The home of parkrun!!!!

On Sunday I was due to run the Bright10, a 10 mile race in Brighton. I’ve run it the past 2 years and we’ve usually stayed in Brighton for the weekend, but this year we could not find any affordable hotels. In the end we booked to stay in Arundel, which is about 20 miles away from Brighton, so we could drive in on Sunday morning. As it’s in the South Downs we could have some nice walks on the Saturday too. We hadn’t booked anything for the Friday night, but Andy had a look and amazingly found a hotel “near to that parkrun that you always want to do”- Bushy parkrun!

So on Friday night after work we drove in to the Premier Inn in Kingston upon Thames.

On Saturday morning I had around a 1.5 mile run as a warm up- I had to run through Kingston (and only got lost once), over a bridge, to the edge of the park, and then along a straight path to the centre.

I was rather excited!

Once in the park I was amazed to see stags (and hear them bellowing)- there was a sign on the gate but they were so close to the path. They were all being followed (rather closely) by people in camouflage with ridiculously over-sized lenses on their cameras.

This was where the run started

I didn’t see that many runners on the way, (they must mostly come from a different direction) but once I reached the middle of the park there were people everywhere and all spread out. I’d worked out one group of people were waiting by the toilets, so as I wandered around looking for high-viz people or a start sign, I was a lady walking along with the new runner briefing sign. There were of course lots of new runners- particularly groups from running clubs on organised trips, and even a few brand new parkrunners. They told us about the famous “double funnel” which Southampton also has (and probably others, but that’s the only one I have been to).

With over 1000 runners it was no surprise that they had a proper speaker (perched in a tree) for the main briefing- I couldn’t see where the RD was at all, but it was quite a funny briefing (warning us that the deer could run faster than us..).

The start was very wide so even with 1233 (why not one more for 1234?) runners it didn’t feel too busy. I didn’t want to go too fast as I had the race the following day, so a little later when I saw a stag sitting in the grass I ran to the side and took some photos.

You can see the runners in the distance as we ran past the deer and then turned left at the end of the path.

The run was so enjoyable- it’s a very flat route and wound through the park, through bracken and fern, running alongside a road briefly before finishing by a lake. There were plenty of marshals out, and I enjoyed spotting some vintage parkrun t-shirts (I saw a few of the black and gold 250 ones).

As I was finishing the funnel manager was shouting at the guy a few people behind me to go into the left tunnel (I had to stay right)- the person behind me was given a letter (Q- they start at A)- so when we eventually got to collect our tokens (about 10 minutes later) they knew to switch over to the other side. All very clever.

I was number 745- my highest (lowest?) placing- I think I’ve only been to one with over 700 runners before.

After having my chip scanned I didn’t hang around as Andy was going to meet me in the park (and it finished in a slightly different place which of course confused me).

I ran a little way but then he’d managed to walk nearly to the start so we walked back together.

As we walked back through Kingston I popped into Starbucks to get a drink to take back to the hotel- Andy had bought us chocolate almond croissants for breakfast.

So, Bushy parkrun- what a great one to visit- one lap, deer, flat course, not too crowded…. My time was 28.52 (26th in my age cat- there aren’t usually 26 in total in my age cat!) and I was pleased to manage negative splits of 9.22, 9.08, 8.59, 8.28.

Then we were off National Trust walking, so I’ll save that for later.

Have you been to Bushy parkrun? What is the largest parkrun you’ve been to?

A longer run and a walk around Wimpole

Last Sunday I headed out on my longest run for ages- 11 miles. It was beautiful weather- such blue skies- and the leaves were looking fabulous.

I took quite a few photos as I was running and really enjoyed myself. Well, apart from one incident. I was running along the old railway line- it’s a very wide path in some woods. I’d passed people walking or running in both directions, some with dogs. At one point a dog ran out of the undergrowth and in front of me- the people walking it apologised but it was fine as it didn’t trip me up or anything.  At one point I was running down the path and I passed a guy running in the other direction who had a dog running behind him.  As the dog ran past me, it doubled back and started growling at me. I stood still (I find that dogs seem to like the movement of running and think it’s a bit of a game, and also when the Dog’s Trust came into work they told the children to stand still if approached by a dog they don’t know), but the dog was lurching at me, running around me in small circles and growling. The guy who was running hadn’t even turned around at that point, so I called at him “can you please call your dog?”. He then turned around and called it several times before the dog started to go to him (he was around 20m away and seeing as he was out running I don’t know why he didn’t run back..)- I was about to go when the dog ran back to me again, growling and going around me in circles. I shouted at him “can you please come and get  your dog as it isn’t coming” but he just called it again. Eventually the dog ran back to him, so I shouted (I think politely) “if you can’t control your dog, it should be on a lead”. He said to me “sometimes he’s a bit naughty but he won’t hurt you” , so I called at him “you still need to be able to control your dog as that was really quite frightening”. I turned and carried on and honestly I felt like crying- I was really worried that the dog was going to bite me. There were a couple of ladies out walking a bit further down and they had been watching- they asked if I was OK which was really kind of them.

The rest of my run passed without incident thankfully, although it was a rather slow one (11 miles in around 2 hours).

After a shower and breakfast we headed up to Wimpole- we’d been there years ago (and I did the parkrun there a little over a year ago) but as it’s really our nearest National Trust place we felt like we should go a bit more often.

There’d been a running event there in the morning ( a half marathon and 10 mile) and we saw a few people wandering around wearing their medals, and the gazebos in the race village were being put away. We had a wander through the walled garden (getting ideas for our own garden) before walking around the fields- I think we walked most of the parkrun course but in reverse. It was time for a tearoom stop after that!

The tearoom situation was not the best- there was a restaurant with a hug queue and everywhere was busy but the tearoom was really a kiosk where you helped yourself (I really do not like that- especially when people do not use the tongs or jut breathe all over the food)- and there was no seating. I’d chosen a scone and I had to stand around for ages and ended up finding a bench so I could rest the plate on my lap. Must try harder Wimpole! Anyway, it was an enjoyable afternoon out.

Once we got home it was time to finish the last few bits of work before having dinner and watching some TV.

Also, I think I might be the only runner who has not only not applied to the London marathon ballot (not “The marathon”, because there are many more…), but is also not really fussed about it. Partly the ballot system is annoying- I’m not sure why they let you know so much later as the ballot closed months ago. But although I love watching it on TV, the huge crowds make it seem much more stressful. I think I’d rather run somewhere new and see different sights too.

The rest of last week was fairly normal, although we did a new route with the club on Tuesday night- our run leader is great at estimating route lengths and we were told “5 miles, ish”- well it ended up being a little over 6 miles, but a good new route (although we’d need torches for a bit of it). Yoga was great as always although there was a power cut so it started a bit later, and then part way through we had to stop because I saw a massive spider on the floor- they put it outside for me! On Thursday I popped by my parents and felt so tired by the time I got home so I skipped my run in favour of a walk, which turned out to be the right decision as when we got back from the walk my legs went all shaky, not sure why but I think I’d just been really tired.

Did you enter London? Are you keen on dogs? I don’t mind dogs, but I object to anyone telling me that their dog is fine when it is leaping up at me.

Happy birthday parkrun! And weekend incentives

So as I mentioned before, on Friday night (a week ago) I was off out with work. We went for dinner at Frankie and Benny’s- not somewhere I would choose (I’ve been to one twice before- we complained the first time as the service was so poor, and were given vouchers, and on the second visit we had to give the vouchers in straight away, and the service was still awful, and all the fried food isn’t really my favourite) but I had a nice wrap with goats cheese and avocado (at 9.35 I might add- our table was booked for 8- so service still ridiculously slow) and then a peanut butter cheesecake for dessert.

On Saturday I was off to Ellenbrook Fields to celebrate parkrun’s 13th birthday! I was meant to be doing the new runners briefing, and had my sign and clipboard (and spoke to a few people informally about it as they had seen the sign)- anyway we then had to do a group photo of everyone in their apricot tops, and then the RD told me that there wasn’t time for the briefing any more. I went back to speak to the couple of people who had come up to me before, and another person came over so we had a sort of whispered briefing while the volunteers were being clapped. I felt like a bit of a fraud getting my thank you text later.

Here we all are on the start line!

Dad had cycled there and I managed to find him at the start just before it began. He was back from his huge cycle ride through Spain, and said as he hadn’t run since before he went he would see how he got on. We were chatting and catching up with life from the past two weeks, and enjoying the run. I am sure I have said it before but I love the Ellenbrook course as you do a little loop and a big loop, and when you finish the little loop you run past the RD, timers, token scanners etc so there are always lots of cheers and friendly faces.

Anyway, I didn’t feel like we were going too fast (and I never look at my Garmin) and as we neared the end Dad decided to go for a sprint finish- I knew I couldn’t keep up with him for that bit so I said I’d see him at the end. My watch beeped for the 3rd mile and I glanced at it, seeing 8.38 on the screen. “Hmm, that’s quite fast” I thought, and then saw 26 something on the watch. My pb is 26.33 at Ellenbrook and 26.29 all-time, so I put in a bit of a sprint for the final bit.

I got token 73, which seemed high for me, but I didn’t know my exact time until I got the text- 26.38! It’s my third fastest time ever, and I didn’t really feel like I was beyond myself until that final sprint. All my miles began with 8’s too (I think they would have to for that time I suppose)- 8.45, 8.42, 8.38- pretty close splits as I often have a much bigger difference between my first and last mile time.

One day I will actually aim for a pb but I was happy to enjoy the run with Dad. Perhaps peanut butter cheesecake is the key to a faster run?

I then drove home while Dad cycled, and we enjoyed a lovely breakfast. My brother (who didn’t run as he was playing football later) joined us, as did my sister, her husband and their baby. Mum has one of those chalk boards in the kitchen- I did love that she had written pancakes on it so we knew what we would be having!

We also had an email from my dad’s cousin Brian (we ran with him in Milton Keynes)- he has been loving parkrun and did his 21st run on their birthday, getting a pb too! We are trying to arrange for him to come down to us and run at Ellenbrook so he can be introduced to parkrun tourism.

After a very leisurely breakfast (which included us booking tickets to see Joe Lycett – he always has the funniest names for his tours- this one is “I’m about to lose control and I think Joe Lycett”) I headed home and had to spend several hours doing some work. Later I needed to stretch my legs so we walked the longer way to town, got our free drinks from Starbucks and then walked home, where I spent a couple more hours working. I did have an incentive as we’d decided to go to Wimpole hall (National Trust with lovely grounds) on the Sunday so long as I didn’t have much work left.

Did you celebrate parkrun’s birthday?

A long run in the autumn and a run cut short

Last weekend I realised that it wasn’t long before I would be running 10 miles in Brighton for the Bright10- one of my favourite races- I love 10 miles as a distance and I don’t need an excuse to go to Brighton! Due to one thing and another, I hadn’t managed a long run in a few weeks so I knew I needed to go a fair way on Sunday. It was a bit damp but not too cold when I set out. I was planning 9 miles so checked my Strava to see the last route I did, because I still don’t really have the hang of the longer routes.

At one point I join an old railway line- you can join it further up but it’s easier to go down these stairs which then join the path next to a tunnel- although the tunnel is horrible and full of rubbish and graffiti- it always makes me think of Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia as they have a bit of a think about “bridge people”. Thankfully I don’t need to run through the tunnel as my route takes me left and away from it.

I was enjoying the autumn colours and taking some photos when it started to rain quite hard- I was still about 4 miles from home so I tried to pick up the pace a bit.

Anyway, home for a very hot shower and then breakfast.

There are blackberries buried under the muesli- very tasty.

Then I did some work, walked into town and got my free drink (went for a green tea latte this time) and did a bit of baking (coming up later) and some pottering in the garden. All very lovely.

On Monday we went to see Wind River, which was a film based on true events about a girl being murdered on a native reservation in the US (well, about trying to solve it and catch the people who did it)- it was a bit like a long episode of Longmire if you have ever watched that. Very gripping but a few things made me jump. I didn’t seem to be on in many cinemas but it’s worth hunting out if you like that sort of thing.

On Tuesday my run was rather rudely cut short. I’d got home too late for the club run, so went out on my own. I was planning 5 miles but 2 miles in I felt a ping on my shoulder- yes, my bra strap had broken*.

I could cut the run shorter by running the 2 miles home, but I had to basically run holding my arms across my chest- and I’d had a bad shoulder from Sunday (from probably doing work on my laptop on the sofa instead of in my office) so that didn’t help matters at all.

*It had in fact not broken, but worked its way loose, which was just as annoying as I could not fix it whilst running.

It does seem to be a flaw of the shock absorber run design that the bits that you adjust to make the straps the right length are only held in place by a small plastic hook- in some of my old bras I had actually sewn them in to stop it happening, but I have lapsed recently.

Coincidentally the next day Andy recommended this podcast episode for me (which was very interesting- about how the sports bra was invented).  I hadn’t even heard of a sports bra until I was in my twenties and read a few fitness magazines when I had joined a gym- no wonder I wasn’t keen on running at school as it’s very uncomfortable without one.

Yoga on Wednesday went some way to helping my shoulder- we did lots of twists and used the straps to get into poses more deeply, although we also did a lot of the warrior ones so my legs were a bit jellified after!

On Thursday I had a bit of a headache so just did 4 miles again (no malfunctions this time) and then on Friday after work I had a back massage to sort out my shoulder.  It was a bit painful at times, but the fact that after I finish I can actually move my shoulders and look over my left shoulder again is so worth it. And most of it is relaxing with some lovely scented oils in a diffuser and some zen like music/sounds going on.

I felt quite thirsty after so I wandered into town to get a drink- my phone is on Three and there is an app for customers with little deals and offers- there was a free Costa drink so I got one there. I had to get a few boring bits, and then went into Hotel Chocolat- they had chai latte chocolates, so of course I had to get some. When I got home my 10 mile number had arrived.

Then I was off out for bowling and dinner as a work social.

When did you first learn about sports bras? Do they mention them in secondary school PE kits I wonder? Do you have any routes with parts that you don’t like? On our club runs we sometimes go through some dodgy underpasses- I wouldn’t run them alone that’s for sure.

Cassiobury parkun- one down, one to go!

So last weekend I carried on my quest to complete all of the parkruns in Hertfordshire. The list at that point was:

Completed: Aldenham, Barclay, Ellenbrook Fields, Gadebridge, Heartwood Forest, Panshanger, Rickmansworth, South Oxhey, St Albans, Stevenage, Tring, Westmill (12/14)

I still needed: Cassiobury (it’s been on my list for ages) and Castle Park (Saturday was the inaugural event as it had moved from Hatfield Forest in Essex)- will I ever get there?

I was pondering going back to Westmill- my dad and brother were away cycling (they were doing 30-50 miles a day, cycling somewhere in Spain) and Westmill is fairly local and I’d like to do it again. But then I saw on facebook that Letchworth parkrun is coming soon- another Herts one. I mean it’s great, but can’t they just wait a bit until I have finished?

Mum had invited me for breakfast, so I decided to head over to Cassiobury- it’s been on the list for ages, but we have never made the effort because it is a busy one (several hundred people), it’s laps (which we are not so keen on) and the parking looked tricky. But I needed to do it (well, to do my challenge) and then I would drive past Mum’s on the way home so it sort of made sense.

I had a bit of a panic as I only decided late on Friday night, and I didn’t have enough cash for the parking- it said online that the machines took cards, but when I got there (after a stressful journey around Watford’s one way system) the machine didn’t seem to be working. I ran across the car park to the other machine, but that only took cash- argh! I didn’t know the area so had no idea if there was a shop nearby to get some change with. I went back to the other machine as I could see some people using it and it turned out that the screen wasn’t working but if you followed the steps on the sign it still issued a ticket. Phew.

From there it was a very short walk (400m or something) to the finish area in the park. I was there fairly early in the end so I wandered about a bit and took some photos- there was a huge tree trunk with some interesting animals carved into it.

The start was a little walk from the finish area, but there was a sign in the ground mentioning the new runner’s briefing, saying “follow this sign”- it looked like someone would pick it up and we would walk after them. However, at 8.50 nothing had happened and I started to wonder if they had forgotten about the sign. I noticed a few other people waiting around, and one of them asked a marshal, who pointed up the path, saying “the start is that way”, so we wandered off. We got to chatting on the walk up- she usually ran at Harrow but had just moved to the area so was going to give this one a go.

The start area was full of high viz people, so we asked one of them where the briefing would be, as it was just about 9am. We were shown where, and then told that it wouldn’t be on time as they weren’t known for their punctuality at this parkrun! The briefing was useful as it was not quite a 3 lap course- basically you started part way around the course, running gently downhill (it’s hardly noticeable), turning left at a sharp corner by a marshal, running along the bottom of the park and then up past the finish area to the start area. We were told to pass the marshal at the bottom three times and the marshal at the top twice, which sounded confusing but when you traced the route out, made perfect sense.

It was very congested at the start but after the first downhill section it had spread out enough. I didn’t look at my watch but I felt like I was pushing fairly hard at times. I liked seeing the Run England markers all around the route, and I saw loads of squirrels.

The gentle uphill on each lap (well two of them) wasn’t too bad, and you got to run downhill three times which was great. There were lots of people out in the park, some walking dogs or with kids on bikes, and some watching. Watford Joggers, the local running club, even had a banner/flag thing on the downhill section and when I looked on Strava later it must be a regular thing as one of the segments was called Join Watford Joggers!

I was pretty pleased to head into the finish feeling strong.

Finish position 139, with a time of 27.36- around a minute quicker than last weekend.

You can see the start (green circle) and then it was anti-clockwise from there:

You can’t see them but my splits were 9.20, 843, 8.39, 8.05- a good old royal flush right there, and nice to see a few miles beginning with 8.

The barcode scanning wasn’t immediately obvious, but I found them a little way up from the finish area, and then had a wander around taking a few more photos- the morning had started off damp and cloudy but during the last lap the sun came out so the autumn colours were looking great.

I headed back to the car and had half a clif bar before braving the drive home (where I managed to get a bit lost in a housing estate and ended up coming home a totally different way). When I got to Mum’s she had warmed up some croissants in the oven and made us some Earl grey tea and we had a lovely catch up- a great start to the weekend.

So, another Hertfordshire event done- and currently only one left to do- Castle Park. Not sure when I will manage to get there, hopefully November, and I can finally celebrate!

I could see the appeal if you lived close, as it’s pretty flat, not too congested even though it is busy, and on tarmac so no worries about mud in the winter, but I still can’t quite understand why South Oxhey (also in Watford, only a few miles away) gets so few participants in comparison. It’s a mystery to me.

Do you have busier and quieter events near to you? What do you look for in a parkrun?  If I see it’s one lap then I am pretty sold!