Packing and parkrunning

Are a bit of a tiring combination!

This weekend was the inaugural Ellenbrook Fields parkrun (look it up if you are in Hertfordshire)- our running club had a lot to do with setting it up, particularly our super coach Carrie. A lot of our club were going to be there, whereas often there are only a few of us at parkrun each week. It was novel for me because the start is jut over a mile away, so I could run there instead of driving. I got up a bit later, pottered about and then jogged up to the start. I wore my hat because it had been raining, but I didn’t need it in the end. There were loads of people swarming towards the start- I knew it would be busy as word seems to spread quickly through our running community- there are lots of running clubs nearby, and plenty of towns with clubs but no parkruns (Welwyn, Ware, Harpenden to name a few), plus they had mentioned it a lot of times at Panshanger as the Panshanger team had mentored the Ellenbrook team and been involved in helping with the start up too.

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Our club had a banner out near the start. We love a bit of extra support.

I was there at about 10 to in the end, so had a quick chat with a few of the marshals and runners from our club, before Carrie did a super welcome speech from a fence (as it’s so flat there- no nice hill for her to stand on).

Then we were off! I realised right away I had started a bit too far back, but I wasn’t going for any pb (of course the first official one would be my pb for that parkrun)- I quite liked the idea of beating my time from last week but as I had already run up (and used my Garmin) I could not really work that out. Anyway, the course starts with a little loop (around a km I think), and so during that I took my time overtaking a few people at a time. It was so lovely because I knew most of the marshals (by name too, not just by sight) and so they were cheering all of the OH runners on by name too. I saw a few OH runners up ahead so ran to catch up, and the after chatting for a bit heard someone else call my name- it was someone I used to run at Sweatshop with- I don’t think we had seen each other for over a year, so it was good to have a little chat. Once the first little loop is done, you do the first part of it again before carrying on in a much larger loop.  By then it had thinned out and so I could focus on where was best to run (the ground is a bit uneven). I may be biased but the best marshal (the lovely Donna, my run leader) was yelling at the top of her lungs at around the half way point. Her opinion (which I agree with)- no point being a marshal unless you’re going to encourage people on. She certainly did!

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Nearly both feet off the ground I think!

Then it was through the cow field, and along a very rutted bit of grass, where I caught up with someone I know a bit through the facebook DRYT (Did You Run Today?) group, and Strava, so we said a quick “hello”. Then (passing two more lovely OH marshals) it was onto the old taxiway (Ellenbrook fields used to be an old airfield) to the finish. I ended up running next to a guy who chatted to me for a bit, and then up ahead I could see a few more OH runners (one of them is a very fast runner so I did wonder about my time at that point) so I decided to try and speed up a bit to catch them. I could not quite manage it, and crossed the line 2 seconds behind one of them (and 10 seconds behind the speedy one) with a time of 27.52. I am rather pleased with that- I have only run quicker than that once this year (my pb at Panshanger) and because of the crowds at the start I wasn’t pushing it as much as I could.

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Look at the huge queues for scanning! There ended up being 273 runners, not too shabby for the first event. The tail runner came in at 41 minutes too, so a very speedy one (I think I have been around 55 minutes for my tail running).

I stayed around until the end, chatting to people from my club, and cheering in the other runners. One person gave the RD feedback about there not being any km markers (I had wondered but I also thought perhaps they were there and I didn’t notice them- Carrie said that they didn’t get any as they are not included, but they are in talks with the owners of the land to have permanent ones- I think I have seen pictures from a few National Trust ones which have them, and I think it’s a fab idea. When I decided to head home (packing loomed) I passed Neil and Eleanor Draper (they are from Garden City Runners and I often see them at Panshanger- they were interviewed on marathon talk before – lovely and inspirational people)- so I asked them how they had found it they had really enjoyed the route which was good to hear. It’s strange as since running around those fields with Sweatshop it’s one of my favourite summer running places, but I suppose lots of people still don’t know about it.

Also, I love looking at the results, and it was great to see that it was parkrun number 1 for so many people- hopefully one of many! That was my 8th different parkrun venue (70th run)- I heard someone say that once you have been to 20 different ones you count as a parkrun tourist! A few more to go then! Although there is one at Stevenage starting next weekend, but I don’t think I’ll be able to get up there until July as I am either away or volunteering at St Albans, Panshanger and Ellenbrook. Busy times ahead!

So, onto the packing. We’re moving house on Tuesday this week, and some boxes were delivered on Friday so that was basically our weekend planned for us! We had packed up a few boxes before, but had soon run out of space to store the packed boxes. Yesterday I parked my car outside so we have spent the day packing, and putting the boxes into the garage (I normally keep my car in the garage). We had to pop out to get a few bits of food for the next couple of days, and I bought us a cinnamon swirl from Starbucks to share as an afternoon treat after a lot of packing. This was very much needed- perhaps running 5 miles was not the best preparation. Mary’s page about moving has been very useful and I’ve been writing all the boxes down in a note book (although we are getting a company to actually move the things), and we are now up to box number 40. How do we have this much stuff? And where did it all fit? I’ve also been trying to do things like change my address for a few places- we have signed up to the Royal Mail re-direction as I am sure things will slip through the net.

Any moving tips?

Track session round 2

This is a rewind to last weekend! Our club had hired out the local track (at 8am on a Sunday), and then we were heading to brunch afterwards in case anyone needed more of an incentive!

It was such a hot morning, and of course there is no shade around the track, so our leader decided to ease off on us a bit.

Pictures from our facebook page- look at the concentration! 

We did plenty of warming up- a jog around the track, lots of kicks, jumps, lunges and other things (very technical terms here).

Then we did a version of what we had learnt before-  a 3-2-1 session where you run at 10k pace for 3 minutes, 5k pace for 2, and then as fast as you can for 1, with breaks in between. We only managed this a couple of times before it was time to cool down, stretch (including laying on the track!) and head out to brunch.

It was really good fun! Hopefully our club are going to have a more regular session (they mentioned once a month) which would be great as we do sometimes do interval style training, but it’s much easier on a track than on uneven pavements where you have to dodge people and dogs and things too.

We had booked at Bill’s (the same as our festive run and brunch) and it was lovely to have a chat- some of the ladies had run the London marathon so it was good to hear their tales (mostly- as someone who avoids public toilets at all costs I did not like the sound of the she-wee things in the starter pens…). It was so warm I went for a juice instead of my regular breakfast staple of tea, and had the most delicious French toast with a chocolate peanut butter sauce, fruit and a berry sauce- it was so good.

Although I turned my Garmin off, it seemed to keep tracking where I was, as it tracked my drive into town, and then my drive home- more records I shall never beat….

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Also, look what arrived earlier in the week! A marathon talk hoodie! It has my Brighton time on it from last year- I really wanted a Brighton marathon hoodie but I didn’t want to buy one before, just in case it was bad luck. Then they stopped selling them on-line, so decided to get my MT one personalised. I love it! Although it is very huge- I emailed them as there was no size guide on the Xempo website, and they thought a small would be OK, but it is very large and I think if I were to get another one, I would try the XS. Better to be too big than too small though.

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And this came too! I had signed the two of us up for the May the Fourth virtual run, as Andy is a big Star Wars fan- it was a couple of days after the Cakeathon so I didn’t run very fast, but it’s the doing it that counts. Good old Virtual Runner UK!

Are you a fan of track sessions? What is your ideal brunch food (and drink)?

A parkrun double!

I was really looking forward to this weekend! Today our club members (and friends and family) were all invited to the final tester event of our new parkrun, before the inaugural event next weekend. It didn’t start until around 10am, and would not count towards our parkrun totals, so when I mentioned this to Dad we decided to aim for a parkrun double (like they do on New Years Day). We would go to Panshanger (9am start) and run it, then jump back in the car and head to Hatfield for the 10am start.

We got to Panshanger with plenty of time and managed to park fairly near. They have slightly changed the start and finish now, to try to ease congestion. The start is narrower which I think in theory should help, but we started fairly near the back as we wanted to take it steady, and we had a lot of stop-starting still. We chatted the whole way around and enjoyed it. The change to the end meant instead of running straight up the hill, you run diagonally up the hill, turn, and run diagonally up to the finish, facing the opposite way. We finished (31.08 and 31.09) and I was surprised to see my token number- 248! I think that is the highest number/ lowest placing I have ever been. It was very busy, and we found out later it was another record attendance of 396 runners. We then joined a queue to have our chips scanned and the queue seemed to be moving very slowly- the lady on our queue was having trouble and needing to scan each one several times- normally not a problem but we had places to go!

We got back to the car at 9.45, so headed off asap! Because the actual car park is reserved for volunteers and other park users, the parking listed on the course page is a side road- I was quite shocked to see how many people had double parked (including some people in a massive van)- it made it quite tricky to leave and my dad does not have a big car.

I had told the club my plan of a double, and I messaged them to say we were en route (they said they would wait- phew!). We got to the car park at about a minute to ten, and then ran the short distance (couple of hundred metres maybe) to the entrance to the field. We passed the finish area and one of the marshals gave a massive wolf whistle to the people waiting further up at the start line so they knew we were coming. Luckily some other people were just parking up so we weren’t the last! Dad had not run a 10k for a few years (although he did the 5 mile on Easter Monday) so we aimed to take the second one steady too. The RD had a quick reminder of the rules and briefly described the course, and then we were off!

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Taken on my run on Wednesday- I loved that huge cloud- this is the path towards the field of cows.

The course itself is lovely- I often run around those fields anyway, and it was basically a short loop at the start, next to a sort of river bed, before doing a big loop of the fields (through the cow field- thankfully they weren’t there today, but they might be some weeks), and then finishing along the old taxi-way. Very flat, although the ground was rutted in places so marshals were warning us to mind our ankles. It was great to run around- I knew most of the marshals so it was good to have a bit of a personal cheer, and again I ran with Dad so we kept up the chatting. We did consider a sprint finish down the taxi-way, but then the wind was so strong we didn’t think we would manage it. However, when we were close to the finish we decided to go for it as everyone was cheering!

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I was number 12! My highest ever placing! I mentioned to Dad that I had managed my lowest and highest placing in one day! Impressive! We didn’t get an official time, but the results were uploaded and we were sent a screen shot- we finished the second parkrun in 28.55- not too shabby!  We hung around for a bit afterwards, chatting to the other runners and volunteers- quite a few of the Panshanger team were there supporting. We were even recommended a few other fairly local (e.g. 50 minute away) parkruns that we will need to add to our list.

It did confirm my thinking that I should not attempt the Panshanger/ St Albans double, as we only just got to Hatfield for 10am, and St Albans is another 15 minutes from there, so it’s only for the speedy runners.

I did though get confused over my Garmin and Strava. I don’t use Strava on my phone, I use my watch and upload it to Garmin, which then transfers the data to Strava. This usually works well, but I had a problem before when I did two runs in one day- even though I press stop between runs, it seems to keep going.


So my Garmin one had me running 6.2 miles in 60 minutes (pretty much bang on compared to my parkrun times).

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But the Strava had me running 13 miles- in the middle they have no pace because I turned the watch off. I had a look at this before but you can only delete the beginning or end of a run- not a chunk in the middle, so I guess I am leaving it. It sort of annoys me because it messes up my monthly mileage (although we are going on holiday at the end of May and there will be no outside running for fear of lions, but the hotel does have a treadmill so perhaps I will try to run those missed miles then so it all adds up in the end?), and also my pb’s- I now have a 10 mile pb of an hour! I will never be beating that!

Next Saturday is the official first one and I am looking forward to it already! I loved the course, plus it is only a mile from home so my aim is to jog up there as a warm up. Although we are moving house the week after, so I’ll only get to do that once, then it will be back to driving again!

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This afternoon after a little walk around town I did some excellent report-writing procrastination, otherwise known as baking (using up ingredients so we don’t have to pack them)- orange and ginger brownies, and peanut butter, cranberry and chocolate cookies.


Pros and cons of visiting a new parkrun

This morning I decided to visit a new to me parkrun, Barclay parkrun in Hoddesdon. I decided for a few reasons really; I wasn’t volunteering so wasn’t tied to Panshanger, my dad and brother weren’t running so I could choose myself, and our new parkrun is coming to Hatfield in the next few weeks so soon I will be sharing my parkrun visits between Panshanger and Ellenbrook.

Barclay has been on my list for a while as it isn’t too much further away- another 5 miles beyond Panshanger. It is a lapped route, but it doesn’t seem to get big crowds (they average 53 runners) so I thought it would be a better bet than St Albans with the crazy numbers of runners.

On Friday night I duly read the course notes, noted down the postcode for my satnav, then realised the car park they recommend had a different post code, so wrote that down.

In the morning I knew I had to leave earlier, and managed to leave at about 8.10- it was around a 30 minute journey so that should be OK. When I put in the postcode, the road name did not come up, so I selected a different road, and it was only when I was driving along a dual carriageway that I realised I had put in the park postcode and not the car park postcode! Whoops! Luckily I drove right past Panshanger, so pulled into a side road to change the directions. I don’t think I would have found it otherwise.

You park (for free) in a civic centre car park, and the park is a 5 minute walk away. I parked at about 8.40, and as my sense of direction is not great I was about to look at maps on my phone, but I saw 3 people in Ware Joggers tops, so I followed them around the corner to the park.

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It was such a beautiful morning, and there were still some bluebells to be seen.

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The start was marked with a sign, but most people were congregating a little further up the hill so I headed there.

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I was wearing my apricot tribesports parkrun top (they went on sale again yesterday by the way), and so a few people chatted to me about it- they are hard to come by! One guy tended to go to Panshanger half the time too, so we discussed how beautiful it is there.

The RD asked for anyone new to parkrun, and I walked over but he told me that the course was different so it was new to everyone there. It turned out that the pond was being dredged so that their usual route had to be changed this morning. They walked everyone back down to the start, mentioned that Ware Joggers were pacing, and tried to describe the course (3 and a bit laps, after your final lap go up the hill again, we know how you all love the hill, then go left instead of going in the field- it will be obvious). At least I know I won’t be near the front!

Then we were off- my it was tough! Starting on a hill, and it was a fairly big one. It then looped fairly steeply down, around a field, down into a little car park, steeply up past a playground, along the way I had walked in, before being back at the start and doing it all again. Two and a bit more times! In the first lap I managed to overtake the 32 minute pacer, and in the second lap I went past the 31 minute pacer. In the final lap I could see the 30 minute pacer (and spent time trying to work out if I knew her as I think she looked like someone I have seen at Panshanger before) but I just could not catch her. Going up the hill for the fourth time was so tough- it was so hot and I was boiling in my t-shirt and wishing I had worn a visor.  After doing half of the fourth lap, you turned left (just as they had said- there was a marshal there) and joy of joys, got to run uphill to the finish line! I could see the 30 minute pacer ahead of me and as she reached the finish line she started jogging on the spot- I crossed the line in the end just before her (I heard her tell someone else she was a bit ahead so waited there).

At the finish line were some lovely Ware Joggers handing out leaflets about their 10K and 10 Mile races- through my gasps I managed to tell the lady I was already signed up to the 10, and someone brought over a cup of water for me- I had forgotten how alarmingly red my face goes in the summer!

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Mmm, cake! Someone else asked me about my parkrun top, and then I was offered a top up on my water. This was very much needed as I had left my water bottle in the car, not knowing what it would be like here (at Panshanger there is a fence I hang my bag on). I had a little piece of walnut brownie and then walked back to the car.

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So- pros:

A new parkrun visited


A high placing (40/88 runners)

An attempt at a negative split with the laps- as each lap was not quite a mile it didn’t work because of the two final hills- I did manage my second mile being faster than my first, but then the heat and hills slowed me down for the end.


Navigation is stressful!

Laps- especially laps with hills are not my favourite I don’t think

I missed beautiful Panshanger…

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I had to stop off in town to get some bit for dinner, and as the drive home took longer I was very hungry. I had to walk right past a Starbucks so I bought an almond croissant and had it for breakfast (well, nearly lunch as it was nearly midday by the time I got home) with a nuun tab- so so tasty.

Official time 30.00 (on the dot!), 40th place, 4th in my (new) age category.


On Sunday we drove down to Brighton and had a lovely day walking along by the sea. We had lunch at Food for Friends (love that place), another walk, and then headed towards Kent for the night. The weather was beautiful- it felt like perhaps spring was actually here.

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This morning I was up early (nearly as early as a work day) as we had an hours drive to get to the start of the Cakeathon! It is organised by the Saxons, Vikings and Normans marathon and challenges group, and they put on lots of themed events each year. They only have a small entry list and they sell out quickly so be warned! I read about this race last year on Anna’s blog, and when they released a new one for the May bank holiday (which also happened to be my birthday) I knew I had to do it- running and cake together? And the medal…..

Anyway, back to the race. I had my clif bar and some water, put on suncream (before looking outside) and then got dressed- I had only packed a vest and long sleeved top for the finish, so no chance to change my mind.

We got to the start with about 25 minutes to spare, although there was a race briefing at 8.50am. I joined the queue to get my number, and was shivering the whole time. I was not feeling it at all! I think it didn’t help that I had a big group of a running club in front of me, and other people from the club kept on joining, so although the front of the queue was moving, I didn’t for ages as more people were joining in front of me. Not very British!

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On Saturday I had made some peanut butter cup brownies (as they encourage participants to bring cake too), so after collecting my number I popped my tin into the tent next door with all the cakes. There were mountains of cakes!

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One of two tables, plus the boot of one car was also filled!

I did consider going to the toilets beforehand, as they were in the visitor’s centre and not port-a-loos (I would avoid port-a-loos unless a total emergency), but I didn’t think I had enough time and wanted to hear the briefing.

The idea of the race is fab. There is a 6 hour time limit, a loop (originally 3.something miles, but it was extended to 4.something this week), and you do as many loops as you want in the time limit. You have to have left the start area at the 6 hour point, so people can take longer if that makes sense. They give you a card and a cable tie- I tied it to my Garmin, and after each lap they punch a hole so you can keep track of your distance. When you finish, you ring the bell. Not sure how they time it, (not that I am worried), as the main thing is the distance. I loved the instructions which included “eat cake, enjoy the run, look at the views, smile”. I agreed with all of them!

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Now when it was a 3.something mile loop, I was going to do 3 or 4 depending on how I felt- 9 or 12 ish miles. But now it was longer, if I did 3 laps it would equal a half marathon. Going all of that way for 2 laps didn’t seem so good either (for me – some people did one lap- some were going to ultra distances- it’s all good).

The loop was undulating, and had some very steep sections. I decided to walk some of them, just because I wasn’t going for time and didn’t want to not enjoy it. I even checked my phone a few times as it beeped with birthday messages!

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I even took some mid-run pictures! (While walking up some of the hills)

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There were no marshals on the route at all, but plenty of these signs, and even I did not get lost. There was a number on your bib so if you had a problem you could call one of the RD’s, which was useful.

I spent most of the first lap thinking about going to the toilet after my first lap, and wondering why I had put on sun-cream! I also planned to take some photos in the second lap, so looked out for nice spots.

When I finished the first lap I realised we didn’t actually run past the toilets (someone had told me you did, but I think that must have been before the change of route) and I decided I was OK, so got my card stamped and headed straight out again.

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There was some lovely scenery, lots of bluebells and even some tulips growing wild. I could hear a cuckoo at one point (the same point on the course each time) and it took me a while to work out where I had seen one recently- Jungle Book!

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This was taken while I was running! Very impressed that it wasn’t blurry! Not long after this I decided to take my long sleeved top off and brave the vest. The thing was, in the wind I was OK in this top but very hot out of the wind versus being OK out of the wind and very cold in it. I decided I would rather be a bit cold at times than a bit hot.

The route was like a melted lollypop- basically you went out on the “stick” for a mile or so, then a loop of two miles within the park, before running back down the “stick” bit again. On the map this looks confusing (to me), but actually it was great because on the out and back bit (like in the country dancing song ” you pass your partner going out, you pass them coming in”) you passed loads of people going the other way. Everyone was so cheerful saying “well done” and “keep it up”- you never knew if someone was ahead of behind you after the first bit, and of course some people could be running for the whole 6 hours. Heading back in on my second lap I was passed by Jane, who was heading out on her third! Small world!

By this point I was fine, so I got my card punched and headed straight out again for my third and final lap. I think I should have had a drink from the very well-stocked aid station, but I didn’t want to stop really. The wind was so cold on the final lap, and it rained a bit, but still everyone was cheerful. There was a big group of runners from near here (Dacorum district) and someone on her hen do with everyone in purple tu-tus. There were some “Where’s Wally’s”, and I saw some children running with their parents. It really reminded me of a parkun- so friendly and laid back, and welcoming. I did start to consider a fourth lap but I knew that wasn’t sensible with my back just being better, plus it would not have been fair on Andy (who was waiting for me in the car/ cafe).

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I headed back to the finish for the final time, got my card punched and then rang the bell! Now you would think that seeing as we have a bell like this at school, which I do ring, I would have remembered not to ring it right by my ear. But no, I rung it right in my ear.

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And just look at the medal!

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I collected my tin and some cake (I chose a vegan lemon drizzle, which I ate in the car- delish, a marzipan bundt cake, and a chocolate cupcake)- I thought it was one slice per lap, but the guy said to have as much as I wanted, but I felt like I should be a bit restrained!

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(After the cake had gone!)

I headed to the visitor centre to change and get some peppermint tea (I was so cold by that point) before we headed home.

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And yes I did wear my medal all the way home, and yes now my neck aches!

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I had requested a vegan goodie bag too- when I signed up it gave examples of what was in the bag, and I thought it would be things like haribo (not vegetarian) but in fact I think they were mainly chocolate things so if I were to do another one, I would probably go for the normal bag. I love that they had that as an option though. I am very happy with the biscuits and dark chocolate though!

So, no idea of my time yet- Strava says the total time was 2.18:20, with a half marathon of 2.17:27, and a moving time of 2.10:48 (having your card punched does take a little time after each lap). A really enjoyable event- just a shame that it is a couple of hours away as I would love to do more of them.

What would your ideal themed running event be? Did you enjoy the long weekend?