Happy birthday parkrun! And Wimpole half marathon

And I thought I was doing so well- I am now a week behind again- how does it happen?

Last weekend was parkrun’s 14th birthday- when I first started going (back in 2013) I had to drive over to St Albans, so  I would tend to go when my dad and brother could make it, and pick them up. We tended to go around once a month. It was only when Panshanger launched (4 years ago this weekend) that I started going regularly, and on Panshanger’s first birthday I completed by 50th parkrun. It seemed fitting to be at Panshanger for parkrun’s birthday. I had offered to tail walk, as I was doing a half marathon the next day, and wanted to make sure I wasn’t tempted to run. Yes, you can turn up and walk, but I know if I got there without a job of walking to do, I would be tempted to run a bit.

I met Dad in the car park, as he was running, and we had a quick chat before the run started. At Panshanger the tail runner gets a bag to put all the signs in as they go around (at Ellenbrook this isn’t needed) and you also have to shut a couple of gates behind you. I started right at the back but there were so many latecomers- after I had gone probably 1km people were still catching me up. Some people were walking it, but as the people came late and I’d stop to get the signs, they would get a long way ahead of me, so I’d need to run and catch up. At one point I wasn’t sure if I could reach one of the signs as it was on a tall post surrounded by brambles and stinging nettles- after a bit of trampling and jumping I managed to get it down!

I took photos as I went around- I love how the park changes with the seasons- and finished in a fairly speedy 47:54 (sadly nothing towards the bingo this week). I then headed back to the car and drove over to Mum and Dad’s where Mum was making us pancakes- I know I say this whenever I go there, but parkrun followed by my mum’s pancakes is the best start to the weekend.

It was a bit of a rainy day after that- Andy’s parents came over with our niece and nephew for a bit (they were babysitting and needed a change of scenery) and we popped to town later on, before having a relaxing evening in front of the TV. I nearly forgot to pain my nails (I like doing that before a race) so it was a slightly later night than planned in the end.

Sunday morning was a gorgeous sunny day. Andy had decided to come with me, so after a bit of toast and some nuun, we drove up to Wimpole- it’s around a 40 min drive from home, and the parking was fine, using the overflow. I had to pick up my number in the morning, and at around 9am there were only short queues moving quickly.

I’d taken a jumper to wear and gave it to Andy right at the last minute because it was cold!

There was a 10 mile and a half, and we set off at the same time. Both routes took the same route until mile 9, where the 10 milers headed back to the finish and the half marathon did another loop. I was so cold when we first set off that my toes were a bit numb, but I soon warmed up, and the sun felt strong which helped.

It was rather confusing trying to work out where we were- often I would be running down a hill, thinking that I had run up it before, but I didn’t see any of the faster runners until the final loop.

The first half was all good- I knew it would be hilly and I was going to enjoy it, not aim for a particular time. The scenery around there is lovely; a mixture of farm fields, wooded areas and meadows filled with grazing animals. Some hills seemed to go on for a long time, but you knew you’d get a downhill as a reward. There were loads of marshals out, all super cheery and encouraging.

I took a few photos on the way around (trying to show the steep parts but of course that never works!).  I recognised a few parts from the parkrun course, and other places we had walked to on our various visits here- the grounds really are lovely and the scenery really made it enjoyable.

At the 9 mile point the marshals were saying you could change your mind and just do the 10 miles instead which was tempting- apparently you could just tell them when you finish and they would adjust your chip to show the right distance. It got fairly lonely then, as it seemed most of the people running at my pace were doing the 10 miles, so I was on my own for a fair bit. Then one of the muscles in my legs started to feel twisted (it happened in the Brighton 10 mile before) so I had to slow a fair bit to ease that. I think it was from the adverse camber earlier on, plus a lot of the farm fields were very rutted and sloped so that probably didn’t help either. My mind prefers trails but my legs prefer roads! At this point I was running down a hill and lots of people were running back up it (me on my 10th mile and them on their 12th)- it was quite a long one that looped up the hill, so I wasn’t massively looking forward to it.

At the bottom of the hill the route went through more woodland. My leg was still stiff but the flatter ground helped, and I was smiling at all of the marshals (seriously, there were loads).

Heading up the hill I decided to have a nuun shot block, as I’d taken half a pack with me- not such a good idea as because the packet had been open a while, the block had gone very hard and basically got stuck in my teeth! I knew there was a water station near the top of the hill, so I had some water after to try and wash it away (you are meant to have them with water anyway)- I was still smiling but the marshals “helpfully” told me I was still ahead of the back  runner (3 hour time limit- I had passed her coming up the hill for my mile 12 while she as going down for her 10th mile, so hopefully she wouldn’t catch me up!). This made me worry a bit, because I felt fine and thought I was smiling, but maybe I looked really bad?

I messaged Andy to say I was at 12.6 miles so he knew I’d be in soon, as he always thinks  I’ll be faster than I am, and this was a bit slower than I thought too.

The final mile was back on flat paths and I managed to pick up the pace and overtook quite a few people who had been a way ahead of me (my second fastest mile after the downhill at mile 8).

As I finished I was handed a massive flapjack, some water and the medal. I met up with Andy and we shared the flapjack and I popped to the bathrooms (where I saw how red my face was- maybe that’s why the marshals were telling me about the back runner) and then we joined the queue to the tea room because I had been looking forward to a scone since about mile 6!

I enjoyed that race so much. Yes it was tough, and not a pb course by any stretch of the imagination (well, unless it’s your first one), but the scenery was so lovely and varied, and there were loads of marshals out on the course. There are real toilets (always a bonus in my eyes) and a National Trust cafe at the end takes some beating!

Official chip time 2:29:39

How did you celebrate parkrun’s birthday? Would you choose scenery or a flat route?

A non-running weekend (and catching up in the week)

After the long and wet run of two weekends ago, I did get back into a bit of a  routine, but then last weekend we had to be out of the house the whole time where we had some works going on.

Back to the week before- Monday was a rest day (just a nice walk after work) and then I did a 5 mile run on Tuesday. Wednesday was lovely yoga (which was even more needed when the traffic was so bad it took me well over an hour to get home), and Thursday we had a leaving do at work so I had a walk when I got home and saved my run for Friday, where I had a lovely 4.5 mile run taking photos of all the autumnal leaves.

We had to be out all weekend for works on water tanks and boilers (this all harps back to the leak we had back in June/July- after that we uncovered a few more issues and so were swapping the normal boiler for a combi, which meant removing the old boiler and water tanks, installing a new boiler, diverting the gas and a few other things too)- basically if we could be out the whole weekend the plumber could keep working instead of having to turn the water back on for us to be home in between.

We headed up to Stowe (National Trust) for a long walk in the sunshine (I can’t find the photo of the beautiful autumnal trees though, so just this interesting building to look at), and then drove to Bicester village as I wanted to go to the Lululemon outlet.

Also on Sunday we had a Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate- a seasonal special with spices and pecans I think.

The dressing room was so huge I could have done a long jump in there (although I can’t jump that far… someone taller could have jumped a long way too)- I couldn’t decide on the shorts because they are a lot shorter than the capris which I usually wear, but this summer has been so hot that I thought a pair of shorts would be a good idea, and as they were much cheaper than normal I decided to give them a go.

In the end I got a long sleeved top for running in the winter (I already have one of these and they are so soft and warm), a jacket and the shorts.

By the time I’d finished there time was getting on, and we had cinema tickets for the evening, so we went to the Pret and got wraps and fruit for dinner. I inadvertently tried a turmeric latte, as I ordered a chai latte for us to share, and the guy on the till said to the barista “one soya golden”- I queried it and when he passed it back to me he called it a chai, but when I took the lid off it was yellow and when I tasted it, it tasted like how I imagine soil would taste. When I took it back he said again “we call it a golden” and I had to have a bit of an argument with him, saying turmeric is golden (they do also have a turmeric latte on their menu) but this one didn’t taste like a chai latte. When he said it to the barista again, the barista queried it and then he ordered the right drink- a bit of a faff! The weirdest thing was while I was waiting, there was no queue, so the guy on the till was stood there muttering to himself “chai latte” over and over again- a bit awkward.

After dropping our things off at the hotel we walked to the cinema (through some underpasses where I have never seen so many rats in my life) and saw Crazy Rich Asians, which was good fun- not the most hilarious film but good for a Saturday night. The main guy usually presents The Travel Show (on BBC) so it was weird seeing him act, although each time he was doing something vaguely travel related (going on a plane, eating in a restaurant) it felt like his day job.

On Sunday we wandered into the shopping centre to get some breakfast and have a look in a few shops. We were going to head to Willen lakes for a walk, but it was getting very overcast so we went to IKEA (to stock up on marzipan cakes as you do) and then drove back to St Albans so that we would be closer by when the plumber called.

By the time we got there we both fancied a cup of tea, so we went to The Pudding Stop for cake plus tea, and then walked around afterwards, finding that the main high street was closed to traffic as there was a food festival going on, so it was nice for a wander.

We popped to see my parents and then headed home when the plumber called- he was clearing up the final few bits and left at around 8.30 on Sunday night- a full weekend of work for him. Our hot water tank was about 75% full of limescale which is why we could never have a bath (the hot water would only last until about 2 inches).

I went out for a 7 mile run on Monday after work, as a sort of taper. I saw so many beautiful autumnal trees- it’s all looking so lovely at the moment.

Confusingly (for me) this was one of the weeks where yoga was on a Tuesday instead, which just makes me feel like the days are wrong for the rest of the week. It was lovely- at the end we sat in a circle in blankets and did some meditation with a candle. I love this and I find that if I am awake in the night, thinking of it and trying to picture the candle can help me go back to sleep.

On Wednesday I had 4.5 mile run (spotting more autumn colour) and on Thursday after work I met Andy in town and we walked around for a bit (I am still managing 10,000 steps a day since sometime in July- before then I wouldn’t usually make up the steps on my yoga day, but my average would be higher as I’d do more steps on other days- now I have a walk before I go to yoga to keep the steps up). I was going to run on Friday after work but I was tired and wanted to save some energy for the weekend so we had another walk instead.

When tidying up I discovered that these jam jars are the perfect size for 50g loose Bird&Blend tea. I finished the Peach Cobbler tea so I’ve opened a new one (Red Velvet) which is really good.

I’ll save the weekend for another post, but I’ve nearly caught up!

Is it looking autumnal near you now? Do you have some nice places nearby to appreciate nature at this time of year? Do you do a proper taper before races?



12 miles in torrential rain and a catch up

I am sure I say this all the time, but the weeks are flying by!

Last weekend (after Rushmere parkrun) I needed to do my final long run before the half marathon next weekend.

The route planning went a bit wrong before I started- I wanted to do 11 or ideally 12 miles, but I still don’t have the hang of how long each route is, so I mapped one out, saved it as an image and emailed it to myself so it was on my phone. When I got up in the morning I looked at it, and then realised that the image included mile times (when of course it wouldn’t have known the mile times when I mapped it) and this route went by the lake, and I wasn’t planning on going that way (as it would be very soggy/muddy) that it dawned on me that I had emailed a different image of a route from Strava. Whoops. It was already a bit late and I didn’t want to put the run off any longer as the weather was only going to get worse.

Because it was so rainy and windy, I decided to plait as much hair as possible. My hair is too thick for one plait so I did two on each side meeting around the back and a third with the rest, putting them all in a pony tail. It seemed to hold.

And onto the run. I made a mistake with clothes too- the day before had been chilly but I was OK in a t-shirt, and it was only a few degrees cooler so I thought I would be OK. I got a long sleeved top over my t-shirt to wear as I warmed up, thinking I’d take it off fairly soon- how wrong I was. It was so cold- within a few minutes my hands were so cold and my top just soaked through as it wasn’t a waterproof one.

I sort of enjoyed most of the run (the challenge of it perhaps) and caught up on some podcasts, but at times it was fairly miserable because the pavements were flooded and as cars drove past they would throw up a wall of water. A few times I waited until a gap in the traffic so I wouldn’t be totally soaked. Andy had messaged to say he would come and pick me up, but I didn’t see it (I got a new phone in the summer and I didn’t realise that the photos were uploading all the time instead of just on wifi so I’d used all my data and couldn’t get the whatsapp message)- not that I would have taken him up as once you are out there you may as well finish. As the following weekend we were away I knew it was my final chance for a long run so I wanted to finish it.

When I finally got home (2 and a quarter hours later I think) I was dripping so much I had to step inside onto the doormat and peel all my clothes off right there, jumping straight into the shower (I’d usually at least have a drink and a bit of a stretch). I was so cold that the water was stinging my skin, and after my shower I put my pj’s on and got back into bed (the only time I’ve done this before has been after crazy long runs during marathon training I used to have a little afternoon nap) to have breakfast and a massive cup of tea. Our heating still wasn’t fixed so this seemed the best option to warm up- it took a while! Once I finally warmed up (I think an episode of Location) we were heading into town to pick up a few bits on the way to Andy’s parents. Annoyingly, the weather had dried up and brightened up, but as we were going to theirs for dinner I didn’t have the option of delaying the run.

Anyway, it was done and I can tick it off, and have confidence that I can run a half next weekend.

Onto the catch up; yoga is term-time only so it’s been great getting back into it. This term each week we have been looking at a different chakra (a centre of spirituality in the body), doing poses and breathing exercises linked to the different areas.   It’s been good to have a different focus each week. I was doing the you-tube video once a week or so, but I realised that I have not managed this for the last week- it’s something I would like to do but just need to remember.

I’ve been mostly keeping up with 4 runs per week although I have not managed a club run in ages. A couple of weeks ago it was so windy which made the runs pretty tough. I’ve been mainly sticking to around 4 miles after work, 5 if I am not home too late, and a quick 3 before the cinema one evening.

We’ve been to see a few films including A Simple Favour which I really enjoyed- it was a lot like Gone Girl, but with some quirky characters and light-hearted bits to break the tension a bit.

My Bird & Blend Brighton mug has been the perfect size for tea in the mornings.

I met up with a friend after work one Friday for a waffle. I was a bit early so I wandered around the park for a bit and saw lots of debris from the strong winds that week. I went for a banana flapjack waffle, which is a waffle with banana, little bits of flapjack and caramel sauce- really good.

Would you go for a sweet or savoury waffle? I love their hummus and avocado one, but after a week of work I needed the sugar boost! Did you have much damage from the storm? Thankfully most of the big trees in our garden are gone now, so we didn’t need to worry about them blowing down (something which has happened in the past).

Rushmere parkrun

Confusingly, in the space of a few weeks I have now been to Rushmoor and Rushmere parkrun. Rushmere was this past weekend. It’s close to Leighton Buzzard, in Bedfordshire, but apparently the route is actually in Buckinghamshire. Anyway, I went to my parents house and then my Dad drove me and my brother up to the country park where the parkrun is held. Parking was £3 which you paid on exit- there was plenty of parking for us and the field with the finish funnel was directly next to the car park so no chance of getting lost!

Finish funnel/ my attempt at a mid-run photo of the course/ the flag in the field by the start/finish

We got there with around 20 mins to spare, and waited in the car for a bit (it was so chilly!) before getting out and using the toilets (I wouldn’t usually, but it had been a good hour journey)- this meant we missed the tourist briefing- whoops!

We had looked it up in advance and knew it was two laps through woodland- it sounded perfect.

The main briefing was brilliant too- the RD stood on a picnic table and welcomed everyone, gave a special mention to the volunteers who had arrived early to clear the storm debris from the course, and then introduced the gong– this was so exciting! If you get a pb, or if it is your first time (automatically a pb anyway) or even if you’re having a good hair day you were allowed to ring the gong. I was very much looking forward to that! We were warned of other debris en route particularly conkers and apples (“It’s as if someone had thrown marbles all over the path”), particularly on the steep descent.

After the briefing we walked along a path a little way, as the route wasn’t quite 2 full laps, and then we were off. Dad whizzed off right away, and I ended up with a bit of back and forth with my brother- I’d overtake him on the up bits, and he’d overtaken me on the downhills. The course was through woodland and just wonderful- winding through trees, gently up and down. At one point we ran near the edge of the forest so you could see across fields on one side, before heading back into the woods again. I think there were only 4 marshals out there, but they were all great, clapping everyone past. The steep descent even had a warning sign, and it was so steep so I really slowed- lots of tree roots to look for too, and I didn’t fancy falling over. A two lap is always enjoyable (not quite as good as one lap, but close) because the 1.5 mile seems to go by so fast, and then you remember a few bits on the second loop and know what to look out for. Running through the finish area once is good too as all the timers and scanners cheer you on.

As I neared the finish one runner put in a great sprint finish so I cheered him as he overtook me. I could hear someone else coming, and it turned out to be Tony – it was quite fun having a mini battle. (He did say he wondered if it was OK to overtake me with metres to go but of course it’s all fine). I had sped up a little to try and stay as close to him as possible and when the results came through (30:21) I thought that maybe I needed 21 for my parkrun bingo, and I was right!

Of course we had to bang the gong afterwards- we all took turns while we took photos. I did a rather gentle one, and then Tony whacked it so hard! It was great though as people gave you a little clap, and after we moved away a few other people rang it, so we clapped them. I’ve seen a pb bell at Tring, but the gong takes some beating. I feel like Ellenbrook could do with something but I am not sure what else- maybe something linked to it being on an old airfield? Ideas on a postcard please!

That was my 49th parkrun venue! They seem to be mounting up so quickly now. I’m so close to finishing bingo now- I only need 17 and 18 seconds now (although it’s not something you can plan for, as even if you time it on your watch, you won’t know exactly when the timer for parkrun pressed “go”).

The RD chatted to us and invited us to the cafe for breakfast, but Mum had promised pancakes so we headed back to see her. We have planned a revisit in the spring and hopefully Mum will come with us to watch and we can go to the cafe after then.

Does your parkrun have anything to celebrate pb’s with?

A parkrun open sandwich

A few times I have run to and from parkrun, but the two parkruns closest to me are a little bit far away for it to be a regular thing- Panshanger is 4 miles away (equalling an 11 mile run) and Ellenbrook Fields is 5 miles (so the run there + back + parkrun = a half marathon) so I tend to run to and from parkruns when I am touring. Last weekend we were busy on Sunday, so I decided to have a long run on Saturday morning instead. I’d chatted to my Dad who had decided to go to Panshanger, as EF warned of a busy car park due to all the freshers arriving at Herts uni (you park in the Herts uni car park).

This meant I could run there and ask Dad to give me a lift part of the way home. I had to do a slightly longer run as I wanted to total 9 miles, so in the end I did just under 6 miles on the way there- I got a bit panicked that I was cutting it fine as the last bit takes a deceptively long time, but in the end I got to the start with about 10 mins to spare- just enough time to hang my jumper on the fence and then chat to Dad.

The parkrun miles were my fastest (finishing with a 9.05 mile) so I was pretty pleased with that, having not run that far since August (as we were doing the 10k).

In the end Dad dropped me off at home, which was much appreciated- I did suggest a roundabout so he didn’t have to detour at all, but that was still a mile and a half from me (as the road is more direct than the path). Then it was time to have a quick shower and then time to head into London for the rest of the day.

For some reason all the pictures of just me were super windswept, while if it was the two of us my hair was all neat!

We got the train to Finsbury park and then the tube onwards to Oxford Street- we popped into a couple of shops and picked up a picnic to take to the park. (Side note, does anyone else hate that Pret don’t put the labels on the actual food packets? We were going to share a veggie flatbread, but it was by the shelf labels for a tuna flatbread-you could see that they were the wrong way around but I just didn’t quite trust it so we got a vegan special wrap instead).

Andy wanted to see the big sculpture in Hyde Park so we walked around the lake, before walking to Trafalgar Square and then Covent Garden. On our way we popped to the BB bakery and got a pistachio cupcake to take home for dessert. I wanted to go to Lululemon and try on some running shorts, and as we cut through a side street we both stopped as we could smell the most amazing smell. We realised we were right outside a Swedish bakery, so I could not resist buying a cinnamon roll for us to share too.

We also saw a few of these rhinos- I love it when there is a trail like this (I think the best I’ve done is the Snowdogs in Brighton). We then got the tube to Angel so I could go to Bird & Blend for some of the pumpkin spice tea, but yet again (am I cursed?) the tea wasn’t for sale until the Sunday- gah!

Annoyingly we just missed a train by about 5 mins, and then the next train we were going to get was cancelled, so we ended up sitting on the platform for nearly an hour.

By the time we got home I’d walked over 37,000 steps (because of the run first thing too) so I watched some of Extra Slice (I love the hedgehog cakes so much) and had a cup of tea and shared the cinnamon roll, which was amazing. (The cupcake for dessert later was also very good, but so much icing- I have no idea how people could eat one by themselves without having frosting overload). Although I felt quite tired by the evening, I was pretty pleased that I’d run a fairly long way and been walking all day and not felt too stiff or sore. I have signed up to a half marathon in a couple of weeks, and I realised that my long runs were really in August so I needed to do a few closer to it to check I can still manage it.

Sunday was spent out and about- in the garden centre, sorting out new plants (and the shed tidy- an idea stolen from Pinterest – it hangs on the door for all the gloves, trowels etc) and visiting family.

Which baked goods can you not resist? A warm cinnamon roll is one of my absolute favourites.  Are you an icing or a cake person?  I do like a little bit of icing, and I think they make cakes look prettier, but I really can’t eat the mountains that are usually on little cupcakes.