Leavesden parkrun (again) for my Wilson Index

I gave the new event touring a rest to have a revisit to Leavesden Country parkrun. It’s a fairly local one to me (around 30 minutes) and a really nice route, plus handily as it is the newest event in Herts it’s good for those low Wilson Index numbers.

I was there fairly early so took the opportunity to head through the woods and admire the carvings, as on previous occasions I’ve been with my dad and we have tended to stay by the start/finish area. There are loads of amazing carvings- woodpeckers, owls, on signs as well as on benches.
After and before- I needed event 29 for my WI to go from 28 to 52.

This was event 29, the lowest number that I needed, and so it had been in my calendar for a while. You never know with cancellations if these event numbers need to get moved, but it was all fine and no cancellations meant that it was on for the week I’d originally planned.

I enjoyed the run- as mentioned previously it’s a 3 lap course, with each lap starting through woods and then finishing around fields. As they are varied, it doesn’t feel monotonous like a lapped course could. There is a narrow part where you see runners heading in the opposite direction, so you can’t overtake in that section, but it’s only a few metres long so there is no need to stress.

After running and scanning I headed to the cafe for breakfast. This parkrun has all the facilities right there- the parking is right by the start, as is the cafe. I popped back to my car to get a hoodie, and then joined the queue and was sat down by 9:45, with my tea and blueberry croissant. I even got to have some parkfaff, although not with parkrunners. After a while, the cafe was getting busy and so a couple of women asked if they could join me- we ended up chatting and it turned out their kids were doing gymnastics in the building nearby, but one of them was interested in parkrun but worried about running, so I explained to her about the tail walker and park walkers, and also junior parkrun as there is one in the same park. Hopefully she gets to one at some point.

I know that the Wilson Index does not appeal to all parkrunners, but I quite like having some of the choice made for me. After achieving the alphabet and my 250th run (and well on the way to 100 locations), it’s a long way to any other milestone, official or not. Where I live means I have lots of local parkruns to choose from- if Dad is about we will most likely do Jersey Farm, but if not I have lots to choose from and so having something like this to focus on means that some weeks my choice has been made. As someone who is not good at decision making, it helps a lot!

On the Sunday of that weekend we had a little day out in London planned. Off to see Six (tenuous link here as it’s to do with numbers?), dinner at Mildred’s and then to the Disney Wonder of Friendship exhibition.

Mildred’s dinner (Covent Garden location)- we shared the hummus to start and it was huge! Then we shared two mains so we could sample lots- these are the nachos hidden under all those pink pickled onions and salad! Plus lavender lemonade for me- I love floral drinks like rose or lavender and so this was perfect. Six was brilliant too- I didn’t look into it too much before we went, but I loved that the band were all female, and the six of them were pretty much on stage the entire show- very impressive.

The Disney Wonder of Friendship exhibition was quite fun too- you had a time slot to enter, and before each experience you were greeted by a cast member, who would explain how it worked. They were all interactive in different ways- the Lion King section had swings that you sat on and had to swing in time with the music, plus drums to play with, and the Lilo and Stitch area had wobbly surf boards to go on.

Another busy but fun weekend, and getting ready for my 99th venue for the coming weekend!

Popping to Pocket parkrun

Originally this was planned for the start of the Easter holidays, but things don’t always go to plan. I was looking forward to it as I had seen a club mate go there, although after it turned out she had been to Peter Pan parkrun and not Pocket- I mean, they begin with P so in my mind they are the same!

My dad picked me up on the way, with my mum and brother coming along to watch and then to join us for breakfast after.

The parking was in a leisure centre close to the start, and the start was in a field next to a nature reserve. Pocket have two courses, and this was the summer course- a two lap course through the nature reserve, alongside a river and then back to the field. It really was my kind of parkrun- I loved Ellenbrook Fields as it was through varied terrain (fields, woods, alongside a river), it was flat, shaded in places, scenic. Bury Fields reminded me of this too (slightly less flat) and Pocket had the same vibe.

I went for green and black colours rather than red, white and blue…

It was the weekend of “man puts on hat” so some people were wearing red, white and blue- the RD explained that people were celebrating the first weekend of the summer course. As someone who purposefully wore no red white or blue that day, pleased me greatly!

Mid-run scenes and the big statue at the end.

We ran together, chatting, although a bit less chatting from me on the second lap- finishing in 28:36 for my fastest time of the year.

I’d seen a statue on the way around so after scanning we wandered back to have a look. It was a life sized model of the tallest man who had lived locally- I liked the style of the metal, and a photo had to be taken to compare our heights of course. We did think about going to the cafe that the team mentioned, in the leisure centre, but when we went in the leisure centre staff told us that the person running the cafe hadn’t turned up yet, so we headed into town. I had seen a new vegan cafe, Oscar’s, open fairly recently and was keen to try it, and happily my family are always keen to try these places too.

They did waffles which I was tempted by, but in the end I went for avocado on toast which was a good choice. My dad went for the same, and both my mum and brother went for the vegan sausage sandwich, apparently very tasty too. They also had these amazing looking cinnamon buns, so we all bought cakes to take home and have later. Later on in the day we met my parents at a garden centre and did some plant shopping (as most of the customers were occupied elsewhere…). The cinnamon bun was very appreciated after some gardening in the rain!

The course map- apparently the winter course is a rude shape…

So that was location 98 for me! The Cowell (100 locations) is in sight!

Birthdays, bluebells and bikes

After enjoying Monsal Trail parkrun at the start of the bank holiday weekend, we had all weekend to enjoy that part of the Peak District.

Chakra Lounge avocado on toast, vegan Bakewell tart, vegan ice cream from Lick.

Our air BnB was very central, so we could be in the centre for a wander very quickly. There was a farmers market and food fair going on, although not really any vegan options there. We found a gorgeous cafe, Chakra Lounge, and ended up going there both days.

We went for a walk around the woods by Chatsworth House. It was so lush and green, but as we were close to the end it absolutely poured with rain- we were drenched through! A contrast to the sunny morning that we’d enjoyed.

Bike ride views along the Monsal Trail.

On the Sunday we walked along the Monsal Trail to the bike hire place (handily at the start of parkrun so I’d had a chance to check it out the day before. We hired bikes for a few hours and then rode along the old railway line. It was around 15 miles there and back, with a few stops for photos and drinks along the way. I did feel a bit anxious at times as there were dogs on long leads that were a bit erratic and kept running out in front of us- I was so worried I would end up running a dog over. At times you had to cycle through old railway tunnels and it was so strange to feel the temperature change so drastically and quickly.

Another Chakra Lounge visit- the prettiest chai latte ever, plus a pistachio matcha latte.

As we had walked there and back as well as cycling, we took it fairly easy in the evening, with a gentle walk around the river in the town in the evening, spotting ducklings.

After driving home on the Monday, I was keen to see the bluebells at Panshanger before they go, so we had a wonderful walk around there. It was good to stretch the legs after a long car journey too.
Matching the bluebells in my purple top!
The bluebells in our local woods were also out, so my early morning runs that week were also full of me stopping for photos of the bluebells- it is one of my favourite times of year.
My birthday was on a working day, and one of my busiest with a lunch time club and after school meeting, but we had booked to go out for dinner, and made it in time to even pop to the Pudding Stop to get a brownie for after. As the weather was so good, we had a walk around the park in St Albans.

Monsal Trail parkrun, Bakewell

As it’s my birthday in early May, we often have a weekend away for the Bank Holiday, and this year we opted for a weekend in Bakewell. We’ve been to the Peak District a few times, but only ever driven through Bakewell before, so I was looking forward to staying there. We drove up after work on the Friday night, and had an Air BnB right in the centre of the town.

Of course I was looking forward to some more parkrun tourism! Monsal Trail parkrun starts around 1.5 miles from the town centre. I ran the most direct route, but for a prettier route I could have found the end of the trail in the town and then ran that way.

It starts at an old railway station, and is an out and back route on an old railway line. I was there fairly early so opted to run the opposite direction of the railway line for a bit- plenty of runners were using it as their warm up.

The old railway line, a parkrun sign (yay), and the map.

I always feel a bit awkward asking someone to take my photo, but there were lots of tourists there and people were happy to do this, so after watching a few people pose for photos, I plucked up the courage to ask someone to take one for me. I am terrible at lining up the signs in the background when I attempt a selfie, so a photo taken by someone else is preferable. I ended up chatting to a mother and son who had travelled for his first parkrun (not hers)- he even asked “do you have to have a photo with the sign?”- that’s how many people were doing it!

The actual course is gently downhill for the first half, a u-turn and then gently uphill to the finish. Nothing really steep, but it did make the final mile feel a little tougher. Even with that, I somehow managed the elusive royal flush negative split (9:31, 9:27, 9:17 and 8:08). On the way back I had a guy right behind me who was breathing really heavily, which I am not a fan of. (I know people need to breathe hard when they run, but it just makes me focus on my own breathing and I find it off putting). I kept trying to overtake the person in front to make a bit of space, but he kept getting behind me and keeping there, even when I was overtaking. As it’s fairly narrow in places, with cyclists and walkers as well as parkrunners, so you had to be a bit careful when overtaking. At one point I was hanging behind a group of runners, with cyclists coming the other way. A voice behind me went “go now, before the next cyclist”, and I thought it was aimed at someone else, but then he said again “go now!”, and I realised he was talking to me. As we neared the end, the same guy told me to keep running faster, I told him I couldn’t go any faster (briefly) and told him to push to the end, so he overtook me right at the finish. Clearly for him he liked to have someone to pace him!

How good is their token sorting box?

After taking a few photos, I headed back for breakfast, as we were planning to come back to hire bikes later on in the weekend.

So that was event number 97 for me. Another really enjoyable event, such a pretty route, easy to find, everything you would need at the start/finish area. Perfect!

Cannon Hill parkrun- why we always check social media

We had tickets to a comedy gig in Birmingham on a Friday night, and as it’s a fair way away, decided to stay overnight after. Of course this means a new parkrun on the Saturday morning.

I’d not been to any Birmingham parkrun before, and it seemed there were plenty to choose from. In the end I went for Edgbaston reservoir as it was the closest to the hotel. It was 1.5 miles away, which meant a nice warm up in the morning.

I’d checked the future roster and added it to the planner in the 5k app, and it was good to go. For some reason on the Thursday night, after packing, I checked their facebook page, only to see a cancellation message- due to some event (rowing?) happening that the event team didn’t know about. On to find a plan B. Thankfully there are loads of parkruns, and the next nearest one, Cannon Hill, was only around 2 miles away, so still a nice distance for a warmup. I’m so glad I checked, as if I had run there, I would not have had enough time to get to a different one.

Cannon Hill in the sunshine- everyone meeting at the bandstand in the park

Confusingly, Cannon Hill parkrun was by Edgbaston stadium- I checked that many times before setting off. Our hotel was on one of the canals, so I did get slightly lost when heading out, and I think the tall buildings confused the satellites as part of my run was a straight line through several buildings. Anyway, after the initial getting lost it was a fairly simple route. My phone battery has been getting worse and worse (I did take it to the shop for them to have a look at and to see about it being replaced, but they said it wasn’t worth it)- by the time I got to the park I had used over half, so had to remember the way back without using google maps which is always challenging for me.

The park was very pretty- a manicured park with plenty of flower beds, a band stand (where the volunteers were meeting), a lake and various buildings, cafes etc. It was a sort of two lap course, with an out and back bit too. It reminded me of Stevenage parkrun in that it’s a similar park, all flat apart from a little hill up to the finish funnel. It was very busy, with 668 runners that day. The finish funnel was very long, and one of the volunteers told me that they usually have around 500, but probably with Edgbaston being cancelled they had a few more. It was well managed, and with wide paths it didn’t feel that busy after the first few metres. At one point I was running along and a buggy runner passed me, and then a toy dinosaur fell out. I picked it up and called out but they didn’t hear, and another runner told me to catch them up- I had to sprint very hard as he was going super fast! I handed it over, and then as soon as he handed it to his child, they dropped it again so I picked it up again! Thankfully that was the end of catch the dinosaur!

The canal by our hotel, penguin art in the centre, parkrun magazine and of course a postbox.

At the end they had boxes of the parkrun magazine- this was the first time I’d seen this issue, so I picked one up for me and one for my dad. I managed to get back to the hotel and only had to get out my phone to look at the maps once, so that was not too bad.

After a shower, we headed into the centre as we’d booked lunch at The Ivy (as we had vouchers), and then had a little wander around the centre. It reminded me that I am not a Saturday shopping person. We did see some cool penguin art by the station.

That was my 96th different event. Another really enjoyable one (aren’t they all?). And an important lesson to always double check social media in case of cancellations!