.

Using the liberating power of running, the marathon training raises the spirits of Skid Row’s inhabitants and gives them a sense of purpose and a new lease of life. If club members refrain from drug abuse, stay off the streets and out of prison, the Judge will take them around the world to run marathons. Directed by Mark Hayes, this moving film documents the runners as they fight the fierce pull of addiction and homelessness at every turn. It’s a story about second chances and overcoming obstacles. With the surge in numbers of rough sleepers in the UK in the past year, Skid Row Marathon acknowledges the devastating effects homelessness can have. It showcases what the discipline of running and the power of friendship can do to change lives.

Skid Row Marathon was produced by Gabriele Hayes and Doug Blush. Blush is an award-winning producer, editor, and director who has worked on such films as 2018 Academy Award Best Documentary winner Icarus, 2012 nominee The Invisible War, and 2013 Oscar Winner, 20 Feet From Stardom.

I found the film really interesting, really emotional, and really relevant to life over here.  There are so many news stories about the number of rough sleepers in the UK increasing, and you don’t need to be interested in running, but just interested in people.  Tickets are available here, so check out if there is a screening near you. Seriously- go and see it. (I was emailed the info through, but I am just happy to share it on here because I think it’s great).

Finally I was emailed about a new event, the Ciderthon.  It’s a half marathon with a cider taster every mile taking place in Wells, Somerset on the 29th of April. The event will be showcasing local ciders, raising money for Dorset and Somerset air ambulance while bringing runners from across the country to try a new challenge! As someone who doesn’t drink, the cider part doesn’t appeal but it does look like a pretty route. You do have 6 hours so you could do it as a long walk I suppose. If you use the code Maria10 it will give you 10% off at checkout.

Have you seen the Skid Row Marathon film or would you like to? Do you like films about running? I was so annoyed when I accidentally recorded Breaking 2 on HD (when we didn’t have that channel in HD) so I still haven’t seen it. I saw a great film about the Barkley marathons on Netflix.

Do you get a lot of random emails about your blog?

Easter holidays part 1 and the Run Mummy Run book

The Easter holidays have been a good balance of relaxing, running, baking, getting on top of work, catching up with friends and jobs at home.

I made a simnel cake and decided to have a go at toasting the marzipan. As I don’t own a blow torch, I put it under the grill and it seemed to work well. It smelled incredible while it was toasting too.

On the Tuesday morning after the Bank holiday I had a 6 mile run in the morning, before spending the rest of the day doing work.  (I probably had a walk in the afternoon, but I now wish I put my walks on Strava too as it turns out I cannot remember without checking on there to see what I did).

On Wednesday I drove to the outskirts of St Albans and walked the rest of the way in, first up for a shoulder and back massage, and then to meet some friends from work for brunch.

We went to Bill’s, so I didn’t even need to see the menu as their pancakes are one of my favourite breakfasts.  After doing a few jobs in town, I went to see my parents and ended up staying for a lot of the afternoon, just sitting in their kitchen watching all the birds in their garden and catching up with them.

On Thursday morning the weather was beautiful. I had a lovely run (5 miles) and saw so many trees covered in pink blossom. A day of work followed, until 5.30 when I walked into town as I was having my hair cut. I have been going to the same hairdresser for years now, and she of course knows how thick my hair is, but she always gets someone to help her dry it, and I always have the comments about how thick my hair is. I think it’s a compliment, but it’s weird because it’s nothing I do, I just have thick hair. I suppose it’s like tall being being told constantly that they are tall. I know I have really thick hair, but I don’t really know what to say when people tell me.

On Friday I was meeting up with friends, and thankfully it was another beautiful day so I walked to my friends house (although it was a little further than I thought- walking takes a lot longer than running!), and later enjoyed a walk in the woods.

Onto the book. A while ago I was sent the book Run Mummy Run by Leanne Davies and Lucy Waterlow

When they offered to send it to me, I did explain that I am not a mummy, as I wasn’t sure whether the book would be aimed at me or not. I had heard of the facebook group, as a lot of the women in my running club are in the group, but I’d not looked into it any further.

After reading the book, I would say it is a great book to get for someone who is just starting out with running. The chapters cover topics like staying safe when out running, walk/run intervals, injuries, races, fuelling, training plans ranging from beginner 5k plans to improver marathon plans, and even a section called “Pay it forward”, looking at running groups, volunteering and cheering at races (and even has tips on how to set up your own parkrun).  There are some sections aimed at parents (including specific sections on running while pregnant/breastfeeding and so on), but I just skipped over the parts that weren’t relevant as most of the book was. It did cover some female runner issues not linked to parenthood too (e.g. infertility, chafing). The book was sprinkled with anecdotes and little stories from RMR members and this made the book feel a bit like reading a magazine with lots of different people contributing to it.

Since I started running (back in 2008) the advice around nutrition has really moved on. The book talks about everyone being different, and making sure you are adequately fuelled, but mentions that you can probably run for an hour in the morning before breakfast. Personally I can run much further before breakfast, having worked up from 3 miles to around 15 miles. But when I first started running I remember feeling so terrified that I would collapse while out on a run, because I had read so much information about making sure you eat a snack before you go, and eat as soon as you get home. Of course everyone is different and we are still learning things about the human body, but I felt it was refreshing to read a different take compared to most of the running literature.

I would have found this very useful when I first started running, so if you know someone jut starting out then it would make a great present for them. You can also check out the RMR website for other articles based around running.

Do you like reading books about running? I have really enjoyed the Angharad Finn books (The Way of the Runner and Running with the Kenyans), and Rosie Swale-Pope’s book Just a Little Run Around The World.

Do you like to read? And if so, when? I always read before I go to sleep, but in the holidays I quite like reading for a bit in the afternoon too, with a cup of tea of course.

Do you have something that people always comment on? And if so, how do you respond?

*I was sent this book in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.