Swindon parkrun – Lydiard park

On Friday night (after dinner) we drove down to Swindon, and on Saturday morning I headed to the parkrun there, which was just around the corner (well, about a mile away) from where our hotel was, held in the grounds of a big park (a bit like a stately home I think).

I had looked online at a map, and had the postcode of the park, but as I was driving there were two sets of brown signs- one for the house, and one for the park. In the end I followed the satnav, and it took me to a little car park next to the house.


I had a bit of a panic at this point, as I had seen on their page that they usually get hundreds of runners, but there were only a few cars in the car park, and it was about 8.40am. I didn’t want to drive around as I had paid the £2 for the pay and display, and didn’t know if it would be the same if I found the other car park. I looked at maps on my phone, and at a map in the car park, but obviously the parkrun start was’t marked! I was about to wander aimlessly about when I saw a man running in a parkrun top, so I asked him which way to go, and he pointed past the house (although he then ran a different way as he seemed to be doing a warm up). Phew! I was very relieved to see other runners!


I ran up and down the path a bit to keep warm, as it was so cold- I was surprised how cold it was. I had worn a long sleeved top over my t-shirt, and only took it off at the last possible moment.


You can’t see well, but on the table they had baskets labelled 1-100, 101-199, up to 600, for sorting tokens at the end- it was going to be a busy one!

At the new runners briefing they asked for any tourists, and then myself and a lady (from Derby I think?) were taken over to see someone else so they could write down where we were from- we then had a little shout out at the main briefing which was unexpected. The course was nice and simple- two laps- I can manage to remember that.

They were very organised at the start- I had heard they had pacers for 27 and 30 (among others) and I wanted to be between them- I guessed where to stand, but then just after that the pacers held up laminated signs in the crowd so people could move (amazingly, I was in the right place)- and then one of the volunteers walked through the crowd and collected the signs in.

In the run briefing the RD said they had a complaint last week that they started late- she said they needed more volunteers as it was hard to set up in time otherwise, so instead of complaining, maybe offer to help! I liked that attitude! I can’t believe people would complain about a free and volunteer led run!


They had a very young child honking a horn to signify the start, and as there were loads of people (over 300) it was quite congested and took a while to cross the start line.

Once we got going it was lovely, but oh so cold. I had taken my top off, and was just wearing a t-shirt and my arms almost went numb- there was a very cold wind and a lot of the course was fairly exposed on open countryside so the wind was just blowing across. I did feel a little better in the second lap, but it made my mind up for what I would wear for my race on Sunday.

At one point the 30 minute pacer went past me, but he must have been going ahead of  30 minutes as I don’t think I was going that slowly. I did overtake him a little later, but could not catch the 27 minute guy. The course was great- open countryside, lovely views, across fields and through  a small wooded area. The path was fairly firm (no idea what it was- maybe concrete covered in pale sandy stuff)- there were a few puddles along one stretch but nothing tricky. Each lap was the shape of a triangle, and had a long gentle downhill, a flat bit and then a shorter (but not too steep) uphill section.

As we ran past the finish area on the first lap, a bit like Ellenbrook all of the volunteers (time keepers, chip scanners etc) were out cheering so it gave you a nice boost.


The finish line was a welcome sight after the hill the second time, and I was pleased to finish with token number 178/374. You had to walk back to the start area (maybe 20m) to get it scanned.


28.04, parkrun number 86.

The scanners took the chips and put them into the baskets, and although your barcode offered a discount at the lovely looking cafe, I headed back to the hotel as we had Christmas markets to get to. Our hotel had a little Starbucks in the lobby so I got us breakfast from there on my way back (although they didn’t stock cinnamon rolls, boo).


A really enjoyable parkrun, and one I would definitely go  back to if I was in the area.

What type of scenery does your local parkrun have? What type of parks do you like to run in? I much prefer the ones closer to countryside than manicured city centre parks.

Starting to feel festive! And a ponder on running challenges

Well, we had Christmas month eve the other day (well, a month until Christmas Eve) so I feel like I can start getting a bit excited about things. I’ve got my first Christmas meet up this weekend (afternoon tea in London with some friends) and I actually did some Christmas shopping this week too.

How cool are these first of all? I got them from Tikaboo and they arrived on Thursday! I didn’t wear them for my run, as I am saving them for December.

I LOVE them! No pockets though, which is a pain, but at least in the winter I am more likely to have a jacket with pockets, and I can always wear my little sweatband as that has a key pocket.

Also, do you like the new flooring in my office! It was fitted last Monday and I am so pleased with it- not the best picture in the light.

I also had a total nightmare on Black Friday, as they were doing 30% off, so I decided to order another pair (these ones are red). I could not enter the discount code if I paid with paypal, and in the end I made an account with them, went back, added them, and then after adding the code went to paypal. To my horror, when the email came through my address was listed as “8 Bus, Hatfield” and my old postcode. I have NO idea how this happened! I checked my paypal address, and that was correct, and I checked the address on my new account and that was correct. I emailed them right away but they’d put a load of stuff on facebook telling you to check everything carefully as all their staff would be tied up with Black Friday. Of course. Why didn’t I notice???? Always before Paypal has set the address, but this seems to be a combination of my new address (we live at number 8) and our old address. Clearly there is no 8 Bus in Hatfield (I have visions of a postman running along the road after a bus). Anyway, I also emailed paypal who said they would try to check it, and thankfully when I got the dispatch email, the shipping address is correct (although my billing address is still the wrong one). Argh! Andy told me “this is why you don’t do online shopping at 6am!”. I’ve learnt my lesson!

So, the ponder. I was looking on Strava the other week and noticed I was past 800 miles at the start of November. Last year I noticed too late that I was close to 1000 miles for the year, so I have started to think about whether it’s possible. I thought I would see how things went, and I had one week where I didn’t run much as I wasn’t very well. I’m doing the virtual runner Poppy run this month, and I wanted to beat my miles from last November- last year I ran 76 miles, and so far I have now run 78. I still have parkrun on Saturday, a 5 mile race on Sunday, and probably a club run on Tuesday, so I can make a good dent in the miles left (yearly total is 881, so 119 to go). I might sign up for the 100 mile challenge in December, although I have signed up for the VR 5k series (the snowflake medals fit together and are so pretty), so I might not. Although December gets busy, once I finish from work I can fit more runs in during daylight, so I am likely to run further on those runs.

How ready are you for the festive season? Any shopping disasters like me? Anyone else feel totally panicked on Black Friday? I had so many emails in my inbox with great looking offers- where to start!!

Brighton Brooks 10k 2016 (nearly- thanks Angus)

So after parkrun and delicious pancakes on Saturday, we got the train to Portslade- a few stops along the line, basically on the outskirts of Hove. We wanted to look in a flooring shop (as you do) and then thought a walk back along the seafront would be lovely. At first the weather was great, but as we got closer to Brighton the clouds were really rolling in.

img_20161119_130244670_hdrIt did make for some dramatic scenery.


Of course we found more Snowdogs- I could not work out why I had not seen this one last time, but a lady taking a photo (she had been looking for them all, and only had 2 more to find) told me it had been in London until a couple of weeks ago.


I also got a bit over-excited seeing the km markers up for the race.



I also thought it was crazy when we got closer to the old pier- so much of it has fallen into the sea now.


As the clouds were fast approaching we headed up into town to the shopping centre, and got there just after it started pouring. We then mooched around the shops for a bit, before buying a few snacks (we shared some hummus and carrot sticks, crisps and mango) as we didn’t fancy lunch, and went back to the hotel to have them as it was very wet outside.


As the rain eased off, we headed out for a wander around the lanes, and treated ourselves to a big pot of tea and some lovely chocolate mint cake in Catwalk Cakes- they do such lovely flavours in there. Our dinner wasn’t until late (8.15- that’s very late for us!) so we went back to the hotel yet again – I did my pre race prep of painting my nails, getting my kit out, putting my number on my vest etc. Dinner was so good- we went to Food for Friends as they do such good veggie food- I had lovely baby aubergines stuffed with various things and served with some sort of tomato and bean thing. I also had such a lovely drink, called a ginger zinger (maybe)- ginger and star anise and lime juice, warm, with probably some other things too (I think a slice of orange?)- anyway it was so warming and festive.

The race organisers had posted on facebook on Saturday about watching out in case the storm was bad, but I didn’t really think they would cancel. I woke up on Sunday before my alarm and saw I had a text message from them- it said it had been cancelled, but also it said more news to follow. There was a similar message on facebook, but I looked outside and it didn’t look too bad. I put my running things on, so I decided I would head out just in case- not sure what I was thinking.

The wind in town was fine, but as soon as I got along the seafront it was crazy.


Huge waves were smashing up over the marina and groynes, and the trees were flapping wildly.


I thought I would prove I went running along the seafront, although not for long! I saw all the marshals for the race out, turning away runners that had not heard the message. It must have been so hard for them to decide to cancel, and the poor volunteers were still out in the bad weather although luckily it wasn’t raining.


I ran along to the marina (seeing more Snowdogs) and then decided to cut in and run back through Kemp Town (where we stayed when I did the marathon). Normally I would not just make up a route, but I feel I know my way around Brighton quite well, plus I knew that I was heading back parallel to the seafront, and at each intersection I could look left and still see the sea.


I was originally planning on running for 6 miles but in the end I did 5 before calling it a day, stopping off at Pret to get us each a warm drink.


I looked on Strava after and could see where the wind was behind me- so much faster! (9.55 vs 11.12 minutes per mile!).


It was a shame to not run the race, as I don’t think it would have been harder than the crazy wind they had last year, but I got to go out for more pancakes which is never a bad thing!

They sent an email later explaining their reasons- the race has always been along the prom before, but because it’s getting bigger they had permission to close the road along the seafront. However, the police would not let them do this (I suppose because of access for emergency vehicles) plus the wind meant that they would not get the port-a-loos to the start/finish area (which would not bother me, but of course would bother a lot of people).  They have said we can get money off next years entry, as they can’t find a date to hold it a second time, and seeing as it’s fairly cheap (I think £14?) I don’t mind too much. Although I wonder what they will do with the medals, as they have the date on them usually.

After breakfast and a quick walk along the pier to see yet another snowdog, we headed to the train station. Another lovely weekend in Brighton, although not quite the result I was hoping for!

Have you ever had a race cancelled? What is your hot drink of choice? We went for Earl grey tea on Saturday, because tea goes very well with cake, but on Sunday morning I went for a chai latte (hooray that Pret do them now) because there is something more warming about that sort of drink.

Loving yoga!

Who would have thought it? One of the least flexible people ever actually enjoying a yoga class.


I have been trying very hard to relax more (is that an oxymoron?). Work just always seems so busy, and there is always something that can be done, so it can feel hard to switch off. I recently bought a diffuser (I had some amazon vouchers) as I’ve been going to have a massage around once a month (more attempting to relax, although last time she asked how I was, and I said I thought I was less tense, and after about 5 minutes she said to me “do you think you were just kidding yourself?”- they can be fairly painful at times as she tries to sort out my back and shoulders…) and in the room she always has on a diffuser and it is just so lovely. I like scented candles but I am not always sure about burning them- I try to get more natural ones but also I worry if I wander out of the room for a bit they might set something alight. So anyway this seemed a good option, and so far it’s fab. Yoga has been another angle- I love running but at times it just adds to me feeling of being rushed- I get annoyed in traffic driving home that I’ll be late for my run, I hurry through the door, get changed as quickly as possible and then head out again- rush rush rush!

I’ve been going each week since some time in October, and it is so fantastic. It seems that all yoga classes are different, and as I have always found with fitness classes, the instructor can make it or break it. Luckily, I think the lady (Josie) who does the yoga class is brilliant.

I was so nervous about the first class, imagining all of these super slim and flexible lululemon models with their long limbs and weird bendy poses.  Someone else from my running club said they would be there and meet me, so at least it wasn’t all unknown. I didn’t even realise I would need bare feet and arrived in my trainers!  There’s a mixture of people (men and women)- some very experienced, and some closer to my level, and everything is adjusted for the different needs. Anyway, the class tends to go like this (and please excuse my names for the moves/ poses- I’ve not got a clue!):

We have a gentle warm up, do some breathing and also say (sing?) some oms. I was not expecting this,  but it’s very calming and helps to focus on the breathing.

Each class has a different focus- it might be twists, back bends, hips- and so then we move through a range of postures. Now I have been going a few weeks, I am getting the hang of some of them (we often go back to the downward dog between other movements). Sometimes we hold poses for a long time (the pigeon pose, which we have done several times but I still would not be able to do it without instruction and a block), and sometimes we move fairly quickly between different poses, not really stopping at all. It gets quite sweaty!

I find it brilliant for strength, which is good as I have now stopped going to Body Pump, and needed something to replace it. I do ache a lot the next day. It’s also brilliant for a challenge- the last couple of weeks we have practised a tripod headstand- last week with help I managed to get my legs onto my arms, and this week I managed it by myself, which felt amazing. I’ve a long way to go before I could imagine putting my feet up into the air, but it’s something to build on each week. We also did what I called a bridge (from when I used to do gymnastics as a child)- again I needed a little bit of support to push up as my arms aren’t that strong, but I was impressed that my back bent that way.  It’s very encouraging- when we were doing the headstands one of the ladies cheered me on, and then had a go herself- before she had only managed one leg or the other. We then congratulated another person who managed to hold the pose with their legs up.


This is where I can get to in my headstand now! Image from YogaDownload.com

Josie the instructor comes around and gently adjusts everyone if they need it, and she has foam blocks and little cork bricks to help with different poses (I can’t even get my forehead to the floor in the child’s pose, so I use the block for that), but I never feel self conscious about not being able to do something as well as some of the others.  Some weeks we have worked with a partner for some of the poses- we did a paired downward dog once which I cannot even begin to describe, but as I was not confident on my upper body strength I was in the normal pose with the instructor resting on me. As always though, if you are not confident in trying something, Josie will adapt it or give you something else to do (or be your partner).

The class finishes with a lovely cool down- gentle stretches, poses held for longer. The lights are dimmed, a candle is lit, we can have a blanket to lay under, and this part is just total bliss. I think last week I just about drifted off. Sometimes we sit in a circle and look at a candle, and then close our eyes and picture the candle. This may sound strange but I often don’t sleep well, and since then I have tried to picture the flame when I am awake in the middle of the night. I think it helps.

Josie also had some lovely geranium oil which she dabs onto your forehead as you lay there. It’s such a lovely feeling, and for me, just what I need. I can’t be thinking about work when I am there as I need to concentrate on the moves, I like the strength and flexibility side of things, but the cool down at the end is so comforting- I always feel fantastic afterwards. Very tired, but in a calm way.

It’s funny how my opinion has changed- I thought I should do it because it would be good for me, but I actually enjoy it a lot more than I thought I would, which is even better. Before I really thought about yoga in a physical sense (it will be good for flexibility) whereas now I see it has more of a holistic approach.

Have you ever been surprised by something you didn’t think you would like?

Preston Park parkrun

So this weekend, on Friday evening after dinner at home, we got the train down to Brighton. The last few times I have been to Brighton, I’ve been to Hove Prom parkrun, mainly as it is easy to find (find the sea, and turn right and run along the seafront). But when I looked last time, it turned out Preston Park was marginally closer, and although I thought it would be complicated to find, Andy reminded me that it was where the marathon started, and basically from the main road near the Pavilion (very close to where we stayed) I had to turn left and keep going straight. Simple.


A Snowdog by Preston Park

It turned out to be a very good idea for many reasons:

  • It was my 12th different parkrun (or 11 if we don’t count San Fran), so now I’m over half way to 20.
  • It was very windy and running by the sea would be tough.
  • I got to spot more Snowdogs on my way as we had not walked in that direction.
  • They were having a pacing event (or maybe they have pacers there a lot? I was looking on their facebook page as I always check in case of cancellations, and there was a discussion about pacer runners as recently they had an event and had some uncomplimentary feedback about having a 37 minute pacer- for goodness sake if you are a speedy runner does it really matter how many pacers are running behind you???? Argh! Anyway, the overwhelming number of comments were about how great it is to have a range of pacers- I digress…)- so I could choose a pacer to follow and try to stick with them.
  • I had forgotten to pack facewipes but I ran past a Boots so I popped in on my way back.

Saturday morning was beautiful- so frosty and clear, with such blue skies. As I took a little detour looking at more snowdogs, when I arrived I had run 1.8 miles, so I pottered up and down the path a couple of times to get it up to 2 miles, and to stay warm. I had worn a long sleeved top over my t-shirt, planning to take it off but it was so cold I kept it on the whole time.


The park seemed busy- of course when I first got there I had no idea where in the park it started, and ended up getting lost in some sort of maze bushes. I’d seen some runners in the distance heading for the top of the park, and luckily I found it!


They even have high viz jackets for their bollards! How brilliant!


The new runners briefing was friendly, although another person “won” (coming from a further distance) and then the full briefing was as usual- clapping for people’s 50th/100th runs and so on. All good.


It was so frosty, and the path was covered in a thin layer where it was still in the shade, but I knew the runners in the front would sort that out! They had pace posts (?- numbers on posts to help you line up in the right place), although I lined up by the 28 minute sign and behind the 30 minute pacer.

The route sounded a little confusing (and the new runners briefing didn’t totally help- in the end he said unless you’re planning on running sub 17 minutes, just follow the person in front) but in fact it wasn’t too bad- you started off facing anticlockwise, and ran half a loop of the park, before turning around at a cone (and a marshal) and running clockwise back to the start. Then you did two full clockwise loops, with the finish funnel being a peel-off from the main loop. I started off fairly steadily- as my watch had been running since the hotel I had no idea of pace, but I went past the 30 and 29 minute pacers just fine. I could see the 28 minute pacer up ahead, but on my second time running up the hill I managed to drop back a lot (I had a bit of a cold so needed to get a tissue out of my pocket which did slow me down). Anyway, there was a nice long gentle descent so I managed to catch up and then overtake him before the final hill (it’s only a small hill). I had seen my watch said 9.02 as we crossed the start line, and it was bang on 9.30 when I finished, so I was hoping for sub 28.

I got my chip scanned, and to my surprise the scanner didn’t keep my chip, she gave it back to me. I asked her where to put it, but she didn’t know.  So I wandered back to the finish line and asked another volunteer- they pointed out a table, a bit further from the finish line and scanners, with a parkrun banner. Here I joined a queue and people had to put their tokens into the right section of the token sorting box (e.g. mine went in the 190-199 section). Now, I have no problems with this at all, but it wasn’t totally clear. They actually put a message up on their facebook page saying they had lost a lot of tokens this week, but I am not surprised by this- if it was my first parkrun I may not have asked where to put it. I’ve seen this sort of token sorting at Wimpole Estate, but they had a huge board and it was pointed out at the main briefing, and then at the end the scanners were close to it, and you were directed over once you had been scanned. Anyway, a small point.


When the results came through I had managed 27.54 for my 85th parkrun- I feel like the 100 is now in sight which seems crazy!


I didn’t hang about as I didn’t want to get cold, so I headed back to the hotel,  running nearly 7 miles in total for the morning.


Cafe Coho was also calling- after a shower it was time for delicious pancakes with Greek yoghurt and berries.

Have you ever seen people running wearing crazy costumes? I ask because one guy was running the parkrun wearing chain mail. An actual top made of metal. Mental. How does your parkrun collect in the tokens?  Ellenbrook has little buckets and then the people empty them every few minutes and sort them.